Saturday, December 01, 2012

The always disgusting Nate Silver

Sunny printed up an e-mail from George who asked me to listen to something called The B.S. Report with Bill Sammons.  It's an ESPN radio program and bookie Nate Silver was on. 

I've written before about how damaging the New York Times' bookie is to political coverage.  After I called that out, you may have noticed that Pew released a study about how the last weeks of the presidential campaign the press based coverage on polling.

Instead of issues, Nate Silver creates distraction.  He is the problem.

So to hear him accuse anyone else of covering politics "like its sports"?  He lodged that accusation at POLITICO.

You know what?  He is right.  They do reduce politics to that. 

But so does he.

He's kidding himself if he thinks any makes any contribution to democracy.

Instead his work robs us of information and makes us collectively dumber.

We don't need the 'who's hot and who's not' that Nate Silver and POLITICO offer, we need serious discussions on issues.

Nate Silver's basically a subway flasher calling out a panhandler for bothering people.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, November 30, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Ali al-Dabbagh swears he's being attacked by Nouri's media office, talks between Baghdad and Erbil are now off, the UN's Martin Kobler insults Iraqi women, 'forget's to inform the UN of a planned conference in Baghdad (to be presided over by Zebari) in which the Iraqi Constitution will be called out as a tool of impearlism, the US military allows a prosecutor to present a case that argues the families of military suicides should be filing charges against the DoD right now in a huge class-action lawsuit, and more.
Today is the 921st day Iraq War veteran Bradley Manning has spent in military custody.  Today, he again spoke in court and we start with that because the US military has yet again demonstrated it is a culture that refuses to adapt and is so rooted in the status quo that it is responsible -- continues to be responsible -- for the deaths of its own.
Background, Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. 
Bradley appeared in military court yesterday and we'll note various details about the case itself.  But the most important detail is one that effects all serving and veterans who have served -- as well as their family members.
No, it did not.  AP, from time to time, exists solely to keep Dorothy Parker's adage alive: You can lead a whore to culture but you cannot make her think.
Taking away his clothes was never about his protection.  And, at Third, we noted that as soon as those details became public and we pointed out that there were non-cloth items he could be provided with to wear if it really was about his safety.  (And didn't the military then suddenly discover that to be true?)  It was not about his protection.
Bradley being forced to sleep in the nude -- nude and on full display -- is not normal, it is not therapeutic and for the AP to suggest that it is is as offensive if they started running "She asked for it" columns on rape.
If the US military wasn't trying to punish Bradley (I believe they were trying to humiliate him, my opinion), their actions do not suddenly become 'good.'  It goes to the larger issue that you have a  lot of idiots who don't know what they're doing.
Forcing anyone to be on public display is humiliating and counter-productive enough, adding nudity to it? 
Immediately after he was taken into military custody, Bradley was transferred from Iraq to Kuwait.  He was not told what was taking place or if he would stay there or be moved.  Extraordinary rendention was already well known and discussed in the press.  When Jane Mayer was an actual reporter and not the partisan hack she's since morphed into, you could read all sorts of tales by her about what the US government was allowing to be done in the name of 'interrogation.'
In such a climate, a very young man, already under stress, was taken into military custody.  He had no idea what would happen to him.  In Kuwait, at one point he made a knoose.  He's called it that in his testimony.  The artist rendering of what prosecutor held up is not actually a knoose.  It's a sheet with a series of knots in it. 
The military prosecution is attempting to assert that this knoose or 'knoose' along with another statement is why certain measures were taken with Bradley.  The AP apparently feels it is their job to make the military's case for them as opposed to being a skeptical press.
The statement?  Arriving at Quantico, he was admitted.   When he was being admitted into Quantico, Bradley wrote on a form, in response to a question about suicide, "always planning and never acting."
Are you telling me that the US military didn't have a follow up?
If there was a follow up verbal question, then there was a follow up verbal response.  Why isn't that noted?
Because it wouldn't back the military's assertion?  Possibly.
That's disturbing.  More disturbing would be that there was no verbal follow up to a statement like that on a form. 
To be clear, that statement is perfectly 'normal.'  At different points in their lives, many Americans will consider suicide.  Maybe for a few seconds each time they do, maybe in an elaborate fantasy that has actually deals with something other than suicide.
The statement is not 'troubling.'  For a number of reasons.  One, it is an opening to discuss a serious issue and, two, it demonstrates that the person being assessed has some comfort level discussing the issue.  Someone being admitted who was planning to kill themselves and wanting to kill themselves once admitted to a facility, most likely would be close-lipped about any sucidal thoughts.
The narrative that the military prosecutor presented to the military court is that Bradley arrived back in the US and wrote during the intake assessment that he was "always planning and never acting" upon.  "Planning" should have resulted in Bradley being asked to define "planning."  Is that thinking, is that an abstract, is that an elaborate plan?  If you were to take your own life, how would you do it?  A whole string of questions were prompted by "always planning and never acting."
Where were those questions?
Was someone too uncomfortable to ask?  Was a medical professional not present at intake?  That seems strange considering the high-profile nature of Bradley's case even then; however, I would assume the military would train those working at Quantico or any other brig on suicide.
What it appears is that, at best, Bradley suffered because the military is not training those required to do supervision on issues like suicide.  
Yesterday, the Defense Dept released the US Army's suicide numbers for last month: "20 potential suicides: five have been confirmed as suicides, and 15 remain under investigation" which is an increase of five from September's numbers.   DoD notes that 2011 resulted in 165 deaths confirmed as suicides and that 2012 has seen 105 confirmed and 61 which are still being investigated.  So if all under investigation currently were to be ruled suicide, October will be the month that 2012 surpassed 2011 for number of army members taking their own lives (166 is the number of suicides if the 61 under investigation end up determined to be suicides).  With two months of data remaining for the calendar year, it is likely 2012 will see an increase in the number of suicides.
Quantico brig would be a natural location for potentially at-risk persons.  Those working at Quantico should have a minimum level of training.  That minimum level should have included staff providing direct supervision -- eyes on -- of Bradley being alarmed over what public nudity might do to the mental well being of a supposed suicide risk.
There was nothing healthy about what was done to Bradley.  If the military's narrative, as presented by the prosecution, is correct, then the Defense Dept is the cause of suicides.  It's not merely failing to provide assistance, it's creating an unhealthy environment that encourages and assists suicides via its own ignorance and negligence.
This is not an abstract.  There is a suicide crisis in the military today.
Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  This week, she proposed that the Defense Authorization Bill be expanded so that it will "require DoD to create a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program."
Senator Patty Murray:  Time and time again, we've lost servicemembers and veterans to suicide.  But while the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have taken important steps towards addressing this crisis, we know more must be done.  We know that any solution depends upon reducing wait times and improving access to mental health care; ensuring proper diagnosis; and achieving true coordination of care and information between the Departments.  This amendment would require a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program across the DoD.  It would require the use of the best medical practices, in suicide prevention and behavioral health programs to address serious gaps in the current programs.
Murray's remarks appear in full in the November 28th snapshot.  I strongly support Murray's proposal.  Not only that, I hope attorneys around the country start thinking class-action lawsuit against DoD.  A huge number of veterans and servicemembers have taken their own lives.  They've often done so because the help they needed was not present and the people who should have seen the risks weren't trained to see the risks.
If the military is going to stand by the assertion that what Bradley experienced -- the 'diagnosis' and the 'treatment' -- was standard and humane military treatment, then it's really time for lawyers to start filing law suits against the DoD and the VA regarding suicides.
Today's testimony was Bradley's second day of testimony.  Yesterday, Courtney Kube (NBC News) reported, Bradley testified that he was taken into military custody May 27, 2010 and then to Kuwait's Camp Arifjan where he was held in a tiny cell "with no air conditioning" for several weeks and, "I was a mess, I totally started to fall apart."  Raf Sanchez (Telegraph of London) adds:

Wearing his dress blues uniform, Pfc Manning talked quickly and often smiled nervously as his lawyers argued that his pre-trial imprisonment was illegal and should lead to all charges being dismissed.
His testimony began with his imprisonment in Kuwait in May 2010, where was held in a "cage-like cell" that his guards would ransack up to three times a day in search of contraband.
"I remember thinking I'm going to die. I'm stuck here in this cage and I don't know what's going to happen," he said.

AFP reminds, "A UN rapporteur on torture concluded Manning was subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment at the Quantico brig." He would be move to Quantico in Virginia. Bradley wasn't the only one offering testimony at his pre-trial this week.   RT notes that the navy doctor who the government had charged with evaluating Bradley testified Wednesday.  Capt William Hoctor stated, "I had been a senior medical officer for 24 years at the time, and I had never experienced anything like this.  It was clear to me they had made up their mind on a certain cause of action, and my recommendations had no impact."  Larry Shaughnessy (CNN) adds, "But Capt. William Hocter said his regular recommendations to ease Manning's heightened confinement status within weeks of his arrival in Virginia were not acted upon by commanders."  BBC News continues, "Pte Manning's glasses were confiscated, he had to request toilet paper and was forced to remove his underwear at night."  Hoctor felt frustrated and stymied.  John Bailey (NBC News) quotes the doctor testifying,  "It was clear to me that they had made up their mind on a certain course of actions and my recommendations didn't really matter."  Ed Pilkington (Guardian) explains, "Three Quantico forensic psychiatrists who gave evidence to the court this week agreed that within days of arriving at the marine base Manning had recovered his mental health and was no longer a risk to himself. They consistently recommended that the soldier be put on a much looser regime. But the authorities would not listen."  Again, this was not acceptable treatment.  It doesn't even qualify as acceptable supervision.

Julie Tate (Washington Post) reports, "At one point in spring 2011, Manning testified that he told his guards he could kill himself with his underwear if he wanted to do so. He said he was forced to sleep naked under a suicide smock for nearly two months after the incident. On one occasion, he said, he was forced to stand naked in front of his cell during morning attendance."  Sky News adds, "David Coombs, defending, revealed on Wednesday that the chief legal officer at Quantico at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Greer, made light of the underwear episode in an email, composing a rhyme in the style of the popular Dr Seuss books. The message said: 'I can wear them in a box. I can wear them with a fox. I can wear them in the day. I can wear them so I say. But I can't wear them at night. My comments gave the staff a fright'."

Along with verbal testimony, the pre-trial also explored digital evidence.  Ray McGovern (CounterPunch) reports, "According to the e-mail evidence, the controversy over the rough handling of Manning prompted Quantico commander, Marine Col. Daniel Choike, to complain bitterly that not one Army officer was in the chain of blame. Choike's lament prompted an e-mail reply from his commander, Lt. Gen. George Flynn, offering assurances that Choike and Quantico would not be left  'holding the bag'."

Luis Martinez (ABC News) reports, that the judge is expected to release a decision on "a potential plea deal" in the next month.  Shashank Bengali (Los Angeles Times) elaborates:

The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, accepted terms Thursday under which Manning could plead guilty to a series of lesser counts of providing classified information to WikiLeaks, including a battlefield video file, dozens of war logs, and other classified material.
Manning could enter the plea — which includes a maximum of 16 years in prison — as soon as next month. It wasn't immediately clear whether prosecutors would continue to pursue the more serious charges, which experts have said will be harder to prove.
Let's move to Martin Kobler's testimony.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Kobler, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Iraq, addressed the UN Security Council in New York yesterday.  We included a part of his testimony yesterday with the plan being for the rest to be included today.  Won't be happening.  There's not enough space.  The intake issue (Bradley's) is not a minor issue and it directly effects (and reflects) the way Bradley was treated while going to the larger issue of the military's mishandling of potential suicides.  So we'll do some of the testimony today and wrap up in Monday's snapshot.
Marin Kobler:  During Iraq's busy electoral calendar ahead, the stakes will be high, not only for Iraq's political leaders competing for electoral support, but also for the consolidation of Iraq's transition.  The elections must be conducted credibly.  Working with the new Board of Commissioners, UNAMI will continue to coordinate United Nations support for the development of a sustainable, self-reliant and professional Independent High Electoral Commission.  UNAMI also continues to faciliate political dialogue between representatives of all components in the disputed areas.  UNAMI is working to facilitate consensus among the components of Kirkuk in view of the provincial council elections in the governorate. It has established an informal forum for dialogue with the political representatives of Kirkuk's components, with proposals in each of the following four main areas: power-sharing, determining the date of elections, security arrangements, and the review of the voter registry.  So far, there has been no agreement on conducting the elections for Kirkuk provincial council which have not taken place since 2005 due to differences on the voter registry.  Elections in Kirkuk could be a stabilizing factor throughout the governorate. 
That Kirkuk has not had elections since 2005 is damning, no matter how Kobler tries to dress it up or how he ignores Article 140 -- and he did ignore Article 140, never once mentioning the article of the Constitution specifically dealing with Kirkuk.
Martin Kobler:  Whilst relations between Baghdad and Erbil have deteriorated in some ways during Iraq's political stalemate, as highlighted in the Secretary-General's report, there is also some cause for optimism. 
Optimism, seen by Kobler yesterday on the dispute between Baghdad and Erbil.  Today, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports:
The talks in Baghdad between Iraqi and Kurdish military commanders brokered by a three-star American general broke down on Thursday, two days after the prime minister announced both sides had agreed on pulling back forces in part of the disputed areas. Officials on Friday said there were no new talks scheduled.
Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani, who has described deployment of Iraqi forces as a plot against the Kurds, accused the Iraqi prime minister of reneging on the agreement and vowed that Kurdish forces would deter Baghdad's "militarism."
The previously mentioned Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution explained how Kirkuk and other disputed areas would be resolved.  The Kurdish Regional Government was set up after the start of the first Gulf War and is a semi-autonomous region of three provinces.  Iraq is also made up of the centeral-government out of Baghdad.  Oil-rich Kirkuk is one of the areas that both claim they have the right to.  The 2005 Constitution explained that the disputed regions would be resolved by a census and referendum. 
It also stated that this would be done no later than the end of 2007.  Nouri al-Maliki was installed as prime minister in the spring of 2006 (installed by the Bush White House which objected to Parliament's choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari).  Nouri has repeatedly refused to implement Article 140.  Then, in the last months, he has sent forces (Tigris Operation Command) into the disputed areas.  The Kurds, among others, see this as an attempt on Nouri's part to seize these areas.
Dr. Martin Kobler:  In particular, the agreement reached to resume official oil exports from the Kurdistan region and the steps to adopt a hydrocarbons use and management framework deserve encouragement and support.  Legislation on the management of hydrocarbons and revenue-sharing has been blocked for a number of years.  It has become a major source of tension between the central and Kurdistan Regional governments as well as to the overall socioeconomic progress.  The approval of such legislation would signficantly advance the resolution of the question of the disputed internal boundaries, since a large number of unexplored oilfields lie within these areas.  It would  also contribute significantly to improving relations between Baghdad and Erbil.  UNAMI is also strengthening its efforts to support Iraq's legislative agenda, as mandated by the Iraqi Constitution. 
In 2007, with Democrats just put in control of both houses of the US Congress, they were demanding that Bully Boy Bush stop insisting 'progress' was taking place in Iraq without backing it up.  They wanted metrics by which to measure progress.  The Bush White House proposed -- and Nouri al-Maliki signed off on -- a series of benchmarks.  Iraq would quickly accomplish these benchmarks and that would demonstrate progress.  Failure to do so, Democrats promised (empty promises, it turned out) would mean defunding.
One of those benchmarks?  The hydrocarbons law.  It takes a lot of gall for Kobler to speak of 'progress' on that issue when there has been none.  Here is the only defintion of progress on the hydrocarbons law: Passing a hydrocarbons law.
Kobler, in his speech, wanted to talk about the Arab League Summit (a failure he attempted to spin) and about Iraq's neighbors.  But he left out what the Iraq Times had already reported this week: A move to host, in Baghdad, another Arab summit.  Why didn't that result in a wave of Happy Talk from Kobler?
He didn't mention it because the point of the meet-up would be to discuss the constitutions of various regional countries -- including the sense that Iraq lives under shame because it has a Constitution that was written by Americans, the British and Iranians.  Hoyshar Zebari, whom Kobler mentions elsewhere in his speech, is set to preside over the meet-up.
How will that play?  A summit in Baghdad decrying the Iraqi Constitution as a tool of occupation.  Think that might prompt Nouri to give up even the pretense of honoring it?
World observers should be nervous, to say the least, but Kobler didn't manage to include it in his presentation.
Martin Kobler:  In addition to the hydrocarbons legislation, we are continuing to provide technical advice and assistance on the establishement of the Federation Council, the reform of the judicial system, and the adoption of laws on minority communities and political parties.  At the regional level, Iraq continues its re-emergence onto the international stage.  Earlier this year, Iraq demonstrated renewed commitment to meeting its remaining obligations under Chapter VII of the Charter and to improving its bilateral relations with Kuwait.  Progress will, however, depend upon the restoration of confidence between both sides.  Over the past few months, I stepped up my engagement with Iraq and Kuwait to see how the United Nations could best facilitate the resolution of outstanding issuse in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.  And, in this context, I recently held high-level meetings in Iraq and Kuwait in which I was encouraged by the strong commitment that both Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Amir of Kuwait expressed by normalizing relations between their two countries.  I very much hope that they will now be able to move quickly.  They can count on the UN in this regard.  I am happy to report to the Council today that I spoke to Foreign Minister [Hoshyard] Zaebari this morning.  He informed me that, first, his government had nominated the names for the technical team of the border maintenance project today and, second,  the government would start immediately to update the list of farmers entitled to compensation.  A meeting with the farmers will take place as soon as possible.  I welcome those steps and call on the Government of Iraq to initiate work on the border mainenance project without further delay.  I also appeal to the government of Iraq to continue to demonstrate the goodwill necessary to fulfil Iraq's other outstanding obligations, in particular with regard to missing persons and property.  The commitment of Iraq to fulfil those obliations will be conducive to the normalization of relations between the two countries.  And I equally call on the government of Kuwait to continue to act in a spirit of flexibility and reciprocity, as reflected earlier this year by the important reciprocal visits of the Amir in Baghdad and the Prime Minister in Kuwait.  On a different note, I remain fully committed to continue to work with both governments to resolve bilateral issues, at their request.  I am hopeful that the agreement between Kuwait and Iraq for the cancelation of pending lawsuits against Iraqi Airways and on navigational rights in the Khor Abdullah waterway will facilitate improved relations between the two neighbors. 
Let's be honest, Kuwait's government's more than happy with what Iraq's done thus far and regularly calls for Chapter 7 to be lifted. 
Martin Kobler:  Iraq, Mr. President,  is a rich country -- in both natural and human resources.  But I am concerned by the investment climate, the impact of Iraq's red tape and the role of the public sector.  Iraq's state apparatus continues to be affected by corruption and capacity shortfalls, which undermine governance and limit the delivery of services.  This is exacerbating discontent, in a context where natural resources are abundant and the public's expectations for better standards of living remain partly unfulfilled.  In support of Iraq's efforts to build its institutions to provide good governance and the rule of law, UNAMI and its partners in the United Nations country team intend to increase their efforts to strengthen the independence and capacity of state institution, including the Federal Supreme Court, the Independent High Commission for Human Rights and the Ministry of Human Rights.  UNAMI and the country team continue their efforts to strengthen the High Commission for Human Rights, which has yet to become fully operational, as well as the Ministry of Human Rights and civil society organizations.  Those are the key partners in monitoring the implementation of the National Action Plan on Human Rights -- a milestone document that represents the government's commitment to implement recommendations from the universal periodic review process under the auspices of the Human Rights Council. 
But this week, before Kobler spoke (granted he just read aloud from prepared remarks to which he added "Mr. President" and changed "that" to "this"), a fight broke out in the halls of Parliament between Iraqiya and State of Law with State of Law denying women were being tortured in Iraqi prisons.  Why wasn't this noted in the report?
Martin Kobler:  To date, this year, 123 people have been executed in Iraq.  53 of them since July.  The latest executions were carried out on 11 November, when 11 convicts were executed, including one Egyptian.  I continue to reiterate the Secretary-General's call in his report for the government of Iraq to consider a moratorium on all executions, in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions.  As I indicated to the Council in my last briefing, UNAMI will continue its close partnership with the country team, with a particular focus on three key areas with important political, developmental and governance implications, namely, youth, women and the environment.  Youth is a critical, but neglected, demographic in Iraq.  The National Development Plan and the current development assistance framwork highlight the importance of investing in youth.  Despite that, indicators point to high education dropout rates, while Iraqi youths continue to suffer from an unemployment rate of almost 20% and low levels of civic participation and engagement.  To address those worrying trends, I have established a youth advisory group and appointed two young Iraqi youth ambassadors to strengthen United Nations advocacy, including through social and media outreach activities.  To generate and mobilize the government's commitment, we are also promoting youth-orientated initiatives, including a youth parliament and a national human development report on youth for 2012, led by the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Development Programme, which has included a consultation process with 1800 youths in all governorates.  We will also sustain our efforts to promote gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of women.  For example, we are supporting access to justice for women, as well as training police officers to provide legal assistance to women survivors of gender-based violence. 
And that was Kobler's full remarks on women.  That may surprise some since there was a time when he couldn't shut up about Iraqi women when appearing before the Security Council.  But as we pointed out then that meeting (presided over by US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice) was all about ignoring the attack on Iraq's LGBTs and Emo youth.  For one report, suddenly women mattered.  For one report. suddenly Kobler was talking non-stop about women. 
It was only because the alternative would require him to speak of gays and he apparently finds that 'icky.'  Fortunately for him, Susan Rice found the topic 'icky' as well and had no statements to make during the meeting she presided over at the press conference she held after.  Even though the targeting and the murders were being reported by all outlets -- including Rolling Stone -- it wasn't something Kobler or Rice wanted to speak of.
Kobler did have a tiny note in his written paper acknowledging that something was taking place.  What, he wasn't sure of.  But he would provide details in his next report to the Security Council. 
Martin Kobler, we're still waiting for you to supply those details.
We noted in real time that Kobler wouldn't be talking about women except it let him avoid talking about the LGBT community (see the  the April 10th snapshot and the April 11th snapshot):
We got a little talk about women in this presenation.  That is new.  Previous presentations to the Security Council by the Special Envoy to Iraq frequently left women out.  But apparently, something more "gross" and "disgusting" than women has been found by the office of Special Envoy: Iraq's LGBTs.
It was really disgusting to hear Kobler prattle on about violence and minorities and never once note the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community.  It was disgusting.
It was disgusting that Susan Rice never bothered to raise the issue. As evidenced by this White House announcement, the administration is aware that this is LGBT Pride Month.  Somehow the memo didn't reach Susie Rice. If the US LGBT community has any sense of community with those LGBTs living in other countries where their lives are threatened for who they are, US LGBTs would insist that the White House start proving they give a damn about LGBT rights. 
These photo ops and press releases are bull f**king s**t if in hearing after hearing, the administration refuses to address threats to LGBTs.  Susan Rice presided over the Security Council hearing today.  She had it in her power to set the agenda.  She was happy to slam that hammer down repeatedly announcing "So ordered" after she'd issued an edict.  But she wasn't happy or willing to use that power to address the plight of Iraq's LGBT community.  Since the start of this year, many have been killed.  This isn't a secret, it's well reported, and we've certainly covered it here. 
Martin Kobler and Susan Rice and the United Nations and the White House enable those killings by refusing to address the murders in what they call a hearing on the "the situation in Iraq."  There's no excuse for that.  Shame on them for their non-actions and their silence.
Martin Kobler only wanted to talk about Iraqi women at any length when it allowed him to avoid the hunting and killing of Iraqis thought to be gay.  With that not in the news, he was yet again happy to ignore Iraqi women.
That doesn't present a good image of the United Nations to the world.  While the UN's slogan is "Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world," as Kat noted last night, Martin Kobler presenation said, "Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world -- if you're a man."
We'll wrap up with Kobler's presentation on Monday and hopefully get in the Congressional hearing there was never space or time for. 
Nouri's former spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh is back in the news.   Today All Iraq News reports that he's accusing Nouri's Media Affairs Office Ali al-Moussawi of a media lynching as Nouri attempts to weasel out of the corruption charges regarding the $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia on al-Dabbagh.  In a written statement to the news outlet, al-Dabbagh alludes to information about Nouri's inner circle that he could reveal.  al-Dabbagh has twice publicly denied any involvement in the arms deal.  Al Mada notes that in his written statement, he cited his six years of being a spokesperson for the Iraqi government as proof of his integrity.  Kitabat quotes it in full and that includes insisting that his image is being distorted and that his reputation is unfairly maligned.  As a result, he insists, he can no longer do his job.  That might have carried more weight had he issued it when he was still in Iraq and before he reportedly fled the country.

October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  After taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  The scandal, however, refuses to go away. The Iraq Times states Nouri's offering up Ali al-Dabbagh and others to protect the truly corrupt.  Meanwhile, All Iraq News notes National Alliance member and one-time MP Wael Abdul Latif is calling for Nouri to quickly bring charges against those involved in the corruption.  (The arms deal is now treated by the Iraqi press as corrupt and not allegedly corrupt, FYI.)   Latif remains a major player in the National Alliance and the National Alliance has backed Nouri during his second term.  With his current hold on power reportedly tenous and having already lost the support of Moqtada al-Sadr, Nouri really can't afford to tick off the National Alliance as well.  Kitabat reports MP Maha al-Douri, of Moqtada's bloc in Parliament, is saying Nouri's on a list of officials bribed by Russia for the deal.  The outlet also notes rumors that al-Dabbagh is leaving the UAE for Bulgaria.

From yesterday's snapshot:

Adding to the view of Nouri as an incompetent on the world stage are the issues emerging over another big contract.  Dar Addustour reports that Rotana Arabia, a cell phone company, signed a contract with Iraq woth as much as $30 million.  The contract was brokered by Saadoun al-Dulaimi who is the Minister of Culture.  Nouri's calling for the contract to be cancelled, citing corruption.  He wants the Ministry to cancel the contract.  Not the Minister.  He can't ask Minister of Culture Saadoun al-Dulaimi to do anything because no one can find him and he's reportedly fled the country. 

Today All Iraq News reports that the Ministry of Culture is insisting there is no final contract with the cell phone service provider.

Yesterday, violence broke out across Iraq . . .  including in the halls of Parliament:

All Iraq News reports an "altercation" took place in Parliament today between several deputies and led Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi to immediately adjourn the session and postpone the next session until Saturday.  Thrown fists have not been uncommon in the Iraqi Parliament in the last seven years but it has been some time since there were any reports of physical violence among MPs.  Whatever happened, All Iraq News notes it took place in the hallway.  Alsumaria also terms it an "altercation" and notes that prior to that, the Parliament had read six bills and was discussing the allegations of torture in Iraqi prisons and detention centers.  

Al Mada reports today that the fight was between State of Law (Nouri al-Maliki's political slate) and Iraqiya (led by Ayad Allawi) and that it was over the issue of what is happening to Iraqi women in prisons and detention centers as well as an allegation that State of Law had attempted to bury the report and refusing to allow Parliament's Committee on Women to issue the report on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25th).  Dar Addustour notes that the Committee report is said to have found that women are being arrested without judicial warrants and that, while in prison, women are being tortured to force confessions against their husbands.  The Ministry of the Interior denies the charges.  Who's in charge of that Ministry?  That's right Nouri al-Maliki.  Because he refused to nominate anyone to head it.
As  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed in July, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  The Iraq Times notes that Parliament's Commission on Human Rights has declared that Nouri's government is responsible for any torture of detainees or prisoners.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The changing stories

Sharyl Attkisson (CBS News) reported this afternoon:

Tuesday, for the first time, Rice stated outright that there was never any protest or demonstration. Republicans who have read the same intelligence that Rice accessed say it's laced with references to al Qaeda and terrorism, and they're mystified as how she could have come away with a primary narrative about a spontaneous protest and a video.

McCain and Graham have accused the Obama administration of pushing a false narrative in advance of the election because President Obama had claimed that al Qaeda had been decimated; the thinking is that a terror attack killing four Americans on what is technically U.S. soil overseas -- not to mention the first killing of a U.S. ambassador in over 30 years -- could have proven politically difficult for Mr. Obama.

I don't like Susan Rice and I don't trust her.  I have never had a great deal of sympathy for the 'wounded adult child.'  Sorry.  In my practice, I've dealt with women and men who have suffered sexual abuse as children, or been battered as children, etc.  That is awful and does very real and lasting damage that the survivor has to work very hard to overcome.

But there are also the people who just decided they're going to have a chip on their shoulder.  They never go to counseling, probably because they realize that they don't really have any real problems.

Susan Rice is one of those.  She's nursed an idiotic chip on her shoulder against her own mother for years.  My parents died when I was a very young child.  (My older brother raised me.)   I really don't have a lot of sympathy for the I-wanted-a-Huffy-bicycle-that-was-pink-and-my-sister-got-it-instead crowd who use that sort of nonsense to cut their family out of their lives.

I would love it if my parents were alive.  If they could have, for example, seen their grandchildren.  Or if they could have seen that for all my troubles growing up (and I could be a handful), I turned out okay.

So I don't have a lot of sympathy or patience with people like Susan Rice who turn their backs on their living parents out of some sort of petty power play.

Attkisson's article attempts to track down the forever changing claims of who changed the talking points -- the FBI?  The CIA?  On and on it goes.

Ruth has been covering this topic for weeks and, last night, she offered "The best Benghazi reporting today?" which I hope you read.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, November 28, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue,  in another international embarrassment for Nouri Iraq loses their football coach, oil production dips, some fools rush to defend Thomas E. Ricks, Senator Patty Murray calls for a suicide prevention plan for veterans, and more.
As is too often the case, Howard Kurtz misses the point.  It's a long drop from the Washington Post to the Daily Beast and apparently he injured himself in the fall.   All together now . . .
And it's a long way down
It's a long way down
It's a long way down to the place
Where we started from
-- "Ice Cream," written by Sarah McLachlan, first appears on her Fumbling Towards Ecstacy
It's a long way down.  Which would explain his idiotic column today on the overweight and sexist Thomas E. Ricks appearing on Happening Now.  Yes, Howie, the program has a name.  The fact that everyone wants to keep ranting "Fox News!" goes to just how turgid and for-show the nonsense has been.  Jon Scott and Jenna Lee host Happening Now on the Fox News Channel.  See there, unlike Howie, I did the actual work.  But Howie's a 'media critic.'  He wastes 27 paragraphs in a ridiculous column at CNN and he can't even name the show but let's all pretend Howie's doing out of sight work these days.  In fact, let's all pretend that going from the Washington Post to the Daily Beast is a step-up as long as we're fantasizing.
In a telling and whorish moment, Howie 'forgets' to mention the program's name but works in a plug for Thomas E. Ricks' latest military porn -- what is it this time?  On My Knees In The Steamroom With The Generals, Wrapping My Mouth Around That?
Howie Cut 'Em Off Kurtz feels that Snow shouldn't have wrapped up the interview the minute that Ricks criticized Fox News.
But Snow didn't do that.  And Kurtz lies to make it seem as if he did.  You can stream the video at Erik Wemple's Washington Post blog post.  This is what sends Ricks packing:
Jon Scott: When you -- When you have four people dead -- including the first US Ambassador in more than 30 years -- how do you call that 'hype'?

Thomas E. Ricks:  How many security contractors died in Iraq?  Do you know?

Jon Scott:  I don't.

Thomas E. Ricks:  No.  Nobody does.  Because nobody cared.  We know that several hundred died but there was never an official count done -- of security contractors in Iraq.  So when I see this focus on [. . .]
To be clear, Scott let him go on and finish his 'thoughts' on contractors.  I'm not including his garbage here.  Thomas E. Ricks' statements were innaccurate and offensive and it's very telling that Howie Kurtz choose to whore instead of report.  That is what ended Ricks' segment.  Kurtz pretends it never happened. 
But then Howie is among the many in the press who's written and said "Chris Stevens and three others . . ."  That is so offensive. And the press doesn't care.  They don't care that it's offensive to the memories of Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith and Glen Doherty.  They don't care that it's offensive to the families and friends of those three people.  They don't care that it exposes their so called love for the troops as hollow and bulls**t.   Let's quote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Today, we also recognize the two security personnel who died helping protect their colleagues. Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty were both decorated military veterans who served our country with honor and distinction. Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest gratitude are with their families and friends. Our embassies could not carry on our critical work around the world without the service and sacrifice of brave people like Tyrone and Glen. Tyrone's friends and colleagues called him "Rone," and they relied on his courage and skill, honed over two decades as a Navy SEAL. In uniform, he served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2010, he protected American diplomatic personnel in dangerous posts from Central America to the Middle East. He had the hands of a healer as well as the arm of a warrior, earning distinction as a registered nurse and certified paramedic. All our hearts go out to Tyrone's wife Dorothy and his three sons, Tyrone Jr., Hunter, and Kai, who was born just a few months ago.
We also grieve for Glen Doherty, called Bub, and his family: his father Bernard, his mother Barbara, his brother Gregory, and his sister Kathleen. Glen was also a former Navy SEAL and an experienced paramedic. And he put his life on the line many times, protecting Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hotspots. In the end, he died the way he lived – with selfless honor and unstinting valor.
Now pretend you give a damn about troops, pretend all you want.  But if you're writing or stating "Chris Stevens and three others," you are making very clear that you just don't give a f**k.
As soon as all four names were released publicly, Marcia and I both began using all four.  It's not difficult to do.  But don't expect anyone to take your crap seriously when you want to 'talk' Benghazi but you don't have the decency to list all four names.  Of course, it was important for the media to vanish these three because their parents refuse to play along with photo ops the way Chris Stevens' parents did.  These three parents want answers.
I applauded the Jersey Girls in real time (and applaud them today).  I applaud any American who takes on the system to find out why their loved one died (or where their loved one is in the case of the MIAs).
Howie Kurtz has proven himself to be an idiot and any words about caring about the troops or anything else are flat out lies from him because he refused to note the rude treatment of two Americans who died in an attack that took place because they were American and he refused to call out Thomas E. Ricks' bulls**t. 
He had time to plug the latest bad book from Thomas E. Ricks.  He just didn't have time to mention Iraq War veterans killed in an attack on Americans.  Whores make their priorities very clear and we hear you, Howie.  Though for how much longer is going to be the question.
Fat trash Ricks is quoted by Howie saying his apology to Fox News was not an apology "but rather an explanation of why I jumped a bit when the anchor began the segment with the assertion that pressure on the White House was building, which it most clearly was not."
As we've noted before, Thomas E. Ricks is no longer a reporter.  (Congratulations to the European community members who made sure that his billing was corrected when he went to Europe to pimp The Gamble.  He even got confronted to his face when he attempted to claim he was "just a reporter."  No, you're not.  You haven't been a reporter in years.)  Clearly was not?  Jay Carney made a ridiculous statement yesterday that the press refused to call out.  When you admit that the administration, 47 days after the attack, knows nothing, that's kind of desperate.  My opinion, that shows pressure on the White House.  But it's just my opinion, it's not fact and Thomas E. Ricks can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction which is why, on that segment, he announced that Susan Rice would be confirmed as Secretary of State.
While Thomas was digging through the hampers of various generals today and holding the pouches of boxers and briefs up to his nose, I was at two hearings.  The one in the afternoon?  Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  It was so the Committee could publicly vet two of Barack's nominees.  Susan Rice wasn't one of them.  You had Robert Godec who is nominated to be the US Ambassador to Kenya and Deborah Ann McCarthy who is nominated to be the US Ambassador to Lithuania.
You know who else was at that hearing?  Senator John Kerry because he's the Chair of that Committee.  And while Thomas E. Ricks rubs his nose against military officers' crotches, I actually speak to the people who will be voting in the Senate.  And today there was a surprising amount of sympathy for John Kerry who his Democratic peers feel would be a great Secretary of State and felt that this was in the bag after Kerry's endorsement of and work for Barack during the 2008 primaries.  There's a feeling that John's not just qualified, that he's not only put in his time, but that he's being snubbed in the most rude way possible.  As a Democratic Senator not on the Foreign Relations Committee said to me and another Democratic Senator today, 'John's being asked to just go along with this media circus and if Susan Rice is nominated, he'll be the one to preside over that hearing.  And you know it's tearing him apart but he's never said a word against Rice or against Obama.'
So Thomas E. Ricks lunatic idea that Susan Rice is beloved by Democratic Senators for the Secretary of State post?  He might want to get his nose out of the hairy crotches of generals, wash his face and try talking to actual Senators.  (Though I doubt too many would want to talk to him.)
Decades of service and public work is what John Kerry brings to the table.  But when it's not about qualifications, why should anyone have to wait their turn?  I'm not saying Susan Rice wouldn't get confirmed.  I believe Democrats will vote for her.  But while Barack has angered the nation by yet again picking fights when he should be focused on issues that matter, he's angered Republicans and the assumption that he will go with Rice over John Kerry is really doing damage to Barack's reputation in the Senate. 
This was not the fight to have and we made that point the minute Susan Rice's name was floated publicly.  It's shown Barack to be petty and bickering, it's hardened tensions between the White House and Republicans in Congress (House and Senate) and it's left Democrats in the Senate demoralized as one of their own, an immensely qualified candidate for Secretary of State, appears about to be passed over for a woman more infamous for snarls than for building ties.
Here's Gareth Porter (TruthOut) correcting some of the damaging lies Thomas E. Ricks has put into print over the years about his wet dream David Petraeus:
Petraeus has been credited by Ricks and other journalists with having abandoned violent "cordon and search" operations used everywhere else in Iraq that alienated the entire Sunni population, and having replaced them with "cordon and knock" operations. In the softer version of targeted raids, the targets' homes were surrounded and the targets were invited to give themselves up peacefully. But again, the NPS thesis, based on the actual documents and the testimony of officers in Petraeus's command, tells a rather different story.
It turns out that Petraeus did not end kill-or-capture raids in Mosul: he continued to use them to kill or capture those believed to be hardcore insurgents, according to the NPS study. The less violent sweeps were used to capture "less dangerous but potentially active members of insurgent groups without alienating entire neighborhoods," the authors wrote. And when insurgent attacks went over 100 for the month of November 2003, Petraeus ordered a major increase in the level of cordon-and-search raids in December, hitting 23 targets simultaneously in one night. The number of suspects detained in Mosul soared that month to 295 - nearly three times the average over the previous five months.
Those targeted raids on suspected insurgents depended on intelligence gathered by Petraeus' own command, Special Forces operating in the area and the CIA. But how reliable was that intelligence? It is widely acknowledged that, especially that early in the war, US intelligence on the insurgency was woefully weak. The International Red Cross disclosed in a February 2004 report on detainee abuse in Iraq that US military intelligence officers had estimated that 70 to 90 percent of Iraqis they had detained were innocent. Petraeus' operation, as elsewhere in Iraq, had to rely on Iraqis volunteering information as to who was an insurgent, and, as Ricks relates, Petraeus told him "there were so many phony tips passed by Iraqis feuding with each other that this softer approach helped sort those tips without unnecessarily insulting Iraqi dignity."
Unlike Thomas E. Ricks, Senator Patty Murray doesn't have time to waste obscuring reality.  As the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, she's up to her neck with reality attempting to address the many concerns and issues of veterans each day.  Today, her office notes:
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
VETERANS: Senator Murray Proposes Major Mental Health Care Expansion as Part of Defense Authorization Bill
Murray's amendment would make improvements to ensure that those who served have access to consistent, quality behavioral health care
Would require DoD to create a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program
(Washington, D.C.) – As it becomes increasingly clear that the Pentagon and VA are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions that are confronting so many of our servicemembers and veterans, Senator Murray gave a speech on the Senate floor today to offer an amendment to the defense authorization bill that seeks to improve mental health and suicide prevention services. The amendment is derived from her servicemembers and veterans mental health legislation, the Mental Health ACCESS Act of 2012, which unanimously cleared the Veterans' Affairs Committee earlier this year. Senator Murray's amendment would require the Department of Defense to create a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program; expand eligibility for a variety of Department of Veterans Affairs mental health services to family members; strengthen oversight of DoD Mental Health Care and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System; improve training and education for our health care providers; create more peer-to-peer counseling opportunities; and require VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services.
Key excerpts from Senator Murray's speech:
"I think everyone in this body knows about, and is distressed by, the alarming rate of suicide and the mental health problems in our military and veterans populations. We know our servicemembers and veterans have faced unprecedented challenges: multiple deployments; difficulty finding a job here at home; and isolation in their communities. Some have faced tough times reintegrating into family life, with loved ones trying to relate but not knowing how. These are the challenges our servicemembers and veterans know all too well."
"We must have effective suicide prevention programs in place. It's often only on the brink of crisis that a servicemember or veteran seeks care. If they are told 'sorry, we are too busy to help you,' we have lost the opportunity to help, and that is not acceptable."
"While the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have taken important steps towards addressing this crisis, we know more must be done. We know that any solution depends upon reducing wait times and improving access to mental health care; ensuring proper diagnosis; and achieving true coordination of care and information between the Departments."
The full text of Senator Murray's speech:
"Mr. President, today I am offering an amendment to the defense authorization bill to improve mental health and suicide prevention services.
"This language is derived from my Mental Health ACCESS Act, which was unanimously approved by the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
"This amendment is critical legislation that improves how DOD and VA provide mental health care.
"I think everyone in this body knows about, and is distressed by, the alarming rate of suicide and the mental health problems in our military and veterans populations.
"We know our servicemembers and veterans have faced unprecedented challenges: multiple deployments; difficulty finding a job here at home; and isolation in their communities.
"Some have faced tough times reintegrating into family life, with loved ones trying to relate but not knowing how.
"These are the challenges our servicemembers and veterans know all too well.
"But even as they turn to us for help, we're losing the battle. Time and time again, we've lost servicemembers and veterans to suicide.
"But while the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have taken important steps towards addressing this crisis, we know more must be done.
"We know that any solution depends upon reducing wait times and improving access to mental health care; ensuring proper diagnosis; and achieving true coordination of care and information between the Departments.
"This amendment would require a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program across the DoD.
"It would require the use of the best medical practices, in suicide prevention and behavioral health programs to address serious gaps in
the current programs.
"This amendment would expand eligibility for VA mental health services to family members of veterans.
"The amendment would also give servicemembers an opportunity to
serve as peer counselors to fellow Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and create a quality assurance program for the historically troubled disability evaluation system.
"It would require VA to offer peer support services at all medical centers and create opportunities to train more veterans to provide peer services.
"This bill will require VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services.
"We must have effective suicide prevention programs in place. It's often only on the brink of crisis that a servicemember or veteran seeks care.
"If they are told 'sorry, we are too busy to help you,' we have lost the opportunity to help, and that is not acceptable.
"I would like to thank Senator Levin and Senator McCain for their work
on the defense authorization bill, and for their help bringing this amendment to the floor today.
"Thank you Mr. President."
Kathryn Robertson
Specialty Media Coordinator
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510
Meanwhile in Iraq, where Nouri's reputation really can't handle too many other hits, there's news of another loss.  Xinhua explains, "Brazil's soccer legend Artur Antunes Coimbra, beter known as Zico, resigned as coach of the Iraqi national team after he accused the Iraqi Football Association (IFA) of failing to meet his contract obligations." ESPN reports, "Iraq are currently in third place in Asia's Group B with five points from five matches behind Japan and Australia, but the Brazilian has quit his role after accusing the country's governing body of an unspecified breach of contract."  And Brian Homewood (Reuters) notes, "Zico made his debut as Iraq coach against Jordan in September last year.  He has been in charge for 21 games, with 10 wins and six draws."   The news comes as Nouri al-Maliki is in a war of words with ExxonMobil and other companies and as he's just broken a $4.2 billion weapons contract weeks after he signed it.  On top of that Platts reports, "Iraq's oil production fell sharply in October to 3.035 million b/d, a 200,000 b/d decline from September output of 3.235 million b/d although oil exports rose slightly to 2.624 million b/d, a new post-1990 record, oil ministry figures obtained Wednesday by Platts showed."  Al Mada reports political leader and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has declared that Nouri al-Maliki's escalation of forces is an attempt to distract from where the problems stem -- the one who holds the power.  He decried Nouri's recent efforts to cancel the ration card and noted the corruption allegations regarding the $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia.
Yesterday, Iraq was slammed with bombings.  UNAMI issued the following today:

Baghdad, 28 November 2012The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Martin Kobler, expresses his dismay following the series of attacks against innocent victims, including worshippers, in several locations throughout Iraq. كوردی
 "These inhuman acts only add to the senseless suffering of innocent people and their families," the SRSG said.
 Mr. Kobler also expresses his profound sympathy to the families of the victims, to whom he extends his sincere condolences, and wishes a speedy recovery to the wounded.
And the violence continues today.  All Iraq News reports a Falluja sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 officer (a colonel) and the life of 1 of his bodyguards while a Baquba home invasion resulted in the death of 1 police officer and his son being left injured. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports a Tarmiyah home invasion (targeting a Sahwa family) resulted in the deaths of 1 Sahwa, 2 women and 4 children.   Xinhua adds, "In Baghdad, two roadside bombs went off outside a liquor store near the Nafaq al-Shurta area, in al-Jamia district in western the city, wounding five people, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua. In a separate incident, gunmen using silenced pistols wounded a police officer while he was driving on al-Qanat Street in eastern Baghdad, the source said."  Meanwhile Alsumaria reports that fisherman Taha Mahmoud Sabhan is set to be executed in Kuwait and the Basra government is calling on Kuwait to toss aside the death sentence.

In what's supposed to be good news, Al Rafidayn reports that 20 women who were employees of the Centeral Bank are being released.   Why isn't that good news?  In what world are bank employees held for over a month to be interrogated or 'interrogated'?  This is unacceptable and this is the sort of thing the US allowed when they put thug Nouri in charge in 2006 and when Barack demanded that thug Nouri stay in charge in 2010.

This is unacceptable.  20 women whose 'crime' was working for the Central Bank have been held imprisoned for over a month as Nouri's forces attempted to 'extract' information from them. About what?  Probably attempting to get testimony against Sinan al-Shabibi.  As the latest quarterly report from the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction noted at the end of last month:

On October 16, 2012, the Council of Ministers dismissed Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) Governor Sinan al-Shabibi, amid allegations of corruption leveled against him. This peremptory and constitutionally questionalbe move occured as an audit of the DBI's foreign currency auctions surfaced.
Nouri made a "constitutionally questionable move" and it's really looking like he doesn't have evidence -- not even enough circumstantial evidence to convict in the Baghdad courts he controls.

So it's a good guess that the time the women were imprisoned, they weren't doing arts and crafts.

On Iraqi prisons, we'll note this from the BRussels Tribunal:

Hamid Al-Mutlaq, Deputy Prime Minister and Member of the Defense and Security Committee alerted both Nouri Al-Maliki, Chief Commander of the Armed Forces,
and Sadoon Al-Dulaimi, Defense Minister, about the torture in Iraqi prisons, and
said that female prisoners are routinely raped by the prison guards. Al-Mutlaq said in a press conference held in the Parliament that there are many female prisoners who are tortured on a regular basis, and that Al-Maliki and Al-Dulaimi bear full responsibility. He also added that it's unacceptable that the perpetrating officers go unpunished for raping women, children and torturing them. He also mentioned the names of prisoners who died as a result of torture: Muhammad KhudairUbaid, Muhammad MoohiSharji, Ibrahim Adnan Salih, Mahmood Ubaid Jameel, Hamid Jameel, Fadil Abdullah, Omar Hisham, and Muhammad JasimMezhir.

Al-Mutlag said the Iraqi army and security forces carry out many raids and arbitrarily arrest citizens to blackmail them to be released on bail. He said that the government and the Iraqi Parliament are responsible for this situation of lawlessness.
A security source revealed in August that the officers in the detention centers in Baghdad practice all kinds of torture on the prisoners, and many of them died as a result.
MP Hamid al-Mutlaq holds Nouri al-Maliki and the Supreme Judicial responsible for violations perpetrated against Iraqi women in prisons and demandsthe release of these female victims and asked why such shameful practices go unpunished.
Al Mutlaq: "The security situation has deteriorated to a limit that can not be tolerated as violation of women honor during arrests is done by the security services.
Mutlag expressed his regret for arresting women and their daughters aged of 12 years on charges of terrorism.

This situation of lawlessness and rape of Iraqi female prisoners is becoming a big problem for Maliki, as more MP's, Civil Society organisations and the Iraqi people are denouncing the abuses of the Regime's security forces
Sheikh Sufian Omar al-Naimi,Emir of Naim tribes in Iraq, urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iraqi parliament speaker Osama Nujaifi to start an immediate investigation in the case of the Iraqi women detainees who are suffering of flagrant violations in the women prison in Baghdad.
He said in a press statement issued by his office on 25 November that "the appeals that we receive from Iraqi jailed women on charges of multiple crimes mostly of terrorism are subjected to torture and rape".
MP Khalid Abdullah al-Alwani called the Iraqi Government to open the women prisons for civil society organizations in order to provide the female inmates with services and to inspect their situations.
Alwanisaid "We condemn the government's silence towards the torture and rape crimes that are practiced inside the women prisons."
He urged the "officials to reveal the names of the perpetrators of these shameful acts, calling at the same time to give the guilty officers the maximum penalty", and added that "our women's honor is the honor of all Iraqis."
Hundreds of citizens demonstrated on 26 November in downtown Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, urging the government to proceed with the investigation of violation of human rights committed against women in detention centers.
Demonstrators waved banners calling on the government to open a serious investigation of those violations and the formation of a committee to examine the reality of female detainees situation in prisons and to distinguish between those who were arrested unjustly and terrorist elements.
A team of the Iraqi NGO Hammurabi Organization published on 21 Octoberits first report about the dreadful situation in the women's prison in Baghdad and its 31 prisoners sentenced to death on terrorism charges under Article 4. The report says women have been subjected to torture by electrocution, beatings, and rape by the investigators during interrogation. They had also been raped by the police and by the officers escorting them during the transfer from Tasfirat Jail to the women's prison in Baghdad. Two membersof the Hammurabi Organization, William Warda and Pascal Warda, former minister of environment,were authorized to visit the prison. They said that female prisoners in death rowsuffered from infectious diseases and scabies. "They receive no health care and are not allowed to bathe andcan change clothes only once a month, which aggravates their health situation". The NGO said that the children, imprisoned with their mothers,are "ticking time bombs that can explode any minute".
The organization also said in its report that there are 21 children, some of them infants, living inside the women's prison "suffering a punishment without committing any crime". A total of 414 detainees are being held in the jail, varying in age from 20 to 65. Among the inmates were 18 women sentenced to death, and they all complainedabout neglect and violence in various ways.
Pascal Warda who led the Hammurabi Organization team said that the conditions of prisoners, convicted as suicide bombers, live in miserabe and intolerable conditions.
The report quoted an unidentified judge as saying that there were "violations throughout the investigation process," recommending that female security officers escort women prisoners to reduce the chance of abuse.
International human rights groups have on several occasions complained of persistent torture at Iraqi prisons being used to extract confessions from detainees, and also of the continued use of secret jails.
Journalist Serene Assir, member of the BRussells Tribunal, accurately described on 08 March 2012 in Iraqi Women: Resilience Amid Horror( the situation of female prisoners and women in general in today's Iraq.
Thousands of women are currently in prison under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior or the US and UK-trained military. Others, according to veteran Iraqi activist Asma al-Haidari, languish in "secret prisons, headed by militias loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."
The use of torture and sexual abuse in prisons has become systematic in Iraq, al-Haidari said, thanks to training not only by the US and the UK, but also Israel and Iran.
While in detention, many women suffer rape and become mothers to children they never wanted. Some are raped in front of their husbands and children, as a way to humiliate the family and extract "confessions" from men suspected of resisting against a criminal regime. Some of the women are arrested and behind bars instead of their husbands.
The degradation of secularism in Iraqi society, under the weight of Iranian-trained and backed militias, has also given rise to new social dynamics, for which women paid the heaviest price.
It is hard to imagine just how the effects of a decade of oppression can be undone. For one, the dismantling of Iraq's state institutions in 2003 put hundreds of thousands of women out of work. A 2007 BRussells Tribunal dossier on women estimated that until 2003, 72 percent of public sector workers, including teachers, were women.
In spite of the damage, many Iraqi women have continued to take an active, even heroic role. "Iraqi women have been very resilient," said Zangana. "Since 2003, and increasingly since February 2011, women have been at the forefront of protests denouncing the occupation and the regime."
Violations of women rights and torture and rape of women has been introduced by the US Occupying Forces. In June 2010 the General Secretary of the Union of Political Prisoners and Detainees in Iraq, Muhammad Adham al-Hamd declared that the US occupation administration in Iraq relied on systematic rape, torture, and sadistic treatment of Iraqi women prisoners in its prison camps in the country. Al-Hamd said that the enormous crimes being committed against women in the prison camps in occupied Iraq had the support and blessings of the US military, for whom the practices served as a means to bring psychological pressure on men engaged in the Resistance, in an attempt to break their spirit and fighting will.
Muhammad Adham al-Hamd made the comments in a statement regarding reports that confirmed the presence of large numbers of women in the American-run prison camps – women who are detained solely to be raped and abused in order to bring pressure upon their husbands, brothers, sons or fathers.
Years of US/UK occupation of Iraq have affected Iraq's social fabric and contributed to a serious deterioration of Iraqi women's rights. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Government of Iraq (GoI) should urgently take the necessary measures to improve gender equality and women's rights.
The US and UK must be held accountable for thisdeterioration, for the destruction of Iraq'ssocial fabric and for all other crimes against humanity they have inflicted upon the people of Iraq.

Al Mada reports political leader and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has declared that Nouri al-Maliki's escalation of forces is an attempt to distract from where the problems stem -- the one who holds the power.  He decried Nouri's recent efforts to cancel the ration card and noted the corruption allegations regarding the $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia.