Friday, May 24, 2013

Why does Shinseki still have a job?

In more mix-ups for the VA, the Buffalo News reports:

Just when you think that the VA hospitals couldn’t do worse by veterans, news breaks that thousands of patient records in Buffalo and Batavia were misplaced or damaged.
The files at issue include cardiac records, dental records and Agent Orange registry records. Some records were randomly thrown into boxes, many Social Security numbers were not attributed to the correct veteran and mold-infested files were not handled properly. 

The greatest gift to veterans these days, in my opinion, would be for Eric Shinseki to resign as head of the VA.  He has been a disaster.  He should be fired.  But no one gets fired in this administration.

Certainly not Disaster Shinseki who has a whole host of media whores to cover for him.  Here's David Wood whoring two days ago at Huffington Post:

Three years into the effort, Shinseki believes the results are promising. But not there yet.
Data posted weekly by the VA tell the tale: The backlog of claims older than 125 days currently numbers 584,308. And the VA's current accuracy rate is 88.9 percent.

Are those the numbers, Davey?  Match David Wood's whoring against Aaron Glantz (Center for Investigative Reporting) actual reporting this week:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has systematically missed nearly all of its internal benchmarks for reducing a hulking backlog of benefits claims and has quietly backed away from repeated promises to give all veterans and family members speedier decisions by 2015.
Internal VA documents, obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, show the agency processed 260,000 fewer claims than it thought it would during the past year and a half – falling 130,000 short in the 2012 fiscal year and another 130,000 short of its goal between October and March. 
The result: At a time when the number of veterans facing long waits was supposed to be going down, it instead went up.
On April 29, the VA began to qualify its promise, made repeatedly since 2009, that “all claims” would be processed within four months by 2015.

Maybe people like David Woods should just sit their tired asses down and stop talking.  Seriously, don't speak.

I just posted this but I want to work in some reporting C.I. did in the April 18th snapshot about the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on April 15th:

Ranking Member Richard Burr: Madam Secretary, the VA backlog reduction plan shows that in order to eliminate the backlog by 2015, VA will need to decide 1.2 million claims this year, 1.6 million claims next year, 1.9 million claims in 2015.  But VA's projecting in the budget submission that it will decide 335,000 fewer claims in 2013 and 2014.  So can the VA reach 2 million claims in 2015?  That would be a 92% increase in productivity over the 2012 level.

Allison Hickey:  So Senator Burr, I'm sorry, I don't exactly know your numbers but I'm happy to take your numbers and go look at them and come back to you and sit down and visit with you.  But I can tell you --

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  -- I'm pulling them right out of the Budget Reduction Plan which was submitted in January.  I got it January 25th in my office and the math would work out to eliminate the backlog in 2015, VA would need to decide 1.2 million claims this year, 1.6 million claims next year, and 1.9 million claims in 2015.  Now in the projections from the budget submission by the President, that says that over the next two years you will decide 335,000 less claims then what the backlog reduction plan said.  I'm trying to figure out, if 2015, you're certain on that, then that means that you have to process over 2 million claims in 2015.  Is that - is that how your math looks at it.

Allison Hickey:  Uh-uh, Sen-Senator Burr, I would love to come sit down and talk to you about that.  Those numbers are a little different to me than the numbers that we sent across.  And follow up in questions with your staff, I'm happy to do that with you.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Well in the budget submission, you do say that you will decide 335,000 fewer claims in 2013 and 2014, right?

Allison Hickey:  Uh, uh, Senator, the uh-uh, budget submission --

[At that point the VA's Robert Petzel dropped his head and began rubbing his bald scalp in what appeared to be frustration or embarrassment.]

Allison Hickey:  -- is slightly different than the plan that you received in January that was based on some assumptions made last fall.  Uhm, and there has been some differences in terms of what we have seen in the actuals that have been submitted to us.  We've seen a significant drop -- well, not significant -- Uh, uh.  That's not a good word.  We've seen a drop in the number of claims that have been submitted to us of late so we have adjusted the budget based on those issues.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Okay.  Currently, nearly 70% of the claims have been backlogged meaning that they've been waiting for a decision for more than 125 days.  The strategic plan that you submitted less than three months ago predicted that the backlog plan would be reduced to 68% in 2013 and 57% in 2014.  But according to the budget submission, you now expect no more than 40% of the claims to be backlogged during either of these two years.  So in revising these projections, what metrics did you look at and what did they -- how did -- what did they show you?

Allison Hickey:  Sena-Senator, I looked at the, uh, actual submission of receipt claims that we have received from our veterans over the last five months and each month they have been lower than our expected volume.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  So the math works out to where you would have only a 40% backlog situation in five months?

Allison Hickey:  Uh, no, Senator.  And I don't think -- You all would throw me out of here if I said that would happen.   Uh, uh, it's not where we are.  We are, uh, uh, about at 69% of, uh, our claims right now that are older than 125 days. We're working every single day to drive that number south.  We're doing it by focus on our people process technology solutions and as far as we can pushing up our productivity by our folks.  I can tell you today that my raters are 17%  more effective and a higher productivity than they were prior to us moving into this transition plan --

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  General Hickey, last year you testified, or, excuse me, the Secretary testified, that during 2013, the backlog would be reduced from 60% to 40% and that would -- and I quote -- "demonstrate that we are on the right path." At the time, did you anticipate that the backlog would stay above 65% for the first half of the Fiscal Year or that it would be 70% in April?

Allison Hickey:  So-so, Senator, we do have, uh, uhm, uh, some APG guidance in our annual guidance planning that we communicate with to our federal government partners and, uh, the -- they are usually aspirational in nature. When we see a change or a difference, as the Secretary has pointed out in terms of the workload increase that we saw due to Agent Orange, the increased claims associated with PTSD and the like, we did note that we would probably not be able to meet that 40% APG guidance but the thought was you leave your stretch goal out there so that you keep working hard to get to it.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Well, here would be a simple question.  Is the strategic plan that you sent to Congress aspirational?

Allison Hickey:  So, uh, Senator Burr, I grew up as a strategic planner for, uh, in the military for quite a while and I know that every strategic plan I've built over the years for the United States Air Force a plan.  And plans are always, you know, in-in contact.  You know, they change and, uh, adjust for reality and actuals.  So we have and we will continue to improve upon that plan as it continues.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  But when you developed that plan was it developed to be aspirational or was it developed to give us an accurate blue print of how VA perceived the timeline would move on disability backlogs.

Allison Hickey:  Uh, well, uh --

There numbers never add.  Don't believe whores like David Woods.  They never add up.  The VA has had no real improvement on the backlog.

The VA mess is no better than it was four years ago.  Yet Shinseki remains on the job.  Why?

That's a question we should all be asking this Memorial Day.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 24, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, more arrests of journalists in Iraq, a flunky Nouri al-Maliki's weaves a silly tale, who was the idiot that thought now was the time for US Vice President Joe Biden to speak to Iraqi leaders, the US War on the First Amendment continues to gather attention, the US State Dept is asked if a free press is just something they support in other countries, and more.

Starting in the US with The War on the First Amendment.  Last week, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. This week's revelation is that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen. Clark S. Judge (US News and World Reports) observed yesterday, "It has been a bad few weeks for the First Amendment.  The sinister commonality to the Internal Revenue Service and AP scandals and the James Rosen affair is that each appears to have been (strike "appears ": each was) an attempt to suppress a core American right."  Michael Isikoff (NBC News) reported:

 Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.

James Rosen's State Dept press badge was also used to retrace every moment he made in the State Dept when visiting.  Fox News reporter Whitney Ksiazek and Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee raised this issue yesterday at the State Dept spokesperson Patrick Ventrell's press briefing.

 Whitney Ksiazek: And then on a separate topic, was former Secretary Clinton consulted with the tracking of my colleague James Rosen’s building – State Department building swipe? And were any other employees interviewed in connection with the North Korea reporting that James Rosen did?

Patrick Ventrell: My understanding, this is a law enforcement matter. I really refer you to the Department of Justice for all details on that. In terms of our cooperation with the Department of Justice or the FBI on matters, that would be handled through Diplomatic Security channels and law enforcement channels. That’s how that’s done.

Matthew Lee:  So you – in principle, DS doesn’t have a problem turning over badge records to --

Patrick Ventrell: Again, I’m not aware of the specific cooperation on this case, but --

Matthew Lee:  Well, they got the records of his entry and egress, so you guys obviously handed – I mean, they didn’t make them up, I hope.

Patrick Ventrell:   Well, I can’t --
Matthew Lee:  So you guys obviously gave them to them.

Patrick Ventrell: I can’t comment on any details of this particular case, but when we have --
Matthew Lee: Well, I’m not talking about this particular case. Just in general, I mean, are you, like, running around, giving out the details of our comings and goings from this building?

Patrick Ventrell: Issues of cooperation on law enforcement matters between Diplomatic Security and the FBI are handled in law enforcement channels. I don’t have anything further on it.

Matthew Lee: Wait. Well, so you mean you’re not – do you just give the information out if people ask for it? Or do they need a court order or something?

Patrick Ventrell:  Matt, I’m not sure of the legal circumstances on that kind of information sharing.
Matthew Lee: Well, can you check?

Patrick Ventrell: Sure.

Matthew Lee: It would be --
Patrick Ventrell: I’m happy to check on --

Matthew Lee: If DOJ comes to you and says we want the entry and exit records from people, persons X, Y, and Z, do you just give them to them? Or do they have to --

Patrick Ventrell: My understanding is there’s a legal process that’s followed, but I’d have to check with the lawyers.

Matthew Lee:  Well, can you find out what the – what it is --

Patrick Ventrell: I’d be happy to check.

Matthew Lee: -- from your end, whether they need a subpoena or whether they need something like that.

This afternoon, Luke Johnson (Huffington Post) explained, "The Justice Department argued that Fox News reporter James Rosen's emails should be monitored for an indefinite period of time, even in the absence of being able to bring charges against him, according to court filings unearthed by The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza.  The revelation demonstrates the vast power that the Justice Department used against the journalist, who drew attention for publishing an article on North Korea's nuclear plans." Phil Mattingly (Bloomberg News) adds, "The Justice Department, in a statement today, said Holder was involved in the discussions as prosecutors deliberated over whether to seek the search warrant in the investigation into the leak of information about North Korea’s nuclear program in 2009."

On the president's remarks yesterday, Andrea Mitchell (Andrea Mitchell Reports -- link is video) had questions for Antony Blinken today:

Andrea Mitchell: I also wanted to ask you about the leak investigations.  He said in his speech yesterday that he's trying to get answers from the Justice Dept.  Why does he need answers from the Justice Dept about something that has been going on for so long?  Isn't he aware more broadly of the way these leaks are pursued and the way journalists have been swept up in it?

White House Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken: Well Andrea, I obviously can't comment on a specific investigation but I can say this and it goes towards what the president said yesterday --

Yeah, we heard what heard what Barack said yesterday.  So you've got no new comments.  Gotcha.  He also pimped Barack's 'support' for a media shield law.  It was left to a news veteran today to remind the public that Barack's embrace of a proposed media shield law is a new development.  Today on CBS This Morning (link is video), hosts Gayle King and Charlie Rose discussed the issue with veteran CBS journalist Bob Schieffer (who hosts CBS' Face The Nation).

Gayle King: The President also said yesterday, Bob, that he wants to protect journalists from the government's overreach and now comes news this morning that Attorney General Eric HOlder signed off on allowing an investigation into some reporters' e-mails.  Is that an awkward position?

Bob Schieffer: Well I think what's interesting here is the President has said he wants Attorney General Holder to be the one who does this review about protecting reporters' rights and all of that when it is the Justice Dept, of course, that has caused all this controversy.  I mean, the president's saying he wants to review this and he wants to protect reporters' sources.  I think a lot of journalistic organizations and the people who run them are going to view this with  skepticism.  They'll go back to the old Ronald Reagan "trust, but verify" because the last time they introduced the shield law, uh, it was the President and this administration that watered it down and it, uh -- and it just laid there.  Nothing ever happened.  They're going to now reintroduce the same legislation.  But I think a lot of people are just waiting to see how serious the President is about this, because there's no question in the minds of many journalistic organizations -- and there's no question in my mind -- this was an outrageous overreach when they subpoenaed all these records at the Associated Press and some of these other instances as well.

Gene Policinski (San Jose Mercury News)  reminds, "Freedom to report the news requires the freedom to gather it."  Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program. usually airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week.  It did have a new weekly program this week but WBAI listeners didn't hear it.  WBAI is in pledge mode and instead had  Heidi Boghosian, and  Michael S. Smith for two hours live asking for donations to WBAI (if you'd like to donate, click here) and presenting a different program than this week's taped program.  From the live pledge drive:

Michael S. Smith:  And that raid on Associated Press where they got the home, cell phone and business phone records of 100 AP reporters --

Heidi Boghosian:  Right.

Without a warrant.  In clear violation of the Fourth Amendment --

Heidi Boghosian: Right.

Michael Smith:  and the First Amendment.  And just cleaned up the AP records.  Unprecedented.

Heidi Boghosian: It's unprecedented, Michael.

Michael Smith:  It's one thing after another.

Heidi Boghosian:  It's illegal too.  They're supposed to give notice when they do that but what's clearly happening is the press in this country is under attack.  We no longer have really a so-called free press.  If you look at the case of  Bradley Manning, Jeremy Hammond -- who's facing 42 years in prison for uploading documents to WikiLeaks  and of course Julian Assange.  Now the AP spying, the warrantless spying that has effected countless legal organizations such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, The People's Law Center in Chicago --

Michael Smith:  You know, you know why it's effected so many.

Heidi Boghosian:  Why?

Michael Smith:  Because the people effected by the raid on AP files are not just the AP reporters but they're their sources.

Heidi Boghosian:  Exactly.

Michael Smith:  Who's gonna --

Heidi Boghosian:  Who's gonna turn over information?

Michael Smith:  Who's gonna tell something to an AP reporter knowing that their phone conversation is going to go to the FBI?

Heidi Boghosian:  Exactly.  Exactly.  So we have what we have called "the chilling effect on Free Speech in this country" -- which again is why you need to support WBAI because we're not afraid to bring you the truth in reporting.

 At the Libertarian CATO Institute, Julian Sanchez argues the administration needs to take certain steps:

Transparency can begin with letting the public know exactly what the guidelines for investigating the press are—and how the Justice Department interprets them. As the FBI’s operational guidelines make clear, the rules requiring the press to be notified when their phone records are obtained only apply to subpoenas—not other secretive tools, such as National Security Letters, which can be issued without court approval. But the rules governing NSL demands for media records remain secret.
The Justice Department should also release any internal memos interpreting the rules governing press investigations. We know, for example, that there exists an informal 2009 opinion in which Justice Department lawyers analyzed how the rules would apply to sweeping demands—such as so-called “community of interest” requests—that can vacuum up a reporter’s records (among many others) even if the reporter is not specifically named as a target. Only brief excerpts of that opinion have been disclosed, thanks to a 2010 Inspector General report, and there is no way of knowing how many others remain secret.
Finally, we need an independent review—conducted by the Office of the Inspector General, not Attorney General Holder—to determine just how much surveillance of reporters has already occurred. It seems clear that the Justice Department does not think the current rules always require the press to be informed when they’ve been spied on: DOJ lawyers convinced a judge that the government never had to notify Rosen they’d read his e-mails. And because demands for electronic records can be quite broad, it would be all too easy for the government to end up with sensitive information about journalistic investigations even when no reporter was explicitly targeted.
When Congress and the public know what the rules really are, and how they have been applied in practice, we can begin a serious conversation about what reforms are needed to protect press freedom. Asking Eric Holder to investigate Eric Holder, on the other hand, is unlikely to protect much of anything—except, perhaps, Eric Holder.

Back to yesterday's State Dept press briefing. Later in the briefing, Asia Today and India Globe's Raghubir Goyal had a question.

Raghubir Goyal: New subject?

Patrick Ventrell: Yeah.

Raghubir Goyal: Question, Patrick, on the freedom of the press, globally.

Patrick Ventrell: You ask very broad questions, Goyal. (Laughter.)

Raghubir Goyal: Just simple question on the freedom of the press.

Patrick Ventrell: We support the freedom of the press. (Laughter.)

Raghubir Goyal: And the question is --

Matthew Lee: Do you?

Patrick Ventrell: We do.

Matthew Lee: Do you really?

Patrick Ventrell: We do, Matt.
Matthew Lee: Are you speaking for the entire Administration, or just this building?
Patrick Ventrell: We support the freedom of the press. We support it globally. We support it here at home.
Matthew Lee: That’s the position of this building. Is it the position of the entire Administration?
Patrick Ventrell: It is.
Raghubir Goyal: Just to mark the international freedom of the press, and recently Freedom House, they placed another 84 names of the journalists who were killed in 25 countries, but – these are only official from the Freedom House – but hundreds of journalists are beaten, jailed, or killed in many countries – more than 25 countries. My question is here: When Secretary meets with world leaders here or abroad, does he talk ever other than human rights but on the freedom of the press in these countries?

Patrick Ventrell: Indeed, he constantly and consistently raises these issues with foreign leaders around the world and here when he meets with them. And I think you heard over the two weeks during our freedom of the press activities, many of the cases that we called out, the high priority that we place on this, and our deep concern for the well-being of journalists who face violence and repression for the work that they do around the world. So that’s something we’re deeply committed to.

Raghubir Goyal: -- especially in China or Saudi Arabia and --

Patrick Ventrell: It includes all those countries.

Raghubir Goyal: Thank you, sir.
Matthew Lee: Is it just violence and repression? Or is it also government intimidation or – that you’re opposed to?
Patrick Ventrell: That as well. All of that.
Matthew Lee: So in other words, the State Department opposes the Administration – the rest of the Justice Department’s investigations into --
Patrick Ventrell: Well, again, I think you’re trying to conflate two issues here.
Matthew Lee: No, no. I’m asking about freedom of the press. That was what the question was.
Patrick Ventrell: And we do – and we support freedom of the press. I think you’ve heard the President – I think you’ve heard the White House talk about this extensively.
Matthew Lee: Right. So you – and you think that violence and repression against journalism – journalists is wrong, as you do harassment or intimidation by government agencies.
Patrick Ventrell: All of the above.
Matthew Lee: So you do not regard what the Justice Department has been doing as harassment or intimidation.
Patrick Ventrell: Again, I can’t comment on a specific law enforcement investigation.
Matthew Lee: I’m not asking about a specific case. In general, would the State Department oppose or support harassment, intimidation, or prosecution of journalists for publishing information?
Patrick Ventrell: We oppose that, in terms of them – is this around the world --
Matthew Lee: Okay. So the State Department then opposes the Justice Department’s prosecution.
Patrick Ventrell: Again, you’re trying to get me to conflate two issues.

No, not really but way to send a mixed signal to the world Patrick Ventrell.  Let's hope Secretary of State John Kerry does raise the issues of press freedom with Nouri al-Maliki's government in Iraq.  As Helena Williams (Independent) noted earlier this month, "According to the CPJ, Iraq continues to have the world's worst record on impunity, with more than 90 unsolved murders over the past decade and no sign that the authorities are working to solve any of them."

Article 36 of the Iraqi Constitution guarantees "Freedom of expression, through all mean," "Freedom of press, printing, advertisement, media and publication" and "Freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration.  This shall be regulated by law."  Every week, Nouri al-Maliki, chief thug and prime minister in Iraq, demonstrates that he has trouble comprehending if he bothers to read. Fridays in Iraq. Since December 21st, that's meant ongoing protests.

While the protesters to see the day as an opportunity to exercise their civil liberties, Nouri sees the day as a chance to trash the Constitution and demonize the protesters.   The Iraq Times notes today that Nouri's government doesn't represent Iraqis, it represents State of Law (Nouri's political coalition) and State of Law's agendas.  At times, the paper notes, Nouri claims to represent the Shi'ites of Iraq (Shi'ites are the majority population, Sunnis and Kurds are the other two major populations which also includes Turkmen, Assyrians, Chechens, Palestinians, Shabacks, Armenians and more).  But while claiming to represent only one segment, Shi'ites, Nouri can't meet that claim because Shi'ites, like every other group in Iraq, suffer from the lack of dependable public services -- that means drinking water, that means dependable electricity, that means sewer systems that work (and the al Sadr section of Baghdad -- a Shi'ite section before the start of the war in 2003 and a Shi'ite section today -- is always one of the worst flooded areas in Baghdad when the heavy rains come down due to refusal of Nouri's government to spend money on needed sewage and drainage). 

 Nouri continued his war on the press and on protesters today.  With regards to the press, it's very easy for Nouri to target them since western outlets refuse to cover the protests, refuse to do anything that might upset Nouri.  So it's left for Iraqi journalists to fight all alone for the Constitutionally guaranteed free press.  Not only do they fight alone but when they are attacked, when they are arrested, the western world can't be bothered.  Earlier this year, a French reporter, Nadir Dendoune, was imprisoned by Nouri wrongly.  We covered it here.  It was news and the reporter deserved coverage.  But so do the Iraqi reporters who suffer and they don't get the coverage.  They don't get the worldwide coverage.

Mustafa al-Rubaie was attacked by an Iraqi military lientenant and the soldiers under him joined in on the attack, beating al-Rubaie with their fistsOh, goodness, that must have been under Iraqi President Saddam Hussein!  No. This was last week in Baghdad.  All the Baghdad TV reporter was doing was covering a story.  For that he was publicly beaten by the military.  A week ago.  And you've never heard Nouri al-Maliki condemn it.  You may not have even heard that it happened.  But it is why, around the world, people are noting (such as here) that there's no difference between Nouri al-Maliki and Saddam Hussein.

Alsumaria reports Anbar police arrested seven journalists for attempting to cover the Ramadi sit-in.  Among the arrested was Alsumaria's photojournalist and cameraman Anmar al-Ani.   In order to be released, Alsumaria reports, Anmar al-Ani was forced to sign a pledge that he would not cover the protests.  It was made clear to him that he would not be released without signing the pledge.  He says that he was interrogated by the Police Directorate in Anbar.  In a report this evening, they note two other journalists have now been released -- presumably also after signing the pledge.  Does the White House -- as it gives Nouri's regime billions this year alone and US service members for 'counter-terrorism' -- ever raise this issue of cracking down on the press?  Maybe.  Maybe they say things like, "Call Anmar al-Ani a 'co-conspirator' and be sure and seize phone records."

Or maybe the explain how to hack?  Al Mada reports the protesters website was hacked late last night.  Hacking websites is not uncommon in Iraq.  This is: No one has claimed responsibility.  The Iraqi hackers that are real hackers, hackers who do it for the joy of hacking and the rush it provides, they repeatedly claim responsibility.  We've noted repeatedly that the hacked site has a name taking responsibility and usually an e-mail address.  For example, May 4th the Independent High Electoral Commission's website was hacked.  What did it say?

" .. IraQ in Our hearts .. "

(We're going to have drop FOTKI for image sharing.  It's not working -- repeatedly.  You can click here and see the image that should display on the May 4th page.)

This has happened repeatedly.  For the record, they all leave their e-mail address.  They all claim credit.  Now there's a hack and no one's taking credit.  Doesn't sound to me like that was a hack by the Iraqi hacking community.  Sounds to me like that was a hack carried out by the Iraqi government.

In addition to Ramadi, Iraqi Spring MC reports that reporters covering the Falluja demonstration were threatened by security forces.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that "tens of thousands" turned out in Ramadi and Falluja.  Anbar organizer Shiekh Mohammed Fayyad states that "the primary goal is to inform the government that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by the citizens deep convictions."  In Falluja, Iraqi Spring MC reports, there were calls for an investigation into the second massacre of Falluja (November 2004) by the occupation forces and the Iraqi government.   Protests also took place in BaijiBaghdad. and Baquba, and the Iraqi Spring MC offers this video of the Baquba demonstrators.  On the topic of Baquba, NINA reports, "Preachers of Diyala Fri-prayers blamed and denounced in their sermons security forces and hold them [responsible for] the repeated violations targeting mosques and worshipers, especially the recent bombings that targeted worshipers in Sariya mosque in Baquba."  They add that Shiekh Thamer al-Falahi insisted that the demands of the protesters be met.  Alsumaria reports (and check out their photo of the huge crowd) protests also took place in Samarr and Tikrit and that, in Sammar, surveys were passed out by organizers to the demonstrators to get their feedback.

Al Mada reports that Martin Kobler, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, joined former Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi, MP ahmed al-Alwani, and  Marwan Ali for a press conference at the home of Sahwa leader Ahmed Abu Risha to emphasize how important peaceful protest is and that this is a right the Constitution guarantees.  Kobler stated the UN confirms the right to demonstrate peacefully.  The attacks on journalists were called out and Kobler noted that freedom of the press is guaranteed in the country's Constitution.  Rafie al-Issawi declared that, after five months, the government (Nouri al-Maliki) has still not implemented the demands of the six provinces that have been protesting.   He also called for military forces, Nouri's federal forces and SWAT to leave Anbar and the end of arrest warrants for sit-in leaders.   Alwani's statements included calling out "genocides" in Diyala and Hawija and for the "war criminals" to be tried in international courts.

Tuesday, April 23rd Nouri's federal forces stormed a sit-in in Hawija causing a massacre.   Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.UNICEF counts 8 children dead in the massacre and twelve more children were left injured.

Whether US Secretary of State John Kerry talks about that with Nouri or about the press, no one knows.  But US Vice President Joe Biden is talking to Iraq and that's not necessarily a good thing.  Wait for it.  First, the White House issued the following today:

The White House
Office of the Vice President

Readout of Vice President Biden’s Call with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

Vice President Biden spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki today.  Discussion focused on Syria, and both leaders agreed on the importance of a negotiated end to the conflict.  The Vice President expressed concern about the security situation in Iraq and pledged continued U.S. support for Iraq in its fight against terrorism.   The Vice President also spoke about the importance of outreach to leaders across the political spectrum.  Both leaders expressed their ongoing commitment to deepening the U.S.-Iraq strategic partnership, as outlined in the Strategic Framework Agreement.

We're not done.  They also issued the following:

Readout of Vice President Biden’s Calls with Iraqi Kurdistan President Masud Barzani and Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama Nujayfi

Vice President Biden spoke with Iraqi Kurdistan President Masud Barzani and Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama Nujayfi yesterday, Thursday, May 23rd.  With President Barzani, the Vice President commended the return of Kurdish ministers and parliamentarians to Baghdad, and stressed the importance of engagement by all sides to seek solutions to contentious issues under the Iraqi Constitution.  With Speaker Nujayfi, the Vice President expressed concern about the security situation in Iraq, stressing the need for all of Iraq’s political leadership to unequivocally renounce violence and seek to marginalize extremists.  All three leaders reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Iraq strategic partnership.

So Joe didn't bring up the press and Joe didn't bring up the protesters so why the heck did the White House have him make those calls?

I like Joe Biden.  But talk about tone deaf on the part of the White House, talk about the need for Arabic speakers in the White House. There is nothing worse they could have done then have Joe Biden speak to Iraqi leaders today -- this month.

In the US, Joe Biden represents many things to different sets of people.  In Iraq?  He's got two images and let's focus on the most damaging: He proposed, as US Senator, that peace in Iraq would be possible only by splitting the country into a Shi'ite South, a Sunni central and the KRG in the north.  As Senator.  And we noted, while running for the presidential nomination, right before Iowa, Joe had noted if the US Congress didn't support then the idea was dead.  We covered that here.

Most ignored it because Biden's campaign was losing steam (he'd quickly drop out of the race).

It never registered in Iraq.

They continue to see Biden as the man who wants to split up their country.  And the Arabic press for the last three weeks has been full of reports that it's about to happen, Iraq's about to split.  Nouri's been in contact with Biden, the Kurds came to Baghdad just to ensure that the split takes place, blah blah blah.  Whispers with no foundation -- they may be true, they may be false -- have been all over Arabic media -- not just social media, all of the Iraqi outlets have reported it -- and reported it as a done deal.

So with the tension and fear rising in Iraq currently, why is Biden the go-to?  This was absolutely the wrong thing at the wrong time and these calls with the various leaders, whatever their intent (I'm told military issues were discussed with Nouri -- specifically more troops under the Strategic Framework Agreement and last December's Memorandum of Understanding with the Defense Dept), are only going to fuel more rumors in Iraq.

Even more troubling is All Iraq News' report that Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq head Ammar al-Hakim met with "US Embassy Charge D'Affaires" Doug Silliman today.  Are they -- the US administration -- just trying to send Iraqis reeling with paranoia?  Silliman's a name that's barely known in the US.  But his position in Turkey and the WikiLeaks exposure made him very well known in Arab media.  And Turkey borders Iraq so you can be sure that with talk of the US secretly supporting the PKK and supposedly looking the other way while Turkey allegedly supported al Qaeda in Iraq (Hurriyet News Daily) and that's before you get to the Cables WikiLeaks released and the powder keg that is the topic of Israel (it's a power keg issue in Iraq).  There is absolutely zero awareness and zero sensitivity when it comes to choosing US officials to dialogue with Iraqi officials.  This is just embarrassing, not to mention counter-productive.

I have no idea why the White House has no one monitoring Arabic media, why there's no one to say, "Uh, before the Vice President starts making those calls, you might want to look at these 57 reports from Iraq media in the last three weeks about how Biden's in secret talks with Nouri and the Kurds to split up the country."

These conversations will probably cause more harm than good and Biden's not given the chance to let this rumor in Iraq die (if it's just a rumor) before using his office to try to have some impact or influence on the current situation in Iraq.

Aleem Maqbool (BBC News) reports: on the rising tensions and starts by quoting a statement from Nouri's stooge  Sami al-Askari:

"Some Sunnis will not feel happy whatever they get because now they are sharing power. Perhaps this generation cannot be cured but we hope that the next generation of Sunnis feel they are Iraqi and don't feel they are different."
It is a statement that will infuriate many Iraqi Sunnis, including Nada Jabouri, an opposition MP.
"I feel sorry to hear that from any official in my country because after all we are already all Iraqis - all of us are Sunni, all of us are Shia."
Ms Jabouri says Sunni grievances are real, and points not only to the detentions, but the recent killings by government forces of Sunnis protesting against human rights abuses.
"No government has the right to use force against those demonstrators who are peaceful," she says.
Ms Jabouri acknowledged the many attacks were carried out by Sunni militant groups like al-Qaeda against Shia civilians, but said the government responses were only creating more tensions.
"We should not make civilian people pay the price for terrorist groups and what they do, but that is what is happening in Iraq now," she says.

Nada al-Jabouri is a MP with the Iraqiya bloc which won the 2010 elections and should have had first crack at the post of prime minister as a result of their win.  Instead, second place State of Law got to keep Nouri because Nouri pouted like a baby refusing to leave the post while Barack worked around the Constitution getting US officials to come up with The Erbil Agreement which is the legal basis -- such as it is -- for Nouri's second term.

And how sweet for Sami that he can tell such sweet fairy tales that absolve the government of wrong doing and pin the blame on Sunnis.  No doubt, at night in bed with Nouri, Sami al-Askari's a regular Scheherazade weaving one tale after another.

Too bad all the fairy tales in the world won't chase away the ongoing violence.  All Iraq News notes 1 person was shot dead in Mosul.  Alsumaria adds that another Mosul attack left one police officer injured and an armed attack on a Baghdad police station has left seven police officers injuredNational Iraqi News Agency reports an assassination attempt in Awja on Col Akrahm Saddam Midlif which he survived but which left two of his bodyguards wounded, a Falluja attack left two people injured (drive-by shooting), a Baquba bombing left a Sahwa injured, and late last night there was an attempted assassination on Diyala Province Governor Omar Himyari in Hamrin which left one of his bodyguards injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 653 violent deaths so far this month. 

Back to the US,  Tuesday's snapshot covered a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing.  This was an exchange between the Subcommittee Chair and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of Ameirca's Alex Nicholson:

Subcommittee Chair Dan Benishek is working on a draft of a bill to be entitled Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act of 2013 and this was discussed.

Subcommittee Chair Dan Benishek:  How do we hold the VA accountable?  How do we get those people to actually produce?  Mr. Nicholson, do you have any other ideas there?


[IAVA's Alex Nicholson]: I would just add, Mr. Chairman, that I think we are on the same page in terms of solutions that would actually have teeth to them.  You know, I think whether it's public safety issues, IG recommendations, following through on reducing the backlog, it doesn't sort of matter what issue you look at, the VA keeps promising us progress year after year and, you know, we-we see backlogs in not only disability claims issues but, like you mentioned earlier, in following through on all these outstanding IG recommendations.  So something that would add some teeth to the accountability factor I think would certainly be welcomed by us.  You know, we hear from our members consistently, year after year -- we do an annual survey of our membership which is one of the largest that's done independently of Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans.  And we consistently hear that while veterans are satisfied with the care they receive, they continue to be dissatisfied overall with the VA itself.  [. . .]  I would say from our perspective, solutions you mentioned with teeth would certainly be welcome and I think it's certainly high time that we start adding teeth into these type of bills.

My apologies, I left out Alex Nicholson's name.  The snapshots are dictated but that was my mistake.  If it's a morning hearing -- that ends before lunch (two recently haven't) -- at lunch, I either get on the laptop or the iPad and type up whatever exchanges will be included in the snapshot.  I do that myself.  Tuesday was a morning hearing and it was over in the morning.  That's my error and my mistake.  My apologies.  On the issue of the backlog, Aaron Glantz (Center for Investigative Reporting) reports:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has systematically missed nearly all of its internal benchmarks for reducing a hulking backlog of benefits claims and has quietly backed away from repeated promises to give all veterans and family members speedier decisions by 2015.
Internal VA documents, obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, show the agency processed 260,000 fewer claims than it thought it would during the past year and a half – falling 130,000 short in the 2012 fiscal year and another 130,000 short of its goal between October and March. 
The result: At a time when the number of veterans facing long waits was supposed to be going down, it instead went up.
On April 29, the VA began to qualify its promise, made repeatedly since 2009, that “all claims” would be processed within four months by 2015.

Monday is Memorial Day.   CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft will be hosting a one hour special airing on CBS News Radio over the weekend (and streaming here) about Post-Traumatic Stress entitled "Combat Stress: Finding the Way Home." It's a strong documentary addressing a number of issues including the need to feel in control of your treatment and the need to choose the treatment that works for you.

Still on veterans issues, yesterday's the House Veterans Affairs Committee released the following:

Miller, McCarthy Introduce VA Backlog Task Force Bill

May 23, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-01) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) introduced legislation that would establish an independent task force or commission to analyze VA’s disability benefits claims processing system. The task force would be charged with examining the root causes of VA’s backlog and providing solutions for ending it by 2015.
After decades of mismanagement, VA is buried under a mountain of backlogged disability benefits compensation claims. Nearly 900,000 veterans are waiting for a claims decision — a process that takes nine months on average, but in some cases takes years. VA leaders have repeatedly pledged to end the backlog by 2015, but many in the veterans community are skeptical the department is on track to meet that goal.
Under the bill, the task force would provide recommendations for improving VA’s claims processing operations within 60 days of its first meeting and continually help the department refine its claims processing efforts until VA’s backlog is eliminated.  
Task force members would be appointed by members of Congress and the Obama administration and would include a delegate from VA. The bill would also require task force members to solicit input from representatives from the veterans service organization community and private-sector leaders in fields such as claims processing, logistics, electronic records and product tracking.
“Government bureaucrats under both Republican and Democrat administrations created the backlog, so it’s only natural to solicit outside help from the private sector and the VSO community in working toward a solution. By creating a task force of private industry leaders, VA and VSO officials, we hope to establish a revised evidenced-based process that will help VA break its claims backlog once and for all in 2015, just as department leaders have promised.” Miller said.

“The entire country is counting on VA to end the backlog by 2015, and Congress is committed to holding the department accountable until they achieve that goal. Our veterans deserve the care they earned while protecting and defending our country, and continued failure by the VA cannot and will not be tolerated.” McCarthy said.

"As Memorial Day approaches, it's clear that there is no roadmap from the White House to bring the VA backlog to zero. Veterans need a comprehensive, inter-agency approach to solve the disgraceful backlog. IAVA strongly supports Chairman Miller's bill to proactively establish just such a coordinated effort to get the VA the help it needs on the backlog and to bring outside players to the table to assist in that effort. The enormous success of the roundtable with private industry experts convened by the Chairman last week is an example how the VA can greatly benefit from an expansion of this approach," said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

War on the Press and Lizz Winstead

The War on the First Amendment is frightening a lot of people.  I'm referring to not just the press but also the people. I am a coffee drinker, as I've noted before.  Don't expect me to make any sense in the morning until I've had my coffee.  This morning was a ponytail morning. I was staggering through the morning and barely awake as I stood in line waiting to place my order.  But did I ever snap to attention as I heard this issue being raised by the people ahead of me in the long line.  I was kind of surprised because the media was stressing a poll.  C.I. had said the poll was meaningless and I see she was right.  This is an issue that festers.  Washington's Blog at Global Research covers the issue with "The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal:"

But there have been many similar scandals over the last couple of years.  For example:
  • The Bush White House worked hard to smear CIA officersbloggers and anyone else who criticized the Iraq war

I was going to call out Lizz Winstead tonight in this post.  Sunny printed up the e-mails about a dumb and insulting Tweet she made.  There was an apology Tweet.

That's really not good enough.  But I went to her Twitter feed and saw this:

  • No, it's worth giving me shit. I was an idiot. RT : it's almost not even mentioning this stupid comment!

  • That's not her apology.  That's after her apology.

    My point being, I'm skeptical of the "Oops! I'm sorry, forgive me!" nonsense too.

    But this is high up in her feed and there are other similar statements she's made.

    She made a dumb comment.  She apologized for it.  Most importantly, after her apology, she didn't act like "How dare I be questioned! I said 'Sorry!'"

    So I'm not going to call her out.

    She was an adult and she screwed up just like you or me.  But when she went to address the screw up, she didn't behave like a politician, she behaved like an adult.

    So my attitude is, let it go.

    If you feel differently, that's fine.

    I loved Unfiltered, Lizz Winstead's Air America Radio show.  Lizz made me laugh.  I would stream it at lunch.  This was before I had Sunny as an assistant.  I would be listening to Post-Traumatic Stress issues, for example, for four appointments straight.  Then would come lunch.  I would order something for delivery or have a cup of soup and just sit in my office, door closed, lights out, listening to Lizz (and Chuck and Rachel) on the computer, getting on the boards sometimes to talk with the other listeners and, after that hour, be able to face the rest of the day.

    Because back then, the government didn't even want to admit there was a problem.  P-TS, nah!  So I'm treating these individuals with serious problems that aren't even seen as problems.

    That's why I went all pro-bono.  It made no sense, especially back then, to go through the nonsense of filing for claims.  I wasn't all pro-bono then.  C.I. was always sending me someone.  She would insist upon paying for them.  I'd say no and she'd say, "Then I won't send the next one who needs you."  So until about 2007, I had her payments (and if I didn't cash them, I heard about it).

    But it was just so hard back then because people in serious pain were being told by the government that they weren't.  They were being treated like they were lazy or they were whiners.  I had to handle it just session to session, patient to patient because when I had time -- like on the weekends -- to seriously look at the huge nature of the problem, it was so depressing.

    So, my point here is, Lizz really got me through some tough days.  It was right after four sessions and right before the last four sessions. So let me say, thank you, Lizz Winstead.

    Larger point, I'm known for being a Lizz fan.  In this community, I'm known for it.  So that's why I got the e-mails about Lizz's comments.

    If she were issuing a meaningless 'sorry,' I would call her out.  But check her Twitter feed, she truly did take accountability and do so as an adult.  I have no reason to criticize her.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, the western press loves to label dead Iraqi women "prostitutes," the Russian arms deal resurfaces, as does ExxonMobil's partnership with the KRG, more outcry in the US over the War on the First Amendment, CCR claps like a trained seal when the US Justice Dept announces 4 American have been killed by drones in The Drone War, things get testy (for the witnesses) at the US House Oversight Committee hearing, and more.

    Starting with The War on the First Amendment.  Last week, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. This week's revelation is that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen.  This morning, the New York Times editorial board weighed in noting, "With the decision to label a Fox News television reporter a possible 'co-conspirator' in a criminal investigation of a news leak, the Obama administration has moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news."  The Sacramento Bee editorial board also weighs in, "Federal judges should be on notice: The U.S. Justice Department seems fully prepared to stretch the truth -- or worse, spreads falsehoods -- to obtain search warrants.  That's what it did in labeling a journalist as an espionage 'co-conspirator' for simply doing what reporters have always done -- attempting to solicit information from government employees."

    On the targeting of Rosen and AP, Dana Milbank (Washington Post) argues:

    But here’s why you should care -- and why this case, along with the administration’s broad snooping into Associated Press phone records, is more serious than the other supposed Obama administration scandals regarding Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service. The Rosen affair is as flagrant an assault on civil liberties as anything done by George W. Bush’s administration, and it uses technology to silence critics in a way Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of.
    To treat a reporter as a criminal for doing his job -- seeking out information the government doesn’t want made public -- deprives Americans of the First Amendment freedom on which all other constitutional rights are based. Guns? Privacy? Due process? Equal protection? If you can’t speak out, you can’t defend those rights, either.

    The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, in a widely syndicated column (here for the York Dispatch), explains,  "If this had been the view of prior administrations, surely Bob Woodward would be a lifer in some federal prison. The cell next door might be occupied by my Post colleague Dana Priest, who disclosed the CIA's network of secret prisons. Or by The New York Times' James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, who revealed the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program.Fox Latino News' Rick Sanchez offers:

    As a Latino immigrant now living in America, I’m proud to call a country home where the media remains courageous enough to poke holes around the pillars of power. 
    That's why what has happened to my colleague James Rosen is so offensive to me.
    Rosen has aggressively reported on the inner sanctum of diplomacy: the State Department. Yet he is now suspected of being a criminal, a co-conspirator, in a plan “to disclose sensitive United States internal documents and intelligence information.”   
    It is an accusation wrought with the chill of all that is wrong with the kind of totalitarian government that my family escaped — except it’s happening here, in the U.S., in our democracy. 
    On MSNBC's Morning Joe today, ABC News and NPR's Cokie Roberts pronounced the attacks on the First Amendment "mind boggling" and discussed the topic with Joe Scarborough, Steve Rattner,  and Bloomberg News' Al Hunt.  FYI, Scarborough jokingly termed Fox News "the opposition" to the White House (and made a joke that the only reason for the White House to spy on MSNBC was to find out what parties they were throwing for Barack Obama).  I note that because the term pops up in the excerpt below.

    Joe This is a Justice Dept that to me seems out of control.

    Cokie Roberts: It does.  It absolutely does.  This is an attack on the American press big time and the fact that they have gone after the AP records and now, as you say, the 'opposition' records, and it's not just -- I mean it's in the Bureau, it's in the White House, monitoring his movements in the State Dept -- 

    Joe Scarborough: What is this?

    Cokie Roberts: And they're talking about -- There's talk of prosecuting the reporter, not just the leaker.  And this administration, by the way, has prosecuted twice as many sources as all administrations in American history combined. And there's still more [time] to go. And this reporter being prosecuted for what?

    Joe Scarborough:  For what?

    Cokie Roberts:  Apparently for receiving stolen information.  Like he's a 'fence' or something, stolen property.

    Joe Scarborough:  This is Daniel Ellsberg forty years later.

    Cokie Roberts:  Right. Basically being prosecuted for -- if he is prosecuted -- doing his job.

    Alexandra Petri (Washington Post) visits the portal to hell and finds one person overjoyed:

    There is one upside to the increasingly distressing news about the Obama administration’s handling of journalists: In a small plot of land in Yorba Linda, Calif., Nixon sat up and smiled amiably.
    “My name has been coming up a lot recently,” he said, “but in a phrase that I’ve seldom heard: ‘Worse than Nixon.’” He smiled a beatific smile. It still looked a little creepy. “Worse! You never hear that.”
    Nixon went on: “I’ve been on the bottom of the presidential rankings for so long that James Buchanan, Warren Harding and I have become very close. We often go bowling together. You name the barrel, people stick me at the bottom of it. I was getting used to it, but then this week happened.”

    Let's turn to peace news.  A War Criminal's about to be honored when he should be cuffed and behind bars.  ETAN explains:

    Contact: John M. Miller, 917-690-4391
    Media Advisory- Groups to Protest 'Democracy' Award to Kissinger
    WHEN: Thursday, May 23, 2013  5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
    WHERE: The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Pier 86, 12 Ave. & 46 Street, New York City
    WHO: East Timor and Indonesia Action Network , Big Apple Coffee Party, Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Chelsea Neighbors United to End the War, War Resisters League/NYC, Veterans for Peace Chapter 34, War Criminals Watch/World Can't Wait.
    WHAT : Protesters will express their outrage at the honoring of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with the Intrepid Freedom Award for his "his distinguished career defending the values of freedom and democracy." The protest will condemn the honoring of the accused war criminal by the museum's foundation.
    “Of all the undeserved honors that Kissinger has received, this is one of the most absurd. Kissinger built his diplomatic career on undermining democracy and freedom throughout the world. He supported coups, armed dictators, undermined self-determination, and oversaw the bombing of millions,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).
    “Kissinger should be on trial, not honored. His actions led to mass murder, the overthrow of democratically-elected governments, and the invasion and occupation of nations," he said.
    "With Kissinger's backing, Indonesia absorbed East Timor and West Papua against the will of their inhabitants. As a result of his policies, millions were killed, maimed and made homeless in East Timor, Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, Cyprus, Bangladesh, Angola, West Papua, and elsewhere,” Miller added .
    Kissinger was National Security Advisor and/or Secretary of State from 1969-1976.
    The ceremony also will honor a second controversial figure, David Koch, executive vice president of Kansas-based Koch Industries, Inc. Koch has funded foundations and other efforts to undermine labor and other rights, as well as climate denial campaigns.
    Below is a sampling of some of the history he has made and the consequences:
    * On behalf of Richard Nixon's candidacy for president, Kissinger is alleged to have secretly scuttled the Paris peace agreement reached by the Johnson Administration to end the war in Vietnam. The war continued for 7 more years. during which 32,000 US military personnel and hundreds of thousand of Indochinese died;
    * As Nixon's National Security Advisor, Kissinger suggested and oversaw the illegal bombing of Laos and Cambodia from 1969 and the 1970 military invasion of Cambodia, followed by the overthrow of its government.;
    * Approval and direction of the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, and unqualified support for brutal military dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and elsewhere in Latin America;
    * In 1971, Kissinger tilted toward the government of Pakistan as its troops massacred hundreds of thousands in rebellious East Pakistan (Bangladesh);
    * Kissinger refused to intervene to halt the plot by the ruling fascist Greek generals to overthrow of the democratically elected leader of Cyprus. Turkey invaded in response and the island nation remains divided to this day.
    * Kissinger supported and illegally-armed Indonesian dictator Suharto's invasion and occupation of East Timor which resulted in the deaths of up to 184,000 people.
    * Kissinger provided unwavering diplomatic and intelligence support to the apartheid regime in South Africa, including the provision of military support to the apartheid government’s military intervention in Angola.
    For background on Kissinger's role in the illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor (Timor-Leste) see

    To be taken off this list click here


    John M. Miller, National Coordinator
    East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
    Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391
    Email: Skype: john.m.miller
    Twitter: @etan009  Website:

    2012 Recipient of the Order of Timor (Ordem Timor)

    Donate today. Read ETAN's fund appeal:

    War Criminals aren't a thing of the past, sadly, they spring from the ground like weeds all the time.   The Drone War is a criminal war.  Tom Curry and Chuck Todd (NBC News) report today that ahead of US President Barack Obama's planned address tomorrow, the Justice Dept admits that 4 Americans have been killed by US drones in The Drone War:  Samir Khan, 'Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi, Jude Kenan Mohammed and Anwar al-Aulaqi.  The Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following:

    The Justice Department’s acknowledgement of what we already know is a welcome step. But it is only the first step that is needed. Just as DOJ has now reversed its long-held position that it could not acknowledge these strikes – the position it took in its motion to dismiss our lawsuit – it can and should reverse course on its position against judicial review. A letter to Congress is no substitute for judicial process. The government should defend the legality of its actions on the merits in a court of law, including its decision to authorize the strike that resulted in the death of 16-year-old Abdulrahman, about whom Mr. Holder’s letter had almost nothing to say.

    Yes, it is a weak statement from them. But they've ignored all the scandals in the last week because they serve, first and foremost, Barack Obama.  That's why they had the secret meeting with him in his first term.  A secret meeting with a sitting president goes against everything the Center for Constitutional Rights is supposed to be about.  It has been cowed, neutered and spayed.  Yet it rushes, tongue hanging out, to roll over or perform any other trick commanded.  The Drone War is illegal.  It goes against everything the US legal system is built around.  The acknowledgment is not "a welcome step."  It's piecing out a little info to try to mitigate the reaction.  It's a real shame that CCR has racked up 5 years now enabling the Barack Obama administration.  That will not look good when he's out of office and they will be seen as the hypocrites they are.  But then again, they never took accountability for their role in the imprisonment and punishment of a whistle blower under Bully Boy Bush who committed the 'crime' of thinking he could trust CCR and provided them with a list of names of prisoners at Guantanamo.  CCR gets a lot cozier with administrations than they'd ever want people to know.

    The Drone War is a criminal war.  Like the ongoing war in Iraq.  Barack chose to back Nouri al-Maliki for a second term as prime minister in 2010 when the voters kicked him out.  Barack went around the voters and the Constitution with the extra-Constitutional Erbil Agreement.  Having backed him, Barack's now firmly in bed with him as they continue to arm Nouri who now uses the weapons the US provides to kill the Iraqi people.  Such as during the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija when Nouri's federal forces stormed it.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP has been reporting 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured). UPI reports today, "The U.S. Army reports its Project Office for Armed Scout Helicopters has completed deliveries of 407 Bell Helicopters to Iraq."  The Hawija massacre couldn't have happened without the helicopters the US has provided.

    I say that not just because the helicopters swarmed overhead during the massacre.  I say that because Nouri's forces entered Kirkuk via the helicopters.  Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) interviewed the Governor of Kirkuk Najm al-Din Karim last week:

    NIQASH: Let’s talk about the controversial Tigris Operations Command. It’s caused several crises around here. What’s your opinion on this Iraqi military base?

    Al-Din Karim: Neither I, as governor, nor the provincial council have changed our opinions on this issue. We don’t want the Tigris Operations Command here and we don’t accept their presence. Although we have agreed to form a committee in Baghdad to try and resolve this impasse.

    NIQASH: The incidents in Hawija, where protestors were killed by the Iraqi military, also seems to have seen more Iraqi army forces enter Kirkuk.

    Al-Din Karim: Actually those forces did not come through Kirkuk - they entered Hawija by helicopter. They tried to come through Kirkuk but we prevented them from doing so. I know the Prime Minister disapproved of this – he told me so last time we met.

    Barack's hands are all over the Hawija massacre.  And a massacre always happens when the US pops up a tyrant. Today, Harith Hasan (Al-Monitor) observes,  "Any future road map should recognize that Maliki has failed in transforming himself into a unifying figure and any possibility for him to win a third term will deepen the internal division."  Gulf News adds:

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki missed the point when he said earlier this week that he would overhaul the country’s security structures and strategy. He has failed to recognise that the increasingly sectarian politics of his government have alienated large parts of Iraqi society. Al Maliki and his government have tended to favour Shiite politicians and communities, thereby affecting the national consensus. His purges of senior Sunni politicians have not helped at all. So, when Al Maliki says “We are about to make changes in the high and middle positions of those responsible for security and the security strategy,” the vast majority of Iraqis feel that the words mean nothing.

    For some of the Sunni hatred that's helped make Patrick Cockburn pariah in the Arab world, you can click here.  There's nothing worth reading but it does firmly establish how biased he is.

     Violence never ends in Iraq.  National Iraq News Agency reports a Diyala Province car bombing ("north of Baquba") claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left four more injured, a Buhriz roadside bombing injured two Iraqi service members,  and a Kia mini-bus bombing left three people injured.  Alsumaria adds that an attack on a Baghdad home left 10 women and 4 men dead, an armed clash in Mosul left 1 rebel dead and two Iraqi soldiers injured, and they update the toll on the Kia mini-bus bombing noting 1 dead and seven injuredFars News Agency reports 1 corpse was discovered by Camp Ashraf.  AFP insists that the Baghdad home was a brothel.  They provide no quotes from neighbors maintaining that and, after the attack, they weren't allowed to enter the home so apparently AFP's confessing to visiting it before the attack?  They note, "Soldiers and police mainly armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and pistols cordoned off the site, which was visited by high-ranking officers."  Considering the stigma attached to prostitution in Iraq, I'm always amazed at how glibly some outlets are when it comes to making that charge about the just murdered.  They don't even wait a day.  They can't ever prove it, but it's apparently the thing to say when women die: "Prostitute."  Since they're so comfortable with it, maybe the need get off their little asses and start reporting on who is visiting these alleged brothels?  Or would that take all the fun out of their smearing dead women?  And note, it's not an even an 'allegation,' it's presented as fact.  Because smearing Iraqis -- especially dead Iraqis -- has always been a favorite hobby of the western press.

    Iraq Body Count counts 619 violent deaths in Iraq through yesterday.  Jason Ditz ( notes of the ongoing violence:

    Since then it is clear the Maliki government has had no real answer. Threats of further military operations are the order of the day, and a number of TV stations in Sunni areas were shut down for being unfriendly to the government. This of course is just fueling anger among Sunnis who already believed they were being persecuted, and is making it easier for militants to recruit.

    World Bulletin provides a list of the most violent attacks this year.

    October 9th, with much fanfare, and wall-to-wall press coverage, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  He strutted and preened and was so proud of himself.  Yet shortly after taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  The scandal, however, refuses to go away. In January, the Iraq Times stated Nouri was offering up his former spokesperson  Ali al-Dabbagh and others to protect the truly corrupt -- the truly corrupt -- according to members of Parliament -- including Nouri's son who got a nice little slice off the deal.  These charges came from Shi'ite MPs as well as Sunnis and Kurds.  Even the Shi'ite National Alliance has spoken out.  All Iraq News noted the same month that National Alliance member and one-time MP Wael Abdul Latif is calling for Nouri to quickly bring charges against those involved in the corruption.  (The arms deal is now treated by the Iraqi press as corrupt and not allegedly corrupt, FYI.)   Latif remains a major player in the National Alliance and the National Alliance has backed Nouri during his second term.  With his current hold on power reportedly tenous and having already lost the support of Moqtada al-Sadr, Nouri really can't afford to tick off the National Alliance as well. And Kitabat reported at the start of the year MP Maha al-Douri, of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc in Parliament, is saying Nouri's on a list of officials bribed by Russia for the deal. As it became obvious that Nouri could sign a contract but not honor it (that is his pattern -- see especially the Erbil Agreement), the government of Russia apparently tired of being jerked around.  Nouri probably hoped the scandal had faded.

    It has not.

    Zee News reports today that MP Bahaa al-Araji, who serves on Parliament's Integrity Committee, says that the investigation is moving forward in "Iraq's central criminal court."

    Another thing Nouri probably wishes would go away is international oil companies feeling the Iraq oil and gas fields Nouri controls are dogs and wanting instead to do business with the Kurdistan Regional Government.  Hurriyet Daily News reports:

    After Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan’s announcement that a Turkish company would be partnering with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Exxon Mobil to carry out oil exploration in northern Iraq before his U.S. visit last week, Turkey is now reportedly in talks with U.S. energy company Chevron about activities in KRG.
    Turkish officials and the executives of Chevron have been talking about oil and natural gas pipelines that are planned to be built from the KRG through Turkey, according to sources.

    That news could not have come at a worse time for Nouri.  Florian Neuhof (The National) reports today, "International oil companies in Iraq are negotiating to revise their contracts with the government, as new production targets undermine the profitability of their operations."

    And bad news just keeps rolling in for Nouri.  Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Tareq al-Hashemi served as Iraq's's two vice presidents during Nouri's first term (they are Shi'ite and Sunni respectively).  They kept their posts for a second term in 2010.  Tareq al-Hashemi was targeted by Nouri and now lives outside of Iraq.  Adil Abdul-Mahdi gave up his post as vice president in 2011 after Nouri's '100 days to fix corruption' resulted in no action at all.  He denounced the government corruption and resigned his post.  Omar al-Shaher  (Al-Monitor) reports he's now denouncing what's happening with Iraq's economy including:

    According to Abdul-Mahdi’s statement on his Facebook page, “This is a disturbing issue that takes us back to the policies of inflation and multiple exchange rates.” He continues, “Our problem is that we have a strong dinar coming from the oil revenues within a fragile, single-product economy that depends on foreign [markets], not only for imports and tourism, but also for medical treatments, migration, residence, investment, speculation and savings.”
    “We have to enhance the performance of the economy in order to consolidate it. [We should] become more open for the sake of our society and the national economy, in order to establish a regional and international status for the dinar so as to make it more valuable and increase demand for it. We leaped forward, and our successful monetary policies began to suffer the consequences of the failed economic policies. While we were concerned about pennies, we lost dollars. We accused and detained people first, and gathered evidence later.”
    Clearly, Abdul-Mahdi is alluding to the ouster and prosecution of former CBI Governor Sinan al-Shabibi in October of last year, on charges of corruption and wasting of public money. Subsequently, Abdel Basset Turki was assigned as the interim governor.

    While he lacks to press profile of movement leader and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Abdul-Mahdi is a powerful Shi'ite in Iraq and he still may end up prime minister one day (he had hoped to become prime minister following the 2005 elections).  He's not the sort of politician that Nouri can just dismiss.  Alsumaria, meanwhile, notes that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is visiting Erbil to discuss the political crisis with KRG President Massoud Barzani and others.

    Our democracy was created by the people and for the people. When government power is used to target Americans for exercising their Constitutional rights, there is nothing we as representatives should find more important than to take it seriously, get to the bottom of it and eradicate the behavior.  Since 2010, there appears to be a targeting of people based on their beliefs.  These people, particularly those who use "Tea Party" in their name, were mocked by the liberal media, mocked by late night television and referred to by this administration regularly with disdain.  Even hear in the halls of Congress, people would talk about who the Tea Partiers were, who was Tea Party supported?  When, in fact, there is no Tea Party.  As the evidence has shown, there are hundreds and hundreds of organizations -- as independent as any single American -- who simply wanted to live up to the Constitution, to have their freedom and to have it protected by our coutnry.  So last week when we received troubling complaints by groups across the country who received what appeared to be inappropriate and unnecessary questions -- in many cases after more than a year, in some cases two years of inactin by the IRS -- we went to the Inspector General -- who is here with us today.  In March of last year, upon the request of our staff  and later in a letter from Mr. Jordan, the Subcommittee Chairman, and myself, the IG launched a formal investigation.  We knew then that something seemed to be wrong.  We knew then that there was smoke.  We knew then that in fact something just didn't seem to be right. 

    That's Committee Chair Darrell Issa speaking at today's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.  The Ranking Member is Elijah Cummings who observed, "This is more important than one election.  The revelations that have come forward so far provides us with a moment pregnant with transformation -- not transformation for a moment but for generations to come and generations yet unborn."  The issue was the targeting of various groups by the IRS.  The
    witnesses appearing before the Committee were former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal S. Wolin, Lois Lerner who is both Director of Exempt Organizations of the IRS and a Marcel Marceau protege, and Treasury Dept Inpsector General J. Russell George.

    Chair Darrell Issa:  Mr. George, before the Ways and Means Committee hearing, you told Representative Danny Davis the following, "Our audit, sir, began with the request of Congressional staff in -- I want to give you the correct date, sir -- I do not have it here.  March 1, 2012 is when there was an initial contact with the Government Oversight and Reform Committee  and are audit began or roughly" -- and then you go on with May or March, etc., etc.  So essentially, this began in your mind when you were made aware of it in March by members of my Committee -- staff members of my Committee.  Correct?

    J. Russell George:  Uh, yes.

    Chair Darrell Issa:  So, oddly enough, we have with us, and put it up on the board, from Holly Paz, a document just released to us from -- I guess in preparpartion for yesterday's interview -- that says "Forward TIGTA document request, the following are issues that could indicate a case to be considered, a potential Tea Party case, and sent for secondary screening. One Tea Party Patriots of 9-12 Project [. . .] 4, Statements in the case file that are critical of how the country is being run."  Now that's May 20, 2013.  To your knowledge -- and that is the result of an internal investigation done by the IRS, not your investigation. Oh, I'm sorry.  That's July 23rd, I'm looking at e-mails which are, unfortunately, this year, but that's July 23, 2012.  It's your understanding that the IRS concluded they had wrong doing from their own internal investigation by July 2012?

    J. Russell George:  I have no information on that but, uh, let me consult with my counsel. [. . .] I have been informed that they conducted an internal review, sir, that was completed before that period. 

    Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay. So it's your testimony that, in fact, independent of your activity, Mr. Shulman's reports conducted and concluded wrong doing and could have, in fact, reported that up the chain and taken appropriate action independent of your activities.

    J. Russell George: That is certainly an option, sir.

    Chair Darrell Issa:  So, Mr. Shulman, before I go back to Mr. George, it was your watch, your people did an internal review.  How is it you did not know that things were rotten in your shop in time to not only make sure it stopped, and stayed stopped, but in fact the Treasury, your boss sitting next to you, was aware of it?

     Douglas Shulman:  Uhm, you know, I, uh, said that I learned about this sometime in the spring -- and by "this," I mean I learned the fact that there was a list and the fact that "Tea Party" was on it --

    Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay, so you knew at that time you knew that you had mistreated Americans within your ogranization and you saw no need to report it up the chain?  Is that your testimony?

    Douglas Shulman:  My testimony is that I -- at that point I'd had a perlimary verbal report.  I'd been told at that same point that the activity was being stopped and I was told that the IG was looking at --

    Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay, stop there.  I don't really care about the IG right now. The IG probably prompted the internal report.  The IG has been the reason, in fact, that we didn't hear about this until long after the election, till months or actually a year had gone by.  I'm asking you a question.  It was your job to make sure people weren't abused.  It was your job to stop abuse but also to report it.  Americans had been injured by the activity -- wrongful activity -- of your organization.  You say that you got it "vocal."  I don't care that the IRS doesn't keep paperwork.  I know that when I have to pay my taxes, I don't do it based on what I say I made or what I say my deductions are, that I need paper.  However, you knew.  You did not report up or did you report up to anyone else within your chain?

    Douglas Shulman:  I had some of the facts, not all of the facts.  I had no idea of the scope and severity.  I didn't know the full list, I didn't know who was on the list.  I --

    Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay, well I'm not going to belabor that because "I don't know" has been your answer previously.  I'm going to move back to the IG.  Mr. George, September 24, 2012, you mentioned your report would be ready in September.  These are exchanges we're putting up [on the screen] here. They're back and forth, they're not all personally with you.  So September 24, 2012, the answer to our request about this IG report was, "Field work for this audit is still ongoing."  Meaning we still don't get an answer.  December 18, 2012, "Any update on this?"  [Reply] "Sorry for the delayed response, I was studying for a final."  Okay.  That's when it was pushed off to March.  Just wanted to  check on the progress of this -- this is February 20, 2013 -- are you at a point where you can schedule a briefing?" From your organization, "We are leaving no stone unturned" -- this is February 22, 2013 -- "we won't be able to provide a detailed, substanative briefing until late April/early May."  My time is limited so I'll put the rest in for the record.  Mr George, I could go on as late as May 19th -- I'm sorry, May 9th -- where the Committee staff then sent on the 8th, "Can we go ahead and schedule a briefing?"  May 9th [reply], "I'll get back to you." And it goes on.  Mr. George, this Committee and the entire Congress has existing laws. Yesterday, I spoke before all of your fellow IGs.  Under existing law, you have a peer-level report of substantial misconduct or problems including waste, fraud and abuse.  The act describes your establishment -- meaning in this case, the IRS -- and Congress in the same sentence.  On August 3rd, I sent you a letter explaining the seven day rule, explaining the statute as it has been written for decades.  You have  responsibility to keep us continuously and -- according to statute -- equally informed. In this case it appears as though you certainly did not.  Would you agree with that?

    J. Russell George: Uh, no, actually.

    Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay, so when you conducted, day-after-day-after day, with Mr. Schulman's subordinate Ms. Paz, one after another interviews in which she's in the room, she's listening to all of these.  You're doing that.  You know, at some time, and I'm going to close with just a question, on what day did you know -- over this year period -- did you know personally that the IRS had abused Americans in the process of approval?  What was that day?  What was the a-ha moment?  And didn't you have an obligation to report that to Congress at that time?

    J. Russell George:  Mr. Chairman, I have a detailed timeline which goes almost from month to month as to the interactions that we had with your staff  and then subsequently with the [IRS] commissioner as well as with officials at the Dept of the Treasury.  And I would appreciate the opportunity to give you a sampling of that.

    Chair Darrell Issa:  We're going to accept that.  And I just want to close and then I'll let you take as much time as you need.  If your timeline essentially says you kept us informed so that we knew that in fact there was a pattern and could speak to Ways and Means to find out that 100s of organizations still languised not being approved after "the abusive behavior began," they still didn't get their answer in a timely fashion.  And if you're saying that you informed Mr. Wolin so that he would understand what is going on or others at Treasury and you informed us and Mr. Shulman, here's my problem.  Mr. Shulman has already said under oath, he didn't know.  Mr Wolin has already said under oath they didn't know.  And although I'm not under oath, I have reviewed my Committee staff documents, and of course it's a bipartisan relationship, we certainly did not have the information in any way, shape or form that could be understood so that Congressional action could occur until practically today.

    J. Russell George:  Mr. Chairman, there are established procedures for conducting an audit and once again this is an audit.  And to ensure fairness and to ensure that we are completely accurate in the information that we convey to Congress, we will not report information until the IRS has had an opportunity to take a look at it to ensure that we're not mistating facts --

    Chair Darrell Issa:  Mr. George, that is not the statute. That is not the statute.

    J. Russell George:  But it would be incorrect for us to give you partial information which may not be accurate.  It would be counterproductive, sir, if we were to do that.

    Ranking Member Elijah Cummings called out Shulman for not coming back to Congress after he was informed there was a problem and correcting his earlier pronouncement to the Committee that no targeting was taking place,  "It seems to me that after saying to the Congress 'absolutely no targeting,' it seems to me that you would come back even if it was a phone call or a letter or someting.  Common sense."  Shulman repeated that he felt he was doing the right thing by being silent.

    Ranking Member Elijah Cummings:  Well I'm sorry, that's simply not good enough.  It's simply not good enough, Mr. Shulman.  The IRS conducting an internal investigation of its own.  Not the IG investigation, but there own investigation.  You personally knew there was a target list.  You knew it said "Tea Party" on it.  You put new processes in place and you took personnel actions.  You reassigned at least one individual back in 2012.  Come on, Mr. Shulman.  Help us help the taxpayers.  Am I missing something?

     Douglas Shulman: So as I --
    Ranking Member Elijah Cummings:  Did you have an investigation?  Was there an internal investigation?

     Douglas Shulman:  I never understood that word of internal investigation.
    Ranking Member Elijah Cumings:  Did you reassign at least one person back in 2012?

    Douglas Shulman: Not that I was aware of.
    Ranking Member Elijah Cummings:  You don't -- You don't know that?

     Douglas Shulman:  To the best of my knowledge, I was not involved in the reassignment of people in the uh determinations unit.  I have no recollection of that.
    Ranking Member Elijah Cummings:  So when you learned about the targeting, apparently, you made some kind of inquiry because you said you found out that it had been resolved.  Who did you go to and who told you that it had been resolved?  And what did they say the resolution was?  You were the head of the IRS.

    Douglas Shulman: I was the head of the IRS -- 
    Ranking Member Elijah Cummings: And you've got Congress people that were upset about targeting.  They had been asking questions.  You had come [before the Committee] and said there was "absolutely no targeting."  And so help me with this.

     Douglas Shulman: First of all, let me express this is a very serious matter and I fully recognize that.
    Great.  It only took Shulman 80 minutes into the hearing to 'express' that.  He had a lengthy opening statement that missed that point.

    With few exceptions, the Democrats only focused on Shulman.  There are two reasons for that.  The secondary reason is that it's because Shulman was a Bully Boy Bush appointee.  The primary reason is that Fridays Ways and Means House Committee hearing resorted in blistering comments to Democrats on the Committee.  From their supporters in their districts.  One member told me he couldn't believe that an elderly woman who block walks and phone banks for him every two years when he's up for election felt he was letting the IRS off.  The IRS, because it collects money from people and few are thrilled to fork over money, has a built-in hostility factor with voters.  Fridays meeting struck many Democratic voters as if their elected officials were defending the IRS after it was caught in wrong doing.  They didn't do it astro-turf wise.  They did it by contacting the local offices in their districts and making it clear to people who knew them from previous campaign work just how offended they were.  It doesn't poll well with independents, sticking up for the IRS in this case, but four Dems on House Ways and Means and on Oversight told me that the complaints were coming from the core of their volunteer staff for re-election campaigns.  These are strong supporters and their offense is why you saw more action on the part of the Dems this hearing.

    Focusing on Shulman allowed them to land blows on the IRS that they need to going into the re-election campaign.  My question for Oversight was if this were a DoD scandal and it was 2010, would they really think going after Robert Gates and terming him a Bully Boy Bush appointee would have made a difference?  Because while some will grab "Bush appointee" and wrap themselves in it like a safety blanket, the reality is that Shulman could have been asked for his resignation in 2009, in 2010, in 2011 . . .

    And while Lois Lerner refused to testify, pleading the Fifth, it should be noted that everyone
    assumes that had Congress dropped rounds of questioning and instead offered a round of charades,
    she would have really shined.

    Kat will cover the hearing at her site tonight, Wally will cover it at Rebecca's site, Ava will cover US House Rep Stephen Lynch in the hearing at Trina's site (Lynch was one of the strongest members in the hearing).

    On the topic of Congress, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budge Comittee and she and Senator Maria Cantwell and US House Rep Cathy McMorris Rogers are expressing disappointment over a decision announced today:

    For Immediate Release
    Murray: (202) 224-2834
    Cantwell: (202) 224-8277
    McMorris Rodgers: (509) 353-2374
    MAY 22, 2013
    Murray, Cantwell, McMorris Rodgers Disappointed By Air Force Decision on KC-46A Tanker Program
    WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) expressed their disappointment with the Air Force’s decision to base the KC-46A tanker program at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, despite the strong bid from Fairchild Air Force Base in Eastern Washington.
    “Today’s decision by the Air Force is extremely disappointing, and seems to ignore the obvious advantages Fairchild has to support the military’s regional and global priorities and major flight programs like the KC-46A,” said Senator Murray.  “While pressing the top levels of the Pentagon for answers on today’s decisions, I will continue to work with the full delegation for future investments in Fairchild, including new tankers in the next rounds of basing decisions.”
    "The Secretary of the Air Force stated today that Fairchild will be a strong contender for future tanker basing decisions,” said Senator Cantwell. “While today’s preliminary tanker decision is disappointing, I will work with the Washington delegation and local leaders to bring new tankers to Fairchild and ensure it remains a vital asset for our nation's tanker program. With Fairchild's 50-year history as a vital resource in the U.S. tanker refueling program, Spokane remains a strong choice for locating future refueling tankers.”
    “This is not a loss. The Air Force has plans to procure 179 KC-46A refueling tankers. It is important to remember that this is only the first installment of 36 tankers. While it was our hope that Fairchild would be the preferred base to host the next-generation refueling tankers, today’s announcement continues to bolster Fairchild’s vibrant mission. In the next few years, the Air Force will continue to base KC-46A refueling tankers at additional installations,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers. “Moving forward, Fairchild will compete very well and is in an excellent position to receive them. “For over a decade, our community has worked together to let the Air Force know we would welcome the tankers at Fairchild. Today’s decision demonstrates that our hard work was appreciated by the Air Force. I want to thank our community leaders – civilian and military; public sector and private sector; and by officials in both parties – for their commitment and teamwork. We have a lot to be proud of, and our efforts for Fairchild will continue.” 
    In December 2011, May 2012, and most recently in April 2013, Murray, Cantwell, and McMorris Rodgers led Washington state delegation letters to U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, highlighting the unique benefits that Fairchild offers the Air Force and the KC-46A tanker program, specifically.  Fairchild, which is ideally situated to support the Department of Defense’s broad-based focus on the Asia-Pacific region, is already home to the Active Duty 92nd Air Refueling Wing and the Washington Air National Guard's 141st Air Refueling Wing, which both fly the KC-135 aerial refueling tankers, and has continually modernized its facilities through more than $400 million in military construction investments.
    The Washington state delegation strongly advocated for Fairchild’s bid for the tanker program and has helped direct significant federal investments to the base. Those investments have included:
    ·         $11 million to fund a new Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Force Support Complex
    ·         $4.15 million for a Refueling Vehicle Maintenance Facility
    ·         Funding for a redesigned hangar, energy efficient improvements, mission support complex, resistance training facility, and Armed Forces Reserve Center
    ·         Funding for a new 14,000 foot runway, a new, state-of-the-art fitness center, and a new wing command headquarters to better integrate active-duty Airmen and Air National Guardsmen
    Sean Coit
    Press Secretary
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

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