Saturday, April 12, 2014


Bob Dylan and others: Masked and Anonymous (Soundtrack). (SBME, 2003)
The film this soundtrack was part of confused US critics and audiences.  I loved it, especially John Goodman and Jeff Bridges’ roles. The soundtrack  features a Italian hip hop version of Like a Rolling Stone, a jug band led by Bob Dylan playing Dixie, and numerous other musicians making Dylan songs their own in a variety of languages and styles. Unfortunately, the CD does not include (then 10 or 11 year old) Tinashe Kachingwe’s absolutely beautiful version of The Times They are a Changin’.
Jefferson Airplane: Crown of Creation. (RCA, 1968)
The Airplane were one of the biggest rock bands in 1968.  Along with the Grateful Dead, they were also countercultural avatars.  This album is an ultimate expression of the hopes and desires of that culture, from the group’s take on David Crosby’s free love ditty “Triad’ to “Lather”—a  beautifully wrought song about growing up into a world of profit and war that needs to steal your soul to survive.  The acoustic guitar work of Jorma Kaukonen is on display in the instrumental Chushingura, while the title track is a call to arms set to a classic San Francisco rock sound. Revolution you wanna’ dance to.
Billie Holiday: An Evening with Billie Holiday.
It was Lady Day’s birthday this past week.  What better way to celebrate then by pulling this wonderful  disc from the shelf and listening to her smoky renderings of eight standards?  Recorded over two nights in 1952, the backing band includes Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown on both nights with alternating personnel on the other instruments each night.  Her take here on “He’s Funny That Way” remains unsurpassed.
Ron Jacobs’ book on the Seventies, Daydream Sunset, will published by CounterPunch this summer.

Kevin Alexander Gray didn't participate this week on the CP playlist.  I went with Ron Jacobs due to the Airplaine.

Jefferson Airplane is one of the great bands and it is also one of the most underrated.  People know it today, which is great, especially when you consider how many groups have been forgotten.  But they're largely remembered today solely for "White Rabbit" (a great song to be sure) and, to a lesser extent, summer of love anthem "Somebody To Love."  

They made some incredible albums including Volunteers.

"This edition's playlist" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

1) Cloud Nothing's Here and Nowhere Else.

2) Carly Simon's Anticipation.

3) Roberta Flack's Quiet Fire.

4) John Lennon's Mind Games.

5) Sade's Lovers Rock.

6) Animal Collective's Centipede HZ.

7) Joni Mitchell's For The Roses.

8) The Doors' Morrison Hotel.

9) Tame Impala's Lonerism.

10) Nina Simone's Here Comes The Sun.

Do you know this song:

Oh it’s good to talk to you.
You were sweeter than wine
Don’t take your love light away.
Because I’m far away from home.

It’s one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac hidden gems.  It’s a song Christine McVie wrote and it appears on the Tusk album.  Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham provide backing vocals.  They’re soft vocals at first, then they grow louder and it’s just really something the way the vocals weave in and out.

I’m a huge Mamas and Papas fan and that’s because they could sing and they did some incredible harmonies.  Fleetwood Mac approaches that on “Honey Hi.”

In fact, it’s probably their best group vocal ever.

“Farmer’s Daughter” on the live album (from the Tusk tour – Fleetwood Mac Live, not The Dance) probably is the second best.

If you’re a fan of the Mac, you should know this song because it really is one of their hidden gems.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, July 11, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, election season heats up in Iraq, what is the status on Iraq's president who's been out of the country for over year, and more.

Let's start with some wisdom from Noam Chomsky.

  • I mean, suppose it was true that Iran is helping insurgents in Iraq. I mean, wasn’t the United States helping insurgents when the Russians..

    1. ... invaded Afghanistan? Did we think there was anything wrong with that?

    From wisdom, let's move to confusion: the status of Iraq's president.  
    December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.
    This week, Rudaw noted the rumors that Jalal might "soon return to Kurdistan" and quoted his son Qubad stating Jalal was "willing to return."  Dropping back to the April 3rd snapshot:

    Here are all three photos:

    Jalal may not be able to fulfill his duties as president but he's clearly the new reverse Streisand.  For years (up until Funny Lady), Barbra hated to be filmed from an angle that emphasized the right side of her face.

    For some reason, Jalal refuses to show the left side of his face.

    That's true in the photos above, true in all of the photos released so far including back in May of 2013 when  Jalal was posed for his first series of photos (below is one example).


    What's wrong with Jalal's right hand?  And why does the Talabani family keep releasing still photos instead of video?  Can Jalal speak?  What range of motion is he capable of?

    Like all the previous photo releases, the latest ones don't answer those questions.

    The only advance evident in the latest photos is that Jalal can now smile and show teeth.  That's not sarcasm.  Whether he can do a full smile or not is unknown.  He may only be able to manipulate the right side of his mouth.  Clearly, his recovery has not been the 'progress' that the Talabani family has repeatedly announced.

    Rudaw noted this week:

    Since December 2012 when Talabani was rushed to Germany after a serious stroke, the PUK has only released some photos of the ailing leader. But there have been no videos to show the extent to which Talabani -- who is also Iraq’s president – is able to move or talk. The pictures alone have not been enough for the public to gauge the degree of the ailing leader’s recuperation.
    Latif Rasheed, who is the husband of Talabani’s sister-in-law and appeared in the president’s latest photos, said those pictures were taken last Newroz.
    [. . .]
    Rasheed also added that, “In the future videos and photos of Talabani will be released.” But he did not say when that would be, nor did he give any other details.
    However, a source close to the Talabani family denied speculations both of his imminent return or that videos of him would be released anytime soon. “No videos of Talabani will be released,” the source said.

    Why no videos?

    What is clear is that Jalal should have been relieved his duties.

    He's not done is job since December 2012.

    APA reported Thursday on the rumors that Jalal was dead -- rumors which include he's dead and has been dead and that the Talabani family plans to announce the death immediately after the elections are held.

    And as elections approach, the need for a president is felt even more.  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports:

    On April 4, the Iraqi Council of Ministers endorsed the “national safety” bill, which regulates the state of emergency and defines the prime minister’s powers and the steps he can take during “emergency” measures, which mostly fall under “martial law.”
    However, the bill sparked a controversy when it reached parliament and was published. Most of the debate focused on fears that “the law could be abused by the government to liquidate its opponents,” according to former Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who pointed to a number of deficiencies in the bill’s mechanisms and loopholes.
    Other political parties wondered why the bill was proposed just ahead of the elections, and suspected that the timing pointed to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s intention to cancel the elections and dissolve parliament. 
    Raising suspicions further was the fact that the bill, which requires a two-thirds vote in parliament in accordance with Article 61 of the constitution, is being put forth at a time when parliament is unable to hold a regular session to approve the budget. This prompted the parliament’s rapporteur, Mohammed al-Khalidi, to say, “The government sending the National Safety Law to parliament is evidence of [its] failure to provide security, which it hasn’t achieved in the last 10 years.” He expected the bill to be moved to the next session. 

    Nouri wants a third term as prime minister -- many fear it.  After two failed terms, it should be obvious how little Nouri has to offer other than attacks. His State of Law coalition should be a concern all itself.  Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) reports:

    Kadhem al-Haeri, a cleric who has close ties with the Islamic Dawa Party and the Iranian regime, issued a fatwa March 30 banning the election of secular candidates in the upcoming elections. Large banners were hung in many areas of Baghdad and included a picture of the marja (spiritual guide) and the signature of the party’s office. The banners read: “It is forbidden to elect secular candidates.” The banners, hung late in March, are still present in some areas in Baghdad.
    This fatwa has come in tandem with a media attack by ruling Islamic parties against the secular movement. The official media outlets of these parties are constantly instilling fear among the people regarding the “dangerous agendas” of secular candidates, claiming they have links to foreign parties and ties with the former regime.
    A good example of this drive is what recently happened to civil activist Hanaa Edwar, known as the "Mother Theresa of Iraq" for the large-scale humanitarian services she provides there. Almasalah, affiliated with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, accused Edwar of raising the old Iraqi flag from the era of deposed President Saddam Hussein and of being involved in corruption cases, without presenting any documents or supporting evidence. The website also described her critical stance against Maliki and the Iraqi government’s violations of human rights during a conference held by Maliki himself in 2012 as “exhibitionist, theatrical and characterized with overreaction and self-inflation.”

    Related, Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) notes,  "In a press conference last week, Sadr called on Maliki not to run for a third term. He said: 'Brother Maliki thinks he served Iraq. Let him rest for four years, and see if whoever comes next would serve better.' "

    Saad N. Jawad (MiddleEastOnline) offers:

    Meanwhile, al-Maliki is already working hard and effectively to eliminate his rivals and critics. His policy is to alienate possible rivals by discrediting them through the courts, accusing them of involvement in criminal acts or corruption (even if they have not been sentenced) or of being former Baathists (through the de-Baathification committee, known as the High Commission for Justice and Accountability). It has also been rumoured that al-Maliki has been giving loyal members of the armed forces two electoral cards, and not distributing these cards properly in areas where he thinks his popularity is low.
    These tactics of rigging elections and referenda have been used before. During the referendum on the permanent constitution, the government tampered with the results in order to prevent three provinces from rejecting it. There are indications that the US embassy, which was pressuring all the political coalition to approve the constitution in order to justify the US strategy of pulling out of Iraq, approved of this method by not objecting to it. When the results from Anbar and Salahuldin (Tikrit) provinces were negative, the government then tampered with the results from Ninevah (Mosul), claiming the no votes did not constitute the majority needed to reject the constitution. Another method was not to send ballot boxes to areas regarded as being against the constitution.

    One of Nouri's rivals  almost didn't have more time to serve today -- he was the target of an assassination attempt today.   World Bulletin reports, "Iraqi Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq and lawmaker Talal al-Zawbai survived an attempt on their lives in western Baghdad on Friday."  DPA notes the attack took place in Abu Ghraib.  al-Mutlaq is running for re-election.  Parliamentary elections are supposed to take place April 30th.  al-Mutlaq is a Sunni and, until 2013, was considered part of Iraqiya (the coalition that won the 2010 parliamentary elections besting Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition).  AFP reports:

    While an interior ministry official said only that gunmen attacked the convoy, Mutlak's assistant specifically blamed the army.
    "We were the target of an assassination attempt by the army who opened fire on us, and the bodyguards responded in the same way," the assistant said, without elaborating.
    There is widespread anger among Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, which complains of being marginalized and mistreated by the Shiite-led government and security forces.

    BBC News notes that al-Mutlaq's "office said the gunmen were in fact Iraqi soldiers, and a source described the encounter as a 'scuffle'."  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    Al-Arabiya Coalition headed by Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, counted on Friday the assassination attempt against al- Mutlaq as an attempt to get rid of the national symbols and personalities.. for the implementation of suspicious projects and schemes.
    A spokesman for the Coalition Muhannad al-Bayati said in a statement to the National Iraqi News / NINA/ that the assassination attempt against al- Mutlaq aims to remove him from the concerns of people.

    Saad Abedine (CNN) reports, "One of al-Mutlaq's bodyguards died in the attack, and five others were injured."  BBC offers, "His office also told the BBC that, contrary to earlier reports, nobody was killed in the fighting."  AP notes, "A group of armed men in army uniforms and driving military vehicles opened fire at their convoy, triggering a shootout with guards and soldiers protecting al-Mutlaq, said al-Zobaie." Sherif Tarek (Los Angeles Times) explains, "In the upcoming elections, more than 9,000 candidates will compete for 328 seats in parliament."

    al-Mutlaq and al-Zobaie weren't the only politicians who were targeted today.  NINA reports:

    A bomb exploded on Friday outside the home of a candidate for / Arab Kirkuk / Coalition in Wahed Huzairan neighborhood in Kirkuk .
    A security source told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA/ that the bomb was exploded outside the home of a candidate for / Arab Kirkuk / Coalition Yacob al-Emara, and the blast wounded his wife and son , as well as causing major damage to the house .
    It is worth mentioning that al-Emara has been subjected three years ago in to an assassination attempt by adhesive bomb in his car led to his badly injured.

    In other election news, Alsumaria reports a candidate has been arrested for attempting to buy electronic voting cards.  They offer this report on why some citizens might sell the cards (poverty).  All Iraq News reports,  "The Kurdistani Alliance announced its rejection to the nomination of the Premier, Nouri al-Maliki, for a third term of the Prime Minister's post."

    If elections do take place April 30th, parts of Anbar Province will not be participating in the elections.  From Tuesday's snapshot:

    Dar Addustour reports that IHEC's Muqdad al-Shuraifi held a press briefing with the Supreme Security Committee in Baghdad today  in which he announced that not all areas of the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province will be able to vote because the IHEC will not send staff and supplies into areas they deem unstable. That's hilarious and sad at the same time.  Baghdad will be allowed to vote, its inhabitants will vote in polling stations throughout the city.  But Baghdad's experienced high levels of violence -- see-sawing with Falluja in the last nine months for who was most violent.  But Baghdad will be allowed to vote.
    March 31st,  All Iraq News reported, "The employees of the Independent High Electoral Commission in Siniya district of nothern Tikrit have resigned due to the threats of the armed groups."
    But Tikrit will be allowed to vote.
    It's really hard to believe that the decisions are really just about fear of violence.  It's hard to believe that the strong opposition to Nouri isn't part of the reason.  (Yes, Tikrit is Sunni dominant.  It saw protests against Nouri -- as did Sunni dominant Mosul.  But the protests were nothing like the ones which took place in Anbar.)
    But if it really is about fear of violence, possibly it's about the fear that Nouri's military will start bombing the polling centers.

     Jason Ditz ( notes the continuous efforts to disenfranchise Anbar:

    Yet that seems to be what is happening in Iraq’s Anbar Province, where the central government is treating it less and less like an equal province and more like a tribal frontier where locals enjoy fewer rights.
    We’ve been seeing the first steps toward this for months, with the conspicuous exclusion of Anbar from official government monthly reports on violent deaths, even though it is the province with the largest number of such deaths.

    Nouri has no leadership skills and lacks common sense as well.

    When an area already feels disenfranchised, if you're seeking peace, you don't make them feel even more disenfranchised.

    At every opportunity to bring Sunnis into the fold, Nouri has instead attacked.

    He has no skills, he has nothing to show for 8 years as prime minister -- nothing but a death toll.

    Nouri al-Maliki's ongoing assault on the civilians in Falluja continues and he got three 'kills' today.  How proud the thug must be.  Alsumaria reports three children were wounded in the bombing of the residential areas of Falluja and 3 more children were killed.

    If you missed it, every outlet attempted to cover Saleh al-Mutlaq today.

    It's a real shame that the Associated Press, the BBC, and so many others refused to show the same concern when it comes to 3 dead children.

    But they never do.

    The treat any politician almost harmed -- almost -- as news but left children die and they look the other way.

    Let's turn to some of today's violence.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Ghatoon-Razi roadside bombing left 1 man and a child dead (with three more people injured), 2 rebels were killed in a battle near Aladheim, a Halawah Village bombing left 1 person dead and nine more injured, and Joint Special Operations Command announced they killed 44 suspects in Anbar.  All Iraq News notes that 1 woman (a teacher) was shot dead in Mosul.   Alsumaria adds the corpse of a police member was discovered outside of Kirkuk, hours after he was kidnapped and that two people in Ramadi were injured by a rocket attack.  Margaret Griffish ( counts 54 dead today.

    mushreq abbas

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    Child marriage

    "Iraq Wants To Legalize Child Marriage" (Scott Bixby, Daily Beast):

    A new law would approve marriage to girls as young as nine in a bid to appease the nation’s conservatives ahead of parliamentary elections.
    In a bid to please the nation’s Shi’a Muslim majority ahead of parliamentary elections, Iraq’s Council of Ministers has drafted a law that would legalize marital rape, as well as grant men the authority to marry girls as young as age nine. The Jaafari Personal Status Law was approved by the Council of Ministers in February, and now awaits likely passage in the Iraqi parliament in the last days before the April 30 election.
    The chaos in neighboring Syria, a domestic electricity crisis of demand, and yet another “Battle for Fallujah” have all set a geopolitical tone for what will likely be contentious parliamentary elections. The introduction of the Jaafari Law will add religious and social issues to the debate as politicians scrabble for votes from the previously disenfranchised Shi’a population of Iraq.

    Today's April 9th.  March 8th, C.I. first covered this issue.  She then spent day after day covering it and trying to get attention on this issue.  She also worked the phones to get the press to cover it.

    It really amazes me how she took an issue no one wanted to talk about it and made it one everyone's talking about.

    For example, John Aravosis (AmericaBlog) discovers the issue today:

    But please don’t think Iraq is illiberal, the law does permit an exception to the inter-faith marriage ban. Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women for a few hours if they want to screw them, then divorce them after they have sex. It’s a “thing” in that region called “temporary marriage,” and it, of course, will be protected under the new law.
    Oh, but it gets better.  Ali al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, defended the law by comparing it to gay marriage in the West.

    Which only serves to remind me that when Iraq's LGBT community was under attack, it was left to C.I. to get the word out in the US.  She called in major markers to get press coverage.

    She went around the major dailies who didn't want to cover it (though one went on to rip her off word for word in a print article) and instead got it covered by outlets some people would write off.  She knew that tying the Emo Iraqi kids into Emo music would give it the hook and she got it covered at the musical outlets in the US.

    She used a similar strategy with the child marriage issue -- using a much read but low 'prestige' outlet (that one of her friends runs) to get it serious attention and that is what turned the page for the issue in the US.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, April 9, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, a candidate gets banned from the parliamentary elections, Nouri continues to kill civilians by bombing residential neighborhoods, questions about accountability get no answer in today's House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, and much more.

    US House Rep Jeff Miller:  I had hoped that during this hearing, we would be discussing the concrete changes VA had made -- changes that would show beyond a doubt that VA had placed the care our veterans receive first and that VA's commitment to holding any employee who did not completely embody a commitment to excellence through actions appropriate to the employee's failure accountable. Instead, today we are faced with even with more questions and ever mounting evidence that despite the myriad of patient safety incidents that have occurred at VA medical facilities in recent memory, the status quo is still firmly entrenched at VA.  On Monday -- shortly before this public hearing --  VA provided evidence that a total of twenty-three veterans have died due to delays in care at VA medical facilities.  Even with this latest disclosure as to where the deaths occurred, our Committee still don't know when they may have happened beyond VA's stated "most likely between 2010 and 2012."  These particular deaths resulted primarily from delays in gastrointestinal care.  Information on other preventable deaths due to consult delays remains unavailable.   Outside of the VA's consult review, this committee has reviewed at least eighteen preventable deaths that occurred because of mismanagement, improper infection control practices and a whole host -- a whole host --  of other maladies plaguing the VA health care system nationwide.  Yet, the department's stonewall has only grown higher and non-responsive. There is no excuse for these incidents to have ever occurred.  Congress has met every resource request that VA has made and I guarantee that if the department would have approached this committee at any time to tell us that help was needed to ensure that veterans received the care they required, every possible action would have been taken to ensure that VA could adequately care for our veterans.  This is the third full committee hearing that I have held on patient safety  and I am going to save our VA witnesses a little bit of time this morning by telling them what I don't want to hear.  I don't want to hear the rote repetition of  -- and I quote --  "the department is committed to providing the highest quality care, which our veterans have earned and that they deserve.  When incidents occur, we identify, mitigate, and prevent additional risks.  Prompt reviews prevent similar events in the future and hold those persons accountable."  Another thing I don’t want to hear is -- and, again, I quote from numerous VA statements, including a recent press statement --  "while any adverse incident for a veteran within our care is one too many," preventable deaths represent a small fraction of the veterans who seek care from VA every year.  What our veterans have truly "earned and deserve" is not more platitudes and, yes, one adverse incident is indeed one too many.  Look, we all recognize that no medical system is infallible no matter how high the quality standards might be.  But I think we all also recognize that the VA health care system is unique because it has a unique, special obligation not only to its patients -- the men and women who honorably serve our nation in uniform -- but also to  the hard-working taxpayers of the United States of America.

    Miller is the Committee Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  He was speaking at today's hearing on VA accountability.  And about mid-way into the hearing, it got very personal for one member of Congress who teared up during her round of questioning.

    US House Rep Jackie Walorski:  I sit here as a freshman lawmaker, so frustrated that there's a bureaucracy that's out of control and if this happened in the civilian world, where negligence was proven time and time again, we would be in the street with signs saying 'shut them down.'  It's an outrage, is what it is. This is an outrage.  And so, I just join the rest of my colleagues here.  This isn't a partisan issue.  This is an American disaster that we have sat here and witnessed -- for me, probably 16 months.  And if I could change your circumstance, I would. I would do it in a heartbeat.  [Sharp intake of breath.] 

    Barry Coates: Thank you.

    US House Rep Jackie Walorski:  My dad -- [Voice breaking] My dad . . . was a veteran . . . that died of colon cancer.  [Sniffling] This is so personal to me. And as a Committee, I can tell you right now what the VA's going to say when they sit here. They're going to say what the Chairman read in his opening remarks.  They're going to give us long dramatic answers and nothing is going to change unless we in this Congress -- on the House and the Senate side -- decide to stand up and take on one of the biggest issues in this nation -- which is this negligence toward taking care of the people who fight for freedom, fought for liberty and allow us to sit and serve in a place called the US Congress. 

    "Teared up" is not mocking Walorski.  And the ". . ." indicates lengthy pauses where she attempted to fight back tears.  I've cried at many of the VA hearings myself, I would not mock anyone for sincerely caring.  I also agree with her remarks about the frustration issue.  I've written of that myself, of how we've been going to these VA hearings since 2006 and nothing gets done.  The VA always has an excuse and the problems today are the same problems the Committees were exploring in 2006.

    I was glad for her honest reaction during her time -- it was good to hear a member of the Committee express their frustration.   US House Rep Michael Michaud is the Ranking Member of the Committee. He wasn't at the hearing but this is from Michaud's prepared written remarks, "All too often, members of this Committee hear the same issues raised again and again in reports by agencies such as the Government Accountability Office and the VA’s Office of Inspector General. Findings such as inadequate training, improper oversight, lack of guidance, no accountability, and failing to follow proper procedures already in place, are too common."  Michaud was not present so US House Rep Corrine Brown was acting Ranking Member.

    Ranking Member Corrine Brown:  [I]t is unfortunate that we must continually call these hearings to make sure that our nation’s veterans are receiving the care for which they have already paid dearly for on the battlefields and in service to protect the freedoms we all hold most dear.  I find it disturbing that just 2 days before this hearing, the VA has releases findings that its healthcare personnel are not fully trained in the importance of timely consults when treating a veteran. The dictionary defines a consult as the act of seeking information or advice from someone with expertise in a particular area. The system the VA set up to make these consults easier obviously broke down and it is possible that at least 5 veterans died in Florida because the right information was not shared with the right health professionals. I am concerned that in the 5 years after the colonoscopy debacle at the Miami VA, nothing has changed. To refresh your memory, in 2009, staff members at a number of VA facilities noticed improper reprocessing of endoscopes contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions. The VA properly ordered all facilities to Step-Up and get retrained on the procedures.  We want employees to feel free to report questionable issue and procedures without fear of retribution for trying to save lives.

    It was a rare moment of coherence for Brown.  And she actually stood with veterans . . . while reading from her prepared remarks.

    Then she wanted to insist, at the end of the first panel, that the VA is not broken: "I don't feel like it's broken, I feel like we need to do what we need to do to fix it."  Which would imply a break.

    Hey lady, you lady.  Corrine Brown quickly got lost in her Charlene impression as she declared she'd been to "those areas in Florida or Tampa" -- yes, Florida is in Tampa, don't expect logic from Corrine Brown -- "I've been too, or Jacksonville or Gainseville or Lake City.  I mean, I've been to California . . ."

    and anywhere I could run
    I took the hand of a preacher man 
    and we made love in the sun

    Poor, Corrine Brown, she's "been to paradise but I've never been to me."

    Well, for a few moments she wasn't the biggest joke on the Committee.  We're being real kind and not quoting Loony Corrine Brown telling a man with stage-four cancer that she's got a friend that the hospital released and told him he was as good as dead but, somehow, maybe one of her magic wigs, he's still alive today.  If the story's true, Brown really needs to learn to edit herself and grasp that cancer patients don't need lectures or your hopium.  Loony Corrine Brown.  We're going to need two straight jackets -- one for her wig.

    The first panel appearing before the Committee was veteran Barry Coates, The American Legion's Daniel Dellinger (with Edward Lilly).  The second panel was the VA's Dr. Thomas Lynch and Dr. Carolyn Clancy.   The third panel was the Government Accountability Office's Debra Draper, the VA's Assistant Inspector General Dr. John Daigh.

    Chair Miller explained, "Mr. Coates waited for almost a year and would have waited even longer had he not actively, persistently insisted on receiving the colonoscopy that he and his doctors knew he needed.  That same colonoscopy revealed that Mr. Coates had stage four colon cancer that had metastasized to his lungs and his liver.  Maybe that is why VA does not want to define accountability in terms of employees who have been fired."  Coates wondered what service members must be thinking as they hear of the VA's 'treatment' of veterans.  He suspected that they wondered if they and their families would suffer similarly when they went from service member to veteran?

    Barry Coates:  So something needs to be done and someone needs to be held accountable for it and I understand from other sources that no one's been held accountable for it. And I think someone should be held accountable for it whether it be a director of the [William Jennings Bryan] Dorn VA hospital, whether it be the Secretary of the Veterans Affairs or even the President of the United States. 

    Coates would declare that the VA "handed me a death sentence and ruined my quality of life."

    Chair Jeff Miller:  Mr. Coates, in the more or less year that it took for you to receive a colonoscopy through the Department of Veterans Affairs, did anybody at any time ever tell you that you could be authorized to receive the procedure that you needed done through a private provider in the community enabling you to get a diagnosis sooner 

    Barry Coates:  No, sir.  I never was advised during that time period.  During that time period, I seen, from January of 2011, when I first complained about it, till the day of my colonoscopy which was December the 9th of 2011, I've seen four different doctors that was in the VA system.  One was Rock Hill Clinic Outpatient Dr. Verma -- she was my outpatient clinic doctor I had in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  I moved to the location I live now.  I transferred.  It takes roughly anywhere from four to six months to get transferred to a different location for outpatient care which would have been the Florence clinic.  Upon that, I'd seen Dr. Verma on January, March and I think in May of that same year.  Each time, my problem got worse and she made notes in her comments because I got -- retrieved -- copies of those from the VA and she made note of those "may need colonoscopy" -- never set a consult up for it.  Upon getting transferred to the Florence Clinic in June of 2011, if I remember correctly, Dr. Neumann was my doctor there. And being a new patient, he did a full exam, looked over my information from Dr. Verma prior to treating me and he kind of got upset because she didn't have me on certain prescriptions because of taking pills for pain will cause certain problems and that I should have been on something already from that, from being on those for quite a few years. But he immediately set me up on a consult with a GI surgeon which I didn't never get to an appointment with her until probably either around the eighth month or maybe the ninth month if I remember correctly, Dr. Kim.  And upon seeing her, I seen her twice.  She delayed it another two or three months.  And I went back to her again, around the tenth month.  We didn't have a good communication ability between each other because she kind of made me mad from my first appointment because of things that she could have done then that would have resulted earlier and set a consult up for a colonoscopy if she would have done a couple of other procedures other than a physical exam.  I learned that she could have done a CT exam or a CT scan [. . .] exam which would have found the tumor which was only 5 inches in the area -- in the lower rectum area.  After that appointment with her on the 10th, she set me up for a consult for a colonoscopy to be done -- which I received the appointment in the mail two weeks later and it was actually scheduled for April of the following year -- we're talking six more months out -- and I'd already been in pain for eight months already and suffering because of this.  But I didn't let that stand in front of me, so I called the department that scheduled that appointment and they told me that that's the normal time -- usually around six months -- before you could get a colonoscopy.  There was nothing that she could have done to get it earlier, that only way you could get it done earlier was to request your physician to write the chief GI surgeon or either the gastrologist to get it done sooner.  Or you could call each day to see if anyone dropped off from the appointment schedule.  And I asked her could she write my name down and call me if someone dropped off?  She said she couldn't do that. She called me the next morning at 9:30 and asked me if I could come to an appointment around 2:30 that day which I did.  And that's when I was set up for the colonoscopy to be done at the Fort Jackson military hospital on December the 9th.  So from January to December the 9th was a whole year.

    We're going to stop here a second.  'She' can't do that and she did.  She really can't -- we'll go into that in a second.  But she said she couldn't and most likely said that because she didn't want to make a promise she couldn't keep.  She probably receives several calls a week (if not a day) like Coates' call.

    It's not possible.

    At the time Coates spoke to the woman, he was one person needing a procedure for which there was scheduling required.

    Along with Barry Coates, 'she' was facing others wanting to get in sooner.  Let's pretend for just one minute that this was just five people.  'She' doesn't have time to call them and let them know.

    I'm not being sarcastic.  'She' has other duties.

    But this can be set up automatically and should be.  The VA, for any scheduled procedure, should have an automated system where people waiting for a procedure and willing to take a spot that opens before their own are automatically called and hear, "Hello, veteran.  Tomorrow at 2:00 pm [or whatever time] we now have a cancellation for [whatever procedure].  We will be filling it on a first call first serve basis.  If you are interested in that time slot, please contact us."

    Now that alone's going to add a lot of work to 'she' (because it's going to be more than five people calling and she'll have to explain over and over to all but one that the slot is now filled) but it can be done and it can be automated.  Can be and should be. (And if you automated the outgoing call and also automated the first-come-first serve aspect, 'she' wouldn't have to do any additional calls on this.)

    Automation also means 'she' doesn't have 140 post-its on her desk that she has to keep track of regarding 'call me if there's a last minute opening.'

    The VA needs to automate the system immediately.  These are things that can and should be done and that the VA Secretary should have already started implementing.

    US House Rep Julia Brownley: [. . .] Have you had any formal apology from the VA?

    Barry Coates:  None. 

    "Before I walked up here, I apologized to Mr. Coates," the VA's Lynch wanted to insist.  Yes, yes, you did.  At a Congressional hearing, after Barry Coates had testified -- and testified that no one in the VA had apologized to him, after Coates was done testifying and right before Lynch was about to, he rushed to get in a quick and perfunctory -- we all saw it -- 'apology.'  And to make clear just how insincere it was, Lynch wanted to make his first statement to the Committee, before he started reading from his prepared remarks, "Before I walked up here, I apologized to Mr. Coates."  Give him a gold star -- for insincerity. Coates had stated he did not receive an institutional disclosure (Chair Miller had specifically asked) and to make the 'apology' even more insincere, Lynch wanted to immediately rush into "if he did not receive an institutional disclosure" -- it's not if.  It's testimony to the Committee.

    Chair Jeff Miller:  Your recent national consulate delayed review revealed two deaths in Arizona but Committee investigation shows that it appears that it could be much worse than you know.  Or, if you do know that it's worse than what the Committee was told?  So I want to tell you about some information that we have received here in the Committee as it relates to Phoenix.  I've been made aware of internal e-mails from within the VA that suggest that Phoenix VA may have been using an unofficial electronic waiting list where veterans were placed on that unofficial list until an appointment became available.  These lists were supposedly designed to give the appearance that veterans were only waiting for appointments for 24, 25 days or less and they potentially contained thousands of names. In cross-referencing the two lists, it appears there could be as many as 40 veterans whose deaths could be related to delays in care. Were you made aware of any of these unofficial lists in any part of your lookback? 

    Dr. Thomas Lynch: Mr. Chairman, I was not.  And Mr. Chairman, I would say that I have tried to work with your Committee, I have visited with your staff.  I was in Atlanta.  I was in Columbia.  I was in Augusta when you made those visits.  I have tried to share the information that we have gained as we are obtaining it.  I know it's not perfect information, sir, but I know that there's a desire on your part to know that information as we obtain it. I am more than willing to meet with your staffers and take their information so that I can use it, sir. If I don't have that information, I can't act on it.

    Chair Jeff Miller: So your people had two lists and they even kept it from your knowledge so my question is: Does that make you even internally question the validity of the information being utilized in your lookback or review?

    Dr. Thomas Lynch:  At the moment, sir, it does not.  But I am open. I am happy to meet with your staffers. I'm happy to look at the data so that we can understand it and see what the issues and the problems are.

    Chair Jeff Miller: I want to provide you with a request for a preservation order for all potential evidence at Phoenix.  And I would also ask the Inspector General for health care, Mr. Day, to look into this issue as soon as possible.  I will be putting a letter to you as quickly -- but I want to make this as an official request, on the record, and we are ready to assist by providing our input and any assistance that Dr. Day may need as he goes through.  It's been mentioned a couple of times in here about Dorn being awarded a little over a million dollars -- one-million-point-two or some number like that -- to help in the backlog of fee base colonoscopy.  The money was provided in September of 2011.  I have still not been able to get a solid answer where that money went.  So I hope you'll be able to provide some insight this afternoon.

    Dr. Thomas Lynch:  Mr. Chairman, I know that that information has passed through VHA.  I took the opportunity to listen to the Deputy Secretary's hearing the other day.  I know he has committed to increasing the communication with Congress and with this Committee and I support his efforts and will do what I can to get you the information that you need, sir.

    Chair Jeff Miller: So, again, another piece of information the Committee awaits.  I specifically asked for a complete accounting of those dollars when I was at Dorn earlier this year.  On the 22nd of February,  in a Health Committee hearing, Dr. [US House Rep Dan] Benishek asked Dr. [Robert] Petzel to provide a list of circumstances surrounding the removal of six SES employees over the last two years.  Dr. Petzel promised at that hearing that he would provide that information at the end of that week -- this is February 26th.  It's been six weeks since the Committee asked for the information.  We have not received it.  This information was referenced in a Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity that was chaired by Mr. Florez.  And, by the way, Mr. Florez is absent today because he is at the memorial for Fort Hood in Texas.  And the Committee staff has made numerous requests  I would also note that in your -- this statistic was also noted in your written statement for this hearing.  So why is VA keeping this information from the Committee when it was an entirely reasonable request?

    Dr. Thomas Lynch: Sir, I wish I had an answer for you that you would find acceptable.  I can only repeat that I support the Deputy Secretary's efforts to get you the information in a timely fashion.

    Chair Jeff Miller: You know, I have a bill right now, Dr. Lynch, that gives the Secretary additional flexibility to fire SES employees out of the 320,000 employees at the Dept of Veterans Affairs we're only talking about 450 individuals.  The Secretary is pushing back, saying that he has the tools and that he has, in fact, taken the necessary steps.  And we're talking about six people.  And we've been waiting months now to get that information.  And I just -- as the Chairman and the Subcommittee Chairmen and the Ranking Members just sit here wondering why in the world it takes so long?

    We could continue but we don't have the space.  Visit the House Veterans Affairs Committee's VA Accountability Watch for more examples.   On veterans issues, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Nick McCormick has a column at Defense One where he advocates for the Suicide Prevention for American Veterans:

    The same day we placed American flags on the Mall, we welcomed the introduction of the Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act. The bill was introduced by the first Iraq war veteran to serve in the Senate, John Walsh of Montana. In announcing the legislation and the need for new action, Sen. Walsh shared how this issue has personally affected him, including how one of the soldiers he commanded in the Montana National Guard died by suicide when the unit returned home from Iraq.
    Sen. Walsh’s bill would extend VA health care for some veterans from 5 to 15 years, review wrongful discharges, and ensure greater collaboration between VA and DoD to ensure a seamless transition of care for our men and women in uniform.

    Now, the House needs to introduce a similar bill and more senators from both parties need to support this bill. The biggest request veterans and the American public need to demand from Congress is this: for once, please do not let the stale election-year politics of old stand in the way of enacting necessary reforms that will save lives.   

    Yesterday's snapshot covered Secretary of State John Kerry's appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.  Wally reported on it in "Learn the Constitution, John Kerry,"  Ruth in "Rand Paul's security concerns re: Benghazi," Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BOTOX KERRY TALKS MONEY!" and Cedric's "John Kerry knows nothing about money" joint-post noted one aspect and Ava covered the hearing in "John Kerry gets prissy and rude before the Senate (Ava)." (Ava will be back at Trina's site tonight to report on today's House Veterans Affair Committee and tonight Ruth will continue to cover Senator Rand Paul's exchange with Kerry.)  Brad Norington (The Australian) reports:

    Bob Carr has confided that he was worried about America’s judgment when he was foreign minister in the Gillard ­government.
    He was particularly concerned about the US capacity to be “driven by anxiety and paranoia into producing a Cold War with China, studded with incidents at sea”.

    He was personally worried about the US record of “walking breezily” into two wars since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

    That pretty much covers yesterday's Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.  This was the one-time diplomatic department of the administration testifying before Congress and all it offered was Venezuela evil, Russia evil, blah, blah.

    But Kerry had nothing to say about Iraq except for "incidentally" offering an aside ("and in Iraq, incidentally").  He was a blowhard on the topic of how the US government was a beacon of hope around the world (contrasted with his statements about the end of the world).  But a real beacon of hope would call out violations of international law, especially War Crimes.

    Despite it being a War Crime to target civilian areas (collective punishment), tyrant and thug Nouri al-Maliki continues to do so.  NINA reports his bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja today killed 7 civilians and left twenty injured.  In an update, Alsumaria notes the tolls increased:  9 dead and twenty-three injured. War Crimes.  Yesterday, I sat through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and listened to Secretary of State John Kerry prattle on about how the US government is a beacon of hope and leadership.  What a joke.  The US government has installed and propped up Nouri and now they supply him with the weapons to kill the Iraqi people.

    Turning to other noted violence, Almanar News reports, "Six car bombs rocked Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least seven people and wounding 30, security and medical officials said."  National Iraqi News Agency reports Wasit Health Dept states the bombings "in Alhafriya, Azizia and Nuamaniya killed 5 citizens and wounded 32 others," a Mosul roadside bombing left 1 police member dead and two more injured, and 1 person was shot dead and another injured in Abu Ghraib.  Alsumaria notes a Numaniya bombing near a school left five people injured and a photojournalist was killed in Ramadi when a mortar landed on his home.  Fu Peng (Xinhua) observes, "The attacks came at the 11th anniversary of the fall of the Saddam regime when the U.S.-led coalition forces swept the Iraqi capital and toppled the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein."
    On the photojournalist killed, Suleiman al-Qubeisi (Anadolu Agency) notes, "Hamman Mohamed, who works for the Altaghier satellite channel, died when the shell hit his house in central Ramadi, Anas Qais al-Ani told Anadolu Agency."

    Joseph A. Kecchichian (Al Jazeera) explores the violence:

    According to the United Nations Mission to Iraq, 733 individuals were killed in January, while the toll reached 703 people in February. These figures showed a rising wave of militant attacks, which journalists labelled "a surge of violence that began 10 months ago", when the government launched a systematic crackdown that chiefly targeted the Sunni community, allegedly because most extremists hailed from within it. To therefore, say that Iraqi Sunnis, a minority population, vociferously protested against what many perceived as discriminatory policies, would indeed be an understatement. Simply stated, what was no longer acceptable was Baghdad's arbitrary use of very strict anti-terrorism measures, to in effect, muzzle the Sunni community.
    In fact, many are distraught by the news that government officials pay lip service to their plight while continuing to pursue sectarian policies.

    Many more are seriously worried that calls made by Shia community leaders to establish armed "popular committees" - that would doubtless be attached to the regular security forces - received official backing, even if such efforts would further enlarge the gulf that exists between various religious groups.

    Still on the topic of dying, 86-year-old Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly has passed away.  Alsumaria reports that the Chaldean Church announced the death today and that the Cardinal had been in San Diego seeking medical treatment.  The Vatican released the following statement:

    Telegramma di cordoglio del Santo Padre Francesco per la morte del Cardinale Emmanuel III Delly
    È deceduto questa mattina a San Diego (USA), Sua Beatitudine il Cardinale Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarca emerito di Babilonia dei Caldei (Iraq).
    Pubblichiamo di seguito il telegramma di cordoglio per la morte del Porporato, inviato dal Santo Padre Francesco al Patriarca di Babilonia dei Caldei, S.B. Louis Raphaël I Sako:

    Telegramma del Santo Padre
    His Beatitude Louis Raphaël I Sako
    Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans

    I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of His Beatitude Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch Emeritus of Babylon of the Chaldeans. I offer you, the clergy, men and women religious and lay faithful of the Patriarchate, both in Iraq and in the diaspora, my condolences and the assurance of my prayers. I recall with deep gratitude the late Patriarch’s dedication to his people and to the promotion of respectful, just and peaceful relations with followers of other religious traditions. I join you and all who mourn the passing of this esteemed Pastor in commending his noble soul to the infinite mercy of God our loving Father, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and hope in the Lord.
    Franciscus PP.
    I offer you, your brother Bishops and the entire Church in Iraq my heartfelt sympathy on the passing of His Beatitude Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly. I pray that the Lord whom he served with fidelity will grant him eternal rest.

    Cardinal Pietro Parolin
    Secretary of State

    Cindy Wooden (Catholic News Service) notes, "The cardinal had already retired as an archbishop serving in the patriarchal curia of Baghdad when, in December 2003, he was elected patriarch just eight months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He became one of the most notable voices of suffering Iraqi Christians and repeatedly pleaded with countries to take pity on Iraqi refugees and not send them back home."

    The Voice of Russia speaks with the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis's Theodore Karasik.  Excerpt.

    Is there any positive outcome from the Iraq war?

    From the war itself the country currently is about to enter a period of elections and this is going to determine whether al-Maliki will remain the leader of Iraq or not, and given the geopolitical tensions that are ongoing because of Syria, I think that the American venture in Iraq has produced a country that is dysfunctional in many parts and will continue to be dysfunctional not so much because of America but because of other events that are occurring around it. I think that if you are looking at Iraq in 2020 or 2025 I think that will continue to be a violent country in particular spots.
    Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place April 30th.  From yesterday's snapshot:

    The IHEC doesn't seem up to its job.  They've only distributed 80% of the new electronic cards to the voters.  20% of those eligible to vote have not received their cards.  22 days until the election is supposed to take place and the cards still haven't all been distributed.
    Yesterday, Diana Moukalled (Asharq Al-Awsat) noted:

    Iraqi MP Hanan Al-Fatlawi banged her hand on the table during a TV program on which she appeared, speaking angrily but effortlessly, and said: “For every seven Shi’ites killed, we want seven Sunnis [killed] in their place.”
    Of course, the seriousness of the situation which compelled Fatlawi to make such a statement is diminished by her words. An Iraqi parliamentarian has dismissed the authority of the constitution and the law to declare that the time has come to implement the principle of “an eye for an eye” to manage the sectarian conflict that is currently raging in Iraq.

    The media uproar which followed the Iraqi MP’s comments did not deter her or encourage her to retract her comments, and the echoes of her statement remained loud in the public arena. To top it off, Fatlawi is a member of the State of Law parliamentary coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.
    Today, Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) notes Hanan al-Fatlawi's remarks and another politician's remarks:

    Furthermore, politician Mishaan al-Jabbouri, who lives in exile in Syria, made various pre-election calls for the “liberation of Iraq from the Kurdish occupation.” A number of in-absentia judgments over terrorism accusations were passed against Jabbouri over these statements.
    Such statements are nothing new for the Iraqi electoral scene. For years, politicians have taken advantage of national and sectarian affiliations to gain support, and there has been a continuous dispute in Iraq over ruling out candidates because they did not meet the condition of “good conduct” required by Iraqi law. In fact, the Iraqi judiciary has strongly defended the decisions to rule out potential candidates.
    It should be noted that some decisions to exclude candidates from elections in the past were made over statements that were less extreme than those made by Fatlawi and Jabbouri. The majority of these decisions were made based on cases that were not yet legally settled.

    It is rather amazing that the IHEC -- which is supposed to be over this, especially after their walk out and return -- hasn't banned both people from running.
    Adnan Jassem (Anadolu Agency) reports today that the IHEC has banned one candidate from running:

    "The electoral commission has decided to disqualify Misha'an al-Juburi from the upcoming parliamentary election due to his failure to abide by campaign regulations," commission member Kolshan Kamal told Anadolu Agency.

    "[Al-Juburi's] statements contravene the commission's bylaws on electoral campaigning," Kamal said.

    On Tuesday, al-Juburi, who is affiliated with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, said his electoral vision included "ridding Iraq of the remnants of the U.S. invasion, embodied by the Kurds."

    In Iraq, one of the long running disputes is between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Baghdad-based central government over the issue of oil.  Since Iraq still hasn't been able to pass an oil & gas law (Nouri promised it would happen in 2007), the KRG can do what it wants.  So Nouri's left to stamping his feet.  And every few months, one of the flunkies in his government shows up to make an announcement that the two sides are close to reaching a deal.

    Nigel Wilson (International Business Times) offers, "Iraq's Oil Minister has raised expectations that the long dispute between Baghdad and Arbil could be coming to an end.  Abdul Kareem Luaibi  said that he thinks a deal over Kurdistan's oil exports could be reached within days."  Steve Marshall (Upstream) shows a little more skepticism of the claim and offers:

    The ongoing spat has halted independent exports by Kurdistan via a new pipeline to the Turkish port, where more than 1 million barrels of crude already pumped along the route are currently lying in storage tanks.
    The federal government has blocked the semi-autonomous region’s export bid, saying that state oil marketing body Somo has the sole right to carry out exports, while Ankara is waiting on Iraq’s blessing before allowing oil shipments to begin.

    Reuters points out, "Talks between Baghdad and the Kurdistan government in Arbil have yet to produce a deal, but Luaibi said the Iraqi parliament had set up a high-level delegation several days ago to resolve the problem."  News of the alleged new understanding comes as Alsumaria reports KRG President Massoud Barzani states Iraq is moving towards a confederation and that the KRG is moving from semi-autonomy to independence.

    The Iraq War wasn't just about oil -- it was about creating 'new' markets.  
    Let's note Jane Wagner's The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe, specifically the character of Trudy the bag lady (all characters were played by Lily Tomlin on Broadway and in the film version of the play). 

    Trudy:  I told 'em what drove me crazy was my last creative consultant job, with the Ritz Cracker mogul, Mr. Nabisco.  It was my job to come up with snack inspirations to increase sales.  I got this idea to give Cracker Consciousness to the entire planet.  I said, "Mr. Nabisco, sir! You could be the first to sell the concept of munching to the Third World.  We got an untapped market here!  These countries got millions and millions of people don't even know where their next meal is coming from.  So the idea of eatin' between meals is somethin' just never occurred to 'em!"  I heard myself sayin' this!  Must've been when I went off the deep end.  I woke up in the nuthouse.
    Money is all about the markets and a desire to control the markets had led to many wars.  Pakistan's moving into the new market in Iraq -- the one created by the illegal war.  Global Cement reports, "Lucky Cement has started production at a cement grinding plant in Basra, southern Iraq. The US$40m plant is a joint venture between Pakistan-based Lucky Cement and the Al-Shawy family. It has a production capacity of 3000t/day or 0.8Mt/yr. The plant is intended to supply cement for the southern Iraq market." Others are moving in as well. reports, "Alstom, a global leader in power generation, has secured a contract worth nearly 400 million euros ($549 million) from Eni Iraq BV to build a 740 MW1 Zubair gas-fired power plant, near Basra in southern Iraq."  Mark Brandau (Restaurant News) notes:

    Pizza Hut has opened its first location in Iraq, in the Majidi Mall in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region.
    The 120-seat dine-in restaurant, operated by franchise partner Al Kout Food Company, is the first of five Pizza Huts planned to open in Erbil this year. Al Kout also plans to open a Pizza Hut in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, the second-largest city in Kurdistan.

    Dropping back to the February 26th snapshot:

    Monday, the US Consulate in Erbil issued the following:

    Deputy Principal Officer Stephen Gee and Consulate General Erbil staff joined businesspeople, members of the diplomatic community and friends from around the Iraqi Kurdistan Region to attend the opening of well-known U.S. franchise Pizza Hut on February 18 in Erbil.
    Kuwait-based Kout Food Group  plans to open a second Pizza Hut restaurant in Erbil, provide a pizza delivery service and expand to Dahuk and Sulaimaniyah.

    Greed is all around.  Dan Primack (Fortune) notes one example:

    In 2006, Pearl Jam released a song called World Wide Suicide as the first single from its latest album. It was a personalized tale of rage over the Iraq War, and the U.S. government and media's lack of care for those had been killed in battle. Other songs on the album sounded a similar sentiment, and the band would go on to criticize U.S. involvement in Iraq for years to come. As recently as last November, front-man Eddie Vedder was quoted as saying that "we're still cleaning up the mess that they made all those years ago."
    But apparently five months heals all wounds, because today Pearl Jam effectively partnered up with one of the war's architects: Condoleezza Rice.
    The pairing comes via Dropbox, the cloud-based file-sharing company whose CEO Drew Houston is such a big Pearl Jam fan that he originally named the company Evenflow (Houston also played in a 90's rock coverband called Angry Flannel). And the feelings have been mutual, with Pearl Jam saying that it hosts its demo tracks via Dropbox's service.

    Today, Dropbox announced that Pearl Jam would become an investor in the company. It also announced that Condoleezza Rice will become its fourth board member(alongside Houston, co-founder Arash Ferdowsi and venture capitalist Bryan Schreier). No word yet on how large Pearl Jam's position will be, or the details of Rice's compensation.

    Eddie Vedder in bed with Condi Rice?  Again, greed is all around.

    the voice of russia