Friday, June 11, 2010

All This Time Later

"New Orleans Oyster Processor Runs Out Of Oysters" (Tamara Keith, Morning Edition, NPR):
The fallout from the BP oil spill continues to ripple through the Gulf economy. This week, it caught up to P&J Oyster Co. in New Orleans.
The owners say it's the oldest continuously operating oyster processor in America. But thanks to the oil, they now have no oysters to process.

Oysterman Mitch Jurisich first spotted oil floating on the water above his beds at 7:30 in the morning. It was just yards away from where his grandparents first settled after emigrating from Croatia almost a century ago.
"This is the last of our areas that we had open from our family to harvest oysters," Jurisich says. "We were fortunate enough to have one little slice of pie left that we were still farming from, and that slice of pie now is gone."

That Gulf Disaster story had a human point and was worth hearing. The nonsense PBS offered tonight on The NewsHour?

I'm sorry, are we supposed to cry for BP?

Is that what corporate funded PBS wanted us to do?

I cannot think of a greater waste of time than what PBS aired tonight.

I also think it's rather troubling that we can fret over BP when so many human and wildlife stories haven't been told. Still. All this time later.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, June 11, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, 2 US service members are killed in Iraq, rumors of a plot to kill Ayad Allawi circulate in Iraq, the US Pentagon is on the hunt for WikiLeaks, and more.

On NPR today,
The Diane Rehm Show had plenty of time to trash Helen Thomas (including Yochi Dreazen insisting Helen only ever spoke at the White House press briefings to attack Israel -- and not one guest nor Diane bothered to correct him). They just didn't have time for Iraq. No, two sentences of refusing to shoulder the blame for the illegal war they sold -- two sentences from Yochi Dreazen -- does not count as addressing Iraq (especially when even that only came up due to a caller holding the Gang of Useless accountable). No time for Iraq. Good thing nothing happened in Iraq all damn week, right?

Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) report a Diyala Province bombing which has claimed the lives of 2 US soldiers with six more left injured, 6 Iraqis left dead and twenty-two more left injured. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) adds, "Jalawla lies in the restive Diyala province, a mixed region of Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds that once was one of the most dangerous places in Iraq." The two deaths bring the number of US service members killed in Iraq to 4405. Anthony Shadid (New York Times) provides this context, "The attack was the deadliest on the American military here in more than two months. It was also a grim reminder that while violence has diminished remarkably across Iraq, hundreds of people are still killed each month here. So far this year, 35 American soldiers have died in Iraq in combat or in what the military terms 'non-hostile' incidents." Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) explains there have been three other attacks on US forces this week, "In the first, a roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. convoy traveled on a highway through predominantly Sunni Anbar province. No casualties were reported, but the blast left a large crater, and a McClatchy reporter at the scene saw a crane lifting a heavily damaged U.S. armored vehicle onto a flatbed truck. American forces cordoned off the area, blocking traffic, and didn't allow even Iraqi security forces near the scene. Later Thursday afternoon, a roadside bomb targeted a U.S. convoy as it headed toward Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. Iraqi authorities said they had no information on casualties because American forces didn't allow their Iraqi counterparts near the scene. At about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, just south of Baghdad in Yusifiya, another roadside bomb exploded near U.S. forces. No casualties were reported." Two US service members killed in a bombing in Iraq? Sorry, Diane and NPR had others to cover, important things, trashing an outstanding journalist, for example. What a proud moment for them.

The attackers of Helen missed the violence in Iraq today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left nine people wounded, a second Baghdad roadside bombing injured five people (two were Iraqi soldiers), a Mosul University bombing claimed the life of 1 military officer and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad suicide car bombing claimed the life of the driver and the lives of 1 Sahwa commander, 1 woman, 1 military officer and 1 other man while wounding ten people. Reuters notes a Thursday Tikrit car bombing which claimed 1 life.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul. Reuters notes 1 woman was shot dead in Kirkuk last night.


Reuters notes 2 corpses were discovered in Kirkuk.

Fang Yang (Xinhua) observes, "Sporadic attacks and waves of violence continue across Iraq three months after the country held its landmark parliamentary election on March 7, which is widely expected to shape the political landscape of the war-torn country." March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government. Yesterday Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) reported that the State of Law slate and the Iraqi National Alliance had officially "announced their merger". This morning Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) adds, "It still has to be formally approved by lawmakers when they convene for the first time on June 14." Reuters notes they intend to operate "under a new name, National Alliance, but have yet to resolve differences over their nominee for prime minister". BBC News adds, "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says that both the Shia and secular-Sunni blocs will now be claiming the right to be asked to form a government. The constitution is unclear on the issue." In other political news, Maad Fayad (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports, "Senior Arab and Iraqi security officials revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat what it described as an 'elaborate plot' to assassinate the head of the Iraqiya List, Iyad Allawi. The sources said that 'local groups are involved in this plot and it is also backed by a regional party'." Meanwhile how much do Iraqi citizens pay their government officials? Guess what? They aren't supposed to know. So much for 'democracy' in Iraq. At Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy notes Al Alam Newspaper has published possible salaries:Iraqi president: About 700,000 USD a year Iraqi Vice presidents: 600,000 USD a year but Iraqi news agencies said that Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi said he receives a One Million USD a month, in total. Prime Minister office said that Al Maliki receives 360,000 USD a year. But some official sources said that the Prime Minister's salary is equal to the Iraqi President's - so they should receive the same salary. Head of the Judiciary council makes about 100,000 USD a month (not clear on allocations).

Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq." They are, as former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and then-top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus explained to Congress (repeatedly) in April 2008, Sunni fighters who were put on the US payroll so they wouldn't attack US troops and equipment. Actually, Petreaus claimed they were "Shia as well as Sunni" when appearing before Congress on
April 8, 2008 and discussing the "over 91,000" "Awakening." He insisted, "These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts." Nouri was supposed to take over payment of them and bring them into the government. Nouri does very little he promises. Over the weekend, he pulled their right to carry firearms in Diayala Province. Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports, "Leaders of the Sahwas controlling around 10,000 personnel in Diyala warned that they would stop cooperating with government security forces if their weapon permits and special badges were withdrawn. In other provinces, members of the Sahwas warned that they would not obey if they were ordered to disarm." Late 2005 through 2007 (or often reduced to 2006 and 2007) saw Iraqis attacking other Iraqis on a huge scale and is popularly known as the "civil war." This level of violence dropped as it had to when a large number of Iraqis fled the country or fled their homes to other parts of the country. (A large number? One-sixth of the population. Over four million Iraqis became refugees.) In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on April 8, 2008, Joe Biden noted, "Violence has come down, but the Iraqis have not come together. Our military played an important role in the violence. So did three other developments. First, the Sunni Awakening, which preceded the surge. Second, the Sadr cease-fire. Third, sectarian cleansing that left much of Baghdad segregated, with fewer targets to shoot or bomb." Joe Biden was then Chair of the Committee. Today he's the US Vice President. And that's changed. But what about the situation he was describing? If the three developments led to a decrease in the violence, what happens when one of the developments is no longer present? Something to think about as Nouri continues his war on the Sahwa.

And as the Iraq War continues -- long after the promise candidate Barack Obama repeatedly made while campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination -- people begin to ask if it ever ends.
Peter Symonds (WSWS) outlines a number of disturbing trends:

In his comments last Friday, General Odierno declared that the "drawdown" was ahead of schedule -- 600,000 containers of gear and 18,000 vehicles moved out; and the number of bases down from 500 last year to 126 and set to decline to 94 by September 1. What is actually underway, however, is not a withdrawal, but a vast consolidation in preparation for the long-term occupation of the country by US forces.
The Stars and Stripes newspaper noted in an article on June 1 that the ratification of the US-Iraq security agreement in November 2008 governing the drawdown was followed by a massive expansion of base construction work. "In all, the military finished $496 million in base construction projects during 2009, the highest annual figure since the war began and nearly a quarter of the $2.1 billion spent on American bases in Iraq since 2004. An additional $323 million worth of projects are set to be completed this year."
While the number of US bases may be declining, the Pentagon is establishing what are known as "enduring presence posts" -- including four major bases: Joint Base Balad in the north, Camp Adder in southern Iraq, Al-Asad Air Base in the west and the Victory Base Complex around Baghdad International Airport. These are sprawling fortified facilities -- Balad alone currently houses more than 20,000 troops. In addition to the 50,000 troops that will remain, there will be up to 65,000 contractors after September 1.Under the 2008 agreement, the US military handed over internal security functions to Iraqi forces last year, but, under the guise of "training" and "support", retains tighter supervision of the army and police. Moreover the Iraqi government can always "request" US troop assistance in mounting operations. As Odierno explained in a letter to US personnel on June 1, even after all US combat troops leave, "we will continue to conduct partnered counter-terrorism operations and provide combat enablers to help the Iraqi Security Forces maintain pressure on the extremist networks."
The 2008 agreement sets December 31, 2011 as the deadline for all US troops to quit Iraq, but the construction of huge new US bases indicates a long-term US military presence under a Strategic Framework Agreement that is yet to be negotiated.

Another one noticing realities is Pentagon Papers whistle blower
Daniel Ellsberg and he shares them with Marc Pitzke (Der Spiegel):

Ellsberg: I think Obama is continuing the worst of the Bush administration in terms of civil liberties, violations of the constitution and the wars in the Middle East.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: For example?

Ellsberg: Take Obama's explicit pledge in his State of the Union speech to remove "all" United States troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. That's a total lie. I believe that's totally false. I believe he knows that's totally false. It won't be done. I expect that the US will have, indefinitely, a residual force of at least 30,000 US troops in Iraq.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What about Afghanistan? Isn't that a justifiable war?

Ellsberg: I think that there's an inexcusable escalation in both countries. Thousands of US officials know that bases and large numbers of troops will remain in Iraq and that troop levels and bases in Afghanistan will rise far above what Obama is now projecting. But Obama counts on them to keep their silence as he deceives the public on these devastating, costly, reckless ventures.

Daniel Ellsberg was Scott Horton's guest for yesterday's
Antiwar Radio. They're discussing Bradley Manning. Who? Monday April 5th, 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 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reports the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange: "Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast."

WikiLeak's Twitter feed has noted:

Pentagon manhunt for WikiLeaks staff declared: just say no: via bitly

Any signs of unacceptable behavior by the Pentagon or its agents towards this press will be viewed dimly.
via bitly

Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) notes the real crimes and WikiLeaks:

Crimes Are Crimes statement has been published in The New York Review of Books, The Nation, and now, will next be placed in The Humanist. You can help spread this message and challenge the conscience of people by signing, donating and printing it out for your community (ask store owners if they will display this poster!).
The more I've shown the 17 minute version of Collateral Murder -- even to seasoned anti-war activists -- the more I see how important it is that people
SEE this video.
And the more outrageous it is that a 22 year old Army enlisted man, Bradley Manning, is being charged with leaking the footage to The war crimes, and criminal acts the whole world can see in this footage are justified and excused by the US government. And a person who they say leaked it is criminally charged?!?
Today the
Iraq Inquiry announced that their next set of hearings will "run from 29 June to 30 July 2010, at the QE II conference centre in London" and the following will be witnesses:

*Cathy Adams (Legal Counsellor, Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, 2002 to 2005)
*Geoffrey Adams KCMG (HM Ambassador to Iran, 2006 to 2009)
*Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP (Minister of State for the Armed Forces, 2007 to 2009 Secretary of State for Defence, 2009)
*Andy Bearpack CBE (Director Operations and Infrastructure in the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003 to 2004)
*Dr Hanx Blix (1st Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, 2000 to 2003)
*Rt Hon The Lord Boateng (Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 2002 to 2005)
*Douglas Brand (OBE) (Chief Police Adviser to the Ministry of Interior, Baghdad, 2003 to 2004)
*Dr Nicola Brewer CMG (Director General Regional Prorammes, Department of International Development, 2002 to 2004)
*Jonathan Cunliffe CB (Managing Director, Financial Regulation & Industry, 2002; Managing Director, Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance, HM Treasury, 2003 to 2007)
*Richard Dalton KCMG (HM Abassadort to Iran, 2003 to 2006)
*General Richard Dannatt GCB CBE ME (Assistant Chief of the General Staff, 2001 to 2002; Commander in Chief Land Command, 2005 to 2006; Chief of the General STaff, 2006 to 2009)
*John Dodds (Team Leader - Defence, Diplomacy and Intelligence; HM Treasury, 2003 to 2005)
*Lt Gen James Dutton CBE (General Officer Commanding Multi National Division - South East - 2005; Deputy Chief of Joint Operations 2007 - 2009)
*Lt Gen Andrew Figgures (Deputy Chief of Defense Staff -- Equipment Capability -- 2006 - 2009)
*Ronnie Flanagan GBE QPM (HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, 2005 - 2008)
*Lt Gen Robert Fulton KBE (Deputy Chief of Defense Staff Equipment Capability 2003 - 2006)
*John Holmes GCVO KBE CMG (HM Ambassador to Paris 2001 - 2007)
*Martin Howard CB (DIrector General Operational Policy MOD 2004- 2007)
*General Mike Jackson GCB CBE DSO DL (Commander in Chief Land Command 2000 - 2003; Chief of the General Staff 2003 - 2006)
*Sally Keeble (Minister of State, Department for International Development 2002 - 2003)
*Paul Kernaghan CBE QPM (International Policing portfolio lead, Association of Chief Police Officers for England, Wales & Northern Ireland, 2001 - 2008)
*Iain Macleod (Legal Counsellor to the United Kingdom's Mission to the United Nations, 2001 - 2004)
*Tom McKane (Director General Resource & Plans, Ministry of Defence, 2002 - 2006)
*Bruce Mann CB (Director General Financial Management, Ministry of Defence 2001 - 2004).
*Manningham Buller DCB (Deputy Director General, Security Service, 2001 - 2002; Director General, Security Service, 2002 - 2007)*Carolyn Miller (Director Europe, Middle East and Americas, Department for International Development, 2001 - 2004)
*General Kevin O'Donoghue KCB CBE (Deputy Chief of Defence Staff Health, 2002 - 2004; Chief of Defence Logistics 2005 - 2007; Chief of Defence Material 2007 - 2009)
*Rt Hon John Prescott (First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister, to 2007)
*Carne Ross (First Secretary, United Kingdom Mission to New York, 1998 - 2002)
*Maj Gen Andy Salmon CMG OBE (General Officer Commanding Multi National Division South East, 2008 -2009)
*Michael Wareing CMG (Prime Minister's Envoy for Reconstruction in Souther Iraq and Chairman of the Basra Development Commission, 2007 - 2009)
*Stephen White OBE (Directof of Law and Order and Senior Police Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003 - 2004)
*Vice Adm Peter Wilkinson CVO (Deputy Chief of Defense Staff Personnel, 2007 to present)
*Trevor Wooley CB (Director General Resources & Plans, Ministry of Defence, 1998 - 2002; Financial Director, Ministry of Defence, 2003 - 2009)

The Iraq Inquiry is Chaired by John Chilcot and they believe a report will be completed by year's end and that there might also be a round of hearings in the fall.
Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) observes, "Hans Blix is the headline name and there are some other witnesses who might not toe the government line." Though Blix should offer some very interesting testimony, he's not the only name of interest on the list. For example, Carne Ross will probably pull in a number of the press when he testifies. A 2008 Time magazine profile by Jumana Farouky opened with:

As Carne Ross talks about how he resigned from the British Foreign Office in 2004 after Britain's decision to go to war in Iraq proved more than he could abide in a frustrating 15-year diplomatic career, the phone rings. "That'll be Kosovo," Ross says. Probably calling to say thanks.

A 2006 report by Colin Brown and Andy McSmith (Independent of London) on the push for the Iraq War noted:

A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.
In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."
Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been "effectively contained".

Click here for the BBC video of Carne Ross explaining how the Inquiry should have questioned Tony Blair. Chris Ames has covered the Iraq Inquiry forever and a day -- and on the issues at the heart of the inquiry before Gordon Brown was even agreeing to allow a commission. Iraq Inquiry Digest is Chris Ames' site (his writing appears at the Guardian, The New Statesman and other outlets). At the Guardian today, he takes on Nick Clegg:

In opposition, Nick Clegg had some harsh criticism for the way that Gordon Brown's government restricted the ability of the Iraq inquiry to uncover the truth. Clegg's appointment as deputy prime minister seemed to promise a new attitude of openness and at the weekend
he seemed to be promising to put this into practice. In particular, he promised that the inquiry will only be prevented from publishing documents for reasons of national security. But it looks as if nothing is going to change any time soon, if at all.
Clegg said the Hay festival on Sunday -- as Today programme listeners will have heard this morning -- was true as far as it went, but his language about how to solve the problem is intriguing. He said that the inquiry's openness would be the key to determining its legitimacy and: "The battle that needs to be fought is to make sure in the final Chilcot report the presumption is towards real, meaningful, thorough disclosure." He added that "the challenge is to make sure there is real disclosure when they publish their findings." But Nick, you are the deputy prime minister. It's up to you.

The Guardian's
Richard Norton-Taylor has been covering the Inquiry at length as well and he reviews the witness list and emphasizes Eliza Manningham-Buller who "told the Guardian last year that she had warned ministers and officials that an invasion of Iraq would increase the terrorist threat. Amid Anglo-US preparations to invade Iraq, she asked: 'Why now?'"

In the United States, the Arlington National Cemetery scandal continues to garner (deserved) attention.
Richard Sisk (New York Daily News) sums it up very well in two sentences, "They didn't arrive at Arlington National Cemetery as unknown soldiers. The Army just treated them that way." Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) offers this overview, "The inspector general, Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, found one case involving personnel killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. In that instance, two grave markers had been switched. Other cases involved areas of the cemetery used to inter personnel from earlier conflicts. [. . .] The extent of the problems at one of the nation's most venerated memorials was not entirely clear. In some cases, grave markers had been knocked over and not properly replaced, the report said. Other reported cases involved poor record-keeping. Whitcomb said there was no indication of mistakes at the point of burial." Michael E. Ruane (Washington Post) adds, "The investigators found that these and other blunders were the result of a 'dysfunctional' and chaotic management system at the cemetery, which was poisoned by bitterness among top supervisors and hobbled by antiquated record-keeping." Those looking for a strong audio report on the story should refer to The Takeaway where Salon's Mark Benjamin is one of the guests and Dorothy Nolte (her sister is buried into Arlington Cemetery).

TV notes. On PBS'
Washington Week, John Dickerson (CBS News, Slate), Alexis Simendinger (National Journal) and Karen Tumulty (Washington Post) join Gwen around the table. This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Jehan Harney, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Melinda Henneberger, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's online bonus is on drilling for oil. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Cyber WarCould hackers get into the computer systems that run crucial elements of the world's infrastructure, such as the power grids, water works or even a nation's military arsenal, to create havoc? They already have. Steve Kroft reports.
Watch Video
The Great ExplorerRobert Ballard discovered the Titanic, the Bismarck and the PT 109 and now 60 Minutes cameras are there for his latest discovery, 1,500 feet down in the Aegean Sea off Turkey. Lara Logan reports. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, June 13, at 7 p.m. ET/PT. Radio. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) by Byron York (Washington Examiner), David Corn (Mother Jones) and Dayo Olopade (Daily Beast). For the second hour (international), she's joined by Yochi Dreazen (Wall St. Journal), Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) and Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera).

nprthe diane rehm showcnnmohammed tawfeeqjomana karadsheh
the washington post
leila fadel
the new york timesanthony shadid
mcclatchy newspapershannah allem
sahar issa
xinhuafang yang
bloomberg newscaroline alexanderpress tval-ahram weeklysalah hemeidinside iraqmcclatchy newspapers
asharq alawsat newspapermaad fayad
the new york daily newsrichard siskthe los angeles timesjulian e. barnesthe washington postmichael e. ruane
antiwar radioscott hortondaniel ellsberg
the guardianchris ameswswspeter symonds
60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbe
washington week

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The disgusting Ann Compton

"Women Won Big In Tuesday Primaries" (NPR's Talk Of The Nation):
RUDIN: But the labor unions and the net roots and the left, you know, the progressives spent up to $10 million to defeat her in the runoff, but she won pretty handily, by four points, considering most of us thought she would go down to defeat.
CONAN: And a big night for women elsewhere, beginning, I guess we have to say, in California.
RUDIN: Well, California was big. For the first time in history for the first time in California history, Republicans have nominees for both the governorship and the Senate seat. The Senate seat, of course, is the one held by Barbara Boxer, and Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive at Hewlett-Packard, is the nominee there.
And for the governor's race against Jerry Brown, the former governor, will be Meg Whitman, who spent $80 million, $71 million of her own money, to win the nomination there.
CONAN: And no surprises on the Democratic side. As you said, the people we expected would be...
RUDIN: Brown and Boxer, right.

Well Neal and company were a little less clueless this afternoon. I would still steer you away from the program and suggest you instead read "The Genderquake Quakes Again (Ava and C.I.)." Sticking with the NPR theme, C.I. recommended Alicia Shepard's blog:

Nor should the White House remove the small plaque on the chair she occupied for 50 years. Other seats bear a news organization’s name; but Thomas' seat in the front row right under the press secretary's podium declared her name.
Female journalists owe a lot to Thomas. It is on her shoulders and those of a few other female reporters of her generation (including AP’s
Fran Lewine and the New York Times' Nan Robertson), that we were able to stand and be recognized as equally capable, and often better at, reporting the news.

You know who pissed me off the most during all of this? The answer will surprise you.

Ann Compton. Ann Compton, for those who don't know it, had huge problems with ABC for years. They kept insisting she diet. Even when her legs were sticks, she still looked like she was storing nuts in her cheeks for the winter. That was in the good times. They long ago faded. She got pushed from ABC TV over to ABC radio (that's a demotion) years ago.

You might think she'd be sympathetic to Helen. No, she's used Helen to draw attention to herself. She's run from one outlet to another serving up quotes.

This is probably the most attention she's received since she wore a skirt and showed off those newly stick legs.

It is not a proud moment for Ann nor for journalism.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, June 9, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri says only he can save Iraq (Christ complex), US military identifies a fallen, the race for Labour Party leader in the UK has its candidates, a US House committee is informed failure to implement two Inspector General findings has cost over $81 million tax payer dollars, and more.

Today the
DoD released the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sgt Steve M. Theobald, 53, of Goose Creek, S.C. died June 4 near Kuwait City, Kuwait, of injuries sustained in a military vehicle roll-over. He was assigned to the 287th Transporation Company, Livingston, Ala. For more information, media may contact the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) at 407-856-6100, ext. 1132." The number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the war currently stands at 4403.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. Iraqiya is the political slate which won the most seats in Parliament in the March elections. It is headed by former prime minister Ayad Allawi. They won 91 seats. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government.

Baby, I see you've made yourself all sick again
Didn't I do a good job of pretending?
You're saying that the victim doesn't want it to end
Good. I get to dress up and play the assassin again
It's my favorite
It's got personality
[. . .]
Baby, you can open your eyes now
And please allow me to present you with a clue
If I inflict the pain
Then baby only I can comfort you
-- "When We Two Parted," written by
Greg Dulli and Rick McCollum, first appears on the Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen album

Who knew Nouri was an Afgan Whigs freak?
Anthony Shadid (New York Times) sits down with Little Nouri today who insists that only he can be the new prime minister and, if it's anyone else, the country will descend into madness. Little Nouri also states that he has no interest in curtailing any powers (including those he's pretended existed) for the prime minister post. Looking beyond Nouri, Francis Matthew (Gulf News) notes, "Three months after the inconclusive March 7 elections, Iraq appears to be heading for a broad-based coalition. The danger is that it will be so broad-based that although a government may well be formed, it will lack the determination or focus to allow it to take the difficult decisions that will certainly come its way." Suadad al-Salhy, Jim Loney and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) report that the country's Constitution bars any member of Parliament from also holding "an executive post in the government" which means Nouri, "vice presidents Tareq al-Hashemi and Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Deputy Prime Minister Rafie al-Esawi and at least nine cabinet ministers including Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani" may not be able to take a seat in Parliament Monday when the legislative body is set to hold their first meeting. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds, "The new parliament must name a president, who would then have 15 days to designate a candidate for prime minister. That candidate would then have 30 days to assemble a government -- and if no deal is reached, another candidate would get a shot."

Shot? Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes a roadside bombing targeting Abdul Rahman Dawood of Iraqiya which injured him and another person, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left five people injured, a Muqdadiya suicide bomber took his/her own life and the lives of 2 other people with an addition five injured, a Samarra roadside bombing injured a police officer and a bodyguard and a Basra sticky bombing (targeting a police officer) injured four people (two were police officers).


Mazin Yahya (AP) reports 3 jewelers were killed in their Basra stores by six unknown assailants. Aref Mohammed, Ahmed Rasheed, Jamal al-Badrani, Matt Robinson and Ralph Boulton (Reuters) adds four people were left injured and reminds that May 25th saw another "major attack on a gold market". Reuters notes 1 police officer was killed in a Mosul attack (he was on his farm -- another police officer was wounded by a Mosul grenade attack), an Abu Ghraib home invasion claimed the lives of 1 police officer and his wife (their five sons were injured), an assault on a Kirkuk Sahwa checkpoint in which 1 person was killed (two more were injured) and, dropping back to last night, 1 police officer was shot dead. AFP reports 2 Sahwa members were shot dead in Sharqat.

Over the weekend, Nouri's forces revoked Sahwa's right to carry guns.
Muhammed Abdullah (niqash) reports, "because leaders of the council were accused of being behind the assassination of some religious figures in the province" and quotes Sahwa Abu al-Fawz al-Iraqi stating "disarming us is an explicit attempt to dissolve our organisation. It will only expose us to al-Qaeda which issued a fatwa legitimising attacks against us and on our property."

As noted
yesterday, England, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden all are planning to deport Iraqi refugees despite the Geneva Conventions, despite the United Nations public opposition to the plan, despite Amnesty International and Iraqi LGBT objecting to the deportations. BBC News adds, "The flight from the UK was jointly organised by European Union governments and was also scheduled to pick up failed asylum seekers at Halmstad in Sweden." Nigel Morris (Independent of London)reports, "Ministers faced a wave of anger last night after ordering the forcible return of failed asylum-seekers to Baghdad despite the violence that continues to plague the Iraqi capital." Norway's The Foreigner notes, "The deporations contravent UNCHR (the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees) recommendations about refugees from Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa, Salah al-Din and the Kirkuk province safety.In accordance with the UN's 1951 Refugee Convention, the UNHCR believes these groups of people should continue to enjoy international protection by being classed as DPs (Displaced Persons)." England's new prime minister, David Cameron was asked about the issue today. Owen Bowcott (Guardian) reports, "The prime minister told MPs that he had discussed the situation in Iraq with US general David Petraeus, overall commander of American operations in the Middle East." News On News had the transcript of the questions to the prime minister and we'll note this section:

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): The legacy of the former Government's disastrous decision making in Iraq is still plain to see. Will the Prime Minister look at the existing Home Office guidance on the deporting of asylum seekers to Baghdad? A plane has left today. May I ask the Prime Minister to consider the matter again, personally and compassionately, to ensure that we have a firm immigration policy, but remain a bastion for people fleeing
political persecution?

The Prime Minister: I will certainly look into my hon. Friend's point. However, I think we should recognise that whatever view we took of the Iraq conflict -- and I supported it -- at least Iraq now has some chance of stability and democracy. We are actually seeing some progress there. This morning I had a meeting with General Petraeus, who brought me up to date on what he considers to be the latest situation. It is important to remember that one of the reasons why our brave servicemen and women fought and died in Iraq was that they were trying to make it a more stable country, and a country to which people who had fled it would be able to return. Yes, of course I will look at the specific issue raised by my hon. Friend, but in general, while we are here to offer people asylum when they are fleeing torture and persecution, if we help to make their country safe they should be able to go home.

Elsewhere in news from England,
James Macintyre (New Statesman) reports, "Diane Abbott will within minutes be in a position to declare she has the 33 nominations to feature on the ballot for the Labour leadership to be decided in September, has learned. David Miliband has in the past hour nominated her, joining other big party figures such as Harriet Harman and, before her, David Lammy. The remaining MPs required are signing her nominations during Prime Minister's Questions." England's former Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray reviews Abbott's record:Voted moderately against a stricter asylum system. Voted very strongly against the Iraq war. Voted moderately against an investigation into the Iraq war. Voted moderately against Labour's anti-terrorism laws. Voted a mixture of for and against allowing ministers to intervene in inquests. Voted moderately against greater autonomy for schools. Voted a mixture of for and against introducing ID cards. Voted a mixture of for and against laws to stop climate change. Voted moderately for removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords. Voted very strongly for a wholly elected House of Lords. Voted strongly for more EU integration. Voted moderately for equal gay rights. Voted very strongly against replacing Trident. Voted moderately against introducing student top-up fees. Voted a mixture of for and against a transparent Parliament.Voted strongly against introducing foundation hospitals. Voted moderately for the hunting ban. Diane Abbott is the only possible candidate left who was against the Iraq War, against Trident and for civil liberties. All the other candidates are deeply steeped in Iraqi blood and strongly associated with New Labour's viciously authoritarian agenda. The frontrunner, David Miliband, spent most of his tenure as Foreign Secretary engaged in numerous legal attempts both to keep secret and to justify Britain's complicity in torture under New Labour.Mary Riddell (Telegraph of London) says of Abbott making the ballot, "The field is less white and less male than it was yesterday. That can only be good." Philip Webster (Times of London) offers, "The other reason for propping up Ms Abbott was self-interest. David Miliband, who nominated her himself even though he is a million miles from her politically, needs a left-wing candidate in the battle so that he can better define himself. Four Oxbridge blokes being nice to each other does not make for much of a public spectacle, let alone a serious political contest." Philippe Naughton (Times of London) pursues the same thread, "Responding to concerns about the lack of diversity in a contest in which all five candidates went to Oxbridge - Ms Abbott studied at Cambridge - Mr Miliband said: 'In the end, what matters is not where you come from but what you want to do for the country and what you've got to say to the country. That's the way the British people are going to judge us and that's the right way to judge people'." Helene Mulholland (Guardian) profiles Abbot and the four other candidates Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, David Miliband and Ed Miliband. [Disclosure reminder: I know and like the Milibands.] Balls and Ed Miliband have spoken out against Labour's support of the Iraq War in their campaign for the leadership post. For some New Labour is seen as a failure, a neoliberal turn that betrayed the party's roots. David Miliband has taken to insisting that what's at stake is Next Labour -- a clumsy phrase that, nevertheless, indicates there will no examination of the pros or cons of New Labour from him. Don't expect any deep thoughts from Paul Richards either. At the Guardian, Paul huffs in text, "These were battles to defeat the kind of leftism that Diane Abbott represents, not because Labour activists lacked socialist zeal, but because they knew that that kind of politics would keep Labour in opposition for ever and ever." Paul goes no to fret that Abbot could win. Wait, if she wins, Paul, that means what she represents is popular. So it's not really about winning elections, is it, Paul? Maybe it's time New Labour tried getting honest. Tomos Livingstone (Wales Online) quotes "the party's acting leader," Harriet Harman, stating, "Over the next few months over 4 million people will have the chance to help shape Britain's progressive future by choosing the next leader of the Labour Party."

If you live for very long without ever saying something stupid, there are three possibilities: (1) You're very lucky; (2) You can't speak; (3) You're kidding yourself. Most people will fall into the third category. I don't kid myself, I say stupid things all the time. And I know Ike Skelton who says many smart things many times. But the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee has said something so incredibly stupid that prizes should be handed out for it.
Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports that Skelton is couching his objection to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell on, and this is a quote from him, "What do mommies and daddies say to their 7-year-old child?"Well, Ike, they talk about rimming and they talk about blow jobs and they -- What world is Ike living in? Do you talk to your seven-year-old child about sex to begin with? For most of us, the answer is "no." Not in any graphic terms.I'm failing to see how an openly gay service member requires a sex talk with seven-year-old children since a presumably straight service member has never demanded the nation discuss sex with children.Ike's lived a long time and long enough to absorb many prejudices. He's smart enough to reject them and hopefully he will. If not, he needs to be voted out of office. I really like Ike but is that going to be his excuse for objecting to everything? Certainly it might to object to same-sex marriage. But for all we know, he may next object to a health proposal on the grounds that it would require seven-year-olds be told, in explicit detail, what two men or two women might do together in bed."What do mommies and daddies say to their 7-year-old child?" asked Ike. Presumably worried for all the straight children in the world and unaware that the population isn't 100% straight. Some of those children will be gay and some of those children will have gay parents. Ike, when you see two animals on the farm -- of the same gender -- making out in front of kids, what do you tell them about that? You offer the simplest explanation that's age-appropriate. And it's not difficult to do."In the first half of fiscal year 2010," stated Chair Bob Filner at today's House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing, "from October 2009 to March 2010, the OIG [Office of Inspector General] issued 120 reports, identified nearly $673 million in monetary benefits and conducted work that resulted in 232 administrative sanctions." Is there compliance?

To get everyone on the same page, US House Rep Cliff Sternes referenced the amended 1978 Act for the Office of Inspector General and quoted The head of a federal agency shall make management decisions on all findings and recommendations set forth in an audit report of the Inspector General of the agency within a maximum of six months after the issuance of this report and should complete final action on each management decision within 12 months after the date of the Inspector General's report." You must take action within six months and you must have completed it within one year. Sternes noted that over 11 requests remain open and over a year old.

The Committee heard from two panels. The first was the Deputy Inspector General from the VA's Office of Inspector General Richard J. Griffin. The second panel was VA's Under Secretary for Health Robert A. Petzel. In his opening statement, Griffin provided the basics on OIG's role:

Once a final report is issue, OIG follow-up staff in the Office of Management and Administration begin tracking the recommendation until they are fully implemented. For each report, we separately list recommendations and related monetary impact we expect VA to derive from implementation. In each status request we seek a description of what actions have occurred toward implementing the recommendations during the preceding 90 days. We set a 30-day deadline for VA officials to respond in writing. The response must contain documentary evidence such as issued policies, certifications, or other material supporting any request to close recommendations.

That is the statement as delivered, not as typed ahead of the hearing (there are slight differences between the written statement and the way he read it to the Committee -- and, yes, he read the thing). He explained the finanical aspect of some of this (and here I'm using the written statement):

As of March 31, 2010, we had two reports with open recommendations that represented over $81 million in monetary impact. One report from September 2007, Audit of the Acquisition and Management of Selected Surgical Device Implants, with over $21 million in monetary impact, involved an open recommendation to improve the acquisition and management of selected surgical device implants (stents, aortic valves, and thoracic grafts). The other report from September 2008, Audit of Veterans Health Administration Noncompetitive Clinical Sharing Agreements, with over $59 million in monetary impact, has multiple unimplemented recommendations related to noncompetitive clinical sharing agreements.

We'll note this exchange which provides an overview:

US House Rep Michael Michaud: A couple of quick questions -- and I want to thank the panel for coming -- my first is, why do you have a centralized follow up staff rather than having the auditors or investigators who did the origianl report do the follow up? Wouldn't it make more sense to have those that did the original report do the follow up?

Richard Griffin: It-it -- In reality, it's a collaborative effort. The follow up staff that-that uh really are the traffic cops for the receiving of the report from VA with-with the policies they've implemented or the procedures they've put in place or the training programs that they've created -- those things don't require the absolute 100% attention of the audit staff or the health care personnel who did the job. Certainly there's collaboration if there's question as to whether or not a recommendation should be closed based on the feedback that we've been given. we will consult with the expert who did the job and make sure that everyone's in agreement that it can and should be closed.

US House Rep Michael Michaud: Thank you. My second question, actually it's a follow-up to Congressman Stearns' interest in exactly how is -- does the VA stack up to other departments you look at completing the recommendations?

Richard Griffin: Well from time to time, the Counsel of Inspector Generals on Integrity and Efficiency submit a report that goes to the Congress and goes to the White House and it -- and it lists a number of different performance measures involving the IGs' activities and, as indicated in our testimony, we feel like the 94% rate that has been demonstrated in the last 12 months by VA puts it on the high end of performance compared to some of the other departments.

Later in the hearing, US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick would pursue a similar line of questioning to Michaud's including his opening question. When she suggested that inventories needed to be on a more timely basis and that certain staff needed to be included in the reviewing process to determine whether recommendations were being met or not, she was told by Griffin it was "a matter of resources."

With a one year limit for requests to be completed and closed, you may join US House Rep Jeff Miller in expressing confusion.

US House Rep Jeff Miller: I was looking in your testimony, you talk about the 2005 report recommendations to implement more effective project management oversight. Uhm -- We're talking about five years that this oversight did not take place and corrective action should have been done, you say, five years earlier in your -- in your comments. My question is what type of system of accountability can [be] put in place to prevent a five year lag of implementing recommendations?

Richard Griffin: Is that the major construction report you're referring to? [Miller nods.] Seven of the ten recommendations in that report address the need for a quality assurance program in order to make sure that we had proper oversight and proper program management for major construction. A quality assurance group was established and this group was supposed to have addressed those things. When we went back and looked at it a second time, which we will do from time-to-time just to validate, we found that, yes, the group was created but it wasn't properly staffed, it didn't have adequate policies and procedures in place so it was -- it really wasn't a functional program oversight activity. The other two recommendations simply were not addressed during that time period.

Chair Bob Filner: [To Miller] You're yielding back when he didn't answer the question. You said: What can you do to make sure they don't go for five years without doing something? He said, 'Yes, indeed, they went five years without doing something.' So how do we make sure that there's that oversight? If I may follow up on your question, Mr. Miller.

Richard Griffin: I think there are a number of things we do. We spotlight anything that hasn't been accomplished in one year and it goes in our semi-annual report so that the Committee can be aware when we've got a report. I believe very strongly that hearings like this one are very helpful based on the flood of documentation that we've received in the last 72 hours addressing various items that needed closure. So again, I do thank you for the hearing. We do meet --

Chair Bob Filner: We should schedule one every week.

Richard Griffin: We will be here. We do meet on a monthly basis with VA and certainly those issues that are the most difficult and are the most dated are the subject of those discussions also.

As the first panel drew to a close, Chair Bob Filner asked Griffin to identify one problem area and Griffin went with procurement which "represents a huge dollar area for the department, acquistions" for drugs and contracting and stated there was too little oversight of contracts and "the people who write the policy are back in Washington and where the rubber meets the road are out in the field."

Turning to peace news. Last March, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan was arrested for peacefully protesting. Today she was suppose to go before the judge. That did not happen.
Cindy explains:

All together with the judge, defendants, prosecutor, and defense lawyer, we picked the date of June 10th. We didn't just pull that rabbit out of a hat -- EVERYONE agreed on that date. We arranged a legal team; and I raised money for my travel expenses and legal fees for the Peace of the Action defendants (three of us). As of Monday of this week, our lawyer had been in touch with the judge and everything was hunky-dory and the trial was on.
I had an early flight out of Sacramento this morning and on my way to the airport at 6am, I got a message from one of our lawyers that the trial was going to be continued because a judge couldn't be found due to some "judge'' conference." So, from Monday to Wednesday, a Judge Convention (golf games?) arose which necessitated the postponement of our trial? I would like to believe that's true, but with all of the other harassment and outright lies put together, I logically doubt the integrity of the court system. Not to mention, the officer at the Park Police station who practically admitted that I was being singled out for harassment when he said, "If you would stop protesting this stuff would stop happening to you."
Not only all of the above,
but I am calling for more protests in DC from July 4th to July 17th and I have a "stay away order" from the perimeter of the White House which includes the sidewalk in Lafayette Park that borders Pennsylvania Avenue. The order is in place until our trial -- whenever that is going to be. This stay away order will seriously hamper and limit my right to free speech.

We'll close with this is from Tim King's "
The Bigot on Comedy Central: Jon Stewart and the Crucifixion of Helen Thomas" (Salem-News):There is a reason Jon Stewart has such an intact comedy news throne. He's well educated, always current, a sharp wit; he's funny, and he's the right religion. In my mind's eye, Stewart's face keeps blurring with Ted Nugent's, and those of other heroes who have eventually shown their real colors. The reason is simple: these are the pop culture sellouts."Never Forget" stands for the rights of Palestiniansand all the world's oppressed peopleI could care less what religion he or anyone else is, until it starts getting in the way of the human race, which it did in last night's program where he rips into veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas.No, I did not include the clip, that's on the Daily Show site, though I did include some video to illustrate why blind support of Israel's systematic elimination of the Palestinian people is a goal that only brings great reprisal and retaliation.It takes comedy down a dreary road in my opinion, when people like Stewart speak in terms so ignorantly offensive to Palestinians, journalists, and all people with half a brain in on-air jobs, who have some control over their final script. But all comedy aside, Stewart is heartless for attacking nine generations of American journalism and history, a person who knew Presidents when Stewart was still a baby playing in his poop.Helen Thomas, the only real voice in her league with the guts and fortitude to tell the truth about what Israel has become; a cruel gatekeeper for a whole population that owned the land Israel now comprises, only 60 years ago.

iraqthe new york timesanthony shadid
the gulf news
jomana karadsheh
the new statesmanjames macintyrecraig murray
the guardianhelene mulholland
the times of london
philip webster
the telegraph of london
philippe naughton
cbs newsbrian montopoli
cindy sheehanpeace movement

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Talk Of The Nation works it for BP

"Cap Collecting Some Crude As Cleanup Continues" (Talk Of The Nation, NPR):
CONAN: And there is news today about the amount of oil that is being captured by this cap that BP placed on it over the weekend, and then it runs through a pipe up to the surface.
HARRIS: Indeed. Yeah, things are getting better and better, although I think they've hit a plateau, because over the weekend, they got 10,000 barrels a day on Saturday, 11,000 barrels a day on Sunday. Yesterday, they collected 15,000 barrels in a day, which is I should mention, considering they were saying for so many weeks and weeks and weeks that the spill was only 5,000 barrels. It's sort of interesting that they're now capturing 15,000, and there is plenty left, apparently, still going into the water.
But for the time being, they can't capture any more than that because that's about the capacity of the drill ship on the surface. It has to take the oil and gas up the pipe. It separates the oil, flares off the gas, burns it off literally to get rid of it, and, you know, does whatever little of the processing it needs to do.
It has plenty of capacity to hold more oil, but it just can't move any more through its pipes and through its system. So right now, that's the best they can do, and we still look underwater at the live video, which I watch at my desk as the day progresses, and you can still see quite a bit of oil spewing out of the system. So...
CONAN: Is there any estimate of how much is not being captured, that is spewing into the Gulf every day now?

What an idiot. Today I really grasp the point of Trina's "The stupidity of Neal Conan and Talk Of The Nation" from last month. What a load of crap.

Things are getting "better and better," says the idiot guest, and Neal wants to know, "Is there any estimate of how much is not being captured, that is spewing into the Gulf every day now?"

Buy a clue and quit acting like a whore, Neal. The only question you needed to ask was if there were any independent estimates.

Neal didn't ask that. Neal couldn't ask that. Whores don't make the johns uncomfortable.

CBS News reports, "While BP is capturing more oil from its blown-out well with every passing day, scientists on a team analyzing the flow said Tuesday that the amount of crude still escaping into the Gulf of Mexico may be considerably greater than what the government and the company have claimed."

See, Neal, your job is not to whore or kiss ass. You are a journalist and you are supposed to voice skepticism. Is it really that hard, Neal? Really?

If you click here, you'll have a summary of what Congress was told about the efforts in the Gulf.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, June 8, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, England (and others) gear up for forced returns of Iraqi refugees to Iraq, the Iraqi Parliament will allegedly meet shortly, help lie the US into illegal war and get promoted by Barack, and more.

March 7, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections.
CNN reports Iraqi President Jalal Talabani stated today that the Parliament will hold its first meeting June 14th -- which would be three months and seven days after the election. AFP adds, "Once parliament is opened, Iraq's constitution states that MPs must first select a speaker for the Council of Representatives, and then choose a new president. The president will then call on the leader of the biggest parliamentary bloc to form a government, who will be given 30 days to do so."

Meanwhile the Iraq War created the largest refugee crisis in the world with over 4 million internal and external refugees. External refugees left Iraq due to the violence -- often violence that claimed the life of one of their family members, often due to threats of death if they didn't leave. As a group, they have no desire to return. There is nothing to go back to for many (their abandoned homes were long since occupied) and the violence, which has never ceased, could return to the 2005, 2006 and 2007 levels (popularly known as the "civil war") were refugees -- especially Sunni ones -- to return in large numbers. It is not safe for returns. Last
Thursday's snapshot included the following: Meanwhile in England, Owen Bowcott (Guardian) reports on what would be England's second known deportation of Iraqis -- forcible deportation. The last one, you may remember, resulted in a British plane landing in Iraq and Iraqi guards refusing to allow everyone to disembark so the plane returned to England. Bowcott notes that approximately 70 Iraqis will be forcibly deported Wednesday, June 9th: "The operation, deporting them via the central provinces of Iraq, is in direct contravention of United Nations guidelines. The UN high commissioner for refugees opposes forced returns to the area because of continuing suicide bombings and violence. The UN guidance was explicitly restated last autumn after the UK attempted to deport 44 men to Baghdad. That abortive operation resulted in Iraqi airport officials refusing to admit all but 10 of the men. The rest were told to reboard the plane and flown back to the UK." That deportation is thought to take place tomorrow. Today Amnesty International issued the following: Reacting to reports that a charter flight carrying Iraqi nationals is scheduled to leave the UK for Baghdad via Halmstad, Sweden in the early hours of 9 June, Amnesty International stressed that removals to Baghdad are not safe and should not take place. Amnesty International opposes any forcible returns to Iraq in the current situation of ongoing insecurity and instability. Amnesty International believes that Iraqis from the five provinces of Iraq considered to be particularly dangerous, namely Ninewa (Mosul), Kirkuk, Diyala, Salah al-Din and Baghdad, should be granted refugee status or a form of subsidiary protection, and that in the case of asylum-seekers from other provinces of Iraq an individual assessment should be made to assess whether they also qualify for refugee or subsidiary protection. Amnesty International UK refugee programme director Jan Shaw said: "It's unfathomable that the UK can consider Baghdad a safe place to return people. Our report in April documented scores of civilian killings, some of whom were tortured and their bodies mutilated before they were dumped in the street. Bombings continue to take scores of lives. "As far as we are concerned, removing someone to Iraq should only take place when the security situation in the whole country has stabilised. "Until the situation improves and it is safe to return to Iraq, these people should be offered some form of protection in the UK." Despite the ongoing violence in Iraq, several European governments have forcibly returned rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers to Iraq. In 2009, the authorities in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK forcibly returned Iraqis to unsafe parts of Iraq, such as central Iraq, in breach of UNHCR guidelines. On 15 October 2009 UK authorities forcibly deported 44 rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers to Baghdad; the Iraqi authorities allowed only ten of them to enter and the remainder were flown back to the UK. The Norwegian authorities forcibly returned 30 Iraqis to Baghdad in December 2009 and 13 in January 2010. For its report "Iraq: Civilians under fire" published in April 2010, Amnesty International spoke to several Iraqis who were forcibly returned by the Netherlands government on 30 March 2010. Among the 35 refugees was a 22-year-old Shi'a Turkoman man from Tal Afar, a city north of Mosul, where hundreds of civilians have been killed in sectarian or other politically motivated violence in recent years, and where the violence continues unabated. As of mid-April, he remained stranded in Baghdad. Reuters notes that England's not the only country planning a forced deportation of Iraqi refugees this week -- Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands are also conspiring -- and that UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson Melissa Fleming states they are opposed to the deportations and, "Despite these people having had their applications for asylum rejected, we fear for their futures and their own physical protection if they were to be returned." UNHCR has repeatedly noted that it is not safe for governments to force returns. In a Geneva briefing today, Melissa Fleming explained:
UNHCR understands that four governments -- the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK -- are arranging an enforced removal of Iraqi citizens to Baghdad, Iraq later this week. We have not received confirmed information of the number and profile of those individuals and whether some have requested protection.Our position and advice to governments is that Iraqi asylum applicants originating from Iraq's governorates of Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa and Salah-al-Din, as well as from Kirkuk province, should continue to benefit from international protection in the form of refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or another form of protection depending on the circumstances of the case. Our position reflects the volatile security situation and the still high level of prevailing violence, security incidents, and human rights violations taking place in these parts of Iraq. UNHCR considers that serious -- including indiscriminate -- threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from violence or events seriously disturbing public order are valid reasons for international protection. UNHCR appreciates that the international protection needs of Iraqis are assessed by asylum authorities in Europe and elsewhere on an individual basis. We urge those authorities to ensure that the situation in Iraq as a whole, including the important level of lawlessness, is factored into their assessments. While some have proposed that returned Iraqis could reside in other parts of the country from where they originate, UNHCR's position is that no internal flight alternative exists in Iraq because of the on-going levels of violence in Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-Din, and in view of access and residency restrictions in various governorates as well as the hardship faced by returnees in ensuring even survival in areas of relocation. The continued insurgency in Iraq and on-going violence there has led to large scale internal and external displacement of the Iraqi population, with most refugees living in Syria and Jordan. UNHCR is concerned about the signal that forced returns from Europe could give to other host countries, particularly those neighbouring Iraq.

Iraqi LGBT issued a statement decrying the deportations:London, 4 June 2010 - The Iraqi LGBT group has today expressed its 'deep concern' about reports that the British Home Office is planning to return 100 Iraqi refugees to Baghdad Wednesday 9 June - despite a recent UK report saying this was not safe. "This group will certainly contain deeply closeted gay people and they will be at extreme risk of torture and murder in Baghdad," said Group leader Ali Hili. Iraqi LGBT say that the Iraqi government provide no security for gays - infact the opposite as its members have reported the involvement of both police and Interior Ministry forces in handing over gay people to militias with either their tortured bodies being subsequently discovered or them disappearing. The group has just released new testimony about Iraqi government complicity on YouTube, see Said Hili, "the Western media is not reporting the level of violence continuing in Baghdad. Bombings and assassinations continue to happen almost daily - this is why the United Nations said it is unsafe to remove refugees to that city. The lack of reporting means that the Home Office think they can get away with this inhuman action." Amnesty International said in April that there was evidence that members of the security forces and other authorities were encouraging the targeting of people suspected to be gay. The report added that killers of gay men could find protection under the law, as it offers lenient sentences for those committing crimes with an "honourable motive". "We condemn the proposed removals by the British government and the Iraqi government's complicity. Many of these people are opponents of the regime and if returned will end up being killed." It has been reported by the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) that the 100 refugees have been screened by UK Border Agency 'ambassadors' pretending to be Iraqi embassy representatives at a detention centre. Refugees have reported being threatened by those 'interviewing' them. "We are very familiar with such threats," said Ali. "I and other members of our group in exile have faced this, as have our family members. Many of our members have been murdered in Iraq and we have had safe houses invaded and people massacred. If these people are removed many of them will also be murdered." Iraqi LGBT has cataloged 738 murders in the past five years. The group has backed the call by the IFIR for the British government to end what IFIR calls "this inhuman policy" of refugee removals to Iraq. Notes for editors 1. Iraqi LGBT is a human rights organisation with members inside Iraq and in exile. It provides safe houses for gays, lesbians and transgender people and has helped people escape into exile. 2. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees campaigns for the rights of Iraqi refugees and against forcible deportations and detention. The Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq campaigns against the forcible deportation and detention of Iraqi refugees. 3. The flight will be the first to Iraq since the 14th October, when ten people were deported to Baghdad and the thirty-three others on the plane were sent back by the Iraqi authorities. See for more information 4. At least four million Iraqis have been forced to flee either to another part of Iraq or abroad since the war began in 2003 5. According to Home Office figures, 632 people were forcibly deported to the KRG region in the north between 2005 and 2008. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees estimates that the figure, with the monthly charter flights deporting 50 people at a time since the beginning of 2009, currently stands at approximately 900. 6. Iraqi LGBT has worked with and supported the work of IFIR for several years.
International Federation of Iraqi Refugees
Iraqi refugees given tickets for deportation flight to Baghdad for Wednesday 9th June
UK 'breaching UN rules' on returning gay asylum seekers
Failed Iraq asylum seekers screened for forced deportation

Alan Travis and Owen Bowcott (Guardian) report that attorneys with the UK's Treasury Solicitor's Department are calling on judges not to offer any stays or delays to the planned deportations.

From foreign countries forcing Iraqis to return to a foreign country carving out a presence in Iraq.
Yesterday's snapshot included, "The right-wing World Tribune carries an unsigned report which maintains, citing Jabar Yawar, the Deputy Kurdish Interior Minister, that not only did the Iranian military enter Iraqi space but that they 'established a base in the Kurdish village of Predunaz on June 3' and remain there." Today Asso Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) reports that "About 35 Iranians remained behind, in an area near the Perdunaz border crossing, and have since been observed building a fortified structure high on a mountain, said the Kurdish regional government's defense spokesman, Jaber Yawer. From a nearby Kurdish observation post, two bulldozers, alongside a small tank, can be seen digging fortifications."

In November of last year,
Rod Nordland (New York Times) explained the 'bomb detectors' in use in Iraq: "The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works 'on the same principle as a Ouija board' -- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wantd as nothing more than an explosive divining rod." They are the ADE 651s with a ticket price of between $16,500 and $60,000 and Iraq had bought over 1,500. More news came with arrests on January 22: "Caroline Hawley (BBC Newsnight -- link has text and video) reports that England has placed an export ban on the ADE-651 'bomb detector' -- a device that's cleaned Iraq's coffers of $85 million so far. Steven Morris (Guardian) follows up noting that, 'The managing director [Jim McCormick] of a British company that has been selling bomb-detecting equipment to security forces in Iraq was arrested on suspicion of fraud today'." From the January 25th snapshot:

Riyad Mohammed and Rod Norldand (New York Times) reported on Saturday that the reaction in Iraq was outrage from officials and they quote MP Ammar Tuma stating, "This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device." Despite the turn of events, the machines continue to be used in Iraq but 'now' an investigation into them will take place orded by Nouri. As opposed to months ago when they were first called into question. Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) adds that members of Parliament were calling for an end to use of the machines on Saturday. Martin Chulov (Guardian) notes the US military has long -- and publicly -- decried the use of the machines, "The US military has been scathing, claiming the wands contained only a chip to detect theft from stores. The claim was based on a study released in June by US military scientists, using x-ray and laboratory analysis, which was passed on to Iraqi officials."

Today the
BBC reports police raids took place at "Global Tech, of Kent, Grosvenor Scientific, in Devon, and Scandec, of Nottingham. Cash and hundreds of the devices have been seized, and a number of people are due to be interviewed under caution on suspicion of fraud." Michael Peel and Sylvia Pfeifer (Financial Times of London) add, "Colin Cowan, head of City police's overseas anti-corruption unit, said investigators were seeking further information from the public about the manufacture, sale and distribution of the devices. Det Supt Cowan said: 'We are concerned that these items present a real physical threat to anyone who may rely on such a device for protection'."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the lfie of 1 Ministry of Interiror employee, 2 Mosul roadside bombings which left an Iraqi soldier, two women and a girl injured, and, dropping back to yesterday, 1 Christian shot dead in Kirkuk. Alsumaria TV reports 1 "young guy" was

In the US, President Barack Obama has nominated James Clapper for the post of "intelligence czar" (US Director of National Intelligence).
Muriel Kane (Raw Story) reports, "A more serious issue, however, may prove to be Clapper's support in 2003 for the idea that Iraqi WMD had been smuggled into Syria just before the US invasion as part of an attempt to destroy evidence. According to the New York Times, Clapper, who was then head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 'said satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraqi into Syria, just before the American invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material "unquestionably" had been moved out of Iraq.' Clapper made his remarks to reporters on October 28, 2003, one week after the publication of Seymour Hersh's article, 'The Stovepipe,' which examined 'the disparity between the Bush Administration's prewar assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and what has actually been divorced'." Barack Obama is nominating someone for "intelligence czar" who failed the most important test. Remember that? Samantha Power and others of the Cult of St. Barack used that 'test' in 2008 over and over. Hillary "failed it" and Barack allegedly "passed it." (Barack gave a sparsely attended 2002 speech against war with Iraq. He did nothing in 2003 in the lead up to the war. After the Iraq War started, he noted he supported it in numerous interviews -- both while running for US Senator and after.) So that alleged "test" is a test for Barack and his cronies . . . except when it comes to an intelligence post. Where information will be studied, analyzed, et al. And we're going to put the freak who either knowingly lied or was too damn stupid to surf the web and be able to immediately refute the claims the Bush administration repeatedly made. That's how Barack 'takes care' of America? What was James Clapper's job that he failed at? He was over the satellite photos, among other things. Remember those grainy photos Colin Powell trotted out before the UN -- the ones that showed nothing despite Collie The Blot Powell lying as he's done in so much of his public life? Clapper fixed him with those. Grasp that (a) not only has Barack not kept his promise on ending the Iraq War, (b) not only has he (and the Democratic Party) refused to hold the Bush administration accountable for lying the country into an illegal war but (c) he's now promoting the liars to higher positions of power.

Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) notes that Clapper sent members of a Senate Committee a memo advocating for DNI to be weakened -- he identifies it as the Senate Armed Services Committee but then goes on to identify Dianne Feinstein as the Chair, she's not. Carl Levin chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee. He either means that Clapper e-mailed everyone on the Senate Intelligence Committee (which Feinstein chairs) or he's moving on to a different thought when he writes, "Committee leaders Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, and Christopher 'Kit' Bond, R-MO, expressed serious reservations about the Clapper nomination even before it was decided, arguing that the Pentagon already has too much control over the intelligence community and expressing doubt that he would have the clout to wrangle all 16 intelligence agencies to do what he wants. Those senators have also been pushing for a new intelligence authorization bill that would strengthen the DNI position in line with a Senate proposal that was watered down by the House some years back." The Institute for Public Accuracy has two experts who can weigh in on the topic:

MELVIN A. GOODMAN Goodman just wrote the piece "Pentagon Tightens Grip on the Obama Administration and the Intelligence Community." Now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, Goodman was with the CIA for 41 years, serving as a senior analyst and a division chief. He is author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA. RAY McGOVERN Obama stated on Saturday when announcing the nomination of Clapper: "He possesses a quality that I value in all my advisers: a willingness to tell leaders what we need to know even if it's not what we want to hear." McGovern wrote a few weeks ago: "According to press reports, the leading candidate to succeed Dennis Blair is retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, whose record does not inspire confidence. Clapper has a well-deserved reputation for giving consumers of intelligence what they want to hear." McGovern said today: "He [Clapper] now serves as undersecretary of intelligence at the Defense Department, working for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who holds a 'PhD' from Georgetown in Politicization of Intelligence under his mentor, 'Professor' William J. Casey [CIA director from 1981 to 1987]. "Casey was convinced that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union would never relinquish power; so Gates pedaled that line and missed the big one. The quickest way to politicize intelligence is to put fellow sycophants and careerists in management positions, which Gates was a master at doing. "The direct result is that when Cheney and Bush told the CIA to come [up] with the intelligence necessary to 'justify' attacking Iraq, two decades-worth of malleable managers were on hand to do Bush's bidding. James Clapper, head of imagery analysis from 2001 to 2006, played by the same script. Clapper made sure that no one found out that imagery intelligence on WMD was actually 'non-existent' -- a term used by Sen. Jay Rockefeller after an exhaustive study by the Senate Intelligence Committee." McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a CIA analyst from 1963 to 1990, serving under seven presidents and nine CIA directors. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Background: "The director of a top American spy agency said Tuesday that he believed that material from Iraq's illicit weapons program had been transported into Syria ... 'unquestionably ... I think people below the Saddam Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse,' General Clapper [then head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency] said ..." -- New York Times, October 29, 2003 "Another possibility is that some weapons may have been dispersed to other countries, such as Syria, before the war. That was the assessment of General James R. Clapper, Jr. ..." -- Karl Rove, "Courage and Consequences," p. 339 For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Meanwhile ProPublica's T. Christian Miller and NPR's Daniel Zwerdling team up to explore brain injuries among service members and discover the military is
failing to diagnose a large number of brain injuries. That's a text report. You can click here for another at ProPublica. This morning, they discuss the issue with Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition, click here for audio. Excerpt:

INSKEEP: This is not a psychological problem, it's a physical problem of the brain.

ZWERDLING: That's right. And researchers still don't fully understand what happens. But Victor Medina came back - he was in a blast last summer, almost exactly a year ago - and he today he's a different man. When he came back to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, he went to see the top brain neurologist. And here is the neurologist's diagnosis. That's the medical record.

INSKEEP: He's handing me this memorandum here. It's rather long, but let's just read a couple of quotes. The doctor says that Victor Medina has symptoms that are likely due to chronic anxiety, chronic headaches, and he goes on to say I am concerned that he may be slipping into a cycle of playing the sick role. So, the doctor doesn't think Medina's very sick. What did you find?

ZWERDLING: Listen to a clip of Victor - and this is Victor reacting to that diagnosis, seems to be playing the sick role.

Mr. VICTOR MEDINA: When the d-doctor t-tells me I'm p-playing s-s-s-sick, you know that the d-d-doctor came across I g-going crazy? It's just like I have to s-s-s-s-struggle to, you know, t-to get it tre-tre-treated.

ZWERDLING: And he never stuttered before the blast.

INSKEEP: And just to be clear: we're not doctors. He eventually was found to have traumatic brain injury, correct?

ZWERDLING: That's right. By a neuropsychologist outside of the military. And incidentally, we've talked to many soldiers who have, at the same base - Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas - some who have gone to the same doctor. And when you look at their medical records, over and over again, the doctor says the main cause of their cognitive problems, like Victor's, are headaches and anxiety, not the blast.

NPR has created a folder with a number of stories and a timeline

David Bacon is an independent journalist who covers the labor and immigration beat and this is from "Pics: Out of Work, Sleeping in the Fields" (Political Affairs Magazine):The People of the Central Valley - 4The People of the Central Valley - 4: A photodocumentary project on the reality of life today in California's Central Valley Near Reedley, on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, three men live in a camp they've built under the trees of an abandoned orchard. A blue tarp and the cardboard from an unfolded carton make up the roof. The mattresses for their beds sit on shipping pallets, or nearby under a bush. One of the men made a doll of straw, which sits in the branch of a dead tree overlooking the camp. David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).

the new york timesrod nordland
the guardian
martin chulov
bbc news
iraqi lgbt
the raw storymuriel kane
owen bowcott
david bacon
nprdaniel zwerdlingt. christian millermorning editionsteve inskeep