Saturday, May 05, 2012

Amnesty and Carly

Artist Direct reports:

The likes of Ewan McGregor, Carly Simon and Marianne Faithfull have recorded a song for Amnesty International, as the human rights organization is celebrating its 50th birthday.

"Toast to Freedom" also features Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Jane Birkin. It was initially composed in sessions at late rocker Levon Helm's converted barn studios in Woodstock, New York. Helm died last month.

Here's the video.

Amnesty International is a human rights organization that does work around the world.  Take political dissident Chen Guangcheng whose safety became more of a question mark after the US government bungled things this week.  Amnesty has this:

Chinese human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng was reunited with his family on May 2 after seeking refuge at the U.S. embassy in Beijing for six days. Chen, who is blind, had escaped local security forces in Shandong province after 19 months of illegal house arrest for his work to expose forced abortions and sterilizations.
Initial reports indicated that Chen and his family would remain in China, with assurances from Chinese officials that he would be allowed to live and work freely. Chen has subsequently requested to leave the country with his family. Join us in calling on the Chinese and U.S. governments to respect Chen's human rights.
Update: Read our response to the U.S.-China agreement to honor Chen's request to study abroad.

For more on Chen, Kat's covered what's going on there this week in:

Also Spinner interviews Carly Simon (one of modern America's greatest songwriters):

From the very beginning, as a songwriter you always very mature beyond your years in terms of lyrics and melody. What influences affected you most as a songwriter?

I'm sure it came from my various music influences in the house growing up. My father was a classical pianist, my elder sister was an opera singer and my mother was a singer, too. In fact, she and my father played parts of "Porgy and Bess" for Gershwin in Gershwin's apartment. My father played and mother sang. Plus, my uncles were total jazz aficionados -- they founded the magazines Metronome and Downbeat -- so I had a lot of really strong musical influences in my life growing, all of very high quality. I'm sure that affected me as a writer.
Be sure and check out Trina's post from Thursday where she noted Carly's Spy album.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 4, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis continue to be targeted in their own country, Nouri's suddenly declaring he's fine with the call for a national conference, Iraqiya says the Erbil Agreement must be implemented, Ibrahim al-Jaafari says the conference must take place next week, Tareq al-Hashemi hold a press conference and more.
Starting in the US with news of the latest faux left move.  The Coalition to Protest at the DNC talked a good game and got some support.  We didn't support it because they were so obviously fake.  But they fooled a number of people.  Today the organization posted a statement which begins: "It is with great enthusiasm that we announce that the Coalition to Protest at the DNC is changing its name to the Coalition to March on Wall Street South -- Building People's Power during the DNC.  This decision was made unanimously by the steering committee of the coalition, made up of representatives from more than 60 organizations."
Michael Cooper (New York Times) reports on the name change and includes this:
"It shows a real lack of integrity, I think, to let Democrats off the hook," said Cindy Sheehan, the well-known antiwar protester whose son, Casey, was killed in Iraq, adding that the name change was making her rethink her plans to attend protests in Charolotte.  "They are as much the party of war as the Republicans, the party of Wall Street."
Cooper also quotes "veteran antiwar activist" John Penley who wrote "What a sellout!" online. Penely also wrote:

Listen my OWS friends if you are going to support the Democratic Party and vote for Obama for president and encourage people not to protest at the DNC in Charlotte and only protest the Republicans in Tampa well lets leave as friends I still love ya but please defriend me so I can make room for those who have not joined team Obama or the GD Republicans.
What Penely fears is exactly what took place in 2008.  Here's a few things that would-be sell outs on the left should consider in the future.
1) A Democrat who can't speak up for what's right during the campaign out of fear that he or she will lose the race is not one that normally ever speaks up after the race is won. Because there's always another race and when there's not -- say you've two-termed it out of the White House -- there's still so much corporate dollars to be made.
Right now in Arizona, there's a ridiculous woman running for public office.  She's a War Hawk and a number of left voters (we were in the state on Monday and Tuesday) are kidding themselves that, because when Bully Boy Bush was in office, when she gets into office, she'll suddenly become Dennis Kucinich.  She won't.  She was in peace groups in 2003.  If she wanted to be a part of that, she still would be.  She left those to cheer on War Hawk Barack and that's where she's at now.  She's not playing voters for fools and pretending to be something she's not but a number of voters are willingly playing the fool as they rush to convince themselves that she's really a secret peace vote.
2) If you can't hold someone's feet to the fire right now at this moment, chances are you never will.  In 2007 and 2008, Tom Hayden, Laura Flanders and others made repeated claims that they would hold Barack's feet to the fire but not yet, you understand, he had to win the primary first.  But, buster, once he did, step back because they were going to hold his feet to the fire.
It never happened.  And as they look back, I would hope Tom and Laura both now realize that they were wrong to stay silent when Barack utilized homophobia in 2007 to solidify the primary vote in South Carolina.  (If you missed this in real time, refer to Kevin Alexander Gray and Marshall Derks' "Obama's Big Gay and Black Problem.") If a candidate who wants your vote, who needs your vote, is someone you're not comfortable pressing on issues that matter today, that's someone's feet you'll never hold to the fire.
3) Refusing to make demands and hold accountable someone running for public office leads not to a stronger spine (for you or your candidate of choice) but to more craven actions.  Doubt that?  From 2008's "Editorial: Raw emotions (Ava and C.I.):"

Now maybe everyone's decided to take Katha Pollitt's stated oath which she revealed when she felt 'forced' to call out Tom Hayden's latest sexism last April: "I want to do my bit for Obama, so I vowed I would give up attacking Obama-supporting progressives for the duration of the presidential campaign." Guess what, Katha, we don't do our "bit for" feminism by staying silent. That was in April that she broke (and announced) her vow -- one she's gone back to. So, basically, at the start of the year, Pollitt's admitting, she decided to let sexist attacks from Barack's campaign and his supporters slide until after the election. Wow.
See how quickly doing her part went from not calling out a politician to not calling out his supporters?  Here's reality:  Free speech is meant to be used.  It's not a snazzy little Chanel number that you hide in the closet while you wait for just the right occasion to sport it.
4) Though you're an adult, always grasp that there are people just coming of age and there are children watching.  Remember that when you want to preach silence and not accountability.  And grasp that a large part of the reason Barack is still not held accountable has to do with the behavior you moldeled for others.
Think of the above as guidelines.  There will always be exceptions.  As Betty noted last night, one of the loudest members of the Cult of St. Barack was able to break free.  David Lindorff most recently has compiled a list of the crimes for which Barack should be impeached.  Again, those who self-censor to 'help' candidates create the climate in which hypocrisy regins supreme.  AsGlenn Greenwald notes:
One last point: for the full eight years of the Bush administration, Bush, Cheney and scores of other political and media supporters of their militarism who had not served in the military were routinelyderided by Democrats and progressives as "chickenhawks" (an accusation, which, with some caveats and modifications, I supported). What happened to that? Now we have a President whom Bergen hails as "one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades" despite having not served a day in the military, and hordes of non-military-serving Democrats who cheer him as he does so. Similarly, George Bush was mercilessly mocked for declaring himself a "war President," yet here is Bergen -- writing under the headline "Warrior in Chief" --  twice christening the non-serving Obama as our "Warrior President." Did the concept of chickenhawkism, like so many other ostensible political beliefs, cease to exist on January 20, 2009?
Early today, AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted that Tareq al-Hashemi had announced a press conference in Turkey for later in the day. When he faced the reporters, AFP reports, he declared he had "no faith in the Iraqi justice system and fears for his life." Nouri has been calling for al-Hashemi to be tried on charges of terrorism.  Nouri al-Maliki's political slate State of Law came in second to al-Hashemi's Iraqiya. 
The political crisis was already in effect when December 2011 rolled around.  Iraqiya announced a  boycott of the council and the Parliament, that's in the December 16th snapshot and again in aDecember 17th entry.  Tareq al-Hashemi is a member of Iraqiya but he's not in the news at that point.  Later, we'll learn that Nouri -- just returned from DC where he met with Barack Obama -- has ordered tanks to surround the homes of high ranking members of Iraqiya. Saturday, December 17th, Liz Sly (Washington Post) reported, "In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders."  December 18th is when al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq are pulled from a Baghdad flight to the KRG but then allowed to reboard the plane. December 19th is when the arrest warrant is issued for Tareq al-Hashemi by Nouri al-Maliki who claims the vice president is a 'terrorist.' .  With the permission and blessing of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani, al-Hashemi remained in the KRG.  At the start of April, he left the KRG on a diplomatic tour that took him to Qatar, then Saudi Arabia and finally Turkey where he remains currently.
The Journal of Turkish Weekly quotes him stating today, "I booked a ticket to retun to Irbil last Tuesday after completing my schedule in Turkey, but a colleague called in the last minute and asked me to delay my return for a few days and wait for a more suitable dialogue atmosphere in Iraq."  This delay may have something to do with the current push for a national conference in Iraq.  What is known is that his trial -- in absentia -- was supposed to start yesterday in Baghdad; however, it was delayed until next Thursday.  al-Hashemi believes he can't receive a fair trial in Baghdad.  He's right.
This was demonstrated February 16th though the press wanted to play dumb.  From that day's snapshot, this is where we take the various details and demonstrate how the press could have reported it:
After many claims that he could not receive a fair trial, Tareq al-Hashemi's
assertions were backed up today by the Iraqi judiciary.
BAGHDAD -- Today a nine-member Iraqi judiciary panel released results of an investigation they conducted which found the Sunni Vice President of Iraq was guilty of terrorism.  Monday, December 19th, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki swore out an arrest warrant for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi who had arrived in the KRG the previous day.  Mr. al-Hashemi refused to return to Baghdad insisting he would not receive a fair trial.  Instead, he was the guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani.
During the weeks since the arrest warrant was issued, Mr. al-Hashemi has repeatedly attempted to get the trial moved to another venue stating that Prime Minister al-Maliki controlled the Baghdad judiciary.  Mr. al-Maliki insisted that the vice president return and that he would get a fair trial.
Today's events demonstrate that Mr. al-Hashemi was correct and there is no chance of a fair trial in Iraq.  This was made clear by the judiciary's announcement today.
A judiciary hears charges in a trial and determines guilt; however, what the Baghdad judiciary did today was to declare Tareq al-Hashemi guilt of the charges and to do so before a trial was held. 
Not only do the events offer a frightening glimpse at the realities of the Iraqi legal system, they also back up the claims Mr. al-Hashemi has long made.
That is not how the Iraqi courts work, not according to the country's Constitution.  Judges are impartial.  Judges do not declare guilt outside of a courtroom and no one is guilty in Iraq until convicted in a courtroom.  The fact that the judges felt no need to follow the Constitution, the fact that they held a press conference to announce the guilt of someone in a case they knew wouldn't appear on their docket until May goes to the fact that they are not impartial and that Tareq al-Hashemi would not have received a fair trial.
In addition, it appears that one of his bodyguards who 'confessed' was tortured to death.  March 21st, al-Hashemi made that charge publicly.  From the March 22nd snapshot:
Since December, those working for Tareq al-Hashemi have been rounded up by Nouri's forces.  At the end of January, Amnesty International was calling for the Baghdad government "to reveal the whereabouts of two women arrested earlier this month, apparently for their connection to the country's vice-president.  Rasha Nameer Jaafer al-Hussain and Bassima Saleem Kiryakos were arrested by security forces at their homes on 1 January.  Both women work in the media team of Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is wanted by the Iraqi authorities on terrorism-related charges."  Yesterday, al-Hashemi noted that his bodyguard had died and stated that it appeared he had died as a result of torture.
 Alsumaria notes Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is calling for the international community to call out the death of his bodyguard, Amer Sarbut Zeidan al-Batawi, who died after being imprisoned for three months. al-Hashemi has stated the man was tortured to death. The photo Alsumaria runs of the man's legs (only the man's legs) appear to indicate he was tortured, welts and bruises and scars. 

March 23rd, Human Rights Watch is calling for an investigation into the death:
(Beirut) – Iraqi authorities should order a criminal investigation into allegations that security forces tortured to death a bodyguard of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, Human Rights Watch said today.

Iraqi authorities released Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi's body to his family on March 20, 2012, about three months after arresting him for terrorism. His family told Human Rights Watch that his body displayed signs of torture, including in several sensitive areas. Photographs taken by the family and seen by Human Rights Watch show what appear to be a burn mark and wounds on various parts of his body.

"The statements we heard and photos we saw indicate that Iraqi security officers may have tortured Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi to death while he was in their custody," said
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "It's essential for the Iraqi government to investigate his death and report publicly what they find."

The family said that al-Batawi's death certificate listed no cause of death. They said that before his arrest, the 33-year-old married father of three was in excellent health.

"I could barely recognize him," a close relative told Human Rights Watch on March 22. "There were horrible marks and signs of torture all over his body. He had lost about 17 kilos [37.5 pounds] from the day they arrested him."

Iraqi authorities have denied the torture allegations. On March 22, Lt. Gen. Hassan al-Baydhani, chief of staff of Baghdad's security command center and a judicial spokesman, said al-Batawi died of kidney failure and other conditions after refusing treatment. When asked by reporters about the photographic evidence that al-Batawi had been tortured, Baydhani replied, "It is easy for Photoshop to show anything," referring to a digital photo-editing software.

As the United States was pulling its last remaining troops from Iraq in December 2011, Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi on charges he was running death squads. Al-Hashemi has taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan and refused to return to Baghdad, saying he cannot receive a fair trial. Kurdistan Regional Government authorities have so far declined to hand him over.

An unknown number of other members of al- Hashemi's security and office staff have been arrested since late December and are also in custody, including two women. On March 22, al-Hashemi told Human Rights Watch, "I have made repeated requests to the government to find out who else in my staff has been arrested and where they are being held, but they have not responded."

Human Rights Watch called on the Iraqi government to release the names of all those detained and the charges against them, and to ensure that they have access to lawyers and medical care.
Nouri's shown no concern about any of that.
Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) notes the events since mid-December: 

Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart.

That potential may -- the fear of it -- may be prompting some efforts at action.  Though, as usual, Jalal Talabani tries to wall paper over it.  Today he tells Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor), "We Iraqis had experiences many times on the brink of civil war -- we retreated from that and we came back to dialogue and national unity."   Al Rafidayn reports that National Alliance leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari stated today that it's important to hold the national conference within a week and for all political blocs to participate.  Yesterday, Ipek Yezdani (Hurriyet) reported that Kurdistan Democratic Party spokesperson Cafer Ibrahim states that if things can't be worked out with Nouri, Ibrahim al-Jaafari becomes the choice for the new nominee.  Dar Addustour notes that Nouri is now echoing the cry for all political blocs to participate.  Al Mada notes that Nouri released that statement after meeting with Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Alsumaria explains that the statement also included accusations by Nouri that unnamed others were attempting to break up the National Alliance.  

The National Alliance is a Shi'ite grouping which includes Nouri's State of Law, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, ISCI and others.  Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 elections, is a mixed sect political slate led by Shi'ite Ayad Allawi.  Other prominent members include Sunnis Osama al-Nujaifi, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Alsumaria reports Iraqiya announced today that they will not attend the national conference unless it is agreed that the Erbil Agreement will be implemented.  Saturday, Allawi, KRG President Massoud Barzani, Osama al-Nujaifi, Moqtada al-Sadr and others met in Erbil and one of the things they all agreed to was that the Erbil Agreement would be re-instated.

Iraqiya states that if Nouri is serious about resolving the political crisis, he will implement the Erbil Agreement.  Their spokesperson Haider Mulla further notes that they are used to Nouri's promises but they are frustrated by his inability to follow words with actions.

Meanwhile Ammar al-Hakim has released a statement.  Al Mada notes that he states that Iraq needs a strategic vision that all can agree to, that they need to commit to implementing agreementts , that there needs to be successful soltions that serve the citizens; and that there needs to be transparency.   
How serious is Nouri?  He's given 'support' before.  For example, at the end of February 2011, he gave lip service to the protests and the Iraqi people being important and, give him 100 days, and he'd clean up corruption and meet the protesters demands.   He was given 100 days and did nothing.  He's now been given over 400 days and still done nothing.  Ali Issa (Jadaliyya -- links is text and audio) interviews Hashmey Muhsin al-Saadawi who is the Electrical Workers Union in Iraq and "the first woman vice-president of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers in Basra." (IVAW's Executive Director Jose Vasquez noted the interview.) Excerpt:
AI: What is your opinion of the Arab uprising-style movement in Iraq that started 25 February 2011, and has been called by some " the forgotten uprising ?" Did unions participate in the mobilizations? Since recently they have been smaller in number do you think they will come back? Finally, do you have any explanation for the lack of media coverage, even in the Arabic-language media?

HMS: Iraq has seen successive waves of sit-ins, demonstrations, and protest activities. They have been the result of the continued hardships in daily life and lack of services for people, as well as the deterioration of security since April 2003 that I described. On top of all that, are the efforts to limit civil liberties and silence people, while cementing the hated ethno-sectarian-quota system; we consider all this an open and direct violation of the constitution. Many sectors of society have participated in these protests: youth, women, civil society groups, unions, and the newer pro-democracy formations.
The right of citizens to demonstrate, express opinions and take positions is a constitutional right, and the government and its apparatuses should provide the necessary amount of security to whoever is exercising it. It should also listen closely to people's legal demands and seek to satisfy them. As well as pay attention to their calls for reform of the political process, and correct its course on the path to building a civil, democratic state, based on the text of the constitution that citizens voted for in October 2005.
It should be obvious that our Iraq is not isolated from what is happening, in the countries of the region, though it might differ in its internal dynamics and specifics. The storms of change around us have also energized our people to break the wall of silence and take the streets. The role of the youth in this movement has been especially key, with them taking advantage of new social media technology.
But the way the Iraqi government and its apparatuses have treated the protest movements is a serious violation of the constitutional right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest, and an attempt to stifle the citizens' practicing of that right. That is when the people understood that the first and last concern of influential ruling political blocs is to look after their own interests, struggle with each other over power, and divide the pie among themselves, without any regard for ordinary people living under cruel conditions in a country whose yearly budget exceeds 100 billion dollars.
The protest actions of 25 February 2011 were a great success, as were the actions preceding and following, in expressing the clear and just demands of the people, despite being exposed to attempts to distort the depth of the movement and its goals. Then there has been the intrusion of the Prime Minister's cabinet, with all its influence, to try to stop it, the attempts of the government as a whole to abort it, and all the surveillance and incarceration that followed.  
Whether to expect the return of the protests depends on the reasons that lead to them breaking out. To this day, none of the protesters' demands have been met, so if the government continues on its present path, disregarding people's rights, it is very likely the protests will return.
As for media coverage, there had been coverage from several TV stations, but the government put pressure on them, and shut down some of their offices. In addition, a good number of journalists were beaten by infiltrators at the protests—thugs--while others were arrested and detained. And of course there have been assassinations of journalists – those brave, honorable people– including the writer and poet, Hadi al-Mahdi.
Hadi al-Mahdi is among the targeted in Iraq.  The journalist was assassinated in his homeSeptember 7, 2011.  He was shot in the head in his home.  No sign of a break in.  And the killer has still not been found.  Earlier this week,  The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory released the report covering the last twelve months and they've found an increase in violence and restrictions and attempted restrictions on journalists.   They note an American journalist was arrested and held for five days without any legal justification while Iraqi journalists were detained in various ways and also attacked and kidnapped by armed groups.   At least 3 journalists were killed in the 12 months and at least 31 were beaten  -- usually by military and security forces who were sometimes in civilian clothes.  65 journalists were arrested.
As bad as that is, journalists aren't the only ones targeted.  In February, Iraqi youth began to be targeted for being or being thought to be gay or Emo. Alana Marchant (UCA Journalism News) provides this summary: 
Iraq's Moral Police have targeted the 'phenomenon', releasing a statement on the interior ministry's website declaring their intent to 'eliminate' the trend. This has resulted in over 100 young people being stoned to death, simply for their appearance and the music they listen to. In Iraq, he 'emo phenomenon' is being linked to devil worshipping, homosexuality, even being a vampire. In a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim, wearing 'strange, tight clothes with skulls on' and having nose and tongue piercings is being viewed as a danger to society, and signs of 'satanism'.
After being granted approval by the Ministry of Education, Iraq's Moral Police entered schools in Baghdad and pinpointed students with 'emo' appearances, according to the interior ministry's statement.
'A group armed men dressed in civilian clothing led dozens of teenagers to secluded areas…stoned them to death, and then disposed their bodies on garbage dumpsters…' is what activists told the Cairo-based al-Akhbar website. These armed men are said to be 'one of the most extremist religious groups' in Iraq.
LGBT campaign group AllOut and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) have madean emergency appeal for cash to save the lives of gay Iraqis.
The organizations say they want to help 30 Iraqis 'marked for death' because they are 'perceived to be gay'.
QUESTION: In Stockholm, according to my memorandas, you answered on a question from me: "I promise you, if the USA left Iraq, the Iranians and their militias in the police and the army will directly do the same!" Now, when the United States of America nearly has left Iraq, and Iran's influens in Iraq augments day after day, will your promise hold?
ANSWER: I still hold to my promise, but I said "If the United States of America left Iraq", and in truth it has not left. Should the collapse that happened to America in Vietnam happen to America in Iraq, all its allies and agents would have collapsed with it, and at their forefront, Iran.

But the situation in Iraq differs for USA. When the troops sensed the dangers of its situation, words from Bush was leaked, expressing the size of their fears:

"we promoted claims of victory in order to capture the spirit of fears of defeat in the hearts of our soldiers, and when Bush realized that the end in Iraq may be the same as that in Vietnam, he proceeded to withdraw from Iraq in a novel manner, a quiet, slow and unannounced withdrawal."
The withdrawal of most of its troops has taken nearly two years.
In order to avoid the bitterness of defeat to split the American psyche, America came up with the so called Strategic Framework Agreement with its client authority, that enables it to maintain a concentrated and capabel presence.
According to confirmed information available to us, there are now 6 American bases with air and missile forces; armed security companies made up of nearly 50,000 personnel, and a giant embassy and consulates with no less than 13,000 officials and security. In addition there is the government's police and security services that are still subject to the will and orders of the Occupier through the latter's domination of Iraqi senior officers and officials who receive orders directly from the Americans.
To all this comes the presence of the allied Iranian influence and queues of its agents, spies and traitors, gangs and militias.
The New York Times mentioned that the special extended period for the presence of the American Army in Iraq will be prolonged onwards into the unknown, pointing to the existence of a secret agreement between the government of PM Nourie Maliki and American officials for the presence of American Forces beyond the specified time limit.
By the way, in spite of America's concern to convince world public opinion of its withdrawal, as well as its strict observance of secrecy concerning its soldier`s and security companie`s activities, some accidents and incidents took place that exposed their activities and embarrassed the Americans.
For example, the forced emergency landing of an American army helicopter near the Tigris River in Baghdad on 26.1.2012, and the positioning of several checkpoints by the Americans on 18. 1. 2012, carrying out questioning of ordinary citizens in the Shomali District, south of Babil Province, as well as the Drones (the unmanned spying aircraft) that roam Iraqi airspace all the time. All this has been written about by the American press such as The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times, after the supposed withdrawal. They also reported about American military aircraft that inspected and secured Iraq's air space during the Arab Summit Meeting in Baghdad on 29.4.2012.
The coming days will reveal even more in this respect, because of observer`s preliminary estimations concerning the size of remaining American troops. They will point to the fact that there is no less than a quarter of their original size before the announcement for their withdrawal.
So who so ever states that the American Occupation has gone is very much mistaken, and the Association of Muslim Scholars in the person of its Secretary General had warned the Iraqi People in an open letter, after Obama's announcement of the withdrawal, that the Americans are untruthful and that they have not completely withdrawn and that they continue to occupy Iraq.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Bradley Manning


 Bradley Manning.

 If he did it, he's a hero.  If he didn't, he needs to be let go. 

It really is that simple.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, May 2, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the targeted include a church, journalsits also remain targeted in 'liberated' and 'democratic' Iraq, State of Law suddenly finds that the Erbil Agreement is legal, NPR and PBS schill for the drone wars, and more.
Mosaic News (Link TV, link is text and video) picks up Al-Alam's report: "Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said that the deployment of US F-22 figher jets to the United Arab Emirates is 'a harmful move' that undermines the region's security.  The US said the deployment was a normal adjustment of US forces in the region, following their withdrawal from Iraq.  As part of its continuing efforts to dominate the Persian Gulf region, the US announced the deploymnet of F-22 fighter hets in the UAE.  US officials confirmed that the fighters were deployed in the UAE's al-Dhafra Air Based."  Meanwhile the Wilkes Journal-Patriot reports 181 members of the the National Guard's 875th Engineer Company will be deployed to Kuwait over the "summer for a nine-month assignment."
Today, Alsumaria reports the Christian Church Saint Khanana, in Dohuk Province, was vandelized and some items stolen.  This is the latest in a series of attacks on religious minorities in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War in 2003. Monday, Aid to the Church in Need reported, "Luis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, has joined with fifty representatives of Sunni Islam, Arab tribal leaders and local government representatives in speaking out against violence and terror.  On the Archbishop's initiative, they signed a document entitled 'Let us build bridges for peace', which was released on the 26.4.2012.  The signatories pledge to live together in peace in Kirkuk, which is an object of contention between Kurds and the central government in Baghdad.  In a meeting with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Sako explained his most recent action to promote on-going dialogue by saying, 'We Christians have a mission of peace and reconciliation that extends to all people, not just Christians'."  
Last March, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released their 2012 Annual report [PDF format warning, click here] and Iraq made it (again) onto the list of "countries of particular concern. The section on Iraq opens with:
The Iraqi government continues to tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations.  In the past year, religious sites and worshippers were targeted in violent attacks, often with impunity, and businesses viewed as "un-Islamic" were vandalized.  The most deadly such attacks during this period were against Shi'a pilgrims.  While the Iraqi government has made welcome efforts to increase security, it continues to fall short in investigating attacks and bringing perpetrators to justice.  It also took actions against political rivals in late 2011 that escalated Sunni-Shi'a sectarian tensions.  Large percentages of the country's smallest religious minorities -- which include Chaldo-Assyrian and other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis -- have fled the country in recent years, threatening these ancient communities' very existence in Iraq; the diminished numbers that remain face official discrimination, marginalization, and neglect, particularly in areas of northern Iraq over which the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) dispute control.  Religious freedom abuses of women and individuals who do not conform to strict interpretations of religious norms also remain a concern.
Along with attacks on pilgrims and churches, the report notes attacks on businesses operated by Christian and Yazidi persons such as "liquor stores, restaurants, and hair salones."  Violence and the targeting of religious minorities have caused many to leave.  The report notes:
Half or more of the pre-2003 Iraqi Christian community is believed to have left the country.   In 2003, there were to be 800,000 to 1.4 million Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East members, Syriac Catholics and Orthodox, Armenian Catholics and Orthodox, Protestants, and Evengelicals in Iraq.  Today, community leaders estimate the number of Christians to be around 500,000.  Other communities also have experienced declines.  The Sabean Mandaeans report that almost 90 percent of their small community either has fled Iraq or has been killed, leaving some 3,500 to 5,000 Mandaeans in the country, as compared to 50,000 to 60,000 in 2003.  The Yazidi community reportedly now numbers approximately 500,000 down from about 700,000 in 2005.  The Baha'i faith, which is estimated to have only 2,000 adherents in Iraq, remains banned under a 1970 law, and Iraq's ancient and once large Jewish community now numbers fewer than 10, who essentially live in hiding.
Whether they leave their homes for other areas of Iraq or leaves their homes and leave Iraq, the targeting of religious minorities has added to the huge refugee problem that the Iraq War created.  The report notes that 1.5 million Iraqis remain internally displaced and that, of the population outside Iraq, Sunnis make up approximately 57% even though "they are approximately 35 percent of Iraq's total population." 
Among the targeted groups have been women and those who are seen as 'different' for any number of reasons.  The report notes:
In the past year, human rights groups continued to express concern about violence against women and girls, including domestic violence and honor killings, throughout Iraq, including in the KRG region, as well as about pressure on women and secular Iraqis to comply with conservative Islamic norms, particularly relating to dress and public behavior.  In recent years, women and girls have suffered religiously-motivated violence and abuses, including killings, abductions, forced conversions, restrictions on movement, forced marriages, and other violence including rape.  Individuals considered to have violated extremists' interpretations of Islamic teachings, including politically-active females, have been targeted by Sunni and Shi'a extremists alike.
In a positive development, the KRG region enacted a law in June making family violence a crime, subject to imprisonment and/or fines, and establishing a special court for such cases; the law's coverage includes abuse of women and children, female circumcision, forced or child marriage, nonconsensual divorce, the offering of women to settle family feuds, and female suicide if caused by a family member.
In late February and early March 2012, reports emerged of numerous killings and threats targeting young people perceived as homosexual or who dressed in the so-called "emo" goth style, particularly in Baghdad.  The number killed reportedly ranged from six to more than 40.  Preceding the violence, the Iraqi Interior Ministry posted a statement on its Web site in mid-February that it was "launch[ing] a campaign to stem the 'Emo,'" whom it called "Satan worshippers," although after the killings were widely reported, the Ministry claimed that the statement was misunderstood.  Many obvservers attributed the attacks and threats to Shi'a militias. However, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani condemned the killings as terrorism and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia was suspected in past attacks on homosexuals, denied involvement.  According to Iraq press reports, Al-Sadr called emo youth "unnatural" but said they should be dealt with through legal means. The U.S. embassy reportedly raised its concerns with the Iraqi government.
Good for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom for including the targeting of Iraqi youth.  That story was breaking when the report was being written and they still managed to include it -- putting it far, far ahead of the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy refusing to use the term "gay" when speaking to the Security Council to update them on Iraq.
On the religious minorities, Saturday, Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) reported on the Yazidi New Year.
Jane Arraf: For the Yazidi, this is the start of year 6,762.  They come from  mountain villages, from towns and cities in Iraq, Syria and Turkey -- and from Europe -- to celebrate the New Year.  Yazidis believe in the same God as Muslims, Christians and Jews but they believe they were the first people God created.  Along with Babylonian rituals and elements of other religions, they worship the sun. 
Yazidi woman: We light this rope to bring good.  And anyone who lights a flame here, goodness will come to him.
Jane Arraf: It's a closed religion and misunderstood.
Baba Sheikh Kerto Haji Ismael: Twenty years ago, there were no satellite channels and no mixing with other people.  That's why people can have some suspicion about others. Since the Yazidis were a small religious minority, that's why they face misunderstandings.  Now things are more clear.
Jane Arraf:  Images like this [a snake stretched across the outside wall of a temple] are part of the reason other Iraqis are suspicious of the Yazidi.  A snake is believe to have saved the prophet Noah.  Inside this cave is a sacred spring. Nearby is the tomb of  Shayk Adi [ibn Musafir al-Umawi] a 12th century Suffi saint who reformed the Yazidi religion.  As dusk approaches, they light the flames that are a central part of their faith.  This isn't just the New Year, they believe it marks the creation of the world including the four elements.  For Yazidis, the most important of those is fire.  On New Year's Day, the Yazidi faithful -- along with Kuridsh Muslim and Christian leaders -- pay their respects to the Prince of the Yazidis [Mir Tahsin Ali].  Like the Kurds, the Yazidi were pressured to declare themselves Arab under Saddam Hussein.  150 of their villages were taken.  In the last 30 years, up to half the Yazidi community has left for Europe where there are fears the religion won't survive.   
Prince Mir Tahsin Ali: The older people won't leave the religion but we fear for the new generation when the sons and daughters go to new European schools, our customs will become different. 
Jane Arraf:  By most estimates, there are fewer than a million Yazidi in the world.  It's a small religion, sturggling to survive in a modern world while keeping ancient traditions alive.  Jane Araff, Lalish, northern Iraq.
Turning to violence, Alsumaria notes a former military colonel was attacked in Mosul and shot dead and that a staffer in Ayad Allawi's office was assassinated -- stabbed today while he was near the National Accord Movement headquarters.  (Another source tells Alsumaria the staffer was shot dead.)   AFP states it was a stabbing and identifies the staffer as Latif Ramadan Jassim.  And Alsumaria notes TV reporter Rashid Majid Hamid was injured by a sticky bombing of his car in Baghdad
Hurriyet Daily News observes, "From Somalia to Syria, the Philippines to Mexico, and Iraq to Pakistan, journalists are being targeted for death in record numbers, and in brutal ways. In fact, this year is shaping up to be the most lethal for journalists since the International Press Institute (IPI) began keeping count 15 years ago."   The attack on the journalist comes as a new report on the attack on journalism in Iraq is released.  The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory has released the report covering the last twelve months and they've found an increase in violence and restrictions and attempted restrictions on journalists.   They note an American journalist was arrested and helf for five days without any legal justification while Iraqi journalists were detained in various ways and also attacked and kidnapped by armed groups.   At least 3 journalists were killed in the 12 months and at least 31 were beaten  -- usually by military and security forces who were sometimes in civilian clothes.  65 journalists were arrested.

It's a very bleak picture.  In addition there are various bills proposed that supposedly 'protect' journalists but actually erode the rights of journalists.  The Ministry of the Interior's spokesperson Adnan al-Asadi declared that journalism can be "a threat to domestic security" and that journalsits shouldn't report on any arrests or killings without the express permission of the Ministry of the Interior.  (Clearly, Retuers must agree with that policy since they abolished their daily Factbox that used to cover violence in Iraq.)

The three journalists who died in the 12 months were:  Hadi al-Mahdi who was killed by a gunshot to the head while in his Baghdad home, Kameran Salah al-Din who was killed by a sticky bomb attached to his car (in Tikrit) and Salim Alwan who was killed by a bombing in Diwaniya. 

AFP notes the report states.  "JFO has documented a noticeable increase in the rate of violence against journalists/media workers and restrictions imposed on their work."Multiple bills are being introduced by the government, which threaten to severely limit freedom of the press, general freedom of expression and Internet use."
Freedom of expression in journalism doesn't mean creative fiction.  In the US where journalists are supposed to have the right to practice their trade without restrictions, some self-censor and some just tell outright lies.  V. Noah Gimbel (Foriegn Policy In Focus) notes how the Newseum willfully distorts reality and insults a journalist who died covering the Iraq War in the process:
I was looking for updates on the case of slain Spanish cameraman José Couso, murdered by U.S. troops in Baghdad in 2003 as part of a coordinated attack on the independent media, when I came upon a so-called memorial to Couso on the Newseum's webpage. I wrote a comprehensive piece on the Couso case last year, and a follow-up piece when the indictments against the soldiers responsible were re-issued last fall.
Far from memorializing Couso, the Newseum article repeats de-bunked falsehoods that even the army had backtracked on in 2003.
Gimbel goes on to explain how the Newseum distorts Couso's death.
Moving on to the political crisis, we'll return to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2012 Annual report [PDF format warning, click here] to get another perspective on the political crisis:
As reflected in pervious USCIRF reports, in past years many serious sectarian abuses were attributed to actors from the Shi'a-dominated Ministries of Interior and Defense and armed Shi'a groups with ties to the Iraqi government or elements within it.  Since 2007, such sectarian violence has diminished markedly.  Nevertheless, sectarianism within the government remains a concern.  For example, there continue to be reports of torture and other abuses, some allegedly along sectarian lines, in detention facilities, including secret prisons run by the Prime Minister's special counterterrorism forces.  The Shi'a-led government's slow pace of integrating Sunni Sons of Iraq members into the security forces or government jobs, as well as its attempts to bar certain politicians, mostly Sunnis, from participation in the political process for alleged Baathist ties, also have caused tensions.  According to nationwide polling conducted in Iraq in October 2011, 75% of Sunnis feel that their sect is treated unfairly by the government and 60% feel their sect is treated unfairly by society.
Sunni-Shi'a political tensions escalated in 2011.  Throughout the year, the Prime Minister failed to implement aspects of the November 2010 power-sharing agreement that finally allowed a government to be formed after the March 2010 elections, including by continuing to run both the Defense and Interior Ministries and taking no steps to create the new national strategic council that was supposed to be led by his main rival, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of the Iraqiya bloc.  (Iraqiya is a cross-sectarian bloc supported by many Sunnis, which won two more parliamentary seats than al-Maliki's bloc in the 2010 election.) In the fall, the government arrested hundreds of individuals, including many prominent Sunnis, for alleged Baathism, prompting the provincial governments of several Sunni or mixed governorates to attempt to seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.  In December, just after the last U.S. troops left the country, the Prime Minister announced an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi, for alleged terrorism, and sought a no-confidence vote against the Sunni Deputy Prime Minsiter, Saleh al-Mutlaq, both of the Iraqiya bloc.  The government also arrested members of al-Hashimi's staff.  Al-Hashimi, who denied the charges and called them politically movtivated, left Baghdad for the KRG region, and Iraqiya began a boycott of parliament and the cabinet.  Meanwhile, terrorist groups exacerbated the situation, perpetrating multiple mass-casualty attacks against mainly Shi'a targets in December and January, including the attacks against Shi'a pilgrims and the Shi'a funeral procession referenced above.  As of February 29, 2012, al-Hashimi was still in Erbil, al-Mutlaq remained in his position, Iraqiya had returned to parliament and the cabinet, and negotiations to convene a conference of all the political blocs to resolve the crisis were ongoing.
In April, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi began a tour of the region, visiting Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  He remains in Turkey.  The kangaroo court in Baghdad plans to begin the trial against him tomorrow.  Sinem Cengiz (Sunday Zaman) reports that even if Nouri filed a formal request for Turkey to hand al-Hashemi over, they would refuse: "The legal obligations of Turkey stemming from being a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) prohibit it from handing any person over to another country if the suspect will likely be executed."
Meanwhile Al Mada reports Nouri's State of Law is suddenly insisting that the Erbil Agreement was not illegal.  Nouri used the agreement to get a second term as prime minister and then he trashed it refusing to honor the promises he'd made to get his second term.  Since trashing it, Nouri and his flunkies have tried to insist the the Erbil Agreement was unconstitutiona.  It wasn't.  Extra-constitutional is not unconstitutional.  But if you argue that it's illegal, then you're arguing that Nouri's second term is illegal.  That might be behind their change of heart.  Or they might be worried about Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's call for the agreement to be published and the public reaction to the publication.   Certainly, State of Law calling it illegal and then it being published would leave many Iraqis wondering why State of Law agreed to it if it was illegal.  Regardless of the reason, State of Law has changed their position on the Erbil Agreement today.
One of the consistent demands has been that the Erbil Agreement needs to be honored.  That demand has come from the Kurds, from Iraqiya and from Moqtada al-Sadr among others.  By insisting that the Erbil Agreement is legal, State of Law may be attempting to encourage a leap, encourage people to conclude that since State of Law no longer disputes the legality of the agreement, they must be on the verge of implementing it.  That would be a big leap to make but -- especially under pressure from the US government -- political blocs have made other large leaps that have benefitted Nouri.  Should a consensus build that State of Law saying the Erbil Agreement is legal means Nouri is about to implement it, pressure to hold a national conference could vanish and that might be the goal here.
Since December 21st, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference to resolve the political crisis.  Nouri has repeatedly stalled and thrown up road blocks over who would attend and even what they should call the meet-up.  As March drew to a close, Talabani announced that the national conference would be held April 5th; however, that meet up ended up being called off less than 24 hours before it was to be held.  Alsumaria notes Iraqiya says the issues of Saleh al-Mutlaq and Tareq al-Hashemi must be on the agenda for the national conference. 
In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Committee which notes an upcoming hearing:
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
United States Senate
112th Congress, Second Session
Hearing Schedule
Update: May 2, 2012
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
10:00 am
Senate Hart Office Building Room 216
Hearing: Seamless Transition: Review of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System
Matthew T. Lawrence
Chief Clerk/ System Administrator
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Also in the US, public broadcasting sells the drone wars.  Monday Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser John Brenna gave a speech endorsing the drone wars and insisting that they were legal.  CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin was present at the speech and she explains at ZNet:
I had just co-organized a Drone Summit over the weekend, where Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar told us heart-wrenching stories about the hundreds of innocent victims of our drone attacks. We saw horrific photos of people whose bodies were blown apart by Hellfire missiles, with only a hand or a slab of flesh remaining. We saw poor children on the receiving end of our attacks—maimed for life, with no legs, no eyes, no future. And for all these innocents, there was no apology, no compensation, not even an acknowledgement of their losses. Nothing.
The U.S. government refuses to disclose who has been killed, for what reason, and with what collateral consequences. It deems the entire world a war zone, where it can operate at will, beyond the confines of international law.
So there I was at the Wilson Center, listening to Brennan describe our policies as ethical, "wise," and in compliance with international law. He spoke as if the only people we kill with our drone strikes are militants bent on killing Americans. "It is unfortunate that to save innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives – the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens." The only mention of taking innocent lives referred to Al Qaeda. "Al Qaeda's killing of innocent civilians, mostly Muslim men, women and children, has badly tarnished its image and appeal in the eyes of Muslims around the world." This is true, but the same must be said of U.S. policies that fuel anti-American sentiments in the eyes of Muslims around the world.
"Excuse me, Mr. Brennan, will you speak out about the innocents killed by the United States in our drone strikes? What about the hundreds of innocent people we are killing with drone strikes in the Philippines, in Yemen, in Somalia? I speak out on behalf of those innocent victims. They deserve an apology from you, Mr. Brennan. How many people are you willing to sacrifice? Why are you lying to the American people and not saying how many innocents have been killed?"
And she was handcuffed and removed from the hall for speaking unpleasant realities.  They at least had the good sense not to have her arrested.  Public broadcasting, which has a mandate to present a diversity of views, thought the best way to handle the drone war -- that they've long been selling -- was to present only one view: The government's.  Welcome to the USSA.  As Mike noted in "PBS promotes the drone war," Judy Woodruff covered the drone war Monday night on The NewsHour (PBS) by . . . speaking to John Brennan.  And?  That's it.  Just one view point, just the government.  Stalin couldn't have dreamt of a more compliant media.  And Ann pointed out in "NPR sells the drone war (2 men, 2 women)"  that yesterday on Talk of the Nation (NPR), Neal Conan decided the best way to address the issue was to just play a part of Brennan's speech.  Remember that NPR and PBS feel the best way to get an informed public is to give them only one side of an issue.  Remember it when they beg for your money.  Remember when lipsing Ira Glass tells you how sorely your money is needed.  It's not.  Let the White House pay for the coverage they get.  If public broadcasting is just a megaphone of the White House, let them pony up the dollars.  It's not like NPR uses the money for anything worthwhile, I mean, they've never sent Ira Glass to a speech therapist despite his sorely needing one.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Smash airs on NBC each Monday night.  It's about attempting to put on a Broadway show.  This episode was tech rehearsal in Boston.

So the gang all went to Boston except Julia (Debra Messing).  After Leo's latest crisis, Julia's husband finally moved home, much to the delight of their son Leo.  But you knew happiness would have to be threatened.  Soon enough it was.

The Broadway show is a musical entitled Bombshell about the life of Marilyn Monroe and rooted to the time period where she was married to and left Joe Dimaggio.

So Tom (Julia's co-writer on the show) and Derek (the director) are again arguing with one another (and yet again, the only time Tom seems at all sexual or to have chemistry is when he and Derek are fighting with each other) and this time it's about Tom wanting to dust off an old song that didn't make the cut in Heaven On Earth (the play Ivy was in the chorus of until she traipsed across the stage drugged out of her mind) and he wants Ivy and Karen (Katherine McPhee) to sing it.

Derek doesn't want to add a song.  He doesn't want to talk about it.

He . . .

Hey, who's the man walking up to him?

Oh, he's Joe Dimaggio.  Or the actor playing him.

You know something's coming.  We've never seen this man before.

Sure enough, he announces he just landed a pilot so he's leaving the play right then.

They've just lost their leading man.

Derek makes things worse by refusing to tell Rebecca (Uma Thurman) who is the star of the show.  She only learns about it as rehearsal starts and there's no Joe.

The answer is to bring back Michael!


That's not really dealt with.

Instead, Derek wants Tom to sell Julia on it.

Julia cheated on her husband with Michael.  She and her husband just put it behind them and now Michael's coming back to the show?

No. No. No.  Julia insists.  No. No. No.

But only after she's told.  Tom doesn't have the guts to tell her.

So Eileen (Anjelica Huston) does.  She leaves Boston for NYC.

Julia says if Michael comes back, she's out of the show.

Eileen talks to her boyfriend the bartender.  He tells her she has to hire Michael or it's the end of the play.  She agrees.

But is it?

Rebecca's supposedly a huge movie star.  The play's headed to Broadway (at this point) and it's gotten lots of press attention.  I agreed with Julia that they could get another actor for the part.  He needed to sing but that's really it.

Sorry to break it to Tom and Julia but they never wrote a character for Joe.  It doesn't really matter who plays him.  He's a bunch of hokey apple pie and God bless phrases sewn together with nothing inside and no actor is going to be able to deliver a performance because even Marlon Brando playing the role wouldn't change the fact that Marilyn walks out on Joe.

Michael's back.  We don't see him but we see Julia being told by son and husband that they're okay with it, they don't want her to quit and they can be with her in Boston for two weeks because it's spring break!

I'm sorry but when I was in college, spring break was a single week.  Has that changed?

Dev and the New York Times reporter continue to flirt.

He calls Karen about coming to Boston and she explains they're working 12 hour days and are very busy.

Ivy is worried that Derek's attracted to Rebecca and asks Ellis about it.  He agrees to watch for her.

It's his birthday and Rebecca does a MM "Happy Birthday" rendition to him.  He's touched, they're back at her dressing room, he's telling her about Marilyn and they kiss.

Ellis is away from the door when Ivy shows up.  They rush to listen.  It appears that Derek and Rebecca are having sex.  But that's not verified.

Karen is surprised by Dev who gives her flowers and then gets bent out of shape that, in the middle of rehearsals, she can't drop everything to talk to him.  He's also miffed he can't watch rehearsals.

They meet up later with Dev making a big announcement.  He wants to get married.  Karen says she can't give an answer during tech.

(The way she keeps repeating "tech" is as annoying as Redford telling Jane Fonda in Barefoot In The Park, "Corey, I have a case in the morning" over and over.)

He's been flirting with the journalist and considering sleeping with her and came close this week but that made him realize he loved Karen and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, will she please take his ring?

Golly.  What gal can resist that?

I almost, just this week, screwed around behind your back but didn't, want to get married!

Like most women, Karen doesn't find that proposal charming.

She's back at the hotel and gets pulled into a room with the other gypsies who want a sing-off between her and Ivy.  She doesn't want to participate.  Ivy's all geared up.

Ivy is the worst.  A number that should have been shaped and built to loudness is started off full blast so there's no where for the singer to go.  That's why Ivy's wrong for Marilyn.  She lacks the instincts.  She's a bad child actress hitting all the pre-programmed notes but there's never anything special there because it's all mechanical.

So Tom and Sam go to visit Sam's family (which lives in Boston) and Tom apparently wants to go to bed with Sam's father.  Why else would he repeatedly side with Sam's father over Sam?  Sam shouldn't be a dancer, dancers don't have long careers, blah, blah, blah.  If dancing is so wrong and bad, maybe Tom shouldn't be co-writing musicals.  There is no chemistry between Sam and Tom.  (Sam is, at least, a solid actor.  I hope they kill Tom off in the cliffhanger.  I know they won't, but let me dream.)

So the end of the episode is Dev in a bar trying to drown his sorrows.

We learn Karen made the right call.

When a busty woman sits down next to him, Dev's putting on a smile and offering to buy her a drink, introducing himself and her name is?


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, May 1, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, talk of Iraq splitting into three regions, whispers of Iran's control of Iraq, Kuwait wants Iraq to pay a bill in full, the western press embarrasses itself again on the monthly count, Barack 'proudly' sneaks into Afghanistan, a US veteran wrongly fired wins in court, and more.
Starting in the US with a jury verdict.  Levi Pulkkinen (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports a federal Jury in Seattle has returned a verdict "late Monday" which found Catholic Community Services wrongly terminated Grace Campbell's employment upon learning that the Washington National Guard sergeant had been ordered to deploy to Iraq.  It is against the law to fire someone because they are being deployed or will be deployed.  The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act is among the legislation that forbids this.  However, at a February 2nd House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing, many witnesses and House members seemed unaware of this fact.  There was talk of the need for a law.  No, there is only the need for education of that law and enforcing that law is the quickest way in the world to educate employers about it.  They start having to pay hefty fines, they'll suddenly learn that law.
Gordon Thomas Honeywell LLP represented Grace Campbell and they've released the following statement:
A federal jury today in Seattle awarded $485,000 to Washington National Guard Sergeant Grace Campbell and found that her employer had engaged in willful discrimination and harassment based on her military service. In 2008, Sergeant Campbell's civilian employer Catholic Community Services fired her from her position of ten years when it learned that she was set to deploy for active service in Iraq. After her termination, Sergeant Campbell served in Iraq from October 2008 to August 2009, returning home to the Everett area without civilian work.
Catholic Community Services' hostile treatment of Campbell began in 2006 after she returned from active duty at the U.S. Mexican border. During Campbell's activation, her position with CCS was left unstaffed. Campbell's manager and her co-workers resented Campbell's absence and the increased workload. Upon her return, Campbell's manager and co-workers began a systematic campaign of harassment and discrimination that included threats by Campbell's manager to fire Campbell if it was learned that she had volunteered for duty.
Campbell complained repeatedly to multiple levels of management at Catholic Community Services about the discrimination, but it continued unchecked. In an effort to find relief, Campbell made a complaint to the Employer Support for Guard and Reserve (ESGR), the Department of Defense national committee tasked with providing support to the Guard and Reserve in their civilian employment. In December of 2006, a retired Naval Reserve Commander with ESGR met with Campbell's managers in an attempt to resolve the problems Campbell was facing at work. Despite ESGR's involvement, the hostile treatment of Campbell continued on into 2007 and 2008.
In February 2008, Campbell told CCS co-workers that she was preparing to deploy to Iraq later that year with the Washington National Guard 81st Brigade. On March 20, 2008, Catholic Community Services fired Campbell.
Campbell's attorneys James W. Beck and Andrea H. McNeely, Partners at Gordon Thomas Honeywell, are pleased with the verdict. "This was a situation which never should have occurred," said Beck. "Sergeant Campbell told her employer about the ongoing discrimination on at least three occasions, but there was never any formal investigation or decisive action to stop the treatment." The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA") prohibits harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against Guard members related to their service. "This is a vindication of the rights of Grace Campbell and those like her who make sacrifices in their civilian lives to serve their country," said McNeely. "Moreover," said Beck, "when the time came at trial for CCS to produce a key document that it claimed was central to its reason for terminating Campbell, the company had destroyed the document." After a two year job search, Campbell is now employed as a receptionist with the Department of Social and Health Services in Seattle.
What happened is not an isolated incident, it's happened across the country and unless businesses realize it's much smarter to settle out of court, look for more reports on jury verdicts against companies who have illegaly fired people because they were deployed or were going to be deployed.  Again, firing someone for a military deployment is against federal law.
Elsewhere, Kuwait wants justice as well.  The Kuwait Times reports, "Kuwait yesterday 'stressed need' for Ira'qs continuing regular deposits in the UN war compensation fund in line with relevant international resolutions.  Kuwait stressed the need for continuation of reuglar deposits in the Compensation Fund, as provided for in UN Security Council Resolution 1956 (2010), of five percent of the proceeds from all export sales of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas of Iraq . . ."  This position was made clear by Khaled al-Mudhaf who addressed the Governing Council of the United Nations Compensation Commission yesterday.  al-Mudhaf chairs the Public Ahtority for Assessment of Compensations for Damages Resulting from the Iraqi Agression.  (Kuwait also has a successful international race car driver by that name and a World Champion Trap Shooter by that name -- the latter of which competed in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.)  The amount still owed, according to al-Mudhaf's statements, is $16 billion. 
The remarks are not just a call for billions to be paid, they're also a bit of realtiy for Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq.  In the lead up to the March 27th Arab League Summit in March, Nouri made efforts to establish ties to Kuwait and Kuwait ended up standing by Nouri at the Summit, the only major country that did.  Over half the heads of state of Arab countries refused to attend with some, like Qatar, making a public statement that this was an intentional boycott.  But Nouri had Kuwait and some Arab officials whispered to the press that Kuwait was prostituting itself.  If that were true, it would appear that Kuwait has now made clear to Nouri the bill for a paid escort.  If the whisper was a slur against the reputation of Kuwait, then Nouri's still learned that all his visits and public woo-ing didn't mean a thing.  This also hurts  
26 April 2012 –
The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), which settles the damage claims of those who suffered losses due to Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, today made a total of $1.02 billion available to six successful claimants.
The latest round of payments brings the total amount of compensation disbursed by the Commission to $36.4 billion for more than 1.5 million successful claims of individuals, corporations, Governments and international organizations, according to a UNCC news release.
Successful claims are paid with funds drawn from the UN Compensation Fund, which is funded by a percentage of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products.
The Geneva-based UNCC's Governing Council has identified six categories of claims: four are for individuals' claims, one for corporations and one for governments and international organizations, which also includes claims for environmental damage.
The Commission was established in 1991 as a subsidiary organ of the UN Security Council. It has received nearly three million claims, including from close to 100 governments for themselves, their nationals or their corporations.
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey (Pravda) weighs in calling international compensation a "joke" and insisting that Iraq has been treated unfairly due to the fact that there's "no mention of cross-drilling of oil, tapping into Iraqi fields, there has been no mention of compensation payable to Iraq, and other countries, for the invasion by NATO countries."   On the topic of big money, AFP runs today with the report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction's report that US taxpayer dollars may have gone to Iraqi insurgents, resistance, al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, etc.  This is the topic Eli Lake (Daily Beast) was reporting on yesterday, "A 2012 audit conducted by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and released to the public on Monday found that 76 percent of the battalion commanders surveyed believed at least some of the CERP funds had been lost to fraud and corruption."
Yesterday,  the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released April 2012: Quarterly Report To Congress. As the report notes, the US State Dept is spending $500 million of US taxpayer dollars on training the Iraqi police for the 2012 Fiscal Year.  Let's talk about that training:
AFP reports they're on a US military base being retrained.  BBC reports: "A programme has been under way for more than a month for comprehensive assessment and re-training of all national police unites -- a process called by the Americans 'transofrmational training.'"  James Hider (Times of London) reports that since 2004, "US forces have been re-training the Iraqi police, but the programme has had little impact" and that a "survivor of Monday's mass kidnapping . . . described how half a dozen vehicles, with official security forces markings on them, pulled up and men in military fatigues rounded up all the Sunnis in the shops."
That's not today.  That's from the October 4, 2006 snapshot. Let's drop back to February 8th:
We covered the November 30th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1st snapshot and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions. He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program?  Interviews with senior Iaqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter didain for the program.  When the Iraqis sugest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue."  The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete?  Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it."  She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government.  But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name.  That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States."  He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
Brooke Darby noted that he didn't deny that comment or retract it; however, she had spoken with him and he felt US trainers and training from the US was needed.  The big question was never asked in the hearing: If the US government wants to know about this $500 million it is about to spend covering the 2012 training of the Ministry of the Interior's police, why are they talking to the Deputy Minister?
After 8 years of spending US tax payer dollars on this program and on the verge of spending $500 million, why is the US not talking to the person in charge ofthe Interior Ministry?
Because Nouri never named a nominee to head it so Parliament had no one to vote on.  Nouri refused to name someone to head the US ministry but the administration thinks it's okay to use $500 million of US tax payer dollars to train people with a ministry that has no head?
There's no mention in the report that the Iraqi government is matching that $500 million with $500 million of their own.  That may be one of those facts we have to wait to find out about "later this year," to quote another section of the report.  Going through "Iraqi Funding" notes many efforts but not on police.  And yet last December 7th, Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconsturction, specifically raised that required matching fund when he appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform's Nationl Security Subcommittee.
US House Rep Raul Labrador: So what other problems have you found with the police development program, if any?
SIGIR Stuart Bowen: Several.  Well, Mr. Labrador, we pointed out in our audit that, one Iraqi buy-in, something that the Congress requires from Iraq, by law, that is a contribution of 50% to such programs,has not been secured -- in writing, in fact, or by any other means. That's of great concern.  Especially for a Ministry that has a budget of over $6 billion, a government that just approved, notionally, a hundred billion dollar budget for next year.  It's not Afghanistan.  This is a country that has signficant wealth, should be able to contribute but has not been forced to do so, in a program as crucial as this.
To be clear, this isn't optional.  To be even more clear, the White House should never have committed $500 million without Iraq having met the matching fund requirement -- required by Congress. 
Where is the oversight?
It's not coming from the press.
Eager to flaunt both ignorance and incompetence Kareem Raheem, Aseel Kami and Angus MacSwan (Reuters) and AFP ran with the 'official' figures provided by the Iraqi government for deaths due to violence in the month of April.  The death toll is 126.  That's based on figures from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior.
That's what the incompetent wire services told us.  They forgot to tell you that the Ministry of Defense has no minister -- Nouri never nominated anyone so he could illegaly take charge of it -- and the that Ministry of the Interior has no minister -- for the same reason. 
And the Minister of Health?
This may be the worst demonstration of press whoring in Iraq currently.  Salih Mahdi Motalab al-Hasanawi held that post in Nouri's first term and holds it in the second term and is falsely described as "a Shi'ite Muslim, but independent of any political party."  That's not how you describe him -- though the press does and he does on his Facebook page.  Reality: In 2009, he joined what political slate?  State of Law.  Nouri's State of Law.  He's not independent.  He may not be a member of a political party (Nouri's political party is Dawa) but he chose to join -- in September of 2009 -- Nouri's State of Law.  He belongs to a political slate, he is not independent.
So Nouri's flunkies issue some figures and whores in the press who don't have the self-respect or training to do what a reporter does runs with those awful lies.  They make no effort to provide alternate counts or any context at all.  They simply take dictation and say, 'This is what offiicals say.'  It's whoring, it's not reporting.
The IBC count is 290 for the month of April. (Click here for screen snap.)  Iraq Body Count tracks reported deaths in the press and notes that their count is not a complete count.  Once upon a time, the press was happy to provide the IBC count, now they just whore.
Like most whores when busted, they have an excuse of how they weren't really whoring, you understand.  And AFP and Reuters would insist that these are official figures from a government.  Official figures, yes.  But ones that are known to be false.
Not just known because I say so (and have said so for months and years) but because what got released yesterday.  Let's return to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released April 2012: Quarterly Report To Congress. For the non-reading and apparently illiterates working for wire services, we'll even provide the page number: Page 3.  Here it is:
Record Low Casualty Figures for March.
The GOI [Government of Iraq] reported that 112 Iraqis -- 78 civilians and 34 ISF personnel -- died as a result of violent attacks in March 2012, the lowest monthly death toll reported by the GOI since the U.S.-led invasion nine years ago.  For the quater, the GOI reported that 413 Iraqis died in violent incidents, with 151 deaths in January and 150 in February.  However, according to data collected by the UN, 1,048 Iraqis died this quarter, more than twice the total provided by the GOI.
And, AFP and Reuters, that report?  It also references the Iraq Body Count.  It's a shame that the press is too lazy to do the job they're paid for.  And, yes, I realize the press in Iraq is scared.  Another story you refuse to report on, by the way.  That's why the Los Angeles Times runs stories from Iraq with no byline and has for months since Ned Parker left.  But no one's supposed to talk about that either.  The fact that those working for western outlets are scared to death to tell the truth about Iraq for fear of retaliation is a secret we're all supposed to keep.  I believe the saying is: Secrets keep us sick.  They certainly do no favors to the alleged profession of journalism. And they distort the reality of Iraq which provides even more cover for a petty tyrant like Nouri al-Maliki.
Today's violence?  Alsumaria reports that a Mosul car bombing left sixteen people injured while an attack on a Mosul checkpoint killed 1 security officer, 1 Yezidi died in Mosul (possibly a suicide), 1 corpse was discovered on the side of the raod outside Baghdad and the body of Ahmed Ajeel Aftan was found shot dead and tossed to the side of the road over 30 miles outside of Hillah.
Turning to the political crisis Nouri al-Maliki has created in Iraq.  Peter Galbraith is a US diplomat.  When needed, we've called him out here.  I've known Peter for years and that didn't cut him any slack here.  We're not rehashing that past, we're focusing on his political insights which I have never had cause to question.  Galbraith speaks to Rudaw about the ongoing crisis:
Rudaw: Right now, Iraq is in political turmoil and most parties accuse PM Nuri al-Maliki of violating the constitution. Do you think he has violated the constitution? 
Peter Galbraith: Clearly, he is not following the constitution. He is not respecting Kurdistan's rights, including those over natural resources, and he has not held the constitutionally required referendum on Kirkuk and other disputed areas.
Rudaw: Kurdish leaders blame Maliki for not sharing power and consolidating all of it in his own hands. Do you think those accusations are correct?
Peter Galbraith: Yes. They are correct.
Rudaw: Barzani says that Maliki is only killing time and doesn't want to solve important issues such as Article 140 regarding the disputed territories and the oil and gas issue. He also says that if the situation continues like this, he will let the people of Kurdistan decide their own future through a referendum.  Does the Iraqi constitution give the Kurds the right to separate from Iraq?
Peter Galbraith: The Kurds agreed to stay in Iraq on the basis of the constitution in its entirety. If the Baghdad government does not keep its part of the bargain, then the basis for Kurdistan's continued membership in Iraq no longer exists. 
The political crisis has deep roots.  It's best explained in Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace):

Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart. 
Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman Tweeted the following today:

After the meetings in #Erbil a date must be set for the general meeting in #Baghdad to try to settle the problems as per the constitution.

Over the weekend, there was a big meet-up in Erbil attended by many -- Nouri al-Maliki was not invited.  Hurriyet Daily News observes:
A statement issued after the meeting in Arbil said the leaders "stressed the need for finding ways to dismantle the crisis, the continuation of which puts the supreme national interests in danger." They also discussed "ways to strengthen the democratic process." The talks were hosted by Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and included Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, as well as former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and hard-line cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, both Shiites. Parliamentary Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni, also took part.
 Al Mada notes that Moqtada is denying that he was pressured in 2010 to throw his support behind Nouri al-Maliki.  There is some blame being tossed Moqtada's way for his support of Nouri and he was asked about this issue in his online column where he plays Dear Abby to his followers.  Again, he denied there was any pressure.  (He was pressured by Tehran.)   On the subject of Iran, Heather Robinson (The Algemeiner) reports form Iraqi MP Mithal al-Alusi is calling Iraq a client state of Iran ("tool of Iran") and Robinson's article covers a wide range of topics including:
In February, he told this reporter that Iraq's Central Bank was processing hundreds of millions of dollars a day more than usual, and that, according to sources within the bank, Iran's agents were behind this financial maneuvering. He also said that, according to sources within the Iraqi intelligence community, the same individuals who were  "buying hundreds of millions of dollars in cash" from Iraq's Central Bank were arranging for these dollars to be carried from Iraq into Syria, and then transported to Iran in order to skirt the U.S.-led sanctions.
"We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in cash going in to Syria–in suitcases–and then it goes to Iran," he said at the time.
In early April, it was reported that the Central Bank of Iraq had tightened its clampdown on its sales of dollars -- due to concerns that buyers were using them to launder money and circumvent U.S.-led sanctions against Iran and Syria.
Last week Alusi provided more examples of what he characterized as large-scale Iranian interference in Iraq that he believes are intended to pave the way for Iranian domination of the Mideast.
Iran may or may not dominate Iraq but it's not going to be able to dominate the MidEast.  The Arab states would never allow that to happen.  Iraq truly is Iran's best shot at domination.  While the Iraqi people -- regardless of sect -- are not keen to be controlled by Iran, the US or any other country, the loyalities of many officials and rulers to Iraq  have long been in question -- Nouri's loyalties have probably been the most questioned -- even more so than Ahmed Chalabi's. 
While US efforts (largely led by Vice President Joe Biden) and UN efforts (largely led by the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy Martin Kobler), they haven't been the only ones.  There's Tehran, of course.  Other players also include England.  The Kurdish Globe reports:

Britain's Ambassador to Iraq on Friday concluded a one-week visit to the Kurdistan Region by meetingwith President Masoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. He visited all three of the Region's governorates, meeting students, officials and civil society representatives.
Ambassador Michael Aron met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials and visited all three provinces of the Kurdistan Region to discuss the ongoing political crisis in Iraq as well as recent developments inthe Middle East as a whole. He also explored how to further develop the already strong links between the United Kingdom and the Kurdistan Region.

At Saturday's meet-up it was decided that the Erbil Agreement must be implemented (Nouri used the agreement to become prime minister and then trashed it).  In addition, Moqtada pushed his 18 point plan.  Al Mada reports that State of Law is insisting that the 18-point plan is an accordance with the National Alliance .  The Iraqi Communist Party's newspaper reports that the Erbil meeting found Moqtada completely rejecting the notion of withdrawing confidence from Nouri.  A no-confidence vote would mean a new prime minister could be voted on by the Parliament.  What comes next in Iraq is not known but Ipek Yezdani (Hurriyet Daily News) has a provocative article which includes:
"Almost all the political figures in the region assume that Iraq will be divided into three in the end. The crucial thing is this division should not lead to a civil and sectarian war in Iraq," Rebwar Kerim Wali told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.
Leaders from almost all of Iraq's top political blocs will convene at a unity meeting in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region, on May 7, in order to find a solution to the political crisis between the Shiite-led government and the country's Sunnis and Kurds.
Iraqi Prime Minister
Nouri al-Maliki will probably not attend the unity meeting, Wali also a managing editor of Rudaw, the first international newspaper of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said. "KRG leader Barzani; Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite leader of the Iraqi National Alliance; Iyad Allawi, the leader of the Al Iraqiyya group, and Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi are all expected to attend the meeting. They will be seeking a solution to the current crisis in order to prevent any ethnic and sectarian conflict in Iraq as well as searching for alternatives to al-Maliki's rule."
Meanwhile in what may be a minor effort at reconciliation, Al Mada reports Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law is saying they can resolve the issue of Saleh al-Mutlaq.

In the middle of December, Nouri al-Maliki met with US President Barack Obama in DC.  Upon returning home he began targeting polical rivals in Iraqiya.  (Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 Parliamentary elections besting Nouri's State of Law.)  Nouri demanded that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested on charges of terrorism and that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post.

State of Law is stating currently that the issue of al-Multaq can be resolved by the political blocs.  It's very minor in terms of reconciliation.  Very minor.  Inconsequential.

Nouri's been calling for al-Mutlaq to be stripped of his post since December.  Nouri can flap his wings and crow all he wants, the only one a Cabinet member can be removed from their post is a vote by the Parliament.  Nouri's stomped his feet for months now and al-Mutlaq's still Deputy Prime Minister.  The Constitution explains the issue is resolved by the Parliament.  So State of Law offers that political blocs can resolve this issue?  They're actually still refusing to follow the Constitution.

That needs to be pointed out.

You want to remove a member of the Cabinet?  The Iraqi Constitution explains how that's done.  If you can't get enough votes for that, the person remains a member of the Cabinet.  Nouri knows that.  It's why he refused to nominate ministers to head the security ministries.  If there was a Minister of Interior, Nouri might not be able to control the ministry because the minister wouldn't fear losing their job.  
As for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a trial against him is scheduled to begin Thursday.  He will remain in Turkey having already noted that the Baghdad judiciary is not independent.  That judiciary also demonstrated that they refuse to follow the Constitution and that they pre-judged him as guilty before any hearing took place. Today Alsumaria reports Iraiqya noted that the trial is a violation of both the law and the Constitution for many reasons, chief among them that the Vice President still holds his post and cannot be put on trial unless Parliament dismisses him. 
Around the world today, May Day was celebrated.  That includes in Iraq and AFP has ten photos of May Day actions in Iraq here.  US political prisoner Lynne Stewart (Black Agenda Report) explains:
May Day, a celebration of the Worker and May Day, a commemoration of the Immigrant migration has now become a single holiday -- and how appropriate that is !! The massive immigrant influx of the late 19 century was primarily a new supply of workers for the unending appetite of capitalism. Cheap Labor. Europe had become a dead end -- wars, a class and land system that allowed no upward mobility and less and less opportunity for their children to learn or be somebody. My own Swedish great grandparents came over as indentured workers--having to pay for their passage by the sweat of their (yes, women too) brows doing farm labor for two years. This is a story that had been repeated through all the waves of immigrants -- Italian, Greek, Slavic, Eastern European, Asian (Chinese, Filipino), Caribbean and now Latin American and African. What has shifted is the structure that now has the United States as the Great Imperialist, first ravaging their homes militarily and economically and then casting large numbers of newly created displaced people adrift on the economic seas. As one Jamaican friend and immigrant once said to me "Why shouldn't we come here? You have everything stolen from us !!"
Cindy Sheehan issues her May Day call, Noam Chomsky writes about it here and Jerry Elmer (Dissident Voice) explores the history of the day here.
The US hasn't left Iraq though US President Barack Obama claims otherwise.  Today he made  a speech on Afghanistan that was supposed to be a triumph because he was in Afghanistan (click here for PRI's report from The World) but a triumph doesn't include sneaking into a country like a thief in the night.  Emma Graham-Harrison and Paul Harris (Guardian) report:
Addressing the viewing public back home, and opening himself up to Republican criticisms of electioneering, Obama said that America's war aims of destroying al-Qaida in Afghanistan were nearly achieved. "The goal that I set – to defeat al-Qaida and deny it a base to rebuild – is now within reach," he said from Bagram airbase near the country's capital Kabul.
Framing more than a decade of conflict as being in its final stages, Obama added: "We can see the light of a new day on the horizon … This time of war began in Afghanistan and this is where it will end. With faith in each other and eyes fixed on the future."
Wrong.  The US military may kind-of leave another country that they never should have been sent to.  There is no victory to claim only the proof that illegal wars bring shame on all involved.  There will be no real withdrawal, there will be no real control for the Afghans of their own country.   Barack will spin and lie and try to pretend honor's been brought to America but shame can never be disguised as honor -- no matter how you spin it. Gary Younge (Guardian) observes:
This week, the White House will celebrate the anniversary of the assassination of Osama bin Laden as though it were the crowning achievement of its foreign policy. On Wednesday, Obama will hold a rare televised interview in the situation room to discuss the raid in Abbottabad. His campaign has released of a web video in which Bill Clinton says President Obama "took the harder and the more honorable path, and the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result". The video then asks, "Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?"
The man who entered the White House with the message of "hope" and "change" wants to hold on to it with a record of "shoot to kill".
bin Laden's death actually hurt the United States in ways that few ever want to talk about.  Are we a nation of laws?  Then we conduct ourselves as such.  Barack Obama acted like the lawless Al Capone when he sent forces in to kill bin Laden (and terrorize family members).  The same forces could have captured him and he could have been put on trial.  That is what you do in a nation of laws.  (This is not a slam on those who were given the mission.  They followed the orders they were given and executed them remarkably well.  This is a slam on the orders Barack gave.)  As the US gets further and further from democracy, as rule of law means less and less, Barack wants to crow about an 'achievement' that was nothing but spitting on law and liberty.  That's not to be applauded.  If you think someone is guilty -- and, clearly, millions around the world believed bin Laden was guilty -- you put them before a court.  The US once prided itself on being about the rule of law (that may have been an illusion, others can debate that) but under Barack Obama, what's been exposed is that Bully Boy Bush and those eight awful years weren't an errant strain but instead the emerging character of the United States government.  That's not a democracy.  And it's nothing to take pride in.  May Day is today but US democracy is crying "Mayday! Mayday!"  It's sending a distress signal -- one that few want to hear.