Saturday, April 07, 2012

Barack is no friend of reporductive rights

Jennifer Epstein of Politico reports:

President Barack Obama vowed Friday to stand up for women on issues including health care and equal pay, offering a high-profile and not-so-subtle contrast to likely presidential rival Mitt Romney.
Speaking at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy, Obama said that “women are not an interest group” and “shouldn’t be treated that way.”

You want to know how women shouldn't be treated?

Like they're not worthy of your basketball games, like they're not good enough for your golf games.

From October 2009, Meghan Casin (Telegraph of London):

Mr Obama had been censured by liberal bloggers after a basketball game last month in which only male members of his cabinet and Congress participated.
In an interview with NBC Mr Obama said the allegations of sexism were "bunk". He went on to say: "I don't know if there are women who were Members of Congress who play basketball on a regular basis". But Robert Gibbs, his spokesman, said the criticism was "well taken".
The demographics of White House employees are almost evenly divided between genders, and the president has appointed women to high positions, most prominently Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State.

He went after Hillary with sexist language throughout 2008 and it is not forgotten and it will never be forgiven.  Never.

Russell Goldman (ABC News) reported on the revelations about sexism at the White House in the last half of 2011:

President Obama, who rose to power on a message of inclusion and equality, came under fire this week when an author quoted female members of his administration as saying the White House was a sexist and "hostile" work environment.
Since excerpts leaked from the book "Confidence Men," journalist Ron Suskind's take on how the Obama administration handled the financial crisis, Anita Dunn, former White House communications director, and Christina Romer, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers, have denied the substance of their remarks and said they were misquoted.
"I felt like a piece of meat," Romer was quoted in the book as saying of one meeting with Larry Summers, former chairman of the National Economic Council, complaining she was "boxed out" of the discussion.
According to the Washington Post, Dunn says in the book: "This place would be in court for a hostile workplace because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women."

Let's also not forget all those creepy jokes about his daughters.  "Gross," Angus Johnston noted of one at Student Activism:

And this isn’t the only time he’s made that kind of joke.
Two years ago, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, he told the Jonas Brothers  that his daughters were “huge fans.” He then warned the singing group not to “get any ideas” because he controls an arsenal of predator drones.
Last year, speaking at a Tennessee high school’s commencement, he noted that the school’s principal’s daughter had chosen to go to a different school because she “was worried that the boys would be afraid to talk to her if her mom was lurking in the hallways.” Because of this, he said, he’d decided to announce that his “next job will be principal at Sasha and Malia’s high school — and then I’ll be president of their college.”
A few months later a reporter, noting that he’d given the girls a puppy when he first won the presidency, asked what he’d get them if he won re-election. He replied that he’d “be getting them a continuation of Secret Service so that when boys want to start dating them, they are going to be surrounded by men with guns.”
These jokes are freaking creepy. Set aside the fact that Obama’s predator drones are estimated to have killed more than a hundred innocent children. Set aside the fact that Obama was joking about three men aged seventeen, twenty, and twenty-two ”getting ideas” about girls who were then eight and eleven years old. Set aside the inappropriateness of a father meddling in the romantic decisions of his college age kids. (And set aside as well the casual, ugly assertion that his daughters will be interested in, and only interested in, “boys.”)
The biggest problem with all these jokes is that at their core they’re not really jokes.
When the Obama administration overruled the FDA’s scientists and policymakers on expanding morning-after pill access for teenagers last December, he said he endorsed the decision “as the father of two daughters,” and claimed that “most parents” would agree with him. Though he claimed that the decision was based on the possibility of “a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old” being able to “buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect … alongside bubble gum or batteries,” the fact is that drugstores are filled with over-the-counter medications far more dangerous than Plan B, any one of which any ten-year-old can buy without restriction.

Again, he has been no friend of women and no friend of reproductive rights.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, April 6, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Home Depot gets sued by the US Justice Dept over the firing of a National Guard member, KRG President Massoud Barzani visits the US and discusses Article 140 (and more), now Nouri doesn't want Tareq al-Hashemi to return to Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim calls out Nouri's raid on the Communist Party last week, and more.
Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is currently on a diplomatic tour of the surrounding region having already visited Qatar and currently Saudia Arabia.  Raman Brosk (AKnews) reports that State of Law is arguing that al-Hashemi should not be allowed to re-enter Iraq and Iraqiya's spokesperson Maisoun al-Damlouji is responding, "This is not acceptable at all.  Hashemi is the vice president of the Republic and he will return to the region." In December, after most US troops left, Nouri al-Maliki upped the political crisis by insisting that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested on charges of 'terrorism.'  Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are members of Iraqiya (both are also Sunni) which is the political slate that won the most votes in the March 7, 2010 elections.  Nouri's State of Law slate came in second to Iraqiya.  The two slates are political rivals.  As an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers observed at Inside Iraq this week:
In a press conference Maliki said that he had a criminal file on Hashimi that he had been sitting on for three years, and was now ready to prosecute him.  For the objective observer, the timing of this announcement was telling. [. . .] Confessions of Hashimi's security personnel were aired on state television and an arrest warrent for Hashim himself was issued and also made public on state TV -- All this publicity on Maliki's side in order to burn the bridges and make any political deal impossible in this country where government is glued together with political deals.
A day after al-Hashemi went to the KRG, Nouri issued the arrest warrant.  Tareq al-Hashemi has remained in the KRG as a guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani.  Sunday he left for a diplomatic tour of some of the neighboring Iraq countries.  He has visited Qatar and Saudi Arabia. 
Providing background on Nouri's relationships with Qatar and Saudi Arabia would require many, many snapshots.  So we'll just drop back to last week's Arab League Summit held in Baghdad.  Abeer Mohammed and Khalid Walid (Journal of Turkish Weekly) report:

While Iraq hoped the high-profile Arab League summit in Baghdad last week would mark a step forward in relations with its neighbours, observers say many regional states used the event to snub the government.
Although officials declared the event a success, only ten leaders from the 22 Arab League member states turned up. Apart from Kuwait, no Gulf state was represented at a high level. Saudi Arabia and Oman merely sent their Cairo-based Arab League ambassadors.

As demonstrated by actions this week (see Liz Sly's Washington Post report from yesterday) the Arab League Summit changed nothing of importance for Iraq. This despite all the money spent on it.  And several countries were able to use the summit to send a message.  That message was received loud and clear by Nouri who responded by attacking Qatar and Saudi Arabia over the weekend -- before al-Hashemi arrived there. And the attacks continue.  Today Alsumaria reports that Nouri's State of Law again elevated the rhetoric against Saudi Arabia and Qatar today as Abbas al-Bayati declared that the press for both countries was carrying out their governments' attack on Iraq's government.
AFP reports that a spokesperson for Tareq al-Hashemi declared today -- as al-Hashemi has all week -- that he will return to Iraq after he's concluded his diplomatic mission and "that for Hasemi to remain abroad was 'the wish of his enemies,' in a clear reference to Maliki."  There is something very comical about Nouri's attitude as the week ends.
It started with him and his spokespeople blustering and bellowing about how Qatar would hand al-Hashemi over to Baghdad (they didn't) and how INTERPOL would show up if needed to remove al-Hashemi from Qatar and bring him to Baghdad. That was never going to happen as we explained on Sunday and Monday -- it is written into INTERPOL's charter that it does not take part in political arrests and that is so that INTERPOL will be seen as impartial. So he demanded Qatar hand the vice president over and then demanded the same of Saudi Arabia, insisted INTERPOL would return him and now Nouri's position is that Tareq al-Hashemi should not be allowed to re-enter the country?
In addition to the laughs prompted by Nouri's flip-flops, grasp that Nouri's court is supposed to try al-Hashemi May 3rd.  And Nouri's position is that al-Hashemi can't come back into Iraq?
In Iraq, the political crisis continues and intensifies.
The March 7, 2010 elections were followed by over 8 months of gridlock known as Political Stalemate I.  Nouri al-Maliki did not want to abide by the Constitution or the will of the Iraqi people expressed at the ballot box.  He did not want to stop being prime minister.  In 2014 (or 2015 the way Nouri drags his feet), this may be an issue again because although when Iraqis took to the streets in large number protesting against corruption in his government and more (February 25, 2011), he swore he would not run for a third term, his spokespeople and attorney have repeatedly told the press that Nouri is not bound by that and may decide to run again. 
With the White House backing him for a second term, Nouri knew he didn't have to compromise and could just stomp his feet in the hopes of getting his way.
In an attempt to soothe the stubborn child, the political blocs agreed to end the stalemate by signing off on the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  That was November 2010.  By the end of December 2010, it was obvious that the only thing Nouri really intended to honor from that agreement was that he would get a second term as prime minister.  For months, the other political blocs waited and waited for the agreement to be implemented.  It never way.  Over the summer last year, the Kurds made it clear that the country needed to return to the Erbil Agreement.  Iraqiya quickly joined that call, then Moqtada al-Sadr and then others. 
Many Iraqis -- Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds alike --  fear that the U.S. withdrawal has given Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, a conservative Shiite Islamist, free rein to consolidate power and turn himself into an intractable strongman.
Those worries were only compounded when the White House last month named Brett McGurk the new U.S. ambassador to Baghdad. As adviser to the past three envoys, McGurk had garnered a reputation among Iraqi political elites as a die-hard Maliki booster who turns a blind eye to the prime minister's emerging dictatorial streak.
"They basically sent someone from Maliki's office," one Sunni politician grumbled privately about the Obama administration's choice.
In December of last year, when Nouri went publicly nuts (deploying tanks to circle the homes of political rivals, for example), Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani began calling (December 21st) for a national conference to address the crisis.  That was supposed to have taken place yesterday; however, it was called off at the last minute.  Al Mada notes that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is calling for a new date to be set for a national conference to resolve the ongoing crisis in Iraq and that State of Law, as evidenced by the statemetns of Hussein Shahristani, is pleased that the conference was cancelled
In what Nouri hopes is an isolated move, Al Mada reports State of Law MP Jawad Albzona has withdrawn from Nouri's coalition and stated that he would prefer to be independent which, he believes, will allow him to better represent Iraqis by distancing himself from political squabbles and moving towards the needs of the citizens of Iraq. He is the second State of Law MP to announce a departure since 2010. Since December, he has repeatedly made public statements decrying the current political crisis and asking for the politicians to work on issues directly effecting the lives of Iraqis. An issue effecting Iraq's internally displaced refugees is living among piles of garbage Al Rafidayn reports. Currently the United Nations estimates there are 1.3 million displaced Iraqis within Iraq. On Albzona's departure from State of Law, Al Rafidayn notes the MP declared he will remain a member of the National Alliance (a larger coalition of Shi'ite political blocs).
Meanwhile the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (also a member of the National Alliance), Ammar al-Haskim, has weighed in on two key issues. Al Mada reports he declared the poverty program of the last two years a failure, noting that it has not reduced the rate of poverty in Iraq. He is calling not only for a new program and strategy but for the budget to reflect a strong goal to reduce poverty. In regard to the raid Nouri ordered last week on the Communist Party's newspaper headquarters, al-Hakim stated that when security forces violate the rights of the people negative images are reinforced and that the role of the security forces is to protect freedoms (not attack them). He decried the arrest of 12 people in the raid on the Communist Party.  Last week, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi condemned the raid.  From the March 28th snapshot:

We'll close by noting the disturbing news of the day and news that wasn't picked up and front paged but should have been. Nouri al-Maliki is now going after Iraq's Communist Party. Al Mada reports that Nouri's security forces stormed the political party's headquarters and arrested 12 people who were arrested and questioned about protests. Ali Hussein (Al Mada) notes the Communist Party has a long history of fighting for Iraq, not against it. Hussein reports that Nouri's tanks have been sent to surround the homes of Communist Party members in Baghdad. Those who paid attention in December will remember that Nouri ordered tanks to circle the homes of Iraqiya members right before he demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his posts and ordered the arrest of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges of terrorism. Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are members of Iraqiya as well as Sunnis. Ali Hussein notes that Nouri also ordered tanks to circle the homes of Communist Party members last year.

The Iraq Communist Party Tweeted last week, "Iraqi Communist Party condemns raid of its newspaper headquarters by security forces." They state that the raid took place late in the evening Monday and that their headquarters were ransacked by federal police who entered claiming that they were doing a sweep of the area for the Arab League Summit. An old weapon ("piece of junk") was on the roof and they used this as a pretext to arrest 12 of the people who were held overnight and only released after they signed documents -- documents they were forced to sign while blindfolded. While they were held, the federal police returned to the now empty headquarters and ransacked the place.  
Add a third political leader to the list.  In DC yesterday, Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani was asked if Nouri's authoritarian ways were reason to be concerned as he consolidated complete control of the security forces and Barzani responded,  "The new Iraqi army needs to be built on the basis of being the army of the country, not an army of an individual. So to be an army that belongs to the people of Iraq and the state of Iraq in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.  And also the Iraqi army should not interfere in the internal political differences of the country.  "
ABC News notes, "Barzani, who was in Washington to meet with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, said that unless Baghdad resolves simmering disputes involving its ethnic and political factions, the situation would be ripe for an autocratic government." Hurriyet Daily News adds, "The Obama administration has pressed Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leader Masoud Barzani to re-engage with Baghdad amid high tension over the status of fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Al-Hashemi arrived in Saudi Arabia on April 4 and accused his country's prime minister of waging a systematic campaign against Sunni Arabs in Iraq." Today's Zaman reports:
"Barzani visited the US to complain about Maliki," said one diplomat on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. Barzani met with President Barack Obama and with Vice President Joe Biden separately on Wednesday, and told them that Maliki is consolidating power in a dictatorial way. He said Obama and Biden reassured him that the United States would remain committed to cooperation with Kurdistan and committed to helping Iraq solve its serious internal political problems.
[. . .]
Bilgay Duman, an expert on Iraq from the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Research (ORSAM), stated that Barzani's reception by high-ranking US officials should be perceived as a warning to Maliki to abandon his sectarian-based policies in the country. Iraq is suffering from severe instabilities due to daily clashes between Shiite and Sunni groups, which escalated after US troops withdrew from the country in December. The KRG is striving to maintain balanced ties with Iraq's rival Sunni and Shiite groups as they vie for influence in the country following the US withdrawal. Turkey is very critical of Maliki, saying the Shiite prime minister is using the arrest warrant against Hashemi to sideline Sunni political groups in the administration and hoard power for dominance of the Shiite bloc.
"The stance of Arbil and Ankara against Baghdad are very much in line, due to the fact that both are disturbed by Maliki's dictatorial government," affirmed Ali Semin, a Middle East expert from the Turkish think-tank -- the Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies (BÄ°LGESAM). He added that the US is now trying to forge ties between KRG and Turkey in order to secure the unity of Iraq.
So that we're all on the same page, the 2005 Iraqi Constitution includes Article 140:
First: The executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law.
Second: The responsibility placed upon the executive branch of Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization and census and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.
The census and referendum are to take place no later than December 31, 2007.  Nouri al-Maliki becomes prime minister in 2006.  He took an oath to the Iraqi Constitution.  He never ordered the census or the referendum before the end of 2007.  His first term ended with him unable/unwilling to abide by the Constitution he took an oath to uphold. There has been no census or referendum.  He is and remains in violation of the Constitution.
With that understanding, we'll now note what KRG President Massoud Barzani declared yesterday in DC at the forum put on by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on the issue of Kirkuk and Article 140.
President Massoud Barzani: Article 140 is a Constitutional Article and it needed a lot of discussions and talks until we have reached this.  This is the best way to solve this problem. It's regarding solving the problems of the territories that have been detached from Kurdistan Region.  In fact, I do not want to call it "disputed areas" because we do not have any disputes on that. For us it is very clear for that. But we have shown upmost flexibility in order to find the legal and the Constitutional solution for this problem.  And in order to pave the way for the return of these areas, according to the Constitution and the basis of law and legally to the Kurdistan Region.  And we have found out that there is an effort to evade and run away from this responsibility for the last six years in implementing this Constitutional Article.  And I want to assure you that implementing this Constitutional Article is in the interest of Iraq and in the interest of stability.  There are people who think that time would make us forget about this.  They are wrong.  Time would not help forget or solve the problem. These are Kurdish countries, part of Kurdistan and it has to return to Kurdistan based on the mechanism that has been stipulated in the Constitution. And at the end of the day, as the Constitution stipulates, it's going back to what the people want to determine.  So there is a referendum for the people of these areas and they will decide. If the people decide to joing Kurdistan Region, they're welcome and if the people decide not to, at that time, we will look at any responsibility on our shoulders so people would be held responsible for their own decisions.
Barzani is not calling for any additional steps to resolving the issue of Kirkuk, he is only asking that what was already agreed to and written into the Constitution be followed.  In addition to taking questions, Barzani delivered a speech at the forum and you can see yesterday's snapshot for that.
President Massoud Barzani: As far as the second part of your question, the Erbil Agreement.  In fact, the agreement was not only for the sake of forming the government and forming the three presidencies -- the presidency, the Speakership of Parliament and premier.  In fact, it was a package -- a package that included a number of essential items.  First, to put in place a general partnership in the country.  Second, commitment to the Constitution and its implementation, the issue of fedarlism, the return of balance of power and especially in all the state institutions,the establishment in [. . .] mainly in the armed forces and the security forces, the hydrocarbons law, the Article 140 of the Constitution, the status of the pesh merga.  These were all part of the package that had been there.  Had this Erbil Agreement been implemented, we would not have faced the situation that we are in today.  Therefore, if we do not implement the Erbil Agreement then there would certainly be problems in Iraq.
Again, the political crisis did not start over the accusations Nouri hurled at Saleq al-Mutlaq and Tareq al-Hashemi.  The failure to follow the Erbil Agreement -- the document ending Political Stalemate I -- is what caused the current crisis -- a crisis that has now lasted over a year and four months.
Turning to the United States, yesterday Caitlin Duffy (Forbes) reported of Home Depot, "The home improvement retailer's shares are once again hitting fresh multi-year highs, with the stock up 1.4% on the day at $50.56 as of 12:35 p.m. in New York trade. Call activity on Home Depot suggests at least one strategist is gearing up for the bullish momentum to continue in the near term." But how long will the outlook remain bullish as word leaks out about a new lawsuit? The US Justice Dept issued the following yesterday:

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department announced today the filing of a complaint in U.S. District Court in Arizona against Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. for violating the employment rights of California Army National Guard soldier Brian Bailey under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).

The department's complaint alleges that Home Depot willfully violated USERRA by terminating Bailey's employment because of his military service obligations. Bailey, an Iraq War veteran, worked at a Home Depot store in Flagstaff, Ariz., as a department supervisor while at the same time serving in the California Army National Guard. Throughout his employment with Home Depot, Bailey took periodic leave from work to fulfill his military obligations with the National Guard. According to the Justice Department's complaint, Bailey was removed from his position as a department supervisor after Home Depot management officials at the Flagstaff store openly expressed their displeasure with his periodic absences from work due to his military obligations and further indicated their desire to remove him from his position because of those absences.

Bailey initially filed a complaint with the Labor Department's Veterans' Employment and Training Service, which investigated the matter, determined that the complaint had merit and referred the matter to the Justice Department. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division subsequently decided to represent Bailey in this matter and filed this lawsuit on his behalf.

USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against National Guard soldiers, such as Bailey, with respect to employment opportunities based on their past, current or future uniformed service obligations. Under USERRA, it is unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee because he has to miss work due to military obligations.

Among other things, the suit seeks compensation for Bailey's lost wages and benefits, liquidated damages and reinstatement of Bailey's employment with Home Depot.

"The men and women who wear our nation's uniform need to know that they do not have to sacrifice their job at home in order to serve our country," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Civil Rights Division is committed to aggressive enforcement of USERRA to protect the rights of those who, through their bravery and sacrifice, secure the rights of all Americans."

"The National Guard is composed primarily of civilian men and women who serve their country, state and community on a part-time basis," said Acting U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel. "National Guard members, and their employers, should know that we will employ all of USERRA's tools to protect the employment rights of those in uniform while they sacrifice time away from their families and jobs for training and active duty."

This case is being handled by the Employment Litigation Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona.

Additional information about USERRA can be found on the Justice Department websites and, as well as the Labor Department website
Civil Rights Division
Staying with the issue of the US military, on Saturday, David Brown (Washington Post) reported on studies -- apparent Pentagon studies -- that researched the signature wounds of the modern wars and demonstrated a weak link between TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD (Post-Trumatic Stress Disorder) and "outright violent behavior." As we have noted for years here, those suffering from PTSD are far more likely to self-harm than to harm others.  That was true not only in the early research on PTSD during these wars but true as well when you go back to studies on similar conditions such as what was once known as "shell shocked."  In all of that, self-harm could and sometimes did include self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs.  What's distrubing about the Post report is "outright violent behavior."  Some might agree (some might not) with the conclusion that a drunken brawl with a friend isn't "outright violent behavior."  I would hope at this late date, in the US, no one would conclude -- as the Pentagon apparently has -- that domestic abuse is not "outright violent behavior."  Domestic abuse is a crime.  it is a serious crime.  The military can do whatever they want with drunken brawls among friends, I don't really care (some people may), but when you classify domestic abuse as something other than "outright violent behavior," we do have a problem -- a very serious problem. Domestic violence is a crime, it is violence and I think a strong argument can be made that it's a form of terrorism.  As Maureen Orth detailed in Vanity Fair nearly nine years ago, there are life and death consequences. The US military has a long history of looking the other way when a woman is assaulted or raped.  Supposedly that's changed.  We heard it over and over, for example, from then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates when he would appear before the Congress.  But if the climate actually had changed, beating a woman would not be classified as something less than "outright violent behavior."
In related news on this still-existing culture of denial within the higher ranks of the US military, Sandra S. Park (ACLU Blog of Rights) noted the following disturbing event on Monday:
While it is estimated that over 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2010, a rate far higher than among civilians, the government has failed systematically to investigate complaints, appropriately punish perpetrators, and treat trauma and other health conditions suffered by survivors. The profound personal and social consequences that arise from the government's systemic failures are powerfully profiled in the new film, The Invisible War. Turning a blind eye to these crimes has allowed them to continue, imperiling the lives of victims and degrading their service.
On Friday, a federal district court judge cited yet another example of the military's unwillingness to acknowledge sexual violence within its ranks. In response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) and the ACLU seeking records from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs regarding their response to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence in the military, the Army Crime Records Center claimed it couldn't provide records about "sexual assault" because its records are organized by specific criminal offenses such as "rape," not under the general heading of "sexual assault."
"'Sexual assault' is easily read as encompassing rape and other non-consensual sexual crimes defined in the Army's offense codes," the judge found. "The fact that the agency was unwilling to read the Plaintiffs' request liberally to include such terms seems to be almost willful blindness."
The judge further ruled that several other sections of the Departments failed to adequately respond to our requests and ordered the government to fulfill its obligations under FOIA. We will continue to press the government for the information we need to truly understand, address, and end the epidemic of sexual violence in the military.


Thursday, April 05, 2012


Wow.  I don't check the figures.  Sunny did.  I had four times the number of readers I've ever had for any post read yesterday's post.  That might thrill some people, it scares the hell out of me.

Sunny checked the numbers after going through the e-mails and finding all these first time e-mailers.  She started wondering how many people read that post and she checked and wow.

Sunny runs the office.  I'm a psychologist.

Do I love Valley of the Dolls?  Rebecca loves that book.  I've read it and enjoyed it but when we moved in together in college, Rebecca,  C.I. (of The Common Ills) and me, that was her big book.  That's not an insult to her.  It's a good book.  But Rebecca could (and probably still can) quote from that book.

If you really loved last night's post, you should read Rebecca if you aren't already.  Never expect much from my blog.  It's nothing but a journal and it's no big deal.

That's not me being modest.  C.I. could write something like that and truly mean it, no pretense.

But she also truly does something wonderful.

She busts her ass.  She's always calling friends to ask them if they have something on Iraq, she's always reading papers and books on it, calling friends who are MidEast professors to sound them out on developments, calling friends in the State Dept, etc.  She really works to pull together that site.

Rebecca's the first to tell you she writes on the fly.  But that's okay, her personality always comes through and holds those posts together.

But I'm not like either of them.  I'm okay with that.  But I just want to be clear to anyone stopping by that you shouldn't expect anything from this site.

My practice these days -- for years now -- is all veterans and pretty much solely PTSD.  There are evenings I come home when I tell Mike I have to go to the bedroom be alone for an hour just to decompress. There are evenings when I can't pull anything together.

So never visit here expecting much.

Nina Burleigh (Daily Beast) writes about the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer:

Her name was Mary Pinchot Meyer, and she lived and died in a gone world of monogrammed matchbooks, white-glove dances at Yale, yachting summers in the Med. She bewitched the blue-blooded men she ran with and who ran the world for a while, arrogant, entitled men who thought of themselves as poets and spies. One of them, her husband Cord Meyer, was both an accomplished short-story writer and, as the No. 3 in the CIA, one of the Right-est architects of the nascent security state .

She also dropped acid with Timothy Leary and painted abstract art with Kenneth Noland, but her greatest claim to fame is the tragic and mysterious way she died, shot twice at close range in a park in Washington, D.C., at age 43, 10 days after the Warren Commission report was released.

Her murder is one of Washington’s “enduring mysteries,” as the headline writers like to put it. Many have tried to solve it, including me. I concluded, as did the journalist Ron Rosenbaum before me, that Mary was most probably murdered by Ray Crump, the man police arrested within hours of the crime in the vicinity of the murder. He was identified by an eyewitness, then acquitted by an all-black jury in 1965, as racial tensions were rising not just in D.C., but nationally. The evidence against him was strong but circumstantial (no gun was ever found), but my investigation led me to believe Crump was entirely capable of violent behavior. His long post-acquittal record included stints in federal prison for repeat arsons and the rape of a 13-year-old. I met a former wife who was in hiding from him; she showed me a scar on her neck from a knife attack and described his strange and violent fugue states.

Mary's Mosaic is the new book by Peter Janney about the murder.  Dick Russell wrote the foreword to Janney's book:

Early in 1976, about six months after I began probing into the Kennedy assassination for The Village Voice, an article caught my attention in – of all places – the National Enquirer. The weekly tabloid was not generally known for its investigative veracity, but this particular story was thoroughly documented. The subject was Mary Pinchot Meyer, a Washington socialite who’d been shot twice and murdered while walking near the Potomac River on October 12, 1964. 
Since the originally accused assailant had been acquitted, the identity of her killer remained unknown. Publicly, so did the identity of her lover, until the Enquirer story alleged that for almost two years before his assassination on November 22, 1963, Mary Meyer had been having an affair with President John F. Kennedy. The Enquirer recounted – and this would soon be corroborated in other periodicals – that Mary had kept a diary. 
The weekend after her death, a small group of people were said to have gathered at her Georgetown home in search of it. Cord Meyer, her ex-husband and a high official in the CIA, was there. So was James Angleton, head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, and his wife Cicely, a close friend of Mary’s. Also present was Tony Bradlee, Mary’s sister and the wife of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.
 The story went that none of them could locate Mary’s diary and that her sister had later found it inside a locked steel box containing dozens of letters, including some from the slain president Kennedy. Bradlee had then turned the box over to Angleton, who took the material to CIA headquarters. James Truitt, a journalist for Newsweek and another friend of the Meyers, said he’d received a letter from Angleton saying: “As to the diary and related papers, I burned them.” For more than 20 years, Angleton had been a “spook’s spook” who roamed the Agency corridors looking to ferret out penetrations by the Soviet Union. 
Then in 1974, a new CIA Director, William Colby, leaked word to the media that Angleton had also been in charge of Operation CHAOS, a domestic intelligence-gathering program that far exceeded the CIA’s original charter. Angleton was forced to resign. Not long thereafter, he began meeting with journalists for the first time, obviously intent on getting his side of certain stories on the record. I was one of them, although I never really understood why Angleton chose to wine and dine me on three occasions at his customary meeting place, Washington’s Army-Navy Club. After all, The Village Voice hardly seemed like his cup of tea. And I did not disguise the fact I was looking into a probable conspiracy in the death of President Kennedy. 
Indeed, the first time we met, late on a mid-December afternoon in 1975 in the plush club lounge, I gave him one of my Voice articles to leaf through. Angleton lit a cigarette, took a sip of his martini, and said: “The subject is a far more complex one than reflected in your article.” After the assassination, Angleton’s Counterintelligence branch had been assigned as the CIA’s direct liaison to the Warren Commission, of which former CIA Director Allen Dulles was a member. I wondered, why Angleton’s office?
“Because we had the research facilities, knew the mechanisms of the KGB and foreign intelligence,” Angleton replied quickly. “We knew every assassination in history, knew more about the sophistication of the Cuban DGI, that type of thing.”
 Pretty obviously, he was trying to steer my thoughts toward possible foreign involvement. Angleton dismissed the rumors that Lee Harvey Oswald might have been an American agent as “completely false” and continued: “Unless one knows the dossiers that are in Moscow and Cuba, there can be no ultimate determination.” Several times over the course of our get-togethers, he would raise the specter of the KGB’s Department 13, which specialized in what those in the trade called “wet affairs” (assassinations). Angleton was one of the strangest men I ever met: tall, bespectacled, stoop-shouldered, with his appearance calling to mind the image of an ostrich whose head seemed, despite itself, to be peering out at the world after a lifetime buried in the sand. But what secrets was he willing now to unearth, and what was his motivation? Was he still, in fact, covering someone’s tracks – even, perhaps, his own? 
In April 1976, we met for the second time and one of the first things I asked him about was the Enquirer’s revelatory piece about Mary Meyer and her diary. Angleton gazed out the window for a long moment. Then he replied that he had been acting in a private capacity for the family, and in no way for the CIA, which he hastened to add had nothing to do with her death. He went on to relate a fascinating, even occult, story. Angleton and his wife had planned to go out to dinner and a show with Mary Meyer that October evening in 1964. When news came over the radio that someone had been killed in a park not far from where she lived, Cicely Angleton had a premonition that it was Mary. So that night, they drove over to her house, but found it completely dark. A grim foreboding grew stronger in Angleton’s wife. Angleton said he’d called Meyer’s answering service, which at first simply said that she wasn’t in. But when Angleton explained they had a date with her, and that his wife was hysterical in the car, he was told of Meyer’s death. 
The entire time Angleton was relating this, I noticed that he was digging his fingers deeper and deeper into the wooden arm of the comfortable chair in the Army-Navy Club. I have puzzled over that moment for many years. 
Over the course of time, I read Timothy Leary’s memoir that only added to the mystery of Mary Meyer – maintaining that he’d turned her on to LSD, that she may even have taken a “trip” with President Kennedy, and that she’d called Leary the day after the assassination indicating that “he was changing too fast; they couldn’t control him anymore.” They clearly implied that JFK had been assassinated by elements within our own government. Now, with Peter Janney’s remarkable book Mary’s Mosaic, the questions that long haunted me have been largely answered. Now I see how Angleton was trying to bend the truth, and why. Not only about Mary Meyer, but about who killed Kennedy, which all but certainly involved the same element of individuals.

The Daily Beast article was an attempt to say, "Don't read this book."  It had the opposite effect on me.  I ordered it on Amazon tonight.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, April 4, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the Thursday national conference gets the axe, Tareq al-Hashemi continues his diplomatic tour of the region, PTSD issues, and more.
This week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey (first airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network),  features coverage of the United National Anti-War Coalition conference in Stamford, Connecticut where both hosts were among the speakers.  Another speaker was International Action Center's Sara Flounders.
Sara Flounders:  In fighting today's wars, it's more important step is building a movement that acknowledges the relationship between the war at home and the war abroad.  It's a big challenge.  How dare any US official lecture any, any other country on prisoners, human rights or on democracy.  What hypocrisy.  This -- this country has the largest prison population in the world and that's not counting the secret prisons, the secret renditions, the secret kidnappings, the drones, it's not counting immigration detention. We need to consciously step back from ever being an echo of the State Dept and their arrogant charges and target other countries.  US wars, they rely on an arrogance of empire. Can they once again get a population to believe that humanitarian war is possible? That they're bringing democracy, advancement for women, an end to sectarian violence.  We need an anti-war movement that is really, consciously against  all US wars.  That's simple.  And against all the forms that US wars take today.  Bombs and occupations, yes.  But sanctions, sabotage, drones, media onslaughts, demonetization of leaders, racist stereotypings of whole peoples.  We represent here many different political currents and traditions here in this room.  And we can't and won't agree on many issues. So how do we proceed how do we stay united and keep our focus?  If we focus on US imperialism, on its crimes, whatever our views on many social issues, we will be together because we need an antiwar movement that opposes US war.  Consider the US-NATO war against Libya.  Eleven countries simultaneously dropping bombs on a country with no means of defense all claiming they were on a humanitarian mission while they target the electric grid, the water supply, civilian communications. Now let's talk about WikiLeaks' latest Stratfor revelation -- and, by the way, Free Bradley Manning -- the latest WikiLeaks' document in the Stratfor files, they describe in some detail the White House meeting that reviews British and French and US Special Forces, units on the ground in Syria, planting bombs, running guns, training and seeking total destabilization.  Now that's the truth.  UNAC today stands for self-determination and demands that all US troops, drones and sabotage teams out.  Unconditional US withdrawal. That's a big contribution, a big step. We can't be making demands on any country at the very time it's under attack, at the time that the bombs are falling, at the time the sanctions are strangling, Today, in the last weeks, we see the most cynical and arrogant approach.  Kony.  Kony 2012.  Right? Invisible children?  And what is it?  Young people cheering AFRICOM, US troops in Africa?  That's the way they sell US wars today.  There's a rapidly expanding US military presence in Africa.  It includes  troops in Uganda, a military mission in Mali, drone bombings in Somalia, political intervention in Sudan, all under the umbrella of AFRICOM.  It's blame the victim.  It saturates the media and it saturates the mass movement.  We need to stand up to it.  And a just on a personal level and to give a comparison, there was a time when if a woman was attacked, sexually assaulted, what was the defense of the attacker, of the courts and of the police?   It was to ask, what was she wearing? Doing? Where was she walking?  That she invited or deserved this attack.  And one gain of the women's movement was to say: It's irrelevant.  That is irrelevant.  That's the way we have to see US wars.  That is the way. Let's talk about Syria and Libya and Iraq and Iran and Venezuela  and Bolivia and Sudan.  US imperialism wants to destroy each of these countries. Not because they've made any compromises to survive -- and they have.  But because they've nationalized the source of wealth, because it's US domination, corporate domination, that they want. This empire has problems they can no longer solve. Capitalism can no longer bail itself out with war. The capitalist crisis is global. It's unsolvable So our unity is more important.  The United National Anti-War Coalition, UNAC, was founded on the principle of self-determination for all the oppressed nations and people. What do we want to demand that they abolish NATO, we want to talk about march on the RNC and the DNC.  Abolish NATO and end the wars abroad.
Yesterday, we noted Margaret Kimberley's speech to the conference.  Of the conference, Glen Ford explains:
I was privileged to present the coordinating committee's draft of the Action Plan to UNAC's national conference in Stamford, Connecticut, this past weekend. "This action plan does not just target some U.S. wars," said the committee's statement. "It does not target the currently unpopular wars. It does not shy away from condemning wars that remain acceptable to half the population because the real reasons for them are obscured in the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention. It does not advocate that we avoid putting U.S. boots on the ground by mounting embargoes that bring economic devastation on the peoples of Iran. It does not condone war by other, more sanitized, means. It does not cheer on wars that minimize U.S. combat deaths by the use of robotic unmanned planes or the highly trained murder squads of the Joint Special Operations Command. It does not see war by mercenary as somehow less threatening to the peoples of the world and the U.S. than war by economic draft. It does not give credit to Washington for removing brigades from one country in order to deploy them in the next."
The document demands an end to "all wars, interventions, targeted assassinations and occupations" and U.S. withdrawal from "NATO and all other interventionist military alliances."
UNAC's reasoning is rooted in the principle that all the world's peoples have the inherent right to self-determination, to pursue their own destinies -- the foundation of relations among peoples, enshrined in international law but daily violated by the United States.
Moving from wars to one, Iraq.  We're going to do a little exercise first.  It's 2016.  I decide to throw a party and send out invites to Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor and Al Jazeera), Sam Dagher and Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal), Liz Sly, Alice Fordham, Ernesto Londono and Ed O'Keefe  (Washington Post), Jack Healy,  Tim Arango. Alissa J. Rubin, Damien Cave, Sabrina Tavernise and Stephen Farrell (New York Times), Nancy A. Youssef, Sahar Issa and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers), Deborah Haynes and James Hider (Times of London), Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Quil Lawrence and Kelly McEvers (NPR), Borzou Daragahi, Ned Parker, Alexandra Zavis, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times), Lara Jakes, Rebecca Santana, Hamza Hendawi and Brett Barrouquere (Associated Press), Jomana Karadsheh, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Arwa Damon (CNN), Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Anna Badkhen (San Francisco Chronicle, among others).
That's 34 people.  I need a head count so I'm asking everyone to RSVP.  It's a week away and only 10 have.  That's not a really good sign.  12 show up (11 invited, one not invited).  Tim Arango insists he Tweeted his RSVP and since I'm not on Twitter, I missed it.  5 show up just to be kind (Damien Cave, Liz Sly, Borzou Daragahi, Ed O'Keefe and Alissa J. Rubin).  5 show up to tell off the crazy bitch that's slammed everyone online for so many years (Jane Arraf, Arwa Damon, Stephen Farrell, Sam Dagher, Jomana Karadsheh and party crasher David E. Sanger).  As we sit down to eat, there is silence that only momentarily vanished during dinner, most people talk to one another, I make some idiotic toast that further alienates everyone present.
The next morning, not even I am stupid enough to delude myself into thinking my dinner party was a success.  If someone says to me, "Well people showed up," even I'm not stupid enough to assume they showed up due to some love for me.  They showed up for various reasons including manners and to tell me off.  I am not idiotic enough to assume that my decision to host a party means my hosting a party makes it a success.  Good or bad (and mine was bad), my just hosting a party I invited people too does not make it a success.
The Arab League Summit was not a success for Iraq.  Less than half of the heads of countries who are members of the Arab League attended.  With the exception of Kuwait, no leader attended because of Nouri. Those other heads of state that attended did so for a variety of reasons but Iraq and Nouri weren't among them.
Today, Liz Sly (Washington Post) offers that "the goodwill generated between Iraq and its Arab neighbors by an extravagant summit in Baghdad last week began unraveling at speed." No goodwill was generated.  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was lavishly praised in public remarks by those attending.  And some of that praise was probably for him (he was a gregarious host from all account) but some of the heavy praise was just to make a point -- via contrast -- about Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister and thug of Iraq) who got far less public praise from those attending. When you grasp that most were not there for Nouri and not impressed by Nouri, you can grasp that he's shot himself in the foot every day since as he's verbally attacked Qatar and Saudi Arabia.  He has no real ties to the Arab neighbors.  If Kuwait didn't want the borders redrawn, they probably wouldn't be as chummy with him as they are. 
 Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) broke the news this morning that the national conference had been called off according to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.   Yamei Wang (Xinhua) adds that the the Speaker "attributed the postponement to the mounting differences among political blocs during a meeting by the prepatory committee held on Tuesday."  The national conference is something that Jalal Talabani and Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for since December 21st in order to address the ongoing political crisis.
Political Stalemate I (when Nouri wouldn't honor the results of the March 7, 2010 elections) only ended in November 2010 because all parties -- including Nouri -- agreed to the US-brokered Erbil Agreement. Once he was made prime minister -- the main gift to Nouri in the Erbil Agreement -- he tossed it aside, that's December 2010 and the start of Political Stalemate II which has been ongoing ever since. Over the summer, the Kurds began calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. They were then joined by Iraqiya (who came in first in the March 7, 2010 elections) and Moqtada al-Sadr, among others. The Erbil Agreement found Nouri making various concessions if the others would allow him to remain prime minister.  But he got to be prime minister and trashed the agreement, refusing to honor what he agreed to, the very things that made the other political blocs sign off on the agreement.
Maliki had agreed to hold the reconciliation conference as a last-minute concession to the Sunnis and Kurds ahead of the Baghdad summit, which the government hoped would showcase Iraq as stable, safe and assuming its rightful place in the firmament of Arab nations after the withdrawal of U.S. troops late last year.
But relations with Arab states have since been deteriorating fast, along with any hopes that Iraq will soon be able to resolve its own internal problems. On Sunday, Maliki issued a forceful defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying his ouster would destabilize the region. On the same day, at a U.S.-backed gathering of "Friends of Syria" in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia endorsed a plan to fund and equip Syrian rebels.
Did Nouri want the meet up to take place?  Rami Ruhayem (BBC News) argues that today "his opponents said they would not attend, and his allies said there was no point."
This morning, before the meet-up got the axe, Dar Addustour reported on Nouri's paranoia and how he was girding himself for a possible takeover attempt. He doesn't name Barzani but, as Dar Addustour points out, that is who he's referring to when he frets that he may be replaced. Nouri fears his puppet masters in the US may be about to dump him and that's why Barzani is in DC. (Why would the White House dump him? Nouri thinks they might move towards someone more willing to favor an attack on Syria.) He also fears Tareq al-Hashemi's current diplomatic tour of other countries might have something to do with Arab leaders of other countries gearing up for a coup. Unnamed confidants of Nouri state that he is preparing himself for those possibilities and also for a military coup staged by Iraqi security forces loyal to DC. (Last month, State of Law repeatedly floated that there were several Iraqi military officers -- high ranking -- who were spying for the United States.)
Does that really sound like he wanted the meet-up?
Yamei Wang (Xinhua) reports, "Nujaifi attributed the postponement to the mounting differences among political blocs during a meeting by the prepatory committee held on Tuesday."  Wang's reporting that the agenda was agreed to but some other issues came up on Tuesday. 
Nouri al-Maliki is not a genius, he's barely literate.  But when throwing out possibilities, it's worth remembering that Nouri stalls and stalls and stalls again.  He stalled on the national conference to begin with.  As Liz Sly noted he postponed it until after the Arab League Summit.  Most of the other players -- not just Iraqiya -- were saying that it needed to be held in February, then that it needed to take place before the summit.
The reason for the national conference is what?  The Erbil Agreement.  He's stalled on implementing that for over a year.  When the major protests hit Iraq on February 25, 2011 and the people were demanding basic services, jobs and end to corruption and to the 'disappearing' of people in Iraq's legal system, what did Nouri do?
He said, "Give me 100 days and I'll address it."  He took 100 days, he never addressed it.  Even now, approximately 400 days after he asked for 100 days, he's never addressed the issues that Iraqis raised.  He stalls and stalls.  He hopes people forget or that he can exhaust them.  That's what he did in his first term as prime minister. 
Others may have called off the meet-up (they may not).  But if something happened on Tuesday night to bring about this decision, don't put it past Nouri to have instigated that.  It his pattern.
The political crisis did not start half-way into December when Nouri started demanding Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and then that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested.  That is, however, when certain media outlets began to take the ongoing political crisis seriously.  (Please note, that week that started with Nouri ordering al-Hashemi arrested, it was never news to American broadcast network news because the only one that reported on it that week was The NewsHour on PBS -- CBS Evening News, ABC World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News all ignored the prime minister ordering the arrest of the vice president.)
An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reviewed much of that time yesterday at Inside Iraq noting:
In a press conference Maliki said that he had a criminal file on Hashimi that he had been sitting on for three years, and was now ready to prosecute him.  For the objective observer, the timing of this announcement was telling. [. . .] Confessions of Hashimi's security personnel were aired on state television and an arrest warrent for Hashim himself was issued and also made public on state TV -- All this publicity on Maliki's side in order to burn the bridges and make any political deal impossible in this country where government is glued together with political deals.
A day after al-Hashemi went to the KRG, Nouri issued the arrest warrant.  Tareq al-Hashemi has remained in the KRG as a guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani.  Until Sunday when he traveled to Qatar.  Despite Nouri's bluster, Qatar refused his request to extradite al-Hashemi (who stated it was a visit and that he'd return to the KRG when he finished his diplomatic tour.  Habib Toumi (Gulf News) explains, "Al Hashemi was received by the Qatari Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani received Al Hashemi at his court."   Alsumaria notes that when asked at a press conference today, Osama al-Nujaifi declared that he understood al-Hashemi to be making an official trip and that, as he understood it, al-Hashemi would be returning to the KRG.
Mohammed Jamjoon (CNN) reports that al-Hashemi has now traveled onto Sadui Arabia.  Jamjoon quotes Usama al-Nugali, spokesperson for Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry, stating, "He came to Saudi Arabia and met with Prince Saudi Al-Faisal, the foreign minister.  He is, after all, the vice president of Iraq."
Turning to the topic of violence, AFP reports that a Baquba sticky bombing claimed 1 life today.  AGI notes 5 people have been killed in a Dhuluiya car bombing with at least ten more injured. Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports, "The booby-trapped car went off when a team of police explosive experts were defusing a roadside bomb nearby in the town of al-Duluiyah, some 90 km north of Baghdad, the source from Salahudin's operations command said on condition of anonymity." AFP offers, "The police officer said that the explosion took place at about 8:30 am (5:30 GMT) when Dhuluiyah police chief Colonel Qandil Khalil's convoy was passing by." And they also note, "It was the second attack against Colonel Khalil's convoy this year, after a previous car bombing in January that he also survived."  Dhuluiya is in Salahuddin Province. Yesterday journalist Kamiran Salahudin was killed in the province by a sticky bombing.  Also yesterday, Al Sabaah reports, the Turkish military shelled Dohuk and Erbil in their continued pursuit of the PKK.   The paper notes that the shelling was continuous and lasted for approximately 30 hours. 

Dropping back to Monday's snapshot:

Lastly, Jonathan Fisher (WebProNews) covers new threats to the internet from around the world and he notes this on Iraq:
According to a translation from the Centre for Law and Democracy, Articles 3, 4, and 5 of Iraq's Informatics Crimes Law would impose a mandatory life sentence for anyone using a computer or the Internet to do any of the following:
      "compromise" the "unity" of the state;
      subscribe, participate, negotiate, promote, contract or deal with an enemy … in order to destabilize security and public order or expose the country to danger;
      damage, cause defects, or hinder [systems or networks] belonging to security military, or intelligence authorities with a deliberate intention to harm [state security].
      promote "ideas which are disruptive to public order";
      "implement terrorist operations under fake names or to facilitate communication with members or leaders of terrorist groups";
      "promote terrorist activites and ideologies or to publish information regarding the manufacturing, preparation and implementation of flammable or explosive devices, or any tools or materials used in the planning or execution of terrorist acts";
      facilitate or promote human trafficking "in any form";
      engage in "trafficking, promoting or facilitating the abuse of drugs".
The Act also includes provisions to punish network users who "create chaos in order to weaken the trust of the electronic system of the state," "provoke or promote armed disobedience," "disturb public order or harm the reputation of the country," or "intrude, annoy or call computer and information network users without authorization or hinders their use," the Electronic Freedom Foundation reports. Copyright infringement and hacking would also land users in big trouble under the Act, which proposes a 2- to 3-year prison term for either offense.

Today Alice Fordham (Washington Post) reports on attempts to curb speech in Iraq where bills are being considered that could imprison people who criticize the government or make new requirements/hurdles for demonstrating. She speaks with Iraqi blogger Hayder Hamzoz:

The law also contains a sentence of life imprisonment for using computers or social networks to compromise "the independence of the state or its unity, integrity, safety."
Hamzoz, who does not use his real name out of concern for his safety, said he believes the legislationis intended to allow the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to control social media. The government essentially did just that more than a year ago, when it swiftly smothered an uprising inspired by the Arab Spring revolts sweeping the region.
"It's to attack the activists," he said.
Moving over to the United States, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office notes:

Wednesday, April 4th,

CONTACT: Murray Press Office
2012 (202) 224-2834

TOMORROW: Murray in Spokane with VA Health Officials to Host Roundtable Discussion with Local Veterans, Tour Homeless Veterans Facility

Veterans will discuss experiences with homelessness, mental health issues, and transition

(Washington, D.C.) – Tomorrow, Thursday, April 5th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will hold a roundtable discussion with VA officials and local veterans in Spokane to discuss a range of topics including veterans homelessness, issues specific to female veterans, mental health, basic service problems in rural Washington, and transition. Following the roundtable, Senator Murray and Dr. Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs, will tour the Spokane Veterans Homelessness Outreach Center. Senator Murray will discuss her efforts to improve veterans care and benefits nationwide, and will use the stories and suggestions she hears on Thursday to fight for local veterans in Washington, D.C.

WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Dr. Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Bastian, Chief of Behavioral Health at the SVAMC

Julie Liss, Women's Veterans Coordinator at the SVAMC

John Davis, Program Coordinator, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans

Monica Giles, Program Coordinator at the SVAMC

Local veterans

WHAT: Roundtable with local veterans and service providers about the difficulties they face in regards to:

homelessness, women veteran's issues, mental health, and transition.


Roundtable begins at 12:00 PM PT, tour will take place immediately following roundtable

WHERE: Spokane Veterans Homelessness Outreach Center

705 W. Second Avenue

Spokane, WA 99201-4412
A new study of PTSD by UCLA's Semel Institute (and published in the Journal of Affective Disorders) is garnering attention. Stephanie O'Neill (KPCC -- link is text and audio) reports, "The new study suggests that a person is more likely to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or if they carry two particular gene variations that interfere with the body's ability to produce Serotonin. That's the brain chemical that regulates, mood, sleep and alertness." Medical News Today quotes the study's lead author, Dr. Armen Goenjian, stating, "People can develop post-traumatic stress disorder after surviving a life-threatening ordeal like war, rape or a natural disaster ... If confirmed, our findings could eventually lead to new ways to screen people at risk for PTSD and target specific medicines for preventing and treating the disorder." Science Daily notes, "PTSD can arise following child abuse, terrorist attacks, sexual or physical assault, major accidents, natural disasters or exposure to war or combat. Symptoms include flashbacks, feeling emotionally numb or hyper-alert to danger, and avoiding situations that remind one of the original trauma." The study examined 200 survivors of the December 7, 1988 Armenian earthquake which claimed at least 45,000 lives.

On the topic of PTSD, Randy Griffith (Tribune-Democrat) explains, "There are three general characteristics of the disorder, Zitnay said. They are re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance and hyper-arousal. Those with PTSD re-experience the event through nightmares, flashbacks and increased anxiety when reminded of the event. Avoidance is characterized by seclusion, amnesia of the incident and taking pains to stay away from locations, people or objects associated with the trauma." Shuka Kalantari (KALW) reports on PTSD by speaking to Iraqi refugee Jasmine who studies engineering in California.

Shuka Kalantari: Jasmine remembers one of those flashbacks. She was at a women's studies class at her college in San Jose. They were watching a documentary about a war in Chile. After the film, the teacher asked students to try and imagine how their life would be if they lived in war.

Jasmine: So she tried like to make the student feel like the feelings of these people. So she stated [. . .] to the class, "You imagine that you lost your husband." As she came to me, "You imagine that they tried to kidnap you."

Shuka Kalantari: Jasmine didn't have to imagine.

Jasmine: I feel like I'm out of air. I left the class and I remained outside -- for over like 20 hours just like crying in a way.

Shuka Kalantari: For the next her mind was flooded with bad memories. She said that even seemingly unrelated things would trigger her symptoms.

Jasmine: Sometimes like part of songs would make me like really like sad and depression if something happened to me. I feel like I'm out of the war for a couple of days.

Shuka Kalantari speaks to the Center for Survivors of Torture's Dr. James Livingston who explains PTSD is fairly common among those forced to flee their homes. Jasmine's father was shot dead in Baghdad and she left the country when it appeared she was being targeted for kidnapping.
The Defense Dept needs to get out the message that PTSD knows no boundaries, that it could happen to anyone and that seeking treatment is taking control of PTSD.  As part of that effort, they have released this video of Chaplain Steve Dundas discussing his PTSD.

Chaplain: Steve Dudnas: I am Lt Commander Steve Dundas. I've been in the military 30 years, the Navy since 1999. When we got to Iraq our mission was to support US Marine Corps and Army advisers across the entire Al Anbar Province. These teams were out by themselves and they would very seldom if ever see a chaplain because of their isolation. I would go out and provide counseling, religious services. The hardest parts of the deployment? One, I've had a lot of experience as a trauma department chaplain and seen a lot of death. But when I got there and actually saw our wounded Marines and soldiers, prayed with them, anointed them, that was one of the really hard things -- was to see what war does to these warriors. I had studied a lot about PTSD and dealt with Marines who had it. I thought I was pretty much untouchable to it because I thought I'd seen everything. But I was really surprised by some of the things I saw and the impact that they had. The sites, the smells especially. The exhaustion. The travel. We went through some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq. Occasionally got shot at. And there was always an understanding that al Qaeda had chaplains at the top of their target list. When I came back to the States, I just felt so disconnected from people, church. I didn't even know if God still existed. And that was one of the most painful parts of my life. Prayer became really hard. Just going -- Doing life became really hard. I was depressed, angry, on edge all of the time. Finally, our medical officer did an assessment and was convinced that I was really starting to suffer PTSD and got me connected with the Deployment Health Clinic at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center and I started seeing a therapist there trying to figure out how to deal with my experiences. For me, writing is something that allows me to work through things and if I didn't write them out [they] would gnaw at me. And some of that deals with my own struggles with PTSD and faith, some of it deals with how I see the world now, and part of it are those things that are part of me: my dad, growing up, baseball. About the only place I can be in a crowd of people and still feel really safe is at a baseball game. And part of it is just the way the diamond's laid out and just the peacefulness of it. My role as a chaplain is to provide the spiritual support as they make this journey and as they begin to open up about what they've gone through. But many times, it requires more than just the chaplain. And so, I'll say, I know it's scary but I think that you need to seek the help of a mental health professional because it's a way to get better. And I tell them my experiences which are good experiences with both the therapists I've had. That they understood and they didn't push me to some track that I was unable to go to. I realize that you can't go back, you can't go back to what you were, you have to adapt to what you are. Do you want to be healthy? Yes. Do you want to be well adjusted? Yes. Does that mean you're going to be the same person you were before you went to war? No. Nobody is. But that's okay if we open ourselves up to get help. It's not something that we're going to be better overnight. What it will be though is a step on the way to healing, a step on the way to integrating those experiences with our daily life now. I don't think it is weakness to seek help. In fact, I think it's a sign of strength. I think it's a sign that you want to move forward. And what I hope is that when I spend time with people, when I share with people, when I listen to people, that I can help them to begin that process if they haven't already started. And to encourage them if they're already getting some therapy. Provide that extra bit of support, that extra bit of connection so that they don't feel that they're alone.