Saturday, October 20, 2012


The weekend.  Why did I wait to blog?

I really like to get it out of the way on Fridays, even if it's really 1:00 am on Saturday morning.  But I cannot do Fringe and Nikita the following week, you know?

Both air on Fridays.  I'll continue to grab Fringe on Mondays.  But I'm going to move my Friday blogging over to Saturday to grab Nikita.

Few more notes, in case you're new.  Fringe will be behind already.  That's because I'm streaming.  If you're not a Dish subscriber or something else, you have to wait a week after the episode airs for it to be online.  That's a bunch of crap.  I actually have Hulu Plus because I do stream shows (like Modern Family) beyond the five that are offered.  Having Hulu Plus means that I can watch Fringe the Saturday after it airs.  But we do a week behind to be fair to everyone.  If you don't have Hulu Plus or Dish or whatever else, you're going to be waiting a week and thinking, "Thanks for spoilers, Mike!" 

Fringe.  If you've read awhile, you know I started covering a TV show with Chuck.  I loved Chuck the first season.  Then things started changing.  The second season showed the problem -- the season would start off sucky and take awhile to get going.  I didn't cover the last season except for the opener.  How come?  They took it offline. 

We do have Tivo but I really don't mess with that.  I've gotten used to watching online.  Elaine and I'll watch some stuff on TV together but a lot of times, we'll be on the couch and I'll pull out the laptop.  I'll watch on my phone and iPad too but I really do love watching on my laptop best.

So I still haven't seen the last season of Chuck.  And the show was so sucky that it wasn't a major issue or mystery to me.  But I did just now flip a screen and grab Netflix to put season five in my queue.

By the time Chuck was floundering, Fringe was really good.  I started covering it the first season.  This is the show's final season, thank goodness.

Seasons one through three were good but the problem with the show was already noticeable.  The writers didn't know what to do.  Audiences wanted Olivia and Peter together and half-way into the first season, that had to happen.  After that point, there was no going back.

But the writers didn't know what to do.  So the end of a season would be Olivia and Peter getting closer -- like we all wanted -- and the start of a season would be some new problem to keep them apart.  We didn't want the drama, we didn't want the soap opera.  There was no need to keep creating obstacles for them.  Let them be a team going after these strange cases.

Instead, they wanted to jerk us around.  It got old.

Season four was the worst for that reason.  Shows should entertain, not manipulate. 

That's one reason Nikita's so great.  Michael and Nikita are going to fight and get along and aruge and talk but they're not playing us for fools, like we're thinking, "Oh, what's going to happen next!"  Like they're a soap opera couple or something.  Save the drama.

There's enough suspense via the missions.  Let us have faith in what Nikita and Michael feel for each other.

Fringe is on Fox on Friday nights.  If you watch over airwaves.  Nikita is on the CW.  If you're Hulu Plus you can watch last night's Nikita on Hulu right now.  If you're not Hulu Plus, you have to wait a week.

So now I'm going to write about last night's Nikita which was the season debut --

Huh?  You say that's not fair and what about my policy of being fair and all that?

Well f**k Hulu.  Go to Nikita's page at the CW and you can stream last night's episode right now.

CW's got it right now and you'll get commercials for some really strong looking shows.  I want to check out Arrow now, from the commercials during Nikita, and also Beauty and the Beast looks kind of interesting.  It stars the woman who played Lana on Smallville and also did a really great guest spot on Chuck.  And it really looks dark and interesting.

So last time, Nikita and Michael and Alex and Birkhoff and Sean had taken down Division -- a rogue agency controlled by Percy and then Amanda -- two bad guys who both turned on each other.  They took people like Nikita, on death row, made it look like they died and then turned them into killers.  They thought they were working for the government but they were actually a rogue, out of control operation.

Nikita's trainer in Division was Michael.  They fell in love.  The first season is her going up against Division and Michael having to decide whether to serve Percy or follow his heart.  He went with his heart and learned Nikita was right about the fact that Division wasn't working with the government.  Alex was a Russian heiress whose father was killed and Nikita rescues her as an adult and gets her into Division as a spy.

Sean is a Navy Seal whose mother was a Senator.  She realized what Division was up to and was helping them but Percy had her killed.  Sean also has a thing for Alex. 

Brikhoff is a computer genius who's been one of Nikita's most loyal friends.  Ryan's running things now.  I don't get that.  But okay. Ryan's a CIA agent who Nikita went to in season one.  He was a good guy.  And he tried to help.  Instead he was killed.

Season two, Nikita went to his mother to let her know Ryan was a good person. 

That's whenw e learned that Amanda and Percy had him in a prison.  He was still alive.  When Nikita found out, she busted him out.  Now he's in charge of Division (as of the first episode this season) and can even override Nikita.  I don't get that.

I also don't get where Sean is.  I thourhg Ryan, for most of the episode, was a cleaned up Sean.  Not that Sean's like a pig sty.  But I thought, "Oh, that's Sean with a shave and in a nice suit."

It wasn't until Sean showed up with Alex and others on the Wolf team, that I realized Ryan was running things.

So the start of the episode?

Nikita's finishing a yoga class, trying to do the normal life. 

Two classmates ask her to do something with them.  She says, "Yeah, you know what, why not?"

Michael pulls up in a car (it was like a Delorean) and says, "Nikita, they need you back at the office. It's a minor emergency."

The two women watch Nikita leave and are impressed with Michael and the car.

Back at Division, Michael tells Nikita, " I know the place looks the same but its a new division. Everything's changed."

Has it?

I'll tell you right now, I'm not sure.  That may be what's coming this season.

Okay, so there's a man in Hong Kong, former Division.  He's killing people.  Nikita and Michael are sent in for him.

They try to track him down.  First though, Nikita is excited and wants to relax with some sex but Michael's pulling away.  For a second, I thought, "Does he have someone new?"  And I was about to get mad because that kind of jerking around belongs on Fringe, not on this show.

Then, through what he was saying, it became obvious that he was nervous.

How come?

When you watched you probably got it before I did.  But I did get it in that scene, he's planning to propose.

He didn't get to, Nikita realized that the guy (Martin?) must have someone, a girlfriend or something.  Martin's cover was fashion photographer so she asked Birkhoff to find out what model he used the most.

Martin's with that model giving her a necklace after they've made love.

Birkhoff gets the info and calls the woman's phone posing as a food place with an order.  She says she never ordered anything.  Martin's suspicious and Nikita and Michael are in route.

Martin calls the place and finds that they didn't call.  He then calls 9-11 using a British accent and says someone was screaming, a woman, and two people were in there, he thinks they're killing the woman.

He hangs up and the model asks him what's going on?  He tells her he's sorry, spins her around like he's going to hug her from behind but snaps her neck and then he heads out the window.

Michael and Nikita arrive.  They see the dead woman.  What's going on?

They realize they're being set up.  Michael tells her to go through the window.  If they both do, Hong Kong will launch a search and that will distract from the mission.  If they grab Michael, they'll think they've done their job and Nikita can go after Martin.

He tells her she can break him out later.  (Like she did in season two.)

So she goes out the window and then the police swarm in and he gets.

She places Michael's com (communications device) on Martin's car after jumping off a roof, onto a balconey and then onto Martin's moving car (she ges it on right as she's sliding off) and then wants Birkhoff to track him.

 Nikita's now getting help.  Ryan's sending in the Wolf Team.  That's Alex and Sean and some others.  Alex is using her real identity.  Rich heiress (at the end of last season, she was able to reclaim her birthright and her family money) is her cover and she bosses people around.  She takes that to the police station and uses it to place a tap on the police computer so Birkhoff can get in from Division.  Sean plays an attorney.  He gets into see Michael (while the head police officer is in there too) and manages to play a com device with Michael.

Via the tap and via a vocal computer program, Ryan (from Division) poses as Bejing police commander and calls the cop (who has taken Michael's ring for Nikita) and tells him Michael needs to be let go, that there's a political scandal with the dead woman, they need to hush this up. 

But Martin's realized what's going on and he tells the man he's being paid to kill people for that he needs to go after Michael.  That man is Chinese intelligence and he and four cars full of agents head for the police station.

Alex is the first to spot them and gives a heads up to Nikita, Ryan and everyone that danger's just arrived.

Nikita has a plan, they'll let Michale go with them and attack the convoy and -- No, Ryan says.  And he tells Birkhoff to cut Nikita's com as she's making plans with Alex via their coms.  Birkhoff doesn't want to but does. 

They're outside Michael's cell and about to extract him -- Chinese intel -- when Michael asks Birkhoff if he's still in the police station's computer?  He is.  Then lock the cell and don't let it open.

So that buys time. 

Nikita gets the head of intell alone in a car and tells him he's going to turn Michael over.  So Birkhoff allows Michael to get out.

Now during this Martin calls.  Michael's being taken out of the police station.  Martin says it's too bad she got attached and fell in love because she's going to see Michael die.  Martin gets Michael in his gun sights and is about to pull the trigger on the rifle.  Nikita tells Martin that she's lucky because there are a lot of people she loves.

Drop the gun, Alex tells Martin.  She's standing behind him.  He makes an effort to shoot her and she shoots him dead in the head.

Michael's able to escape but he runs back towards the police station.  Nikita can't understand why.  He tells her he's getting her engagement ring back.

WHich he does.  They speed off.  Nikita confronts Ryan who says he had to send a message in front of everyoen that he was in charge.  She's not happy.  He's not happy.  Doesn't seem like he's tellling the full story either.

Michale proposes to Nikita who accepts.

Ryan's on the phone with the president (a blond woman) who tells him she will send the troops in if Division is exposed again.  She is not happy with the attention the adventure has brought to Division.  She will send the troops in and burn Division to the ground.

Also during the episode we learned from Martin that after Nikita and Michael called Division agents all over the world to tell them there was an amnesty, Amanda called them and told them it was  a trick and that if they turned themselves in, they would be killed.

Percy's dead.  Nikita killed him at the end of last season.  But Amanda's still out there and still wanting revenge.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, October 19, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, 4 British families get good news, Senator Patty Murray wants to know when an announced review into diagnoses changes is going to start since it still hasn't, State of Law launches more attacks on Barzani, new details about the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi emerge, and more.
Starting with veterans, in the US veterans have struggled with many issues they shouldn't have to.  Some struggles may truly be a surprise.  Many struggles aren't.  Many struggles are a sign that proper planning was not done when the government sent people off to war.  This is a point US House Rep Bob Filner very skillfully made September 30, 2010:
Chair Bob Filner: It struck me as I looked at a lot of the facts and data that we-we see across our desks that, as a Congress, as a nation, we really do not know the true costs of the wars we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. [. . .] We all look at the data that comes from these wars. It struck me one day that the official data for, for example, the wounded was around 45,000 for both wars.  And yet we know that six or seven hundred thousand of our veterans of these wars -- of which there are over a million already -- have either filed claims for disability or sought health care from the VA for injuries suffered at war -- 45,000 versus 800,000? This is not a rounding error. I think this is a deliberate attempt to mask what is going on in terms of the actual casualty figures. We know that there is a denial of PTSD -- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's a 'weakness' among Marines and soldiers to admit mental illness so we don't even have those figures until maybe it's too late. We all know that women are participating in this war at a degree never before seen in our nation's history and, yet, by whatever estimate you look, whether it's half or two-thirds have suffered sexual trauma.  The true cost of war?  We know that over 25,000 of our soldiers who were originally diagnosed with PTSD got their diagnosis changed or their diagnosis was changed as they were -- had to leave the armed forces, changed to "personality disorder."  And not only does that diagnosis beg the question of why we took people in with the personality disorder, it means that there's a pre-existing condition and we don't have to take care of them as a nation.  Cost of war? There have been months in these wars where the suicides of active duty have exceeded the deaths in action. Why is that?  When our veterans come home from this war, we say we support troops, we support troops, we support troops? 30% unemployment rate for returning Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans. That's three times an already horrendous rate in our nation. Guardsman find difficulty getting employment because they may be deployed. Now a democracy has to go to war sometimes. But people have to know in a democracy what is the cost. They have to be informed of the true -- of the true nature -- not only in terms of the human cost, the material cost, but the hidden cost that we don't know until after the fact or don't recognize.  We know -- Why is it that we don't have the mental health care resources for those coming back? Is it because we failed to understand the cost of serving our military  veterans is a fundamental cost of the war? Is it because we sent these men and women into harms way without accounting for and providing the resources necessary for their care if they're injured or wounded or killed?  Every vote that Congress has taken for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has failed to take into account the actual cost of these wars by ignoring what we will require to meet the needs of our men and women in uniform who have been sent into harms way. This failure means that soldiers who are sent to war on behalf of their nation do not know if their nation will be there for them tomorrow.
That pretty much says everything about the planning and the funding and how both were lacking.  Bob Filner was Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Comittee at that time and credit to him and US House Reps Harry Teague, Ciro Rodriguez, Jerry McNerney, Walter Jones, George Miller and Jim Moran who all attended that hearing while almost everyone in the House had already bolted and gone back to their districts to focus on their re-election races.  Bob Filner did a great job serving veterans as a member of Congress.  He's decided not to seek re-election to Congress and instead is running for Mayor of San Diego.
He will be missed in Congress.  Veterans are fortunate to have other champions in Congress.  One of those is Senator Patty Murray whose office issued the following yesterday:
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Sen. Murray Calls on Secretary Panetta to Provide Timeline for Promised Military Review of PTSD and Behavioral Health Diagnoses
In the aftermath of the misdiagnoses of servicemembers in Washington state, Murray calls on the Pentagon to move forward with nationwide review of mental health diagnoses since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began
Letter also calls for information on efforts to collect missing unit military records that could prove critical if certain health care problems arise from service in Iraq or Afghanistan
(Washington D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requesting next steps and a timeline for the execution of a critical military-wide review of PTSD and behavioral health diagnoses made since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.  The review, which Secretary Panetta promised following the misdiagnoses of severvicemembers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, has seemingly stalled since being announced on June 13th.
"The Department must act with a sense of urgency in order to complete this review and to act on its findings in coordinating with other ongoing efforts to improve the disability evaluation system."  Murray wrote to Panetta.  "Each of these efforts is vital in ensuring servicemembers truly have a transparent, consistent, and expeditious disability evaluation process."
"Senator Murray's letter also addressed her concerns that records for military units in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are often used to provide information on potential health and exposure issues be carefully identified, located, and collected.
The full text of Senator Murray's letter follows:
October 18, 2012
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Secretary Panetta:
I am writing to express my concern about two distinct issues, which taken together impact the disability evaluation process for servicemembers and veterans.
At the outset, I very much appreciate your ongoing efforts to address behavioral health diagnoses and care both within the Integrated Disability Evaluation System and throughout the Department at large.  In June, as part of this ongoing effort, you announced a comprehensive Department-wide review of mental health diagnoses.  Shortly after the announcement, I had the opportunity to meet with Under Secretary Conaton to discuss some of the initial steps the Department had taken in preparation for this review.  However, it appears that progress on this effort may have stalled.  I am writing today to request the Department's next steps and timeline for execution of this review.
The Department must act with a sense of urgency in order to complete this review and to act on its findings in coordinating with other ongoing efforts to improve the disability evaluation system.  Each of these efforts is vital in ensuring servicemembers truly have a transparent, consistent, adn expeditious disability evaluation process.
My second concern relates to the ability of the Department, and specifically the Army, to identify and account for many records for units that served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The lack of access to documentation of the locations and fucntions of specific military units interferes with the ability of both servicemembers and veterans to obtain evidence of military service that may result in adverse health conditions now or in the future.   As we have learned from prior conflicts, this lack of documentation all too often leads to hardship for veterans in establishing a relationship between miltiary service and a specific medical condition.
The lack of accessible documents may also impede future research efforts if health care problems arise from service in Iraq or Afghanistan.  For these reasons, I would like to know the current status of efforts to identify, locate and collect records for units that served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I also urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure unit records are properly archived and accessible.
I appreciate your attention to these requests and look forward to our continued work together to strengthen both the disability evaluation system and behavioral health diagnoses and care and to ensure our servicemembers and veterans have access to critical military documents.
Patt Murray
To tie the two together -- because this is really not new -- Bob Filner was speaking of a policy to change a diganoses from PTSD to "personality disorder" because someone was deciding the government shouldn't pay what the government owed.  Someone was deciding that the role of government was to get over on veterans, not to deliver to veterans what had been promised.
And you'd think the shame of doing that would stop it.  You'd think they'd stop changing diagnoses.  But people continue to do that.   This year, Senator Murray's found it happening in her home state of Washington.  She's repeatedly attempted to get answers -- not just as Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (though she's repeatedly asked for answers in that role) but also, for example, using her position as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to question Army Secretary John McHugh about the changing diagnoses.
There is no excuse for diagnoses to have ever been changed.  There's even less excuse for refusing to start the promised review of changed diagnoses.  To be clear, there's even less excuse for Leon Panetta to avoid starting the promised review.  Leon is Secretary of Defense.  I like him, I've known him for years -- since he was in Congress.  I like Leon.  But that doesn't change the fact that as Secretary of Defense it reflects poorly on him that the review has not started.  It doesn't change the fact that he needs to do his job.  I didn't care for Robert Gates and was appalled to see the press fawn over him (in the months long farewell tour coverage as well as in that awful farewell press conference that immediately went off the record so the press could hug him and get their photos taken with him -- as someone in the entertainment industry, I'm used to excited fans, but this was a press acting like teeny boppers mooning over some heart throb of the moment).  The fact that I like Leon doesn't mean that I don't think he should be evaluated when he leaves office.  There are not two standards here.  Gates should have been evaluated on key issues (instead, he was only evaluated on granting press access) such as military suicides and military sexual assaults.  Those were two key problems in the military and he should have been evaluated on how he addressed those (and other key problems).  Leon should be judged by those and also by issues like this scandal and the failure to launch a review in a timely manner.  Leon Panetta needs to provide an answer to Senator Murray -- more than that, he needs to launch the promised review.
The Paterson Press notes another need, in Paterson, New Jersey, the Paterson Veterans Council wants to inscribe the names of three local Iraq War veterans who died while serving in Iraq on the Veterans Memorial Park monument.  The three fallen are Spc Gil Mercado, Spc Farid Elazzouzi and Sgt Christian Bueno-Galdos.  The Paterson Veterans Council is staging a beefsteak dinner November 5th as a fundraiser: "Donations to the Nov. 5 beefsteak are tax-deductible and can be made to the Paterson Veterans Council, 296 Maitland Ave., Paterson, NJ 07502. For information, call Tony Vancheri at 973-303-3523."
"It's eight years [since her son died at the age of 21 while serving in Iraq] and it still hurts,"  England's Sue Smith explains today as the British courts tell four families of the British fallen they have permission to sue the Military of Defence over deaths that could have been preventable.  Steve Anderson (Independent of London) reports, "Relatives had argued that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) failed to provide armoured vehicles or equipment which could have saved lives and should pay compensation."  ITV explains, "They were nicknamed mobile coffins and, in 2006, Private Lee Ellis died when one of them was blown up by a roadside bombing."  Sue Smith  is the mother of Private Phillip Hewett who died serving in Iraq from a roadside bombing while in a Snatch Land Rover.  She tells Channel 4 (link is video and text):
Sue Smith:  This is a case of an employer owing his staff the right duty of care.  Take away the uniform and everything else and it's simply a man or a woman doing their job and they should be respected for doing that job  the same as anybody else. [. . .] I think it's despicable.  They knew the vehicles were no good but it's also this dismissive attitude of it doesn't matter, they're like action men, if we break them, we can throw them in a junk pile and nobody can do anything about it.  And if they're really badly broken, they can be buried.  Well, it doesn't work like that.
Along with the family of Philip Hewett, the family of Cpl Stephen Allbutt, Private Lee Ellis and Lance Cpl Kirk Redpath have been granted permission to file suit.  The Allbutt family attorney Shubhaa Srinivasnh tells the Telegraph of London that it's a "landmark" decision and, "We maintain that the MoD's position has been morally and legally indefensible, as they owe a duty of care to those who fight on behalf of this country."    Ann Salter (International Business Times -- link is text and video) hails the verdict as "historic" and notes the families can now "sue the Ministry of Defence for negligence and inadequate equipment" as a result of the ruling made by the London Court of Appeals.  BBC News' Nick Childs speaks with Sue Smith (link is video). Excerpt.
Nick Childs:  Why are you trying to go through the UN Convention on Human Rights to deal with this - this issue?  When the court of appeal has said these claims can be pursued in terms of care and negligance through the courts here?
Sue Smith:  The negligance is for wives or dependants because that's a compensation claim.  I'm not claiming compensation.  I'm claiming that the soldiers have a right to life which is something that the MoD seemed to say that if they're on exercise or anything like that abroad, they're not covered by that. 
[. . . ]
Nick Childs:  How have you felt about the Ministry of Defence as you've gone through this-this legal proces.?
Sue Smith:  Well they're just pen pushers as far as I'm concerned.  They've got no idea.  They're not living in this world.  They're not the ones going out in substandard vehicles -- or were.  I'm not sure what they're doing now.  But at the end of the day, they're people that are arguing who haven't actually lived the life that we're living.  They've got no idea.  So how can they sit there and say that these boys have no right to life? They're not the ones sitting in the back of the vehicle that might blow up at any moment.
In Iraq, violence continues.  Alsumaria reports 1 elderly man was shot dead in front of his family as he stood in front of his Baghdad home and a Diyala Province bombing targeting a police officers home left 1 police officer dead and six people injured.  In addition, AFP notes Iraqi officials today announced bombing and shooting attack late yesterday outside Balad left 4 Pakistani men dead.  All Iraq News reports 1 man dead in a Mosul roadside bombing (which police state they believe he was planting) and 1 male corpse and 1 female corpse discovered in Mosul (gunshots to the chest and head).
On security issues, Margret Griffis ( reported yesterday, "A number of Sahwa members quit their jobs and abandoned their posts in Hawija and Kirkuk. The men say their demands have not been met, but local leaders are asking them to remain on the job. The Sahwa were to have been folded into the military, but the central government has refused to fully do so. The payment of salaries has also been slow at times. Because the group is made of Sunnis, many who are former insurgents, the central government has been wary of them if not outright antagonistic. About 8,000 Sahwa are in the Kirkuk region. Should they all abandon their posts, it would be a significant blow to security."
Deutsche Welle covers Nouri's attack on the Central Bank noting that this all began back again a year ago -- this was when the political stalemate transitioned into a political crisis. The outlet notes that the talk in Iraq is that there are political reasons behind the sacking of the Governor of the Central Bank.  From yesterday's snapshot:
This week, charges were brought against Sinan al-Shabibi, the governor of the Central Bank, and he was replaced.  Al Mada reports that Parliament's Legal Committee is saying the actions were both rash and illegal.  Nouri does not control the Central Bank and he cannot fire a governor with it.  They point to Article 103 of the Iraqi Constitution which has two clauses pertaining to the Central Bank:

First: The Central Bank of Iraq, the Board of Supreme Audit, the Communication and Media Commission, and the Endowment Commissions are financially and administratively independent institutions, and the work of each of these institutions shall be regulated by law.
Second: The Central Bank of Iraq is responsible before the Council of Representatives.  The Board of Supreme Audit and the Communication and Media Commission shall be attached to the Council of Representatives. 
The second clause puts the Parliament over the Central Bank.  (The third clause, not quoted, puts the Cabinet over the Endowment Commission.)  Michael Peel (Financial Times of London) reports an arrest warrant has been sworn out for "Sinan al-Shabibi and 15 of his colleagues."  Peel also observes, "While no evidence has yet been produced about the allegations, analysts and business people have raised concerns about the way the government has handled the case.  Some observers see it as an extension of efforts by Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister, to extend his control over important security and financial institutions, a charge the governmnet denies."
Iraq Business News notes  that "there has been tension between the Central Bank and the government for years. In January of last year, Nouri al-Maliki secured a court ruling placing the Central Bank under the control of the cabinet, rather than the parliament, much to the displeasure of al-Shabibi."  My apologies, I'm not aware of that decision.  The Parliament either isn't or doesn't consider it a valid decision.
Let's note this week's war of words by first dropping back to Monday's snapshot:

Today Al Mada reports Yassin Majeed, an MP with Nouri's State of Law, is declaring that KRG President Massoud Barzani is a threat to Iraq. Majeed held a press conference outside Parliament to denounce Barzani. Alsumaria notes that among Barzani's supposed outrageous offenses is objecting to the infrastructure bill and objecting to the recent weapons shopping spree Nouri's been on ($1 billion dollar deal with the Czech Republic, $4.2 billion dollar deal with Russia). All Iraq News notes that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani issued a statement noting that, at a time when they are trying to resolve the current political crisis, the remarks are not helpful.
And now to Tuesday's snaphsot:

Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports today that State of Law is rushing to walk away from Majeed's remarks after Talabani and Iraqiya both called out the "reckless" remarks yesterday.  Alsumaria reports Iraqiya stated there was no way to justify the remarks and called on everyone to condemn the remarks and this method to destroy a foundation of unity.  In addition, All Iraq News notes the Kurdistan Alliance announced yesterday that there is no political difference between Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani and that the Allliance's statement was in response to the verbal attack on Barzani from Majeed.  Hussein Ali Dawed (Al-Montior) notes Talabani statined "he considered these statements a 'call to war'."  State of Law has never walked away from their constant smack talk before.  The difference here appears to have been a united push back from the blocs at the same time that Nouri wanted it to appear he was trying to reach an understanding with everyone and be a national leader.  Majeed's remarks were in keeping with State of Law's trash talk in the past.  A month ago -- or maybe a month from now -- they wouldn't have raised an eyebrow and are part of State of Law's never-ending attacks on other politicians.
KRG President Massoud Barzani will be visiting Moscow shortly.  This trip to Russia was planned weeks ago. Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports today that State of Law MP Mohammad Chihod is stating that the trip is so Barzani can destroy the weapons deal Nouri signed with Russia. 
State of Law is a bunch of losers, liars and thieves.  They lost the 2010 election, they lie constantly and they stole the post of prime minister.  They are also stupid.  So possibly Chihod is so dumb that he believes what he's saying (or maybe he shares Nouri's paranoia?).  But Barzani can't break the contract.  And unless he has some previously unknown magical power, he can't force Russian President Vladamir Putin to break the contract either.  Now he may be a very charming man and might be able to use all that charm to slow delivery.  But he can't stop delivery.  A contract is a contract.
I grasp that's difficult for State of Law to understand because in addition to everything else they lack honor and integrity.  They break contracts.  So they assume everyone else must as well.  If Russia were to break the contract with Nouri without just cause, it would be very difficult for Russia to interest other countries in buying weapons from them.
Nouri's State of Law came in second in the March 2010 elections.  Since the Iraqi Constitution meant that Nouri wouldn't get a second term, he dug his heels in and spent over eight months (Political Stalemate I) bringing the country to a standstill while the US White House -- which fully backed Nouri -- went around telling political blocs that they needed to be mature and put Iraq first.  Grasp that lie.
Grasp that the White House told all the other political blocs -- that Moqtada al-Sadr, that's Ibrahaim al-Jafaari (National Alliance) -- that they were stopping Iraq from moving forward.  All the other leaders by wanting to stick to the Constitution were harming Iraq.  Not the little bastard Nouri who refused to honor the Constitution or the will of the Iraqi people.
Then the US government rolls up with a proposal that everybody give a little to get a little.  Give Nouri a second term as prime minister and what is it you want?  What can Nouri give you? 
That's what the White House did.  So the Kurds wanted many things but among them Article 140 of the Constitution implemented.  (Article 140 was supposed to have been implemented -- per the Constitution -- by the end of 2007; however, Nouri refused to do so.  It is how disputed areas will be resolved -- census and referendum.  The Kurds want Kirkuk so does Baghdad.)
The White House negotiated the contract, which would become known as the Erbil Agreement.  It swore that the contract was valid, legal and binding.  So all the leaders -- including Nouri -- signed off on it. 
Nouri grabbed the second term that the Erbil Agreement delivered and Nouri then refused to honor the contract, he broke the contract.  That's why the country's in a political crisis at present.  It's not a mystery. 

Turning to the issue of the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, there are new items in the news cycle.  First, the background via the House Oversight Committee hearing this month:
Committee Chair Darrell Issa:  On September 11, 2012, four brave Americans serving their country were murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya.  Tyrone Woods spent two decades as a Navy Seal serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Since 2010, he protected the American diplomatic personnel.  Tyrone leaves behind a widow and three children.   Glen Doherty, also a former Seal and an experienced paramedic, had served his country in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  His family and colleagues grieve today for his death.  Sean Smith, a communications specialist, joined the State Dept after six years in the United States Air Force.  Sean leaves behind a widow and two young children.  Ambassador Chris Stevens, a man I had known personally during his tours, US Ambassador to Libya, ventured into a volatile and dangerous situation as Libyans revolted against the long time Gaddafi regime.  He did so because he believed the people of Libya wanted and deserved the same things we have: freedom from tyranny. 
Today's items in the cycle include the assertion that US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice's statements that the attack grew out of a protest over a YouTube video are backed by intelligence at the time and the administration had no way of knowing any better.  Nonsense.  And there's actually a push back on this spin from the press.  AP reports, "Within 24 hours of the deadly attack, the CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington that there were eyewitness reports that the attack was carried out by militants, officials told The Associated Press. But for days, the Obama administration blamed it on an out-of-control demonstration over an American-made video ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad."  CNN also offers reality that contrasts with the administration's latest claims:
But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, told CNN that the panel had information from the intelligence community within 24 hours of the incident that it was a military style attack.
"If you look at all of the information leading up to (the attack) from an intelligence perspective, it's really confounding how you can come to a conclusion and then promote it for days in the face of all of that information that this was about a video," Rogers said.
Reality, the State Dept's Patrick Kennedy went to Congress September 12th and briefed staffers on the attack.  He called it terrorism.  Reality, the attack was seen by State Dept types ('types' because the CIA also saw this) in real time.  Reality, a little over 50 minutes of the attacks is on video.  Reality, the FBI has no objection to Congress reviewing the video but they don't have it.  At this point, it is not disclosed who has possession of the video other than that they are in the executive branch and they are not law enforcement.  The White House is refusing to turn the video over to Congress.
All of these realities were established in the House Oversight Committee hearing.  We attended the hearing and reported on it in real time:  "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot,"  "Iraq snapshot," Kat reported on the hearing with "What we learned at today's hearing," Ava reported on it with "2 disgrace in the Committee hearing" and Wally reported on it with "The White House's Jimmy Carter moment." 
If your outlet of choice -- say The NewsHour on PBS wasted your time by refusing to tell you about those realities and instead offered a 'style' report, you really need to demand that your news outlet of choice covers the damn news.  A lot of people are talking -- like Bob Somerby -- who clearly were not at the hearing and really need to inform themselves before speaking.  These days you assume that what was reported was what happened at your own peril.  That hearing was important and full of revelations.
So one of the items was Susan Rice's alleged innocence which, again, has been pushed back on.  And should be.  Another item in the news cycle is the cables released today.
A diplomatic cable sent by Ambassador Chris Stevens from Benghazi hours before the attack on the U.S. Consulate that killed him was largely devoted to the rising security threats in and around the city.
The cable, sent to the State Department, was released Friday by the chairman of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California. It is among more than 160 pages of documents that paint a picture of persistent and unpredictable violence in and around Benghazi this year and an often fractious debate about resources for diplomatic security.
In the September 11 cable, the ambassador refers to a meeting nine days earlier in which the commander of Benghazi's Supreme Security Council "expressed growing frustration with police and security forces" being too weak to keep the country secure.
Another paragraph refers to the "expanding Islamist influence in Derna," a town east of Benghazi, amid reports linking "the Abu Salim Brigade with a troubling increase in violence and Islamist influence."
The Abu Salim Brigade was prominent among the opponents of former strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
The ambassador refers to another meeting on September 9 in which commanders of unofficial militia claimed that the Libyan Armed Forces depended on them to secure eastern Libya, and even supplied them with weapons.
The White House is not being honest when they claim that it was 'intel.'  The tape exists, the attack was monitored in real time, CIA agents were wounded in the attack and made clear that it was not a protest that descended upon the Consulate.  But not only are they not being honest there, the document release makes clear that there was reason for concern -- serious concern -- and that the administration ignored those warnings.  Four Americans died.  It's time for the White House to get honest.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Afghanistan and those who provide cover for Barack

Thursday.  One day until the weekend.  I can't wait.

CBS News has an important article about what was said and what wasn't said on September 12th by Barack about the Benghazi attack.  Oops, Bob Somerby, you're a liar yet again.  (If you missed it, Bob Somerby's off his meds and back to his "Joe Wilson is a liar!" period.  He's rewriting facts on Benghazi and insisting others got them wrong.)

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) reports:

Washington is holding talks to arrange for the continued occupation of Afghanistan by tens of thousands of US troops after the ostensible deadline for withdrawal at the end of 2014.
The ongoing negotiations in Kabul are aimed at ironing out an agreement that will determine “how we manage our forces going forward in Afghanistan” after the 2014 deadline, Marc Grossman, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told a conference in Washington Tuesday.
Grossman made his remarks, first reported on the Foreign Policy web site, at the annual summit of the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA). The ISOA is a trade group for private military contractors, which will no doubt play an even larger role in Afghanistan as US troop levels are drawn down from the present 68,000 level.
The talks, which are being led by Grossman’s deputy, James Warlick, and Afghanistan’s ambassador to Washington, Eklil Hakimi, are aimed at cementing an open-ended US military presence in Afghanistan, providing US imperialism with a base of operations against neighboring Pakistan, as well as Iran, China and Russia, and a platform for projecting American power in the strategically vital and energy-rich Caspian Basin region.

I'm thinking of making calling out this a suggestion for an editorial at Third.  For example, this they write about but the negotiations to send more US troops into Iraq -- reported by Tim Arango of the New York Times at the end of last month -- they ignore. In addition, even NPR noted this like nine days ago. 

I'm glad it's covered but it just underscores how they have dropped the ball on Iraq and done so repeatedly and over and over. 

It's also cute how the article and the headline is "Washington" because heaven forbid they call out Barack.  "Washington did it, you understand, not Barack.  When even WSWS is covering for Princess Barack, we're all in big trouble. 

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, October 18, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, ExxonMobil brushes off Nouri, Nouri's son is in trouble, Falluja's victims remain ignored, Nouri spends more billions on weapons, and more.
So I'm at a daily paper visiting a friend who's an editor when a name reporter decides he's going to make small talk while the editor's on the phone and hijacks the computer to show me "something you won't believe.  It's so sad."  Wrongly, I assumed I was about to see the children of Falluja.  Wrong.  I saw a dog from Australia that people around the world are donating to because it lost its snout saving a child.  And the dog's coming to -- or now in -- the United States with a friend and will have surgery at one of the UCLAs (Davis?) and, turns out, the dog's also got tumors and a sexually transmitted disease and -- On and on, it went.  Now I love dogs.  And if someone wants to send a terminal dog across the globe for  reconstructive surgery of a snout, that's their decision.  But I do think it's very sad that people want to pull up a picture of this dog and oh-and-ah over it and these same people will not even look at the children of Falluja.  
Monday, we noted a new study by the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. The study documented the miscarriages and the birth defects and the huge increase in both.  The linked study even has photos of the children.  But that didn't become an internet sensation.  What does that say about us that we can feel for an injured dog but ignore suffering children?  If you're a citizen of the United States, especially what does that say about us?  These birth defects are a result of weapons the US used. 
Fred Mazelis (WSWS) noted the study yesterday and explained:
A study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology focuses on an extraordinary epidemic of congenital birth defects in Iraqi cities over the past decade, particularly in Fallujah and in the southern city of Basra, assaulted by British troops in 2003.
This study has been released only one month before a broader survey is due to be released by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO report has looked at nine areas in Iraq and is also expected to show increases in birth defects.
As summarized in the British newspaper The Independent, the first study, entitled "Metal Contamination and the Epidemic of Congenital Birth Defects in Iraqi Cities" and published online on September 16, pinpoints statistics for Fallujah and Basra that add up to a public health crisis that is as serious as any other around the world.
More than 50 percent of all births surveyed in Fallujah were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010, the newspaper explains. In the 1990s, Falllujah had a birth defect rate of 2 percent. This rose to about 10 percent in the early years of the twenty-first century, and then exploded in the years following the siege of Fallujah in 2004.
The data on miscarriages was also significant. Before the 2004 attacks on Fallujah, both in April and in November-December of that year, about 10 percent of pregnancies ended in miscarriage. This rose to a rate of 45 percent in the two years after the bombings. It fell as the most drastic attacks subsided, but the rate still remained high, at one in six pregnancies.
If today's conversation had taken place anywhere but a newsroom and involved people other than journalists, I wouldn't be writing about it.  But in the supposed information industry, not only did the reporter not know about the above, when I pulled up the study to show the photos, his response was "Eww, gross."  No, not "gross," tragic.  Those poor children who never hurt anyone and who suffer now because of an illegal war.  I think, my opinion -- I could be wrong, I often am -- that we've soaked up enough entertainment, gossip and cute animals online.  I think it's really past time we learned to actually care -- especially when the harmed are harmed because the actions of our government.
Early this morning, Laura Rozen (The Back Channel) reported, "Oil giant Exxon Mobil is expected to soon announce that it is pulling out of non-Kurdish Iraq, an energy expert source told Al-Monitor Wednesday on condition of anonymity.  The decision would not apply to Exxon's contracts in Kurdish Iraq, which has been a source of on-going tension with Baghdad authorities for the company, the source said."  Ahmed Rasheed and Patricky Markey (Reuters) state the corporation didn't inform "Iraq of its interest in quitting the country's West Qurna oilfield project" according to unnamed sources.  Sometimes unnamed sources lie.  This may be one of those times.  This is very embarrassing for Nouri and his government and feigning surprise may be their effort to play it off.  'How could we have stopped it?  We didn't even know it was coming!'   That would explain why the 'big surprise' that isn't is being played like it is.  Derek Brower (Petroleum Economist) has been covering this story for over 48 hours (including a source that stated ExxonMobil had informed the Iraqi government) and he notes that ExxonMobil will be focusing all their "efforts on upstream projects in Kurdistan instead."  In addition to the claim in Rasheed and Markey's piece about  Iraq having had no meeting on this, Brower notes that a meeting took place today at the Ministry of Oil.  It would appear Nouri's spinning like crazy in an effort to save his faltering image.  (Nouri can certainly spend billions -- as he proved last week on his mad shopping spree for weapons, he just doesn't seem able to maintain releations with those who help Iraq generate large revenues.)
This Reuters story notes that unnamed US officials stated Iraq was informed and it adds the Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, Hussain al-Shahristani, "told Reuters in an e-mail that Baghdad was sticking to its line that all contract signed with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) without the approval of Baghdad were illegal."  ExxonMobil has long had problems with their deal with Baghdad.  In March,  Emily Knapp (Wall St Cheat Sheet) explained, "Foreign oil companies involved in Iraq's oil expansion generally prefer to be compensated for capital expenditure and service fees in oil because cash payments are more complicated to arrange. Now the parties have reached an agreement in which they will be paid in crude. Exxon and Shell spent $910 million on West Qurna-1 last year, and were repaid $470 million in cash."  Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) adds today, "Exxon's 2010 deal with the Iraqi central government to improve production in the West Qurna-1 field was never expected to be lucrative under the best circumstances, the person said.  The government had agreed to pay Exxon Mobil and its partners $1.90 for each additional barrel of oil they pumped after refurbishing the already producing field.  The fees would barely be enough to cover the companies' costs."
And there is the issue of the nature of the contracts.  The KRG is offering production sharing ones while Baghdad sticks with the less return-friendly technical service contracts.  Dropping back to the November 11, 2011 snapshot:
In Iraq, things are heating up over an oil deal. Hassan Hafidh and James Herron (Wall St. Journal) report, "ExxonMobil Corp. could lose its current contract to develop the West Qurna oil field in Iraq if it proceeds with an agreement to explore for oil in the Kurdistan region of the country, an Iraqi official said. The spat highlights the political challenges for foreign companies operating in Iraq" as Nouri's Baghdad-based 'national' government attempts to rewrite the oil law over the objection of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Tom Bergin and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) offer, "Exxon declined to comment, and experts speculated the move could indicate Baghdad and the Kurdish leaders are nearing agreement on new rules for oil companies seeking to tap into Iraq's vast oil reserves." UPI declares, "The breakaway move into Kurdistan, the first by any of the oil majors operating in Iraq under 20-year production contract signed in 2009, could cost Exxon Mobil its stake in the giant West Qurna Phase One mega-oil field in southern Iraq." Salam Faraj (AFP) speaks with Abdelmahdi al-Amidi (in Iraq's Ministry of Oil) declares that the Exxon contract means that Exxon would lose a contract it had previously signed with Baghdad for the West Qurna-1 field.  Faraj sketches out the deal with the KRG beginning last month with Exxon being notified that they had "48 hours to make a decision on investing in an oil field in the region."  Exxon was interested but sought an okay from the Baghdad government only to be denied.
November 11th, things heated up and they never cooled down.  For months, Nouri's people sent angry letters to ExxonMobil.  The multi-national corporation chose not to respond leaving Nouri looking like an angry, spurned lover.  Or a stalker.  Nouri's people continued to send those letters with no response.  And we pointed out how ridiculous Nouri was looking and making Iraq look throughout that period.  There were threats of lawsuits, there was barring ExxonMobil from auctions, it was ridiculous.  First of all, it didn't build confidence among the international business sector that Iraq had its act together.  Second of all, those remaining acutions?  In the February 22nd snapshot we noted what was being offered by Baghdad in the March acution  was "a dingo dog with fleas." Were we wrong?  The auction was a bust.  They had no takers.  Instead of grasping that Nouri had created a serious image problem for Iraq, they decided they just needed to have the same auction all over again.  So they scheduled it for two days at the end of May.  From the May 31st snapshot:

Iraq's two day energy auction ended today. Yesterday brought one successful bid. W.G. Dunlop and Salam Faraj (AFP) explain, "Iraq on Thursday closed a landmark auction of energy exploration blocks with just three contracts awarded out of a potential 12, dampening hopes the sale would cement its role as a key global supplier." The offerings weren't seen as desirable and the deals offered even less so. But big business began sending signals this auction would not go well over two months ago. (And we've noted that at least three times in previous months.) That's due to the instability in Iraq caused by Nouri -- and it is seen as caused by Nouri in the oil sector because he is the prime minister, he did pick a fight with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, he did order Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi arrested. All the instability in recent months have not helped. His attacks on ExxonMobil and their deal with the KRG has not helped. Nouri al-Maliki is bad for business. If Iraq had the arrangement they did under Saddam Hussein, Nouri could get away with that. But he's going to have to grasp real soon that state oil isn't what it was under Hussein. The economic model (imposed by the US) is mixed. And if Iraqis hadn't fought back, it would be strictly privatized. Nouri's not yet learned that his actions impact Iraq's business. (And, in fairness to Nouri, this is a new thing for Iraq. Saddam Hussein could do anything and it wasn't an issue unless the super powers decided it was. But, again, it's a mixed model now. Nouri might need to bring in some economic advisors from out of the country.) W.G. Dunlop and Salam Faraj (AFP) report Iraq's response to the poor showing at the auction is to declare that they will hold another one.
Well one is greater than zero.  But not worth the cost of putting together one auction, let alone two.  Following the twin embarrassments of March and May, Nouri had a new 'brilliant idea:'
get the White House to tell Exxon "no."  So he made noises and made public letters to the White House.  Then, on July 19th, Nouri al-Maliki insisted that the White House had conveyed, in a letter, their support for his attempts to cancel the October contract the Kurdistan Regional Government signed with ExxonMobil.  No such thing happened.  But damned if some in the press reported differently.  The US does not have state-control over oil companies -- certainly not over multi-national ones like ExxonMobil -- "multi-national" meaning more than one nation.  Like so many of Nouri's brilliant plans, that one fell apart.  Derek Brower explains, "Pressure has been building on the central government to punish ExxonMobil for its investment in Kurdistan, he said.  The government knows it could not win a court case if it stripped the US firm of its contract, he said, but could make operations intolerably difficult." It couldn't win a court case.  What the KRG and ExxonMobil did, for all of Nouri's pouting and foot stomping, ws legal.  Thomas W. Donovan (The National) explains:
The most urgent need is for a comprehensive federal law to regulate the hydrocarbons industry. At present, petroleum operations are governed by a collection of laws from previous regimes and by the 2005 constitution. This legal hodgepodge gives no guidance on the interplay between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), nor does it set out any rules for oil-revenue sharing between the central administration and the regional governorates.
A draft law to govern oil and gas production was tentatively agreed upon as far back as 2007. However, disputes between Baghdad and the KRG blocked enactment of a law, and today there are three draft versions, none of them likely to win approval anytime soon.
2007 is a key date. Not just because Nouri was prime minister (but he was -- the US government installed him in April 2006).  In the lead up to the US 2006 mid-terms, Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress lied to the American people, swearing, "Give us back one House of Congress and we'll end the Iraq War."  The American people trusted that they were being told the truth and did something pretty amazing -- turned both house of Congress over to the Democratic Party.  That was so surprising that even Pelosi and company hadn't been pushing it as a possibility.  Afraid the Democrats might be telling the truth and might pull the funding on the illegal war, Bully Boy Bush quickly devised a series of benchmarks in 2007.  He signed off on them, Nouri al-Maliki signed off on them.  This was the tool by which, the White House insisted, progress could be measured in Iraq.
Because the US press is as stupid as the US Congress (well, the Congress didn't want to end the Iraq War, let's be honest, so they weren't stupid so much as they were pretending to be), no progess was always somehow turned into success.  In April of 2007, Mike Peska (NPR's Day By Day -- link is text and audio) decided to grade the progress on the benchmarks.  He should have just stuck to putting happy face stickers on each one.  Needing people to help him deceive, he enlisted the master of deception Philip Zelikow (adviser to Condi Rice, betrayer of 9-11 Jersey Widows and others who thought they'd get a real investigation into the events of 9-11) and the Brookings Institution's Carlos Pascual.  Here's how the 'brain trust' graded the 'progress' on the oil law:
Pres. BUSH: Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.
PESCA: Both Pascual and Zelikow said this is happening as we speak. Details are still to be worked out, but sharing oil revenue is something the Iraqis can point to as an area of real progress, much more so than the third plank that the president touch on.
They needed to pass legislation.  And Pesca 'reported' that his hand-picked brain trust said "this is happening as we speak."  Seriously? 
It was a lie then, it's a lie over five years later.  Happening as we speak?  It never happened.  The press sold the Iraq War.  Not just the start of it but all of it.  There has never been accountability for any of these actions.  No one's ever done their update of, "Remember when we said . . . Well, turns out . . ."  And let's remember that Mike Pesca was just on Weekend Editon Sunday ridiculing the New York Daily News' Filip Bondy for being creative with languge in his description of a home run.  That home run mattered to baseball fans.  Those benchmarks?  All the press whores that lied -- that includes Pesca -- provided cover for Nouri and Iraqis suffer because of Pesca and his ilk.  Filip Bondy's descriptive powers didn't have a fly.  Pesca might need to remember that before he takes to NPR next to slam another journalist.  And Rachel Martin might want to think about who she goes on air with to mock other journalists.
Having agreed, in writing, to pass an oil and gas law and never having accomplished it, over five years later, Nouri's got no standing to whine about what the KRG is doing.  If he doesn't like it, he should have kept his word and passed an oil and gas law.  Didn't do it, so the current law(s) allow the KRG to make the deals they're making.  Considering the money involved, you'd think even a semi-functioning government would have taken this seriously.  The Ministry of Oil notes on their website, "The ministry of oil of Iraq declared that the daily oil exports for September 2012 rose to 2.6 million barrels with 8.4 billion dollars outcome [. . .]"
All that money and Nouri still can't turn on the lights.  The Iraqi people still have to use generators because daily electricity isn't 24 hours, it's more like six to twelve.  And Nouri can't provide potable water -- despite all the billions the Iraqi government takes in each month.  That's why Iraq keeps having the cholera outbreaks.  Just this week, Al Mada reported that UNICEF declared that the cholera problems will not go away in Iraq while the poor sanitation continues.  The World Health Organization explains, "Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.  It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.  Vomiting also occurs in most patients." Also this week, AFP noted that there have been 4 deaths and 272 confirmed cases including thirty-one that are children in the last weeks.  And Nouri can't even give a portion to the people.  He recently declared there wasn't any to give and Moqtada al-Sadr expressed doubt and disapproval.  All Iraq News explains that Moqtada and his poltical bloc have not let the matter die or just resorted to words, they're actively working with the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi and the Minister of Planning Ali Shukri to find oil money that can go to the Iraqi people with plans to set aside 25% of future revenues for that.
Six years as prime minister and he can't fix the basic needs and public services?  But last week he could fly to Russia and sign a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal and then on to the Czech Republic to sign a $1 billion weapons deal.   And today?  Suadad al-Salhy, Patrick Markey and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) report that Iraq's signed a deal for another 18 F-16 fighter jets and since the "financial details" are the same (according to the Ministry of Defence), that means the deal will cost Iraq at least $3 billion.  AFP reports Nouri didn't just place an order, he also wants the US to speed it up.  And while he spends on weapons, the Iraqi people are left to depend upon charity from other countries.  The Camden New Journal reports, "The Highgate hospital recently brought new cervical screening equipment and decided to give the old machinery to the women of Iraq."
Yesterday's snapshot noted a press release from the White House on the Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough's visit to Iraq.  I didn't have a link and couldn't find it online.  The link is here (thank you to my friend for supplying that).  ANI reports on it hereAFP here, and KUNA here.
Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 103 deaths in the country by violence this month. 
Alsumaria reports 1 person shot dead today near his Mosul home and an Enaimah car bombing (south of Falluja) left four Iraqi soldiers injured. All Iraq News adds a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured.  In addition, Alsumaria also notes a Mosul attack in which a Ministry of Intelligence officer and his son were shot dead and the corpse of 1 Peshmerga was discovered in Kirkuk.
Like the violence, the polticial crisis continues.  Iraq had a political stalemate that lasted a little over 8 months following the March 2010 elections when Iraqiy came in first and Nouri's State of Law came in second but Nouri refused to honor the results and allow Iraqiya to move to establish a cabinet.  The White House tossed the will of the Iraqi people, democracy and respect for elections to the side to back Nouri.  The country was at a standstill for months as the US government shamed the various political blocs for standing in the way of second place Nouri and worked the guilt angle pretending that they -- not Nouri -- was the one keeping Iraq from moving forward.  They also negotiated the Erbil Agreement which ended the political stalemate in November 2010.  This contract gave them various concessions in return for their allowing Nouri to have a second term as prime minister.  Nouri signed the contract and used it to get his second term and then trashed the contract and refused to make good on what he'd promised in exchange for holding on as prime minister.

It was fairly obvious that he was trashing the agreement but the US government and the press covered for him repeatedly.  Such as when he failed to nominate people to head the security ministries.  Iraqiya rightly labled that a power grab.  The press (I'm referring to the US and European press) rushed in to insist it was no such thing and Nouri would name people to head the ministries in a matter of weeks.  The three year mark is closing in and Nouri's still not nominated people to head the seucrity ministires.  It was, indeed, a power grab.

In 2011, he tried an even greater power grab.  He wanted control of two bodies the Constitution has made independent of the prime minister: the Electoral Comission and Central Bank.  Unreast in the region and protests in Iraq resulted in Nouri fearing his own ouster.  He quickly promised (lied) he wouldn't seek a third term as prime minister (about 24 hours after the foreign press had run with that, it was announced that Nouri reserved the right to run for a third office, but he'd already gotten his headlines and his praise from stupid -- as opposed to skeptical -- reporters) and backed off that power grab.

For a brief moment.

This week, charges were brought against Sinan al-Shabibi, the governor of the Central Bank, and he was replaced.  Al Mada reports that Parliament's Legal Committee is saying the actions were both rash and illegal.  Nouri does not control the Central Bank and he cannot fire a governor with it.  They point to Article 103 of the Iraqi Constitution which has two clauses pertaining to the Central Bank:

First: The Central Bank of Iraq, the Board of Supreme Audit, the Communication and Media Commission, and the Endowment Commissions are financially and administratively independent institutions, and the work of each of these institutions shall be regulated by law.
Second: The Central Bank of Iraq is responsible before the Council of Representatives.  The Board of Supreme Audit and the Communication and Media Commission shall be attached to the Council of Representatives. 

The second clause puts the Parliament over the Central Bank.  (The third clause, not quoted, puts the Cabinet over the Endowment Commission.)  Michael Peel (Financial Times of London) reports an arrest warrant has been sworn out for "Sinan al-Shabibi and 15 of his colleagues."  Peel also observes, "While no evidence has yet been produced about the allegations, analysts and business people have raised concerns about the way the government has handled the case.  Some observers see it as an extension of efforts by Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister, to extend his control over important security and financial institutions, a charge the governmnet denies."
In more bad news for Nouri, Al Mada reports Ahmad al-Maliki, Nouri's son, can't get along with other employees (we'll assume the problems are more than that) and the complaints have led Nouri to freeze his son's salary in the hopes that this will let the matter die down.

In even worse news for Nouri?  Remember last month's assault on the Tikrit prison that left many dead and wounded and over 100 prisoners escaped?  Dropping back to the September 27th snapshot:
The latest day's violence includes a prison attack BBC News reports assailants using bombs and guns attacked a Tikrit prison.  AFP quotes a police Lieutenant Colonel stating, "A suicide bomber targeted the gate of the prison with a car bomb and gunment then assaulted the prison, after which they killed guards" and a police Colonel stating, "The prisoners killed one policeman and wounded (prison director) Brigadier General Laith al-Sagmani, the gunmen took control of the prison, and clashes are continuing."  Kitabat states two car bombs were used to blow up the entrance to the prison and gain access and they also state 12 guards have been killed. Reports note the riot is continuing.  Alsumaria reports four guards have died, 1 police officer and the injured include two soldiers and the prison director al-Sagmani.  There's confusion as to whether a number of prisoners were able to escape in the early stages after the bombing and during gunfire.  Reuters goes with "dozens" escaping which is probably smarter than the hard number some are repeating. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports 5 police officers killed and another two injured -- the numbers are going to vary until tomorrow, this is ongoing -- and state over 200 prisoners escaped with 33 of them already having been recaptured.  If you skip the English language media, what's not confusing is why it happened and why it was able to happen.   Alsumaria reports that there are approximately 900 inmates in the prison and that many have death sentences.  Alsumaria does even more than that.  It notes the recent prison violence throughout the country and ties it into the death sentences.  These aren't just happening at random, this is about the many people being sentenced to death -- a fact the English language press either doesn't know or doesn't think people need to know.

That was an extremely violent act.  And apparently one that was preventable.  Alsumaria has an exclusive report that the police chief in Salahuddin Province had warned the Ministry of Interior over 3 days in advance -- in writing -- that there were serious problems and the possibility of a prison break.  Why is that so damning to Nouri especially?    Three months ago,   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." 
 With no minister nominated to Parliament and approved by Parilament, Nouri controls the Ministry of Interior.  If the Ministry had information over 3 days ahead that something was supposed to have happened and nothing was done to try to prevent it, that goes to Nouri's leadership.