Saturday, June 02, 2012

Screw Bloomberg

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Jobs Report"

The Jobs Report

That pretty much says it all on our current 'leadership.'

Meanwhile Barack's buddy, Caroline Kennedy's roll dog, Michael Bloomberg was on Today (NBC) yesterday.  I know because I had something like forty friends leaving messages (I was in back-to-back sessions on Friday).  When I finally had time to come up for air around noon, I walked out of my office and told Sunny to order from wherever she wanted.  Usually one of us will go out.  I was too tired to go out.  I had a two hour break -- lunch (I do take an hour -- I don't think I do anyone any good by skipping lunch to fit in another session, I'd just be sitting there with my eyes glazed over) and I'd blocked out an hour for a periodical article three other psychologists and I are working on.  I asked Sunny if she could wait an hour on lunch?  If she could, I'd grab my work hour (periodical article) and do lunch after.  She was fine with that because she's so wonderful and because she knew lunch wouldn't be delivered for at least 30 minutes.  (Which is why one of us usually goes out and gets it if we haven't decided before 11:00 a.m. what we're doing to eat.)

So I finish working on the article and go out of the office and building just to walk around the block -- not for exercise, just to get out of the building for a second.  I arrive back at the same the delivery guy does and Sunny and I are diving in and catching up and I'm leafing through the phone messages.  I ask Sunny what these messages are about?  Had she seen the interview?  Nope, she was busy too.  (Which is great if it's course work, she's almost got her bachelor degree, but not great if it's something else because I am planning on closing the practice.  Mike and I will move to Hawaii.  Sunny's the best assistant, office manager, anything I've ever had.  I may be open another year, I hope no longer than that.  But I really want Sunny to have easy days so she can focus on her college courses.)

So we stream the interview.

"Where did I here this before?" Michael Bloomberg asks about his garbage policy to outlaw, in NYC which was stupid enough to put him into office, all soft drinks over 32 ounces.

"That's not exactly taking away your freedoms, that's not something the founding fathers fought for."

He's such an ass.

Matt Lauer asks him why he's focusing on that with issues (I would say: Real issues) like education, crime and more facing the city.  Bloomberg lied about education.  But he would.  He's one of those who wants to dismantle.  But he wouldn't be Caroline's friend if he wasn't, now would he?

It's really Michael Bloomberg's business what size drink a person orders.

One of my messages was from a friend who's a medical doctor and very noted in her profession.  Her message included, "I told you so!!!!!"  (Sunny said she asked that Sunny please put five exclamation points after that.)  She did.

I have smoked cigarettes before.  I used to do a pack and a half a day.  I did 100s for years until C.I. and I were stuck somewhere and she kept snapping the filters off because regular smokers can't get any real drag on those big filters.  (She snapped off the filters on cigarettes she smoked, to be clear.  She wasn't just opening my pack and snapping filters.) So then I switched to lights.  I smoked Marlboro Lights after that.  (Why did I switch?  I honestly do think of others.  I'm not joking.  When C.I. was snapping off the filters after we missed the last ferry and were waiting for a boat that might be coming through, I thought about how no one I knew smoked 100s but me. I'm seriously not joking.)

So the doctor is an old friend and she and I both stopped smoking at the same time and supported each other through it.  Then a year after, she started smoking again.  This was around the time the banning movement got really nasty.  She told me that she couldn't believe it and that next up they'd be going for things they considered fattening.  She was right, that's what's happening right now.

The founding fathers fought for freedom from an intrusive and non-responsive to the people government.  I realize Michael Bloomberg's an idiot.  I realized that the first time I ever met the man.  Like many an effete male, he felt the need to 'prove' his manhood by staring at my breasts.  As if the whole world would then know, "Michael's not gay! Look at him cruising that woman's tits!"  So I'm not surprised that the moron would lead the march.  But I do find it deeply disturbing.

I'm bothered that others aren't.  I have no idea if the rule would apply to me.  I only drink diet soda.  I got into that back when Diet Dr. Pepper was one of the few diet drinks in the world.  (Tab had either gone under or was hard to find.)  I was living with a man who was diabetic.  He kept buying himself the Diet Dr. Peppers and buying me my Coca Cola.  But I'd drank Tab before and if he was drinking diet due to health issues, I really didn't want to be anything but supportive.  (He'd developed diabetes six months before we started dating.  We moved into together probably three months after we started dating.)

That was back in the early 70s.  I've drank diet soda ever since.  I don't believe I drink more than 32 ounces of soda in a sitting.  So between size and the diet soda issue, I doubt Michael Bloomberg's garbage would effect me if I were visiting NYC.  (I don't like NYC since he's been in charge.  NYC's become a family amusement park and not a thriving metropolis.)

But what does effect me is the tiny, little officials who think they have a right to control our lives.  They need to be informed that they do not have that right.  If NYC is smart, they'll ditch Bloomberg.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, June 1, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis continues, Nouri stands with two buddies, Iraqi women continue to suffer, a court gives the US State Dept four months to comply with an order, and more.
Like a nightmare version of Charlie's Angels, Ammar al-Hakim, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki stood side by side to announce their solidarity.  Alsumaria reports that the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the head of the National Alliance and the Prime minister of Iraq met to discuss the latest political developments in Iraq and how to address them.  Al Rafidayn has an article where Ammar's dropping terms like "sin" and "big sin" and talking about "the street" and it all sounds like a lover in the grip of passion.
So let flow the hydrants
And we'll dance in the spray
And we'll wash out all our dirty laundry
In the alleyway
Put your love out in the street
Put your love out in the street
Put your love out in the street
Put your love
Out in the street tonight
-- "Love Out In The Street," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her Playing Possum
While Ammar de amour works himself into a frenzy, Kitabat reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's followers have rejected the notion that chaos follows a no-confidence vote in Nouri.
KENYON: On paper it looks like a serious threat to Maliki's rule. But if you ask the prime minister's supporters about a no confidence motion, they tend to laugh and say bring it on.
SAAD MUTTALIBI: Oh, definitely. Just go ahead. You know, we will sit there and laugh at the puny numbers that you will gain in the parliament.
KENYON: Businessman and Maliki backer Saad Muttalibi says those who have actually tried to add up the votes say the opposition is well short at the moment. He says pro-Maliki forces are mounting a counterattack, collecting votes for a no confidence motion against the anti-Maliki speaker of the parliament. And Muttalibi says Sadr is jeopardizing his future in the governing National Alliance by cozying up to the Kurds and Sunnis.
It's great that NPR had time for bitchy but exactly when did they intend to explain the political crisis to listeners?
They are aware that they never did that, right?
That never once in the report did they mention the Erbil Agreement or the 2010 elections or anything of real substance.  But, hey, we got a bitchy supporter of Nouri's and didn't that make everything worthwhile?
Earlier this year,   Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) reviewed events and noted:

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.

The agreement was the Erbil Agreement.  March 7, 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections.  Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya came in first ahead of Nouri's State of Law.  Nouri refused to give up the post of prime minister.  What followed were eight months of political stalemate.  The White House and the Iranian government were backing Nouri so he knew he could dig in his heels and did just that.  Finally, in November, the US-brokered Erbil Agreement was reached.  Nouri could have a second term as prime minister provided he made concessions on other issues.

Nouri used the agreement to get his second term and then trashed the agreement refusing to honor it.  Until last week, he and his supporters had taken to (wrongly) calling the agreement unconstitutional.  And though the KRG, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been calling for the Erbil Agreement to be fully implemented since summer 2011, it took last month for State of Law to finally discover that themselves loved the Erbil Agreement.  Needless to say, the sudden attraction to the deal is seen as mere lip service especially when Nouri refused to implement it.
In violence Al Rafidayn notes that 1 traffice police officer was shot dead in Mosul as was his driver.  In addition, Alsumaria notes a captain in the Ministry of Interior's intelligence division was shot dead in Falluja today.  AFP adds a Baghdad roadside bombing targeting a market claimed 1 life and left three more people injured and 1 police colonel was shot dead in Baghdad.
This week the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011."   In Wednesday's snapshot we noted the highly superficial section on Iraq's LGBTs.  The report does a better job with the issue of the rights of Iraqi women.  That section opens with:
UNAMI continues to monitor the status and rights of women in Iraq, including gender based violence such as so-called 'honour' crimes, trafficking and domestic violence.  Due to the security situation, UNAMI is uanble to collect first hand data on the situation of women in some parts of Iraq outside of the Kurdistan Region.
Grasp that.  'Violence is down!!!!'  We hear that stupidity over and over from the press.  No, it's not really down.  2006 and 2007 were years of ethnic cleansing -- encouraged and (I would say) aided by the US government.  Those death figures are huge.  I'm not really sure why the years of ethnic cleansing are treated as natural or normal figures with which to compare everything to?  Iraq remains violent.  And UNAMI tells us that it's so violent that they can't even collect basic data. 
But the press moved on, didn't they?  They press that largely mocked, ridiculed or ignored war resisters fled Iraq.  There's the US wire service AP.  There's the New York Times staff.  There's Jane Arraf. There's the Wall St. Journal (led by Sam Dagher).  There's CNN. That's it.  Imagine if that was it in 2002 and 2003?  If that were it in those years, only those outlets and the others ignored Iraq, it would have been so much more difficult to sell the illegal war to the American public (a public with a significant amount of resistance even at the start).
Valerie Gauriat:  We're in Iraq this month to meet women in Baghdad, Najaf and Iraqi Kurdistan who are fighting their own kind of war.  A human rights activist, two war widwos and a female soldier to regain the rights Iraqi women have lost.  Every month in Women and War we bring you the stories of women who are fighting across the world.
And Iraqi women have lost so much due to the Iraq War.  They've lost husbands and fathers and sons and brothers and uncles and mothers and daughters and sisters and aunts.  They've lost friends.  Most of all, they've gone from  living in one of the most advanced Middle East nation-states for women to a country where they have to regularly fight for basic dignities.  And fight they do.  They know what's at stake and they know the US government isn't helping them, has never helped them.  The  US State Dept's Anne C. Richard writes with all the enthusiasm that historical ignorance and optimism can provide.  We'll note this from her post today at the State Dept blog about her new job working with Iraqis:

Estimates of the numbers of widows in Iraq range from 750,000 to 1.5 million, or between 2.4 percent and 5 percent of the population -- no one knows for sure as there has not been a recent census. In Iraqi society, women traditionally do not work outside of the home. However, the women at this site emphasized that they needed jobs to provide for their children.
Iraq remains a dangerous place and our visit was not announced in advance but the visit was eye opening and well worth the effort it takes to get out and meet ordinary Iraqis.
Later, I raised the plight of the widows with senior Iraqi officials. They were determined to make progress on housing issues and acknowledged problems with registrations -- although they also expressed concerns about the squatters occupying government land.
We'll continue to follow Anne C. Richard's posts.  She's got energy and optimism and her ability to either ignore or not learn what came before may allow her to pull off some small miracles.  I wish her the best because Iraqi women could use a miracle or two.  But the issue of the widows, their plight, that's been raised with the Iraqi government for years now.  There's been no significant improvement or real plans from the government.  At one point they were suggesting that the answer was for the widows to remarry. 
The illegal war did not help Iraqi women nor has their government made any real strides on their own to help Iraqi women.  Last month the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice explained:
But for Iraqi citizens, especially women, the ongoing violence caused by the U.S. invasion is not the only consequence that has become part of the everyday struggle to rebuild their country. Before the U.S. invasion, 75% of Iraqi women had college degrees, and 31% of Iraqi women had graduate degrees (compared to 35% of European and U.S. women). Only 10% of women in Iraq now continue to work in their professions, and they have to contend with the thousands of more experience and better-educated Iraqi women who fled Iraq at the onset of the war and are now returning. However most women stay away from their work, schools, and universities due to extreme safety concerns: Since the beginning of the war, rates of abductions and kidnappings targeting women and girls, most often related to sex trafficking, female suicides and honor killings have increased.
It was beneficial to the US government's aims to scare the Iraqi people into submission.  It would be easier to push through various policies and programs on a people too scared to fight back.  So the US backed thugs, turned their heads the other way not just to looting but to rape and so much more.  And Iraqi women could have thrown in the towel and said, "Forget it, my safety is what's most important."  Instead, these brave women regularly take to the streets and protest for their rights.  Even since Nouri's squad of thugs began beating protesters and arresting them and torturing them in custody, Iraqi women refuse to hide and refuse to give up on their country or let Iraq be turned into something that they're no longer a part of.  The US shut the women out of the process from the start.  They had to take to the streets when the US was writing their rights out of Iraq's new Constitution (in 2005) and they've done that during the continued violence and during the periods of the most violence.  Last month, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Iraq noted:
The rights of women in post war Iraq is clear following reports that they are victims of human trafficking to and fro Iraq and even within the outskirts of the cities with cases of forced prostitution. Women are trafficked from Southern Iraq and transported to the Gulf States by rich cartels who promise to marry them and give them a good life only to use the as servants and sex workers in their well-managed deals.
Most of the 'unveiled' women in Iraq have had their rights violated. There are groups that are making it hard for this woman to have freedom in and around Iraq and creating an atmosphere where they are intimidated. For instance, Fatwas encourages the crowd to throw rotten eggs and tomatoes to any woman around the streets who passes by without a veil. This has made it hard for the professional Iraqi woman to work or get education unless they wear the hijab.
It has to be noted that Islamic leaders from the Shi'ite and the Sunni have strong condemnation against women in Iraq without the hijab, this means trouble for the rights of women in Iraq. Since the war started, the Iraqi women have been attacked, kidnapped and even intimidated in a way that bars them from participating in any role with the society.
Again to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011" this time for Camp Ashraf:
During the reporting period, UNAMI continued monitoring the situation of over 3,000 residents affiliated with the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) in Camp New Iraq (commonly known as Camp Ashraf) and documented a number of measures of which Iraqi authorities aimed at tightening control over the Camp and its residents with the ultimate objective of closing it down by the end of 2011, as declared in the Council of Ministers' decision of 17 June 2008. 
On 8 April, in an operation that lasted approximately 7 hours, the Iraqi army moved into the Camp and occupied its northern part, comprising some 40 percent of its total surface area.  The Iraqi authorities described the operation as a law enforcement action to restore privately owned land in Ashraf to its legitimate owners.  It resulted in the deaths of 36 and injuing of more than 300 residents who protested against, and resisted, the operation.  On 13, April, a UNAMI delegation was authorized to visit the Camp.  The UNAMI physician counted 28 bodies in a makeshift morgue.  The apparent cause of death in most cases was bullets and shapnel wounds.  Another 6 residents were confirmed dead among those injured who had been rushed to Ba'quba hospital.  Two more died later from their injuries.  The Iraqi authorities admitted that their forces caused 3 fatalities, which they described as 'accidental'.
In a statement made public on 15 April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the Iraqi military were well aware of the risks attached to launching an operation like this in Ashraf and added: "There is no possible excuse for this number of casualties.  There must be a full, independent and transparent inquiry, and any person found responsible for use of excessive force should be prosecuted."  On the same day, UNAMI issued a similar statement requesting a thorough investigation through an independent commission.  During the reporting period, no action was taken by the Government of Iraq to establish such an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the incident.  The 8 April operation was the second occasion, after clashes on 28/29 July 2009, when Iraqi forces appear to have used excessive restraint in conformity with international human rights law in asserting its legitimate authority over the camp and its residents
After this incident, the Iraqi Government reaffirmed the deadline of 31 December 2011 for the residents to evacuate Camp Ashraf.  UNAMI continued working closely with the Government of Iraq, the diplomatic commmunity, UNHCR and the residents' representatives in order to find durable solutions.  In late 2011, consultations between UNAMI and the Government of Iraq led to a Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed by both parties on 25 December.  In it, the United Nations offered its services as an impartial facilitator and observer in a process that would see the residents of Camp Ashraf move to a temporary transit location at Camp Liberty (a former US military base near Baghdad International Airport), undergo individual refugee status determination by UNHCR, and eventually either their voluntary return to their countries of nationality or if eligible, resettlement in third countries, subject to the availablility of receiving countries. In an open letter of 28 December 2011 to the residents of Camp Ashraf, UNAMI SRSG, Martin Kobler, affirmed that the United Nations desired to "prevent violence and confrontation" a permanent solution for the residents.  He pledged that UN staff would monitor the situation at Camp Liberty 24/7 until the last resident had left Iraq. 
By 31 December, the Prime Minister Al-Maliki announced the extension of the deadline for the departure from Iraq of Ashraf residents till the end of April 2012.  At time of publishing this report 29 May 2012, 1996 residents have relocated from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty (Camp Hurriya). 
UNAMI reminds the Government of Iraq to abide by its legal obligations, reaffirmed in the Memorandum of Understanding, to fully respect its human rights obligations under international law in dealing with the residents of Camp Ashraf.  It also calls upon the residents and their representatives to obey the laws of Iraq, and to voluntarily participate in the process offered by the UN and agreed to by the Government of Iraq aimed at resolving the issue peacefully.
Which takes us into legal news, it's a shock to the administration but most others saw the ruling coming.  Jamie Crawford (CNN) reports, "A federal appeals court has ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make a prompt decision on whether to remove an Iranian dissident group from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations."  This was a unanimous decision handed down by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Why was it unanimous?  Because the administration has been in violation for some time now.  James Vicini (Reuters) reminds, "The appeals court ruled nearly two years ago that Clinton had violated the group's rights and instructed her to 'review and rebut' unclassified parts of the record she initially relied on and say if she regards the sources as sufficiently credible.  It said Clinton had yet to make a final decision."  The administration was in contempt.  The courts and the executive branch were in conflict.  (They still are.)  What generally happens there is the court of appeals makes a united front because this is now a court issue (as opposed to the merits of the case from when it was heard earlier).  Unlike the executive branch, the judicial branch has no security forces.  So they want to send a message but they also want to do so without looking weak if the administration ignores them.  So since two months was the target date for the State Dept to finish a review on the MEK, they gave State four months which, they hope, is more than enough time. However, the two months (as the judges know) was a guideline, not a promise.  State made very clear before the court that they were not promising two months.  So it could go on past four months.  Four months carries them into October.  If they're not complying by then, there's a good chance they won't.  Whether Barack Obama wins a second term as US President or not, Hillary Clinton has already stated she was only doing one term as Secretary of State.  So when November arrives, if there's no decision, there won't be a rush for one.  If Barack wins re-election, he'll state that he has to find someone to oversee the department first.  If Barack loses, they've already blown off the appeals court for over two years now, continuing to blow them off for sixty more days will be a breeze.
There should be outrage over this but faux activists like you know who only pretend to give a damn about the rule of law.  The administration has refused to comply with a court order.  If it were on any other topic, you could expect yet another shrill column; however, he doens't like the MEK so rule of law gets tossed out the window. 
Turning to veterans issues,  yesterday we noted the Dept of Labor is holding a Veterans Hiring Fair next week on Wednesday, June 6th.  It will be at the Great Hall of the Frances Perkins US Dept of Labor Building on 200 Constitution Ave. starting at ten in the morning and ending at one in the afternoon.  You will need veteran i.d. to enter the job fair.  And it is open to all adult veterans.   Repeating, that's next week on Wednesday.   Tara Merrigan (Austin American-Statesman) reports, "Austin will honor Iraq War veterans in a July 7 parade and job fair, city leaders announced Thursday."
Michael Oros:  I would suggest that the very broad definition of "prosethetics" can lead to confusion and, worse, application of policies that are inappropriate to replacement limbs and orthotics.  The result: inappropriate barriers to care for veterans with limb loss who need timely access to high quality prosthetics in order to go to work, care for their families, and live their everyday lives.  In fact, the Health Subcommittee saw that confusion on display in its hearing in this very room only two weeks ago.  Chairwoman Buerkle held a hearing on "Optimmizing Care for Veterans with Prosthetics" on May 16th.  During the hearing, she clarified multiple times that the topic of the hearing was prosthetics as traditionally understood and defined.  During that hearing, the VA's Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer told the Subcommittee that because changes in procurement policies applied only to items that cost $3,000 or more, those charges would not apply to 97% of the prosthetics budget. I'm sure that statement is accurate for everything included in the billion-dollar-plus line item described by the VA as "prosthetics." However, for the approximately $58 million portion of that line item spent on replacement limbs and orthoses, that statement is confusing and unhelpful.  Virtually every part of even a fairly low-tech prosthetic limb costs more than $3,000.  So adopting procurement policies with the understanding that the policy does not apply to 97% of prosthetic purchases can lead to decisions that delay specialized and vitally needed care for veterans with limb loss or limb impairment.  The veterans we see have already sacrificed enough.  They are working hard to put their personal, family and professional lives back together.  This task should not be made more difficult by the application of overly broad policies that do not take into consideration the very specialized and unique nature of prosthetics and orthotics.
Buerkle is US House Rep Ann Marie Buerkle who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health.  The hearing he's referring to was May 16th (we covered it in the May 16th, May 17th and May 18th snapshots).  Oros was speaking at Wednesday's House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on VA's purchasing of prosthetics.  The Subcommittee Chair is Bill Johnson and US House Rep Joe Donnelly is the Ranking Member.  There were three panels.  The first was made up by the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association's Michael Oros (quoted above) and Academy Medical LLC's Daniel Shaw.  The second panel was DoD's Charles Scoville who is the Chief of Amputee Patient Care Service at Walter Reed and rom the VA's Office of Inspector General's Linda Halliday (accompanied by Nick Dahl and Kent Wrathall).   The third panel was VA's Philip Matkovsky (accompanied by Dr. Lucille Beck, Norbert Doyle and C. Ford Heard). 
Chair Bill Johnson noted the VA's defintion of prosthetics at the start of the hearing:
All aids, devices, parts or accessories which patients require to replace, support, or substitute for impaired or missing anatomical parts of the body.  The items include artifical limbs, terminal devices, stump socks, braces, hearing aids and batteries, cosmetic facial or body restorations, optical devices, manual or motorized wheelchairs, orthopedic shoes, and similar items.
Now let's go back to one segment of  Michael Oros' testimony from earlier.
In fact, the Health Subcommittee saw that confusion on display in its hearing in this very room only two weeks ago. Chairwoman Buerkle held a hearing on "Optimmizing Care for Veterans with Prosthetics" on May 16th. During the hearing, she clarified multiple times that the topic of the hearing was prosthetics as traditionally understood and defined. During that hearing, the VA's Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer told the Subcommittee that because changes in procurement policies applied only to items that cost $3,000 or more, those charges would not apply to 97% of the prosthetics budget. I'm sure that statement is accurate for everything included in the billion-dollar-plus line item described by the VA as "prosthetics." However, for the approximately $58 million portion of that line item spent on replacement limbs and orthoses, that statement is confusing and unhelpful. Virtually every part of even a fairly low-tech prosthetic limb costs more than $3,000. So adopting procurement policies with the understanding that the policy does not apply to 97% of prosthetic purchases can lead to decisions that delay specialized and vitally needed care for veterans with limb loss or limb impairment.
The person Oros was referring to is Norbert Doyle.  He avoided speaking on Wednesday, instead
Chair Bill Johnson:  You note the VA's new policy for purchases over $3,000.  Approximately 5% of biologics cost more than $3,000 so your policy will have minimal bearing on 95% of biologics purchased.  Can you describe how your policy will effect the other 95% of biologics purchased? 
Philip Matovsky: Uhm.  Well I don't actually have the specific cost break out for the biologics themselves.  But the, uh, three thousand dollar threshold was noted that it was 97% of the cost would be below $3,000.  Actually the number is a little bit north of 50, 55% of all of the prosthetic purchases are greater than $3,000 in cost. It's the number of transactions is the 3% number.  In terms of the biologics themselves, uhm, our expectation is that we're asking in this policy moving forward that we document, uh, that a waiver from FSS was requested and that part of what we hope to achieve from this and that we expect to achieve from this is that we'll collect information about why FSS is actually not being selected as the source for biologics or for other items or national contracts for that matter.  And be able to attenuate practice through education,communication in the field as well.
Why is that VA can't use terms accurately?  In the hearing on Wednesday, it was about definitions.  The conflict in what the Subcommittees were told has to do with VA using a figure and then saying, "Wait, wait, we testified about this 97% on $3,000 orders and you thought we meant cost, we meant number of orders!"  Why is it so damn difficult for the VA officials to speak in a straight forward manner?  (And remember that they try to dismiss the IG's report by claiming the IG is using one set of terms while they're using another.)  VA needs to get with the rest of the government.  The prosthetic issue, for example.  VA ges its own definition?  It doesn't match with the Defense Dept's definition.  Why is so hard for the VA to utilize the same terms and same definitions as the rest of the executive branch?  That really needs to be addressed.
If you doubt it, this confusion never stops.  In his opening remarks, Chair Bill Johnson touched on this:
Among my follow-up questions was a request for a copy of the VA's guidance in how it would ensure purchasing agents followed the VAAR [VA Acquisition Regulations].  Just yesterday, a response to that and the other questions was provided.  It is interesting that only now is the VA working to ensure that purchasers using Section 8123 are documented and in line with the FAR and VAAR.  After all, the VA has had nearly three decades to work on this.  Failing to document purchases under 8123, as acknowledged in the answers I received yesterday, is a reckless use of taxpayer dollars.  To us on this Committee, it appears as though the VA operates as it sees fit until attention is called to its operation. 
The VA was worthless in terms of witnesses.  Matkovsky wanted everyone to know that purchases under Section 8123 in the future would be auditable.  Johnson's question was can they go back and audit past purchases under that number.  In a long meandering answer about 'from this point forward,' Matkovsky implies that they've never been able to audit Section 8123 purchases in thae past.  That would be over 30 years worth of purchases.  Is the VA not able to speak English? 
Something as simple as Chair Johnson attempting to find about the hows and whens of the definition VA is using for prosthetic and when it was last updated required a song and dance until Matkovsky finally passed off to Dr. Beck who had to flip through a manual to find out (2001 was the answer for when it was last updated).  But after finally providing an answer, all the sudden it's there's-an-internal-review-going-on-now (with many more words than that).  I would assume if you're part of an update review, you would know what you were updating especially if the manual hadn't been updated in over a decade.
VA officials can't answer a straight question.  So we'll drop back to earlier in the hearing to wrap up our coverage of it here.  Excerpt.
Chair Bill Johnson: And maybe you've already answered this in some of your comments but, if you were going to design a system, Mr. Oros, for the VA to evaluate the quality of care provided to veterans, what would you do? What provisions would you put in that system to improve the quality of care that veterans receive?
Michael Oros: I would start to look at implementation of some functional outcome measurements at the time of the original prescription and then follow it throughout that veteran's care so that you see that there has been restoration of function.  And that can be done with validated instruments and there's also technology available that can support that kind of measurements. 
Chair Bill Johnson:  Okay.  As one of the elements of quality you describe the need to educate veterans about their right to choose a provider of prosthetic care the Committee is starting to hear more and more stories about veterans who say that the VA is creating barriers to their selection of non-VA care.  What has been your experience?  Have you heard from veterans that this is a growing problem?  
Michael Oros: I've seen it locally.  I think that's what I could probably speak most directly to is locally we no longer have access -- it's been at least two years that our company, while we've had a VA contract, has not been invited to that amputee clinic that I referred to previously -- where really, those referals are -- and the veterans ability to communicate with a prosthetist as well as the referring VA physician are kind of present in the same building. 
Chair Bill Johnson:  Here's that word again, from your point of view what barriers are preventing veterans from selecting a prosthetist of their own choice? Is it just that veterans don't know their rights?
Michael Oros: I think its their unfamiliarity with their rights. 
Chair Bill Johnson:  Okay. You talked in your written testimony specifically about older veterans at your practice complaining that there appears to be new administrative hurdles to prevent their continuing to receive care in non-VA facilities.  Can you give us some examples?
Michael Oros:  We've seen in our own facility where veterans who received care from our company for a number of years -- and actually I've heard similar stories from other providers too -- where they've gone back to the VA for other services, prescriptions, etc. and the patient has been -- I'll use the word "discovered" to be an amputee and they've been directed to receive their care within the VA system versus, again, that outside provider. 
Yesterday's snapshot covered the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on the Vow to Hire Heroes Act and efforts at raising awareness on the program.  We'll close with the news release the Committee issued after the hearing:
WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held an oversight hearing entitled "Reviewing the Implementation of Major Provisions of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011." The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 is the signature veterans' legislation of the 112th Congress. Officials from the departments of Labor (DoL) and Veterans Affairs (VA) testified on the implementation of the law to date.
The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) was the main focus of the hearing. The cornerstone of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, VRAP will provide up to one-year of Montgomery GI Bill benefits to unemployed veterans, ages 35-60, for in-demand jobs and careers. The Committee applauded efforts by the departments at the program staff-level, but cautioned that more needed to be done to promote VRAP.
"I am pleased to see that over 11,000 applications have been received so far, meaning that we are well on our way to filling all of the 45,000 slots paid for in the VOW Act for the remainder of this fiscal year," stated Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "But I am concerned that not enough is being done by either department, or the President himself, to promote this benefit. Getting the message out about this opportunity is critically important to putting unemployed veterans on a path to a job in a high-demand field."
In addition, Committee Members also expressed concern that DoL and VA were not taking the appropriate steps to ensure that veterans were aware VRAP existed. Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits at VA, noted some of the challenges facing the two departments to effectively reach out to veterans about VRAP were that "a centralized system to identify eligible veterans does not exist."
Few Members had seen any outreach in their local communities, leading the Committee to ask if a plan was in place to reach unemployed veterans in non-metropolitan areas, specifically through TV advertising.
"Despite having had ample time to come forth with one, VA has failed to deliver an advertising budget," Miller said. "Advertising is a quick, effective way to control the message in order to reach a large number of veterans in a very short period of time. That is the level of promotion for VRAP that our unemployed veterans deserve. We cannot afford to let even one training slot go unfilled. I encourage all eligible veterans to sign up for this opportunity at their local one stop career center or online."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Crazy Cockburn is a sexist as well

Patrick Cockburn has one of his crackpot ravings past off as an article.  It's interesting how, until the end, he's trying to be fair and then, at the end, he's calling for the UN to send forces into Syria.

He will most likely insist he never advocated that but that is the only way to read this: "And one hopes that those on the United Nations Security Council, when it reconvenes, will look into the staring eyes of these dead children and remember the hollow words of Assad's wife when she simpered that she 'comforts the families' of her country's victims."

Isn't it cute, he's going after the First Lady.  That's really the hallmark of a coward.  Whether Mr. Assad is guilty of something or not, his wife is not running the country.  But you can't be a Cockburn -- or their idiot niece Laura Flanders -- without finding a woman to attack.  That is the family M.O.

That's all in the mood for tonight.  I know the writer C.I.'s mentioning at the end of the snapshot (not Chris Hayes, the one she doesn't name) and I'm really pissed because C.I. busted her ass for that ungrateful asshole over the years.  He's been in the midst of a spectacular flameout for three years that I semi know about because Sunny follows it and when ___ gets really nutty -- or is being threatened with another lawsuit -- Sunny tells me about it. So his little tirade today has me ticked off.  C.I. hasn't spoken to me about it (I think she spoke to Rebecca about it) so I'm not going to write about it in detail.  But I know his little stunt hurt C.I.  I also think he's a piece of trash -- but then, I've always thought that and said so here numerous times over the years.

"Iraq snapshot"  (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, May 30, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, empire gets discussed, Marcy Winograd has an announcement, Talabani doesn't want Nouri to face a vote of no confidence, Tareq al-Hashemi feels the continued drama surrounding him is about to wrap up, I offer my thoughs of (and support for) Chris Hayes, and more.
The Honorable Jonathan Sumption is not only a judge (Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom), he's also a historian.  Earlier this month, he delivered a [PDF format warning] speech to the London School of Economics' Department of Government
The extreme case is of course the choice between peace and war.  In reviewing the military interventions of the English government, the courts have arrived at a position practically indistinguisable from the old non-justiciability rule, although justified on a different basis.  The legality of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 was, to put it mildly, a matter of some controversy everywhere outside the United States.  The great majority of international lawyers of repute considered it to be contrary to international law, in the absence of the United Nations authority and did not accept that any of the relevant resolutions conferred that authority.  The United States was inclined to respond to this difficulty in the way that the British had done at the time of the Suez crisis of 1956, by simply ignoring it.  In 1956, the Attorney-General, Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller and the Solicitor-General Sir Harry Hilton-Foster, both supported the invasion politically although both believed and told the Prime Minister that it was illegal.  The Chief of Imperial General Staff, Sir Gerald Templer, issued the deployment orders without troubling himself with the legal issue.  These are attitudes characteristic of an imperial power, and we should not be particularly surprised to find them adopted by the United States.  It is a sign of how far the climate of British opinion had changed by 2003 that the Chiefs of Staff  required an assurance from the Attorney-General that operations in Iraq were lawful.  They famously received one that had been prepared on a basis not wholly consistent with his previously expressed views and supported by reasoning which provoked the resignation of one of the Foreign Office legal advisers and was rejected by every serious authority on international law. 
David Swanson: You have left the fold of the Democratic Party and gone to the Green Party and after having been a candidate for Congress in Democratic primaries and done remarkably well against a well funded incumbent as a peace candidate.  Why the -- Why the decision to go to the Green Party?
Marcy Winograd: David, it wasn't an easy decision and it was one I wrestled with for probably quite some time.  But at the end of the day, the short answer is that I really didn't want to be aligned with a War Party any longer.  Even if you're an insurgent in that war party, you're still in it.  And as an insurgent,  I challenged Jane Harman she was a big Hawk, supporter of the military industrial complex,  I was on the floor of the Democratic Party convention in California introducing resolutions to end the war, the assault on Iraq.  I was shut down, quoroms were called, quorom called, I introduced resolutions to censure senators like Dianne Feinstein when she waffled on whether water boarding was torture. There are many struggles to engage in as an insurgent within a party and I'm not saying that they're not worthy and that they're not of great value but at this point in my life, I really want to live inside my skin.  I want to be authentic. And I also want to look towards the future.  Face it, the American Empire is declining.  This is it.  We are collpasing.  And we are watching the collapse of the US Empire. How long did it take other countries?  Well ou know for some it took a century.  For others it took just a few years.  Look at the Soviet Union.  Two years for the Soviet Union to collapse.  A year for Portugal, 8 years for France.  17 years for Great Britain.  There are historians. I interviewed one on [KPFK] Connect the Dots, Dr. Alfred McCoy who wrote in The Nation magazine who predicts that by 2025 it's over.  Just 15 years from now, the empire will be over. So given that, the US Empire, with its military bases in 3/4 of the countries in the world is just not sustainable.  It's imperative that we look to our future and embrace something positive. We know what we don't want. What do we want?  And that's what attracted me to the Green Party. 
David Swanson:  Well clearly the US Empire could end in a variety of ways -- some softer and easier than others.  Do you think that the Democratic Party and, in particular, President Obama are better or worse or about the same in relationship to the Republican Party and George W. Bush in terms of the manner in which the empire is over-extending itself and moving towards its collapse? In other words, would we be better off in these final years of empire to have the Democrats doing it or the Republicans?
Marcy Winograd: That's a very tough question, isn't it?  I know that I will not be voting for Barack Obama for president. And I did support him when he ran previously.  But this time I am going to be voting for the Green Party nominee because I really do want a different vision for our country and now's the time for us to speak out and say this is the alternative vision:  a party of non-violence, a party that opposes weapon sales  to other countries, a party that wants to build sustainable communities and invest in our communities, not extract wealth and send jobs to other countries. I think, at the end of the day, that it's very dangerous to have somebody in the White House who people don't necessarily who people don't necessarily know or understand and who may project an image of concilation and partnership but in reality is escalating what began under former President George Bush.  I'm talking about this "war on terror."  Right after Obama took office, he escalated the drone attacks on Pakistan.  We now have an increase in Joint-Special Operations Command Forces in other countries -- from 60 countries under Bush to 75 countries.  We have codified indefiniate detention, extraordinary rendetion and targeted assassination.  We have moved beyond what was considered under the Bush administration as an order for hot pursuit.  In other words, if somebody attacked us or an ally, we could cross a border in hot pursuit.  Now the whole world is a war theater under Barack Obama. So I'm afraid that under the Democratic leadership -- both in Congress and in the White House -- we are not seeing what we think we want to see or what we think we are seeing.  Instead, we're seeing increased militarism.  So I think it's very dangerous to think that this is an alternative path.  In fact, I think under President Obama, we've seen the Democrats able to advance a Republican agenda, at least on the foreign policy side, at least better than the Republicans could.
"Download or get embed code from or AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy or RadioProject."  I really am surprised by Marcy's news and will assume others are as well.  Who's running in the Green Party for the presidential nomination?  A press release from the Green Party of Michigan answers that question:
For Immediate Release:
Green Party of Michigan Presidential Nominating Convention Saturday
Mt. Pleasant) - This Saturday marks the beginning of the Green Party's nominating convention at the university's campus in Mt. Pleasant which will last through Sunday afternoon. Excitement for the event has been building for months as the presidential candidates have been particularly exciting among members this year.
Dr. Jill Stein of Massachusetts has been travelling throughout the country to stand in
solidarity with Occupy movements, to speak at Green conventions and events and has most recently walked with those protesting the PGA in Benton Harbor. A long-time activist and dedicated member of the Green Party, Dr. Stein is currently the forerunner in the nomination pool.
Comedienne and activist Roseanne Barr of California has likewise been a long-time
supporter of grassroots movements. Her rallies in California have drawn hundreds of
supporters. Although she was the last candidate to announce her running, she has made a
strong showing in state polls.
Dr. Kent Mesplay of California was the first to announce his candidacy and has
remained a strong contender as a long-time Green. Having also vied for the presidential
nomination in 2008, he is the candidate with the most experience. As the son of missionaries, he grew up alongside native peoples in a nature-centered environment. This has shaped the focus of his message.
The three contenders for the presidential nomination will be speaking remotely at the
convention on Saturday afternoon. Candidates for state and some local offices will also be
nominated this weekend. The straw poll for the presidential nomination will take place on
Saturday with the results being announced on Sunday. The decision of the straw poll will guide the choice the delegates will make at the National Convention in Baltimore, MD on July 12-15.
Highlights of the convention will also include entertainment Saturday evening by musical
acts Stephen Colarelli, a singer/songwriter, Rope and the Rulers, and Poor Player.
The Members of the Green Party of Michigan have been active in petition drives to have
several critical issues placed on the November ballot including the Emergency Manager repeal which was thrown out on a questionable technical objection and the current ban on fracking petition gaining strength and support throughout the state.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Green Party or want to learn more
about our key values, see our webpage:
For more information, please contact
Convention organizer and Green Party Co-chair Fred Vitale:
or Green Party Elections Coordinator John A La Pietra:
Your vote is your vote.  Use it as you want.  Like Marcy, I cannot vote for Barack Obama.  I don't reward War Hawks.  As I've stated before, I think I'll just sit out the voting for that office.  That's what I'm doing, you do what you want, if you're voting you're an adult so you should be able to figure out who speaks to you (if anyone does) and vote (or vote by not voting) accordingly.  (And for more on the Green Party race, you can refer to this post by Ian Wilder at On The Wilder Side.)
Today the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011."  As with the Iraq section of the US State Dept's 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released last week, UNAMI's findings weren't pretty.
But it's difficult to tell who's the bigger joke: Nouri al-Maliki or the UN.  Martin Kolber is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq.   Having sat through Martin Kobler's presentation to the UN Security Council April 10th and seeing the single sentence that couldn't use the term "gay" but hinted that the targeting of Emo and LGBT youth (and those perceived as such) would be addressed in the report (the one released today), this report's an embarrassment.  That section is the smallest section of today's report, it's buried deep.
10. Attacks on persons for reason of their sexual orientation
The topic of homosexuality is largely taboo in Iraq. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community usually keep their sexual orientation secret and live in constant fear of discrimination, rejection by family members, social exclusion, intimidation and violence.  While the Iraqi penal code does not expressly prohibit homosexual relations between consenting adults, a variety of less specific, flexible provisions in the penal code leave room for active discrimination and prosecution of LGBT persons and feeds societal intolerance.
During the reporting period, UNAMI continued to receive reports of attacks against individuals based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation.  In one case, a 17 year old boy was relocated with assistance from an NGO after his family tried to kill him on the basis of the boy's perceived homosexuality.  The Government takes no action to protect people from violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation, and there are few social services available.
And that's it.
That's it?
As we noted April 11th:
What pretty words.  What a shame his Special Envoy to Iraq spits on those words, betrays Iraq's LGBT community, stays silent as they're targeted and killed, ignores the persecution.  
As we noted yesterday, the Special Envoy Martin Kobler appeared Tuesday before the United Nations Security Council where he yammered away for approximately 20 minutes and also handed in a written report/statement which was 17 pages long.  Though he was supposedly concerned about violence and targeted groups and though he made his focus the first three months of the year, he couldn't bring himself to mention the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community.  He could talk about the so-called 'honor' killings but not in relation to gay men or lesbians.  Ban Ki-moon assured the world's LGBT community just last month that they were not alone.  Just yesterday, his Special Envoy to Iraq, made clear that, in fact, Iraq's LGBTs are very much alone.  Martin Kobler made very clear that the United Nations, as represented by him in Iraq, will gladly and always look the other way while thugs go on killing sprees.  One of the slogan of the United Nations is, "It's your world." But apparently that doesn't apply for LGBTs.  Someone with the UN to address whether Ban Ki-moon was lying or if Martin Kobler just doesn't understand how offensive what he did yesterday was?
Excuse me, I though Ban Ki-moon was saying LGBT rights were human rights.  But that's not what I got from Kobler's presentation or from this report released today.  Either UNAMI intends to seriously address the targeting or it intends not to.
For those who missed it, Emo and LGBT were lumped together.  LGBT is, of course, a sexual orientation.  Emo is more of a social scene.  In Iraq, the two were lumped together and worse.  Worse?  The Iraqi youth were supposedly also practicing witchcraft and also they were vampires as evidenced by the fact that they drank blood.
Did they drink blood?
Years and years ago, have I told this story, there was a presenation on gangs to a group of concerned lawmakers (state lawmakers).  A friend who works with gangs couldn't make it and asked if I'd fill in.  That's not my area but I was adequate if not good.  But what stood out to me was the guy who had never spoken to a teen in a gang but 'knew' everything.  It was that "Calvin Kline" who was making people gang members because it helped sell his clothes.  It gets better (or at least more humorous), rap artists "like Cindy Lauper" (Cyndi Lauper) were also glamorizing gangs.  This man was completely serious.  He thought he had studied and arrived at logical conclusions.  (Calvin Klein was pushing underwear and baggy jeans at that time, if he was pushing anything.  Cyndi Lauper is not now and never has been a rap artist.)  This man was so uninformed that he made my adequate presentation seem like an informed lecture.
And the point here is two-fold.  First, this isn't ha-ha, we're so much smarter than the Iraqis.  No.  Humanity's all basically on the same page with some people in every area reading just a little bit ahead of the others.  Second, a lot of people (in every country all over the world) hear a topic mentioned and think they're an expert.  Emos have been demonized around the world, not just in the MidEast, in Mexico as well. And that panic mind set allows some really stupid things to be said by supposed experts.
In the case of Iraq, it was the Ministry of Interior that went into the schools and demonized Emos (who again are also wrongly said to be gay -- you can be Emo and gay, you can also be Emo and straight).  Let's drop back to March 9th:
Meanwhile Kitabat notes that the Interior Ministry is declaring there have been no deaths and this is all a media creation. That would be the same Ministry of Interior that, please note, was declaring earlier this week that Emo was the number one threat to Iraq. Guess someone got the message about how badly this was making Iraq look to the rest of the world? Now the still headless ministry (Nouri never appointed a minister to head it) wants to insist that it is only a small number of Iraqi youth who are even into Emo. The ministry insists that the only truth on the subject of Emo is that which the government tells. But the Parliament's Security and Defense Commission also spoke to the media on Thursday and they spoke of the discovery of 15 corpses of young Iraqis -- Emos or thought to be -- discovered in one Baghdad neighborhood. Activist Hanaa Edwar also speaks of the large number of Iraqi Emo youths being targeted. Al Mada notes the Parliament committee stated that the security forces have failed to protect the Emo youth. Dar Addustour reports that activists Mohammed al-Kazimi has pointed out that the constitution of Iraq guarantees Iraqis the right to freedom of expression and that Emo youth are not unconstitutional.
When this was going on, Iraqi youth were pretty much on their own.  Iraqi groups and activists did speak out but internationally you had a lot of silence.  (Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were not silent.) And the US State Dept refused to speak of it but was kind enough to leak an e-mail when pressure was coming to bear on the administration.  If that e-mail had not been treated like something amazing (it wasn't) by the LGBT press in America, the administration might have been forced to make a public statement.  And as silent as the State Dept was the United Nations.
Iraqi youths were being killed.  To be really clear, if you are a gay Iraqi youth, that doesn't mean you can be killed.  That's not acceptable.  That's not something the world should ever look the other way on.  But damned if they didn't try, these supposed groups and governmental agencies there to help.
There are things in the report that will be noticing this week.
But here, I called out Martin Kobler repeatedly for his silence at the UN briefing.  And I heard from UN friends about how it's 'referred' to in the written report.  No, it's noted that this issue will be dealt with in an upcoming report.  That report was the one released today.  Two pathetic paragraphs is not dealing with it.  Failure to even use the term "Emo" is pretty sad. Failure to note the Ministry of the Interior went into schools and asked for names is shameful.
I took Kobler to task several days in a row here and only stopped when UN friends swore the report would go into what was taking place.  The report's out today and yet again, YET AGAIN, the United Nations has failed the LGBT in Iraq (as well as those perceived to be).  In failing them, it failed every LGBT.  Because it sent the message that though the UN will give lip service and pretend that they give a damn about LGBT rights, the reality is they'll only mention it in a report if they're forced to and, even then, they'll rush through it and ignore most facts and events.
What I've written isn't all that damning (though I'll get phone calls for it).  What's really damning is that the United Nations is supposed to help those in need, those in crisis but, read their report, the only one who got helped was a 17-year-old who was helped not by the UN but by an NGO.  That pretty much says everything that needs to be said about where the United Nations stands today on LGBT issues.

 Alsumaria reports Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi states he will return to Iraq soon and that the targeting of Baghdad provincial council member Laith al-Dulaimi (arrested on Nouri's orders by Nouri's forces who tortured him) confirms much of what al-Hashemi has stated about being targeted.  Specifically, al-Hashemi states it confirms what he has stated about human rights, about the lack of justice, about the judiciary being politicized and about torture being a key characteristic of Iraqi imprisonment.  In protest of the proceedings, al-Hashemi's attorneys walked out May 20th on the trial against him.  Like Laith al-Dulaimi, the Vice President is accused of terrorism.  Like Laith al-Dulaimi, the Vice President is a member of Iraqiya.

Iraqiya's big 'crime' appears to be coming in first in the March 7, 2010 elections.  For months before the election, Nouri al-Maliki attempted to demonize them, had them arrested, had them kicked out of the race and someone -- Nouri? -- was also having the assassinated in the lead-up to the elections.  Nouri 'promised' -- the  media swore to us -- that there would be no third term.  But as we have repeatedly noted, that line has been walked back and walked back.  And, no, we didn't fall for the claim when he made it.  We questioned it even then pointing out that in the original assertion, he'd left himself wiggle room.

Among the current issues that various blocs can agree upon is that Nouri should have no third term.  The one that can't agree with that is Nouri.

If you'll think back to the lead-up to the 2010 elections, you'll remember Nouri was convinced his State of Law would win overwhelmingly.  But the reality was they didn't even win by a hair.  It's possible that the attacks currently are part of his attempts for the next round of parlimentary elections (which are now supposed to take place in 2014) or even to influence the provincial elections (scheduled for next year currently).  Nouri does have problems with the provinces.  He's got a war going on with Ethyl al-Nujaifi who is the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Ehtyl is also the Governor of Nineveh Province and Nouri -- who is so shocked that people are calling for him to step down -- has twice called for al-Nujaifi to step down as governor.

Al Rafidayn notes the real purpose of Nouri's holding the Council of Ministers meeting in Mosul (as opposed to Baghdad) yesterday: He met with tribal leaders in Nineveh in an attempt to shore up support for him as moves are made to push for a no-confidence vote which would, if succeessful, remove him from the post of prime minister.  Nouri also again launched an attack on Osama al-Nujaifi.  Which really doesn't seem smart in the province that elected his brother governor.  But Nouri's not know for his wisdom.

To distract from the push for a no-confidence vote in him, Nouri and flunkies recently announced there was a push for a no-confidence vote in Osama al-Nujaifi.  However, the National Alliance (a Shi'ite grouping of political parties which includes Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, Ibraham al-Jaafari's group, Nouri's State of Law and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq among others) publicly dismissed that.  They noted that the National Alliance was not calling for a move against al-Nujaifi.  They noted that State of Law had not even made a proposal to the National Alliance about such a move.  And the press kindly let the matter die instead of pointing out that Nouri had been caught in yet another lie. 
Today a new reason for the ongoing political crisis is given: Jalal Talabani.  Alsumaria reports that State of Law states Osama al-Nujaifi attempted to call for a no-confidence vote but Talabani stopped it.  If true, that conditional is always needed when speaking of State of Law, it's time for Jalal to go.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) also reports that Jalal Talabani rejected the call for a no-confidence vote and cites Kurdish MP Mahmud Othman as the source. 
 Press TV reported Saturday that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was calling for a national conference again.  He's been calling for that since December 21st.  How long he'll continue to call, who knows? 
His son, of course, just spent over a million dollars on a DC home (the six bedroom and six bath house -- not all six baths are full bathrooms -- is on Daniel Road in Chevy Chase, Maryland and they closed on it January 27th agreeing to the price of $1,155,000).  I guess if I were a child of Talabani's and I was seeing exactly how ineffective he had become, I think I'd probably decide to spend money on a home in another country as well.  It is interesting that a public servant like Talabani can afford to purchase a home in that neighborhood.  You wouldn't assume that being the KRG lobbyist in the US would pay enough to warrant a million-dollar home. 

I think someone should ask Talabani why his son purchased a home in the US -- you can lease in that area -- and how large of a salary his son draws?

He's swearing to Kurds that he's going to stand with them but even PUK (the political party he heads) doubts that.  They're starting to point out the obvious: Is Jalal really in a position to demand that Nouri not seek a third term?  If he takes up that position, doesn't that mean that Talabani can't seek a third term as president of Iraq?

Without that position, he's just the aged head of political party he's led to lower and lower turnout.  The PUK needs new leadership. 

Talabani is just Nouri in a ceremonial post.  Why did Iraq have elections?  To get a new speaker of Parliament?  That's really all that changed despite the results. 
In news of violence, Alsumaria reports that a roadside bombing today in Ramadi claimed 1 life and left two other people injured.  In addition, Al Rafidayn notes that a bridge connecting Anbar Province and Salah ad-Din Province was blown up today.  In addition, Alsumaria notes 1 person was shot dead as he left his southern Baghdad home yesterday.
Lastly, I'm offering my opinion on Chris Hayes.  The short version is, he didn't do anything wrong.  He's apologized for what he stated and I believe that was sincere, he's generally a sincere person.  But what he said before his apology?  If that was a shock to you, you don't really know a wide cross-section of people who've lost a loved one to war.  You may know many, but you apparently only know one grouping.   Chris Hayes' comments weren't at all shocking to me.  I speak to pro and anti and in-between veterans groups and there's a wide range of opinions out there.  I'll assume that those who objected online to what Chris said on his MSNBC program were being sincere.  But I think they would have been better served -- and our national dialogue would have been -- if they'd grasped that their opinion isn't the only one out there.  I'm not the voice of veterans, I don't present myself as such. 
Would I have said what he did?  No.  I wouldn't have ventured an opinion on the topic and don't believe I ever have.  I'm more interested in hearing what people think than sharing my own opinions (and I don't have an opinion on everything or rush to form one). I'm mainly weighing in today on Chris because a writer slammed me in an series of e-mails today on how I hadn't come to his (the writer's) defense.  And my reaction to that is, "I don't know your soap opera.  I don't have time to research your last three years and all the people you've pissed off.  But I do know that woman at the New York Times that won't take your calls anymore?  Your rage frightens her.  And she's not the only one."  But being read ___'s attacks over the phone by Martha (who got the 'joy' of being the one to open those foul e-mails -- thank you, Martha for all you do) with their f-you and the rest attacking me for not coming to his defense (over problems I wasn't even aware of -- I didn't even know he was lying about me -- which he also admits in his e-mails -- in 2011 online until today), I thought finally, "You're on your own."  And that made me think, the people who really do care and really don't try to hurt people, those are the ones who deserve support.  And that's the type of person Chris Hayes is.
There are a lot of people who don't care.  They go on TV and they really don't care.  It's a party and a game, they say their piece and they go home and don't even think about it again. (For those who take that as a slam on the right -- I know many people on TV on the left and in the center.  I can't speak to the right-wing TV pundits and wouldn't presume to being unfamiliar with them and their lives.)  Whether you agree with Chris or not, he does give a great deal of thought to not only events but to how he impacts them and whether or not he said the right thing or communicated correctly.  He does not set out to be controversial or to hurt anyone.  He's not trying to 'play with the format.'  He's honestly attempting to communicate.  He meant no harm and he was speaking -- whether he knew it or not -- for a group of people around the country who were mourning the fallen and whose feelings about their loved one are just as valid as those who disagreed with Chris.
If you were honestly bothered by Chris' opinion -- which he identified as such -- he's offered a sincere apology and if the attacks on him continue, I'll assume you're not sincere but working some political angle or trying to.  He's done everything he can and then some at this point so if you've got a problem, it's beyond Chris and on you.  There are a lot of people I wouldn't vouch for.  When I was making a list of that as Martha read the series of e-mails from ____, I immediately thought of Chris Hayes and how he's someone who is worth vouching for.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


 Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "One-on-One Summit" went up last night.

 one on one summit

Nouri al-Maliki is a thug.  The Iraqi people have suffered enough.


Chris Marsden (WSWS) reports:

The massacre of over 100 people in Houla is being utilized by the United States, other Western powers and the Gulf States to step up their drive for regime-change in Syria. Thirty-two children and 34 women were among Friday’s dead, the United Nations has said.
Speaking yesterday to Fox News, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said, “Of course, there is always a military option… it may come to a point with Syria because of the atrocities.”
His comments follow a series of bellicose statements by Washington. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The US will work with the international community to intensify our pressure on [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and his cronies, whose rule by murder and fear must come to an end.” The White House called the Houla attack “a vile testament to an illegitimate regime.”
The Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is also once again urging direct military intervention. Kuwait, which currently heads the Arab League, announced it is calling for a ministerial meeting to “take steps to put an end to the oppressive practices against the Syrian people.”

I can't stand to listen to NPR.  If they start pretending to talk Syria, I turn it off.

They have no one in the country and they allow Kelly McEvers to file 'reports' from Beirut based on what her snitch posse tells her and when one of the snitches dies, Kelly gets to pretend she's impartial and objective and take up five minutes of air time to wax on about them.

I am so damn sick of the one-sided coverage and that it's coming from an outlet that (a) pretends to be a news outlet and (b) pretends to be offering a fully balanced picture of what's going on in Syria.

They didn't learn a damn thing from their fake Iraq coverage less than ten years ago.  The whores didn't even learn to lie better.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, May 29, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Bradley Manning -- with no conviction -- spends 2 years behind bars, Iraq's historic sites are at risk, Nouri's targeting Iraqiya again, War Criminal Tony Blair gets called out, and more.
Starting in the US where Bradley Manning's court-martial is scheduled to begin September 21st.  Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December.  At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial.  Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it.
Bradley's case was discussed on this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights).  Excerpt.
Heidi Boghosian: Michael, you told us a bit about the trial of Bradley Manning and I understand that CCR is going to be involved on a different level with the case.
Michael Ratner: Well CCR has been involved in some ways with Bradley Manning for a long time. We represent WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and I and other CCR attorneys have been going to the Bradley Manning hearings down at Fort Meade as I've reported on this radio show.  One of the outrageous things about the hearing is that even documents that are not classified are not given to the public, are not given to the media.  There's no way to get any of the court orders that the judge actually makes.  You know, such things as pre-trial publicity.  There's no way to get any of the motions.  Although, now, some defense motions are up.  But government motions are not there, government responses are not there. There's no transcript of the proceeding that we can get.  There's one made but no one has access to it of the media or public.  You sit in the court and you can't understand what's going on because you can't read any of the papers. So we now at the Center have for a number of months been trying to insist to the court that these are public filings, Bradley Mannings been denied his right to a public trial and the media and the citizenry is being denied their right to a public trial which is a key part of ensuring that justice is done fairly.
Heidi Boghosian: Michael, are the documents being withheld in the name of national security?  And also, is there precedent for this?
Michael Ratner: This is a court-martial.  They apparently have different rules that they like to apply about letting the public know about what's going on.  Every court-martial is essentially an ad-hoc tribunal.  They're set up for the specific purpose of whomever they're going to try.  They don't even have a clerk's office or a docket. And the judge has not said she's withholding because of national security.  She's simply not giving the documents.  No court orders. No motions -- particularly of the government's. None of the replies or briefs.  And no transcripts. And there's also a lot of off-the-record hearings that we have no access to.  So this, unfortunately, seems to be a matter of course.  But here you are, in the most important court-martial probably in the century, conceivably, and the public and the media are not getting the materials.
Heidi Boghosian: There's an irony in this given that Manning is on trial for the very reason that he made documents public and, in his hearings, things are being withheld.
Michael Ratner:  Yes.  In fact, you could argue that the entire proceeding is a justification for what Bradley Manning allegedly did, that this entire country is going down some huge secrecy drain even with documents that the judge doesn't even claim are national security documents and they're not giving them to us.  So what we did a few weeks ago is we filed some letters with the judge saying we want access.  The Reporters Committee on Free Press filed a letter with 47 major newspapers saying we want access. Everything has been denied. So now we are going to the next level of the military appeals, it's called the Court of Military Appeals, and then we go to the Court of the Armed Forces and then, presumably, into federal court. I expect to win the case. 
Though he's never been found guilty of anything, he remains behind bars and the Constitutional guarantee of a speedy and fair trial becomes even more of a joke. 
Today marks two years of imprisonment of Private Bradley Manning.  Two years ouf of his 24 years is a long time in military prison.  His treatment has been highly controversial, every step of the way.
Following every bit of information available during the first few months of his ordeal made it clear that the US government was going to use Manning as a warning to anyone else who might feel compelled to report on war crimes, or any other crimes they witness from withing the system.  Blow the whistle, goes the warning, and you will be buried alive by the state, shredded by the same secrecy machine a whistleblower would try to expose.
Two years now.  And this is under Barack Obama.  He had no respect for the Constitution.  People deluded themselves.  The Voice of Russia sees little hope of Bradley getting a fair shake:
All of the facts so far do not point to the possibility that Manning will be given the opportunity to receive a fair trial. He was the chosen scapegoat for what the US characterized as a historic intelligence failure, something conspiracy theorists say was an orchestrated release to tie up the intelligence agencies of the world with disinformation and to serve as the spark to ignite the color revolutions of the Arab spring. According to experts these two things were the only real tangible effects of the release of the information that was attributed to Manning.
[. . .]
The answer is clear, it is not in the interests of the government to assist in the Manning's defense, if he is found innocent and the huge house of cards that has been built up around him comes crashing down many officials at all levels will have to face the piper and while the foxes are guarding the chicken coop assisting someone they accuse is not something that can ever be expected, no matter how much lip service is paid to innocence before guilty.
Meanwhile in England, the Iraq War is back in the news after Tony Blair got confronted for his War Crimes yesterday.  Samira Shackle (New Statesman) reported that while Tony Blair gave testimony a the Royal Courts of Justice, he was shouted down with a cry of, "This man should be arrested for War Crimes!"  Tom Chivers (Telegraph of London) identifies the truth-teller as David Lawley-Wakelin who made the documentary Alternative Iraq Enquiry. Sam Lister, Rosa Silverman and Brian Farmer (Independent of London) report that Lawley-Wakelin shouted, "This man should be arrested for War Crimes.  JP Morgan paid him off for the Iraq War.  Three months after he invaded Iraq they held upt he Iraq bank for 20 billion.  He was then paid six million dollars every year and still is from JP Morgan six month after he left office.  This man is a War Criminal!" As Connor Simpson's piece for The Atlantic noted, "Tony Blair Can't Escape the Iraq War."
Suzannah Hills (Daily Mail) reports that Lawley-Wakelin appeared on James O'Brien's LBC radio program today You go through the metal detectors, any member of the public can actually go in, and I tried to get in through the front entrance of the Leveson inquiry but was evicted as I don't have any press accreditation. But I figured out there must be a back way in as Lord Leveson himself must have one.  When I got there I was surprised to find out that there was no security at all and in fact the door to the court was wide open in the same way that Lord Leveson himself would have got in there."  The Telgraph of London quotes Leveson telling the inquiry today, "Yesterday morning a man by the name of David Lawley-Wakelin interrupted and disrupted the proceedings of this Inquiry for purposes of his own.  I directed that an inquiry should take place and it has now been completed.  Appropriate measures to prevent any risk of repetition have been taken."  Lawley-Wakelin appeared on Press TV (link is video and transcript) today and was asked if War Criminal Blair would ever appear before the Hague?
Lawley-Wakelin: You know, whether he ever gets to court that's another thing.  Taking on the American government, Bush and Blair and the British government it's just an enormous thing.  There are lots of websites where you can join petitions to get Blair indicated for war crimes and perhaps one day we can hope that he will be taken down to the Hague but it's a long road and we can only hope that it will happen.  There is plenty of evidence to point towards it.  The sad thing is that the Chilcot Inquiry [so named after its chairman Sir John Chilcot] over here in England which is known as the Iraq Inquiry won't be looking into any criminal activity, they'll only be making inquiry into what went wrong in the decision-making by the politicians and the government and putting guidelines towards that but they won't be looking at all the money that washed around at the time and that Blair is still making.
In Iraq, the political crisis continues.  In March 2010, parliamentary elections were held.  Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law came in second to Iraiqya (led by Ayad Allawi).  That should have meant Allawi had first crack at attempting to form a coalition government.  But Nouri didn't want anyone else to be prime minister and because he had the US government's backing as well as the Iranian government's, he was able to bring the country to a standstill.  Political Stalemate I is the eight months that followed the March 2010 elections where Nouri refused to allow any governance to take place.

In November 2010, the US government brokers an agreement.  Because they're in charge of the agreement, the US ensures that Nouri al-Maliki will have a second term as prime minister.  To get the other political blocs to sign off on it concessions were made such as an independent national security commission would be created and Allawi would head that.  All of the blocs got various promises -- in writing -- to get them to sign off on the agreement.  Nouri signed it, everyone signed it.  And Nouri used the Erbil Agreement to get his second term as prime minister.  But once he had that, he trashed the agreement.  He refused to honor it.

And because there is no honor among thiefs and liars, the White House pretended they hadn't spent the summer of 2010 coming up with an agreement and as if they hadn't made promises to Iraq's political blocs.  In Iraq, the White House's name is mud because they are known liars who deceived intentionally and went back on their word.

Last summer, the Kurds began publicly demanding that Nouri implement the Erbil Agreement.  Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr quickly joined the call.  Political Stalemate II is the ongoing political crisis.

Throughout, Nouri has targeted Iraqiya.   Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) notes the present crisis is rooted in the 2010 elections but traces it back even further to the creation of Iraq in the the early part of the 20th century.  He observes of today's conflict:

Iraq's political atmosphere was never devoid of dangerous tensions, but after the downfall of the Baathist regime, it has entered a new phase that is threatening to destroy the foundations of democracy.
Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki is at the centre of these developments, and has been targeted by many. He has clashed with fugitive vice-president Tareq Al Hashemi, deputy prime minister Saleh Al Mutlaq, chairman of Al Iraqiya bloc Eyad Allawi, president of the Kurdish province Masoud Barzani and Sadrist leader Muqtada Al Sadr. Al Maliki is probably having problems with those in his own Al Dawa party.
It is difficult to see Al Maliki emerging unscathed from these conflicts as all these forces are closing in on him in a joint attempt to get him out of office.
Playing on the interests of the US and those of regional powers, which served him well in recent years, will not ensure Al Maliki's political survival, as finding a substitute is not very difficult.
Last week, Nouri found another member of Iraqiya to target.  Laith al-Dulaimi is a member of the Baghdad provincial council as well as Iraqiya.  Nouri ordered his arrest and al-Dulaimi states he has been torturted.  Torture is common in Iraq, especially when securing 'confessions.'   Just last week Nouri's forces tortured four Russian Bikers.  RIA Novosti reports that the  bikers -- Maxim Ignatyev, Oleg Kapkayev, Oleg Maximov and Alexander Vardanyants --  returned home yesterday.  The four were biking through the region when Nouri's forces seized them, accused them of being spies and tortured them.  RIA Novosti notes that the arrest sparked great furor including protests in Russia and promises from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani that the bikers would be released.   The Moscow Times adds:

The bikers were then detained by a military patrol outside Baghdad on May 20 and jailed at an Iraqi military base, where they were beaten and threatened, Vardanyants said. "There was little to be happy about," he said. "They beat us and threatened us, and the beatings had various levels of severity."

The four were imprisoned for approximately five days.  The Voice of Russia states that "they were subjected to physical and psychological pressure."  Again, that's common at the hands of Nouri's forces.  Dar Addustour reported Monday that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is calling for al-Dulaimi's release.   Al Rafidayn notes that Talabani is rightly dismissing the 'confession' that was videotaped and is now being played to the press by Nouri's goons.  Remember last time when they were showing forced confessions and the world condemned them for it?  That was only months ago.  And Nouri's little flunky spokesperson then declared -- lying through his teeth -- that the 'confessions' (against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi) weren't intended to be played for the public and were only for the court.  Iraq's been airing so-called 'confessions' for years now.  It's become 'reality' TV in Iraq.  Will anyone note that Nouri couldn't even go six months without circulating 'confessions' after swearing, just last winter, that he knew it was a violation of the Constitution to air them?

How much of a stir has al-Dulaimi's arrest and alleged torture created?  Alsumaria reports the Ministry of the Interior -- over the forces that are said to have tortured him -- is insisting it will conduct a full investigation into these claims.
The arrest is drawing so much attention that Alsumaria reports even Nouri is now saying that there needs to be an investigation into the way al-Dulaimi was treated and also into the charges against him.  Kitabat predicted Sunday that this would turn into a major scandal and they were correct.  Kitabat notes that human rights activists are decrying the treatment of al-Dulaimi.

Alsumaria reports that Iraqiya, the Kurdish Alliance, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and others will meet in Erbil to address the political crisis, the Erbil Agreement and whether or not to go forward with a vote of no-confidence.  This follows the April 28th Erbil meeting (which did not include ISCI) and the Ma 18th meet-up at Moqtada's Najaf home.  Meanwhile, ISCI leader Ammar al-Hakim's beginning to feel the heat from standing so closely to Nouri al-Maliki.  Al Rafidayn reported yesterday that al-Hakim was attempting to create some space publicly between himself and Nouri and declaring it was not his role to mediate on Nouri's behalf with Moqtada al-Sadr or anyone else.  He made these comments, as Dar Addustour also notes, at a press conference with Moqtada.

Alsumaria notes that the move towards a no-confidence vote in Nouri continues to be a strong possibility and that Moqtada al-Sadr denies he is angling for the spot of prime minister.
Turning to the never-ending violence, Express News Service reports, "The last rites of the two Indians who died in an explosion on the Syria-Iraq border on Sunday took place in Iraq on Tuesday.  Abbas Manaswala of Pune and Insiya Zakir Kothawala of Nagpur, both from the Dawoodi Bohra community, were among a group of Indian pilgrims travelling to the holy city of Karbala in Iraq by bus when the blash killed them."   Lebanon's Daily Star reports, "The surviving Lebanese pilgrims whose bus was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq last week arrived in Lebanon Sunday night.  The National News Agency reported that among those who arrived at Beirut airport were nine people who were wounded by the bomb, which killed three Shiite pilgrims near Ramadi, a city west of Baghdad."  While the Lebanese survivors returned home on Sunday, AP reports that a Saqlawiyah roadside bombing hit a bus carrying Pakistani pilgrims and left 24 of them injured. AFP reports 3 of the injured are children.
Last week Aseel Kami (Reuters) reported on the State Board of Heritage and Antiquities' Mariam Omran Musa who is suing Iraq's Ministry of Oil over a pipline through Babylon which threatens the existence of the historical Hanging Gardens.  Musa declared, "Oil and antiquities are both national wealth, but I have an opinion: when the oil is gone, we will still have antiquities."  The Travel Channel notes that the Hanging Gardens were considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  RT adds:

The magnificent gardens allegedly built for a king's homesick wife in the 6th century BC were one of the Ancient World's seven wonders. Some historians doubt they existed, but they were described in many written sources and were said to have been destroyed by earthquakes.
The remains of the ancient city of Babylon are situated near present-day Al Hillah in Iraq's Babylon Province south of Baghdad. The country has long been trying to get UNESCO to add the site to its World Heritage list, but chances appear to be fading away as authorities plan to lay an oil pipeline there.
Iraq's Oil Ministry plans to extend a strategic route to export oil through six provinces at the center and south of the country.Two pipelines carrying oil products and liquid gas from Basra in the south to Baghdad were built under the ancient site in the late 1970s and early 80s.
Stephane Foucart (Guardian) seeks out expert opinion on the issue:
"The pipeline crosses the perimeter of the archaeological site but outside the walls, beneath the so-called outer city," said Véronique Dauge, chief of the Arab States Unit at the Unesco World Heritage Centre. "But even if it doesn't cross the centre of the ancient city, it is in an area that has never been excavated." The site covers approximately 850 hectares, most of which is virgin territory for archaeologists. A spokesman from the Iraqi oil ministry quoted by AFP reported that the land dug up revealed no archaeological remains.
"No one can say right now if the oil pipeline has caused damage," said Lisa Ackerman, executive vice-president of the World Monuments Fund (WMF), a New York-based foundation for preserving architectural heritage, who works on the site with the Iraqi authorities. "But I think it's very likely that it crosses sensitive archaeological zones."
Meanwhile AFP reports, "Teams of Iraqi archaeologists have discussed 40 ancient sites in the country's south from the Sumerian, Akkadian and Babylonian periods, an Iraqi antiquities offical said on Monday."  And hopefully the fate of those sites will be better than the currently threatened Hanging Gardens or other threatened sites in Iraq.  Mohamad Ali Harissi (Middle East Online) reports that historical sites discovered near Najaf's airport -- including "the remains of the celebrated ancient Christian city of Hira" -- are at risk, "unexplored and unkempt," due to a lack of excavation funding.  One of the people who led historical digs upon the discovery and in 2009 and 2010 is Shakir Abdulzahra Jabari who states, "The area has historical importance, because it is rich in antiquities, including especially the remains of churches, abbeys and palaces.  But now the antiquities have been neglected for a year, and they do not receive any attention, despite the fact that many Western countries are interested in Hira's history as the main gateway of Christianity into Iraq."
Monday was Memorial Day.  The following went up on Monday Marcia's "Barack doesn't win the vet vote," Mike's "Memorial Day," Kat's "Kat's Korner: There's nothing cheap about being ripped off" and Ruth's "Ruth's Report" and   Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "One-on-One Summit."  We'll close with this from Revolution's "Drones, Deportations, and Drugs -- The '3 Ds' of why Obama has been Worse than Bush" (World Can't Wait):

Obama has overseen a huge leap in the use of pilotless drones by the U.S. military and CIA to kill people in a growing number of countries. When Obama took office, the war by drones was confined to Pakistan, where Bush had authorized 44 strikes over the previous five years. Under Obama, there have been 260 drone strikes in Pakistan alone as of early 2012 -- almost six times the number ordered by Bush. Obama has expanded the drone war, including to Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Iran. The drones are deployed from dozens of secret facilities in the Middle East, Africa, and Southwest Asia -- with the operational hubs within the U.S., thousands of miles away from where the drones actually kill people.
While the whole drone program is veiled in secrecy, Obama defended it by saying that the drone attacks are "precision strikes against al Qaeda and their affiliates" and that "drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties." This is either an outright lie, or a cold-blooded expression of utter disregard for human lives, especially in a Third World country. According to a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in England this February, "since Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children. A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners."
Obama is now expanding the war in Yemen with loosened-up rules on drone strikes. According to the Washington Post, the "new authority approved by President Obama ... allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known...." This can only mean more civilians murdered in what Obama calls "precision strikes."

Deportations -- the War on Immigrants

The Gestapo-like targeting of immigrants within the U.S. and the intense militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border started before Obama --but he has escalated this offensive to new levels. Statistics released last October revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had deported almost 400,000 people in fiscal year 2011 --the highest number of deportations in a single year since ICE was formed 10 years ago. More than a million people -- mostly Latinos --have been forced out of the U.S. since Obama became president.
A key part of Obama's anti-immigrant offensive is a federal program called Secure Communities, under which local police send the fingerprints of every person they arrest to the Department of Homeland Security. Secure Communities has expanded to about 1,600 local police forces, and Obama plans to spread it to all local jurisdictions by 2013.
Those suspected of being undocumented are sent to ICE detention centers. There is a network of 250 such detention centers around the country. Exposés about these ICE prisons have revealed widespread brutality, sexual abuse, and racist treatment against vulnerable detainees who have no access to lawyers or other help.