"Obama appoints panel to slash social programs" (World Socialist Web Site):
President Barack Obama's establishment by executive order of a bipartisan commission on deficits on Thursday is the latest step in his administration’s attack on health care and retirement programs upon which millions of Americans depend.
The 18-member panel will propose measures to slash government spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. It will also consider a series of regressive taxes, including a consumption or value added tax, to force the working class to pay for the budget deficit. Its aim, according to the White House, will be to reduce the deficit from its current level of over 10 percent of gross domestic product to 3 percent by 2015.
Speaking on Thursday, Obama repeated a theme that has been a constant refrain of his administration—that partisan divisions between Democrats and Republicans are blocking the implementation of policies deemed necessary by the financial and corporate elite. “For far too long, Washington has avoided the tough choices necessary to solve our fiscal crisis,” he said. “Everything is on the table,” he added.
I hope everyone still loves Barack, still grooves on him, after he destroys Social Security and Medicaid. Let me be perfectly honest, it's not going to effect me one damn bit. My parents left my brother and I more money than we could ever spend. I never had to worry about college expenses. I had a thriving practice for many years. (I have one now but I don't charge anymore and all I see are vets.) I'm set and I've always been set. I won't hurt financially. I'm diversified in my investments.
So Social Security vanishing before I even qualify for my first payment? Not a big concern for me personally.
I could, therefore, take the attitude of: Well they voted for him, they got what they wanted or maybe what they deserved and it's really not my problem.
But it is my problem.
The safety net doesn't just help those in need, it says a lot about what kind of a people we are. If we don't care enough about those in need, if we don't care enough about basic dignities, then we really aren't a civil society. We're some other grouping, but we're not one that I really want to be a part of.
A lot of people are already struggling on fixed incomes and that's going to be even worse after Barack's motley crew begins monkey around and cutting the safety net.
In my lifetime, I have seen non-stop assaults on Social Security despite its huge popularity.
Because it is so very popular (understandably so), to assault it, they tell lies. They claim it doesn't have the money or that it won't have the money.
Of course it does.
Social Security is not part of the General Fund. While it is very much true that the executive branch has dipped into the funds, that dipping was always 'allowed' because the people of this country expected the government to honor those markers they left when they borrowed from Social Security.
That was the people's money. No one would have okayed the dipping if they'd known the government would attempt to avoid paying all that they borrowed.
Social Security is not insolvent.
It will not be insolvent.
But it's under attack again.
I remember C.I. hitting this note over and over during the primaries. I wondered why people wouldn't pay attention. I remember her devoting a huge part of a snapshot, right before Barack was sworn in, to his talk to the Washington Post editorial board and staff and his remarks about how he would monkey with Social Security.
People are going to have to start paying attention.
This is about your lives. Mr. Hopium is not delivering salvation. All he's done thus far is continue illegal wars and give the people's money away to big business. People need to wake the hell up.
For the issue of Medicaid, please read Tom Eley's article on the way it's being attacked.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 19, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the election madness continues, no one is who they seem including Ahmed who's reportedly lined up a post-election deal, Gordon Brown tests the waters, and more.
Today on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Diane's guests were Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Moises Naim (Foreign Policy) and the topic of Iraq's upcoming elections (scheduled for March 7th) was addressed.
Diane Rehm: Alright and one of our listeners in Intervale, New Hampshire has a question about Iraq. She wants to know what is the current state of play regarding the upcoming March elections in Iraq? Were the 500 suspected Ba'athists candidates re-instated? Will they be permitted to run? Karen?
Karen DeYoung: Well this started out -- the Iraqi elections are two Sundays from now. They are on the seventh of March, these are national elections, the first ones since Prime Minister al-Maliki was elected in 2005 [Parliamentary elections held December 2005], after a lot of horse trading among Iraqis [Nouri became Prime Minister in April 2006 after the US rejected the Parliament's choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari]. I think for the United States this is a question of [coughs], excuse me, whether this democratic experiment is actually going to hold there, if they're going to progress to a sustainable democracy. The -- part of the new constitution which we helped put in place, which we put in place in Iraq, calls for de-Ba'athitication which is removing anyone who had anything to do with the party of Saddam Hussein. The people who control the de-Ba'athification process are considered to be very close to Iran which would like a strong Shia government in Iraq. And so they put out a list, to the surprise of everyone, that had more than 500 people on it who they charged had some kind of ties with the Ba'ath Party and were therefore ineligible to run for elections. These were all people who had been promoted by their parties. Most of them -- the majority Shia but because Sunnis are in the minority there, the number of Sunnis there was seen as a concern. It was seen as an effort to push the Sunnis out of contention. There were -- there was a lot of manuevring. The list has been whittled down to about 120 people. The Americans at least think that the crisis has passed. No one -- none of the major parties, including the Sunni parties, have said they will boycott the elections which was one of the big concerns. But I think everyone is sort of on tender hooks waiting to see if this is actually going to work.
Diane Rehm: James?
James Kitfield: One of the interesting little sidebars to this story is the person which is running the [Justice & Accountability] commission which is totally opaque -- no one understands what criteria is used to how close you are to the Ba'ath Party and what remaining ties you may have to the Ba'ath Party -- is Ahmed Chalabi. You know, we've been through this story before with this guy. He was put in charge of de-Ba'athification by the Bush administration and Paul Bremer. He did the same thing, trying to clear the field of Sunnis so he could -- his political rivals. It's not very helpful.
[. . .]
Diane Rehm: Let's go to Chris in Lincolon, Nebraska. Good morning to you.
Chris: Good morning to you, Diane, I'm a huge fan. I want to say your show makes me a more informed citizen and I can't think you enough.
Diane Rehm: I'm so glad, thank you.
Chris: My question is about James Kitfield's comment about Ahmed Chalabi still being involved in the Iraqi political system. I was just curious as to how much power this man still has considering his shady reputation?
Diane Rehm: It is a very good question, James Kitfield.
James Kitfield: Yeah, and if you -- if your viewer can get to the bottom of it, I'd love to hear about it. Because it's astounding to me. Clearly the Americans have been -- have been frustrated by this guy forever. He's got -- uh -- we had General [Ray] Odierno was in town this week, the chief US commander saying that he has close ties to Iran. They've tracked him going to Iran and meeting with senior officials. So clearly this is not a guy uh who has our interest in mind. But you have to believe he has some sway with Prime Minister [Nouri] al-Maliki otherwise he wouldn't be in this key position.
Karen DeYoung: You know Chris Hill who is the US Ambassador to Iraq has been here this week and made a lot of public statements and he was asked this several times. What is the -- what's the constituency that Ahmed Chalabi has? And he's described it as a sort of way at looking at how the United States needs to be a lot more humble about what it knows about the inner workings of the country. I mean, Ahmed Chalabi, was not only a favorite of the Bush administration and certainly of-of the US Defense Department, he was -- he was thought of as someone they wanted to put in as prime minister. And he ran the exile organizations here. He was sent there specifically. He was put in charge of this system in '03 and '04, when-when Paul Bremer was there. And so he clearly had a different agenda. And he's been acting on that agenda. And I think that, uh, the question I have had is is as the Iraqis in this electoral process denounce the United States for interfering -- and this is all part of its politics -- you don't hear much denunciation of Iran.
Meanwhile some Iraqi voters don't hear a great deal from the candidates supposedly wanting their votes. Alsumaria TV reports that Sadr City residents are complaining that their candidates have not shown to campaign nor have they bothered to "address people's complaints" regarding sewage and garbage issues. Turning to the KRG, Delovan Barwari (Kurdish Herald) reports:
In the last elections, nearly all of the Kurdish political parties, along with a number of Chaldo-Assyrian and Turkmen parties, entered the elections under a banner called the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (DPAK). DPAK secured 53 of the 275 parliamentary seats, became a key player in Iraqi politics, and allowed Kurds to expand their political influence in Baghdad. As a result of DPAK's strong showing in the national parliamentary elections, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Secretary General Jalal Talabani, became the first Kurd in Iraq's history to become president of the country.
However, the political atmosphere in Iraqi Kurdistan has changed quite significantly since then. A new opposition group, known simply as "Change" (or "Gorran" in Kurdish), has emerged in Iraqi Kurdistan as a strong political force. This new group is led by Jalal Talabani's former deputy, Newshirwan Mustafa. The Change List received enough votes to turn heads, winning the majority of votes in the Sulaymaniyah province and receiving nearly 25% of total votes in the Kurdistan region. Many analysts expect the Change List to have a strong showing in the upcoming Iraqi national elections and, as Kirkuk will also be voting, some believe that the Change List will receive an even greater share of Kurdish votes this time around.
The new political reality in Kurdistan may weaken the Kurdish position in Baghdad as the fundamental source of Kurdish power has been previously fueled by the united stance of the various Kurdish political groups. Today, there are three major Kurdish political lists entering the Iraqi elections independently. The largest of the three remains the bloc led by the President of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, and the current Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (from the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the PUK, respectively), which will be joined once again by a number of smaller Kurdish political parties. The newly-emerged Change List will be the second largest political bloc that is comprised of a number of important players who formerly identified themselves with the PUK. Another noticeable political power is an alliance between the two Islamic parties in Kurdistan, the Islamic Group and the Islamic Union.
Gorran is fueled by US funds and US interests. And it's turnout wasn't remarkable in the provincial elections -- and that's before you consider how many US dollars were poured into funding the 'grassroots' party. AFP reported yesterday that Goran was claiming that Jala Talabani's forces had shot three of their workers -- this was PUK accused, not related to Talabani being the president of Iraq.
On this week's War News Radio from Swarthmore College (began airing today), Abdulla Mizead reported on one candidate running for Parliament.
Abdulla Mizead: Iraq remains among the world's most corrupt nations. In last year's edition of Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Iraq was the fifth most corrupt countries. No one knows more about this problem than Moussa Faraj. He was head of Iraq's Public Integrity Commission until mid-2008, urging Iraqis to get in the business of fighting corruption.
Moussa Faraj: I was the first Iraqi to call for fighting corruption. I joined the anti-corruption committee at the governing council where we drafted the two laws that formed the Public Integrity Commission and the Ministry Inspector Generals. And, in 2004, I was Inspector General for the Ministry of Public Works.
Abdulla Mizead: Though he was considered the country's best Inspector General, several ministers were displeased with is decency. He got moved from one ministry to the other. He says it was hard to stay in one position for more than two months. But when he finally made it to the top of the Integrity Commission, he was overwhelemd by the size of financial and administrative corruption.
Moussa Faraj: When I was the head of the Public Integrity Commission, I said corruption in Iraq was different from any other corruption anywhere else in the world. Why? Because corruption elsewhere is limited to bribery and money laundering and it doesn't exceed millions of dollars a year.
Abdulla Mizead: But in Iraq, he says it's much more complicated.
Moussa Faraj: I warned of the legitimate corruption in Iraq. It's the most dangerous corruption in the world. Government officials and law makers make laws that steal public money. They protect themselves with the law because they know they can't be tried. Courts only go after illegitimate acts.
Abdulla Mizead: He says the political situation after 2003 was mainly to blame for the increase in levels of corruption.
Moussa Faraj: Why is there corruption? First, the failures in government performence. Appointing ministers and high officials in the state who lack academic qualifications or have fraudulent certificates, lack expertise and are loyal to their parties rather than the people. Parliament members are loyal to their parties. They take the Constitutional oath to serve the interest of the Iraqi people but instead they serve the head of their bloc in Parliament.
Things are never simple in Iraq. For background on Faraj, September 7, 2007, David Corn (The Nation) reported on the attacks on Radhi al-Radhi which led him to be replaced on Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity:
Regardless of the legality of Rahdi's ouster, Moussa Faraj, who has been named for Radhi's replacement, is an odd pick for the job. He was once a deputy at the CPI -- having been installed at the commission by the ruling Shia Alliance Party. Accodring to the secret U.S. embassy report on corruption, Faraj regularly posecuted and delayed cases on "sectarian bases." Worse, the report notes that Faraj, a political ally of Sabah al-Saidi (the Parliament leader who has assailed Radhi), once "allowed a Shia Alliance member [charged in a multi-million-dollar corruption case] to escape custody." And after Faraj was dismissed from the CPI, the report says, he stole "literally a car load of case files." An arrest warrant was issued for hi.
Several weeks ago, accordign to Radhi and his investigators, Faraj was arrested, placed in prison, and subsequently released on bail. "How can he be in jail and then be head of the integrity commission?" Radhi asks. Putting the CPI in Faraj's hands, Radhi says, will allow Maliki's office and Saidi to control its actions and prevent the commission from conducting investigations that inconvenience them and their political confederates. It will mean, he claims, the end of any meaninful anticorruption effort in Iraq.
In testimony to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee May 13, 2008, James F. Mattil stated, "After Judge Radhi resigned, the Prime Minister appointed a new acting CPI commissioner, Moussa Faraj, who three weeks earlier had been arrested and jailed on corruption charges. Faraj was out on bail and had yet to appear in court when he was appointed commission of Iraq's lead anti-corruption agency." [PDF format warning, click here for his remarks.] Meanwhile, Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) surveys the scene and doesn't see anything to inspire:
Who are these people and where are they leading us ? Every sane Iraqi must ask himself/herself this question. Where the f**k are you ? Have you disappeared in the ether, in communion with the dead or are you patiently waiting for your turn to finally join them -- your easy way out, since the only thing they promised you -- your liberators and your idols, is death...
They guaranteed you death, and now you just wait for it, like a terminally ill patient in a doctor's waiting room. He knows he's on his final way out, but he still pays his weekly visit...
How did my world shrink to turbans and robes...to charlatans and quacks, to a vicious authoritarianism that has suck up every God notion from my vocabulary..did my soul die in this tunnel ?..the idea itself is more murderous than a physical death...
We are the soul zombies of the new world order...the soul zombies of the new Middle East...
Khairallah Khairallah (Middle East Online) offers a take on the state of Iraq:
Perhaps the only meaningful statement in the testimony of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in front of a committee investigating the war on Iraq, is the one that disclosed that the US wanted in 2003 the elimination of Saddam Hussein's family-Baathist regime. All Blair did, to summarize his testimony before the committee, is become 'convinced' of the viewpoint of the Americans and practically comply with their desires that see the justifications for war as not important as long as the aim is set in advance.
There was indeed a justification to get rid of a regime that plunged Iraq into three devasting wars. The first with Iran, the second with the international community after committing the crime of invading Kuwait and the third with the United States and its allies, who in 2003 found the right opportunity to finish off an important Arab state and turn it into a state with a lost identity. Saddam's regime did not cause the third war, but did everything to facilitate it; starting by ignoring the regional and international realities to the extreme and its lack of knowledge of the importance of the balance of power in relations between states. All of the justifications put forward by Blair to justify war that are meaningful and are not based on facts or legitmacy. This is why Clare Short, who was a cabinet minister in his government at the time, was pushed to describe him as 'a liar' in her statement a few days abuot the circumstances of Britain's decision to participate in the war on Iraq.
[. . .]
In 2010, targeting political parties was done in the same manner of Ba'ath. The Ba'ath's Revolutionary Commanding Council in March 1980 passed a law on the "prohibition" of Dawa party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Perhaps the difference is that the there are no mass executions these days, especially since the US military is still present in its bases inside Iraq. The case becomes to retaliate against a vulnerable person here or there, who has no clan protected like Mr. Tariq Aziz, whose only fault was to be a Christian and he responded early to Iran, which tried to assassinate him in 1980 before the start of the war between the two countries as a symbol of a particular regime that allows him to be a Christian and a minister. That the treatment of Tariq Aziz in prison, especially after suffering a stroke and was taken to a US hospital, does not bode well. It indicates a malicious manner in dealing with a man who did not have any power at decision-making levels, as a desire for revenge Saddam's way, no more.
Tony Blair and Clare Short gave their testimony to the Iraq Inquiry in public hearings. The Inquiry, chaired by John Chilcot, is currently in recess but Gordon Brown, the current Prime Minister of England, will appear before the Iraq Inquiry shortly (the date has not been publicly released yet). Eddie Barners (The Scotsman) reports:
Speaking to Tribune magazine, the Prime Minister declared that the real issue had not been the danger of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, but the dictator's failure to comply with UN resolutions that demanded he provide full disclosure to weapons inspectors.
This, said Brown, was the reason Britain and America were right to send in the troops.
Mr Brown's words represent a marked change from the government's main rationale for military action in 2003, when it asked MPs to support invasion. The motion, voted on by MPs, declared first and foremost that the UK should send in troops "to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction".
The comments ring more than a little hollow since Tony Blair sold the illegal war to England with the claims of WMD (specifically, that Iraq could strike the UK with WMD within 45 minutes). Brown may realize how hollow it sounds and may be attempting to publicly craft his testimony -- to test it out before appearing. He's enough trouble in terms of holding onto power and he really can't afford public ridicule but that's all his current idiotic statements invite. It may not be too late for him to save Labour's election chances by announcing his resignation as Prime Minister. In England, there are many experts on the Inquiry who have followed it and written of it at length. Near the top of anyone's list should be Chris Ames who has covered it for the Guardian (the Inquiry itself -- he's covered the issues for The New Statesman, the Guardian and many others) and who runs Iraq Inquiry Digest. In a post today, he notes:
In the light of Gordon Brown indicating (as in this piece yesterday) that he intends to tell the Inquiry that it was "Saddam Hussein's failure to comply with international demands on disclosure that persuaded him that action was necessary", I think it will be necessary to analyse this position on the basis of clear evidence.
[. . .]
This, admittedly, is a brief and simplistic pen-portrait of the situation. I have to admit that these issues are by no means my strong point. So, as I say, this is an open invitation to readers and contributors to provide information as to the extent to which Iraq complied or failed to comply with UNSCR 1441. I would particularly welcome contributions from readers and contributors who believe that there was significant non-compliance and can point to it. My intention would be to make the issue the subject of a new question page.
Again, Chris Ames would be at the top of any list of experts on this topic. Others wouldn't be and for those who have e-mailed since mid-week, yes, Ava and I will be covering that dabbler at Third.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one person and, dropping back to last night.
Reuters reports 1 police officer shot dead in Tal Afar and, dropping back to last night, 1 man shot dead in Mosul.
The violence continues because the Iraq War continues -- albiet under 'new management' (Barack Obama) and apparently with a new name. Last night Jake Tapper (ABC News) broke the story that the Iraq War will drop Operation Iraqi Freedom and go by the name Operation New Dawn. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote a memo to CENTCOM's Gen David Petraeus and copied it to Adm Mike Mullen, the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs. [PDF format warning] ABC has posted the memo:
MEMORANDUM FOR THE COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
SUBJECT: Request to Change the Name of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM to Operation NEW DAWN
The requested operation name change is approved to take effect 1 September 2010, coinciding with the change of mission for U.S. forces in Iraq. Aligning the name change with the change of mission sends a strong signal that Operation IRAQI FREEDOM has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission. It also presents opportunities to synchronize strategic communication initiatives, reinforce our commitment to honor the Security Agreement, and recognize our evolving relationship with the Government of Iraq.
Jake Tapper notes objection to the name change (or the attempt to pretend something's changed) by Brian Wise speaking on behalf of Military Families United. He also notes that "Operation New Dawn" was used for the fall 2004 assault on Falluja. Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) adds, "Since U.S. forces charged across the Kuwaiti border toward Baghdad in 2003, the war has been known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. The new name is scheduled to take effect in September, when U.S. troop levels are supposed to drop to about 50,000." But that wasn't always it's name, now was it? It was Operation Iraqi Liberation at first. Then it became a joke on the White House because the acronym for Operation Iraqi Liberation is "OIL."
That name was used. For those who doubt it, here's the opening statement of the White House press briefing on March 23, 2003 by Ari Fleischer.
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. Let me give you a report on the President's day. The President this morning has spoken with three foreign leaders. He began with Prime Minister Blair, where the two discussed the ongoing aspects of Operation Iraqi liberation. The President also spoke with President Putin to discuss the situation involving Iraq. They discussed cooperation on humanitarian issues. They both reiterated their strong support for the U.S.-Russia partnership, and agreed to continue, despite the differences that the two have over Iraq. And the two also discussed the United States' concerns, which President Bush discussed, involving prohibited hardware that has been transferred from Russian companies to Iraq. Following the call, the President also spoke with Prime Minister Aznar of Spain.
All the name change is another wave of Operation Happy Talk. Since the illegal war began, the ones running it have tried to trick you -- usually with the help of a very compliant press.
There is no peace in Iraq but at a time when US reporters seem unable or unwilling to write about the upcoming elections (we'll come back to that), they could be exploring other topics. For example, David Macary (CounterPunch) explores unionizing in Iraq:
Approximately 70-percent of the Iraqi economy is state-owned. And because it wasn't until recently that it even became legal to unionize public sector workers, the overwhelming majority of the workforce still remains non-union (as it is in the U.S.). It will be an uphill battle tapping into that sector. Still, even with those obstacles facing them, Iraq's unions are on the ascendancy.
The original IFTU, formed in May of 2003, was and remains affiliated with the Iraqi Communist Party (founded in 1934), and under its new name the GFIW is the only "officially recognized" labor group in the country. The other two organizations are the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) and the Federation of Oil Unions in Iraq (FOUI)--more or less competitors of the GFIW. All three federations have ties with the Iraqi Communist Party.
The tendency to view Iraq (or any Moslem country, for that matter) as a religious-cultural monolith is set on its head by the presence of an active communist party. Yet, given communism's ideological underpinnings (i.e., atheistic dialectical materialism), the notion of doctrinaire Iraqi Marxists capering in the desert with twitchy Islamic fundamentalists is stubbornly counterintuitive.
But counterintuitive or not, it's true. Secular Iraq has had a significant communist influence since the 1940s, manifested by peasant uprisings, organizing drives, and the progressive leadership of the ultra-nationalist but "benign autocrat," Abdul Karim Qasim, who, in 1958, abolished the monarchy and became Iraq's first prime minister. One of Qasim's first acts was repealing the official ban on the communist party. Had Qasim not been overthrown by the Baathists, there's no telling how strong labor could have become.
And we're back to elections. I don't think it was in the snapshot yesterday but I'm dictating this quickly and three e-mails swear it was. (I believe I wrote it in an entry I typed, not yesterday's snapshot.) I had written something to the effect of the US had walked away from the elections. That seems a puzzler to some. Elections will be held in two weeks and where is the US Ambassador to Iraq? Helping in any way in Iraq? No. He's in the US. That doesn't strike you as strange? Really? Joe Biden flew in and did what he could and the push back against it was too extreme and there's the fact that Hill's not qualified for his job. So the US is walking away from the elections and saying things like, 'It's fine now.' No, it's not fine. And that will probably become very clear in the battle that follows the election and if French 'gossip'/intelligence is correct, that's when Nouri learns that buddy and pal Ahmed Chalabi cut a deal to become the next Prime Minister -- a deal that Nouri's 'friends' in Tehran not only support but helped orchestrate. If French 'gossip'/intelligence is correct.
Back to England, Danny Fitzimons is an Iraq War veteran and suffers from PTSD. In August 2009, he went back to Iraq as an employee of AmrourGroup Inc and is charged in the August 9th shooting deaths of Darren Hoare (Australian contractor), and Paul McGuigan (British contractor) and in the wounding of Iraqi Arkhan Madhi. BBC News reports that his father and step-mother continue to work on getting Danny's trial move to the United Kingdom and quotes Liz Fitsimons stating, "Imagine if it was your son or brother who was facing a death penalty. We are setting our hopes on Danny getting a fair trial, a sentence and he is brought back here." AP reports he was in an Iraqi court yesterday and informed that he needed to appear again April 7th. (To be clear, Danny is being held in an Iraqi prison. He's not wandering through the Green Zone.) Yesterday, Amnesty International issued the following:
Responding to news that Danny Fitzsimons' trial on murder charges in Iraq has been delayed until April, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
"We've always said that it's right that private military and security contractors are held fully responsible for any alleged wrongdoing when they're working in places like Iraq, but we're seriously concerned about this case.
"Iraq has a dreadful record of unfair capital trials and there is a real danger of Danny Fitzsimons being sentenced to death after a shoddy judicial process.
"At the very least we want to see the Iraqi authorities ruling out capital punishment in his case."
Iraq is one of the biggest users of the death penalty in the world and Amnesty recently revealed that Iraq is preparing to execute approximately 900 prisoners, including 17 women.
The 900-plus prisoners have exhausted all their appeals and their death sentences are said to have been ratified by the Presidential Council, meaning that they could be executed at any time. The condemned prisoners have been convicted of offences such as murder and kidnapping, but many are thought to have been sentenced after unfair trials.
There is a petition on Facebook calling for Danny to be tried in the United Kingdom and not in England. Reprieve is raising funds for Danny's defense.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):From the raucous tea party rallies to the painful sacrifices families
are making behind closed doors, voter angst and anger are sweeping the
country like a storm. Directly in its path: the 2010 midterm elections.
On February 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW examines the
strong impact this groundswell has already had on electoral politics,
and what we can expect in November. Our investigation uncovers what
motivates people who've come together under the tea party banner, and how a larger dissatisfaction among voters spells trouble for incumbents
in both parties, some of whom have decided to avert the storm by leaving Congress altogether.
Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Gloria Borger (CNN), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Eamon Javers (Politico) and Alexis Simendinger (National Journal). Two things on Washington Week, first a PBS friend asked me to note that the website has been redesigned again and that they will be featuring many moments of past moments where the show weighed in on historic moments. (Ronald Reagan being sworn in -- the roundtable on that -- is currently offered.) So be sure to check out the website and it's new look and design (and remember the new show won't be posted online until Monday afternoon -- however, if you podcast, you will be able to download it no later than Saturday). Second, look at the line up. It would be great to say that they've had three female guests and one male guest many times before. They haven't. They have, however, had three male to one female. I've repeatedly stated that the chat & chew shows book like 'hot' radio programmed well into the 80s -- limiting women. (As late as 1985, Whitney Houston and other women suffered because many radio stations refused to play two women in a row. They'd play whole blocks of songs with male vocals but they just knew, JUST KNEW, two women in a row would run off listeners. Turns out it wasn't the listeners that were running scared, it was the programmers.) Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Bernadine Healy, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nicole Kurakowa and Irene Natividad to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
"Blackwater 61" is the call sign of a plane flown by the embattled government contractor Blackwater that crashed into a mountain in Afghanistan killing all onboard. The widow of one of the soldiers killed - a pilot herself - says the firm was negligent in the way it operated the flight. Steve Kroft reports.
The Bloom Box
Large corporations in California have been secretly testing a new device that can generate power on the spot, without being connected to the electric grid. They're saying it's efficient, clean, and saves them money. Will we have one in every home someday? Lesley Stahl reports.
It's been eight years since the attack on the World Trade Center and billions of dollars have been spent, yet none of the promised buildings and memorial has been completed in what its developer calls "a national disgrace." Scott Pelley reports. | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Lastly, and sorry that it's "lastly," Trina's "Operation Bottom Dollar" Wednesday reported on the FTA news conference Jess gave a heads up to with "Consumer scams (Jess)" on Sunday.