Saturday, November 30, 2013

The return of Nikita

Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving.  Do you still have left overs?

Then you should enjoy Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Don't Forget The Turkey"

dont forget the turkey

Nikita.  Tonight, the second episode of the last season aired.  I didn't realize the show was back on the air until late last night (after blogging) when C.I. asked me what I thought of last week's episode.


So I streamed it tonight.

I can't believe there are only going to be six episodes.

This one went wild.

Nikita comes back into the US -- she's been in Canada since she was ordered to kill the president.


For those who don't watch, Nikita was a criminal sentenced to die.  Instead, a shadow group trained her to be an assassin.  La Femme Nikita and Point of No Return (the two films) are the basis for this.  But there was a USA network TV show in the 90s.  So the twist here was that Nikita had already left Division (the shadow group) and had Alex get into it to help her bring Division down.

Michael, her former trainer, is her lover.  He and others joined her fight.  Currently, the team is Alex, Michael, Birkhoff, Sonya and Ryan.

They did bring down Division.  But Amanda -- who took over from Percy a year before Division went down -- is aligned with a new evil group.

The president?  She shot herself when Nikita made it into the White House.

Nikita was supposed to kill her.  Instead, Nikita warned her and the president took the gun and shot herself dead.

But, we learned near the end of the last episode last season, she didn't.

The woman who shot herself dead was an imposter.

Amanda and her new gang have kidnapped the president.

Only Amanda and her gang know that.

To save Alex, Michael, Birkhoff, Ryan and Sonya, Nikita ran off so that people would follow her and not them.

So back to the first episode.

Nikita sneaks back into the US from Canada.  A news network, ENN, has a guy I'll call "Host" for Talk Show Host.  No need to wonder about his name, he's only in this episode so let's not bother.

He's interviewing the head of the FBI on live TV and he is castigating the FBI for its inability to capture Nikita -- it's been 100 days, he says, since the president was killed and Nikita is still on the loose.  He also questions whether Nikita had help from the government, how this woman executed in New Jersey a decade ago is alive and the rumors of a team of trained assassins working for the government.

Nikita is stealing a license plate to swap with the one on the car she also stole.

One then two police cars pull up with guns drawn.  She's told to lay down on the ground and does.

They call the FBI.

The FBI head walks out on the interview to take the call.

He tells the cops not to get near her, to wait for the feds.

The cop speaking to him gets off the phone and gripes that the Feds want this collar.  They don't want to give it to the feds so they go to cuff her and as soon as one's near, Nikita overcomes him, grabs his gun, does a shoot out and splits in one of the cop cars.

Let me jump over to Alex.  She was a Russian heiress whose parents were killed (I'm being brief -- yes, mother was still alive, we're not going into all of that) and she was sold into sex slavery.  Last year, a United Nations rep asked her to consider helping them on human traficking.  At the end of last season, every one agree that would be a good cover and that's what Alex does now.

She's in India and giving a speech when a woman whose a government official thanks her for her work and Alex mutters under her breath, as the woman walks off, that her work would be easier if people in government like that woman weren't engaging in human traficking.

Sonya's with her running the computer aspect -- satellite scans, etc.  At one point, they'll learn Nikita's resurfaced and wonder if they should go back to the US but Alex will say Nikita would want them to finish their mission.  So she follows the official.  There's an exchange.  She gets photos.  Sonya tries to get Birkhoff to scan but he's busy and doesn't.

There are only four men.  That's not enough to traffick financially.

And Alex sees the man in charge scan one of the four with a weird device.

The man he scans will do.  Do what?  We don't know.  My guess is that they're planning to use him to replace someone (the way they had that woman replace the president).

But one of the main guy's henchmen starts looking around.  Sonya tells Alex it's likely the other group is tracking and picked up Alex's body heat.

She and the man fight and when she shoots him dead, everyone starts to scatter and the main guy starts shooting people dead.  The three men not yet scanned, the government official, her bodyguards, etc.  Then he and his crew -- plus the one traficked person they did accept -- hit the road.

Alex finds the device.  Uses it on one of the dead men and finds out that they've all been GPS tagged.  She gives that information to Ryan over the phone and he's got something he's figuring out but isn't there yet.  The equipment's going to be important.

She signs off with Sonya and gets ready to leave but there's Owen -- insisting he's Sam -- and telling her he wants the gadget she picked up.

That's the end of Alex's story on the first episode.

And if you don't know Owen, he worked for Division as an assassin but mainly he kept a black box (containing records of all the government ordered jobs for Division -- Percy kept that as insurance if the White House ever turned on Division).  That's how he shows up in season one.  This is season four.  He became part of the crew eventually but last season Amanda used some sort of mind control with drugs and who knows what else on him and he's been on the other side since.  And now insists he's Sam.

Where's Nikita?

Michael's at the place where the police had her.  He poses as an FBI agent and takes photos of the evidence.  How?  Contact lenses.

There's something in there about an envelope for an electronics company and they figure out Nikita's going to pose as a worker and  . . .

Nikita's at ENN delivering the TV to the Host.

She has a gun on him and hands him a piece of paper -- German -- which is about the mission in Canada last season.  Remember that?  The president was there and others.  Like a G-8 or something.  And there was a lot of cloak and dagger but the takeaway for Nikita was that the head German guy wasn't acting like himself. He was killed.  The document's about how there's some problem with his blood and the German government's saying that Canada messed up.

But Nikita's thinking maybe these people are drugged.  She wants Host to give it to the FBI, the document.  Use his contact feeding him information and --

He doesn't have an FBI contact.

What?  Then how has he been getting his info?

From texts.  Someone mailed him a cell phone and they send texts on it.

Nikita looks over it and realizes (a) it's Amanda and (b) Amanda used Host (feeding him info) so Nikita would contact him.

It's a trap.

The place is surrounded.  Michael's down below as well (Nikita's on the sixth floor).

She and host try to walk out but one idiot screams, "It's Nikita!"  And then everyone in the newsroom is shooting video with their cell phones and posting it online.

As a result, Birkhoff is able to call the smartphones.  One person tells her it's for her.  She tells host to take the phone.  It's not the FBI.  It's Michael and the gang.

She goes upstairs with host, to the roof, she gets him to sit there and play victim to lure the cops and feds there while she escapes through the garage.

But that doesn't work when the FBI shuts down her communication with Michael and company.

So Michael goes to head of the FBI with a tablet and the man sees his wife in cross hairs.  Do what Michael tells him or the man's wife is dead.

So he orders the power shut off and it is and Nikita's able to make it past fans through the air ducts into the parking garage.

Michael tells her they'll meet up at the staging area at the zoo.  Nikita leaves in the back of the FBI director's car.  Michael leaves in another.

The man pulls out a hidden gun while driving.  When he gets out of the car so that Nikita can dump him on the side of the road, he waits until after she's driving off to shoot at her.  He gets her (I think in the left arm) and she's bleeding badly.

She can't see straight and hits two parked cars and wrecks the one she's driving.

On foot, with a gun, she tries to make it to the zoo.

Michael's wondering where she is?

Back at ENN, FBI head goes to host and is handed the cell phone and the German piece of paper.  And then he leaves.  And then the tent host was in explodes.

Nikita is blamed for this.

Birkhoff tells Micheal that the car Nikita was in is a couple of miles away and idle.

Over the police scanner, Michael hears the orders to look for Nikita on foot.  He jumps in his car and heads off looking for Nikita.

She's bleeding in an alley and that's pretty  much the end of the episode.

I'll write about Friday night's episode on Monday.

I didn't realize season six had started, sorry.

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

Friday, November 29, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue,  protests continue, corpses continue popping up in the streets of Iraq, ExxonMobil dumps a dingo dog with flease, AFP and Al Jazeera cover for Nouri and his security forces, and more.

  • It's Friday, protests have been taking place in Iraq since December 21st.  Iraqi Spring MC notes protests took place in Falluja (above),  Samarra, Jalawla, Tikrit, Baquba, among others.

    Earlier this week, NINA reported, "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that there will be a response to all legitimate demands of people of Anbar province which were been presented by the province delegation and its provincial council during the recent meeting with him."  More empty words from Nouri.

    Monday, Nickolav Mladenov, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, addressed the United Nations Security Council.

    Nickolay Mladenov:  Protests continued in Anbar, Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Kirkuk and Diayala governorates in the form of unified Friday prayers.  Compared to the past reporting period, the protests assumed a lower profile, owning in part to increased attention to the protesters' demands by newly elected local administrations. Indeed, the Anbar Governorate Council elected Sabah Karhout, a member of the Arab Iraqiya party, as its chair, and Ahmed Khalif al-Dulaimi, a member of the Muttahidoun party, as Governor.  In Ninewa, the Governorate Council re-elected Atheel al-Nujaifi, a known supporter of the protestors and brother of the Speake of the Council of Representatives [Osama al-Nujaifi], as Governor.  On 5 October dialogue between the Government and the protestors resumed following a meeting between the Prime Minister [Nouri al-Maliki] and the Governor of Anbar, who was nominated by the demonstrators to represent their interests.  While the meeting was described as positive and fruitful by the Prime Minister's office, no progress has been announced to date in addressing the demonstrators' demands.  

    Nouri's empty words accomplish nothing.  It's 22 days away from one year of protests.  Nouri's refused to address the concerns of the protesters.  Despite repeatedly claiming he would.  (There was a minor for-show release of a limited number of innocents people held behind bars without charges.)

    Speaking to Patrick Cockburn (Independent) this week, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr shared his thoughts on Nouri and the protests:

    Mr Sadr is particularly critical of the government’s handling of the Sunni minority, which lost power in 2003, implying they had been marginalised and their demands ignored. He thinks that the Iraqi government lost its chance to conciliate Sunni protesters in Iraq who started demonstrating last December, asking for greater civil rights and an end to persecution.
    “My personal opinion is that it is too late now to address these [Sunni] demands when the government, which is seen as a Shia government by the demonstrators, failed to meet their demands,” he said. Asked how ordinary Shia, who make up the great majority of the thousand people a month being killed by al-Qa’ida bombs, should react, Mr Sadr said: “They should understand that they are not being attacked by Sunnis. They are being attacked by extremists, they are being attacked by external powers.”

    It's amazing that, having passed the 11th month mark, the protests have received so very little attention from the western media.

    Via Iraqi Spring MC, here's more of what the western press ignored today.

    "اريد حقي، صرخة مدوية في سماء الحرية" الموحدة في مدينة

  • NINA quotes Anbar's Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad stating, "The citizens participated in the prayers that held in the courtyard northern Ramadi and eastern Fallujah cities , stressing that the goal of this trickle is to send one again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens deep conviction."

    Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports 18 corpses, bullets in head, were found dumped in the town of Mishada.  BBC News adds the 18 were abducted from their homes hours prior to being dumped and that the kidnappers "were wearing police uniforms, according to eyewitnesses."  AFP offers, "The victims, all male, were taken on early Friday by men wearing military uniforms and driving around six SUVs, which looked like army vehicles. The victims' families were told that they were suspects in an official investigation and were being taken away for questioning, witnessed told AFP."

    AFP and Al Jazeera rush to name al Qaeada.

    It must be nice to be a crook in Iraq, the press always willing to cover for you, always willing to lie.

    They lied in 2006 as well.  Repeatedly.

    This is why the ethnic cleansing lasted two year -- media felt their job was to protect Nouri and his goons, even if Nouri and his goons were the ones doing the killings.

    One of the few to tell the truth was the human rights organization Human Rights Watch.  October 29, 2006 they issued a statement which opened:

    The Iraqi government must move quickly to prosecute all Ministry of Interior personnel responsible for “death squad” killings in Baghdad and elsewhere, Human Rights Watch said today.
    “Evidence suggests that Iraqi security forces are involved in these horrific crimes, and thus far the government has not held them accountable,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division. “The Iraqi government must stop giving protection to security forces responsible for abduction, torture and murder.”
    Every month, hundreds of people are abducted, tortured and killed by what many believe are death squads that include security forces. To terrorize the population, the killers often dump the mutilated corpses in public areas.

    Human Rights Watch welcomed the recent suspension from duties of the 8th Iraqi Police Unit pending an investigation into their complicity in abductions and killings. The US military has claimed that the unit was responsible for the October 1 kidnapping of 26 Sunni food factory workers in southwest Baghdad, 10 of whom were later found dead. The news agency Inter Press Service reported that the unit used Ministry of Interior vehicles and, according to witnesses, some wore black “death squad” uniforms.

    AFP and Al Jazeera cite police for the 'proof' that the culprits are al Qaeda.

    Neither damn outlet notes the reality that the police and the military -- all the security forces Nouri controls -- were active killing Iraqis as part of the ethnic cleansing from 2006 to 2007.  It's the same way they covered up the Ministry of Interior targeting and killing men suspected of being gay only a little while ago.

    Apparently truth telling and 'reporting' don't go hand in hand.

    Today, 18 people are pulled from their homes by people wearing security uniforms and driving security vehicles.

    AFP and Al Jazeera rush to tell you that it's al Qaeda.

    They have no proof.  They'll lie and whore -- because that's what the press does -- and insist that they're just including details to flesh out the 'reporting.'

    Those aren't details, those are accusations.  A detail?  That would be noting the long history Nouri's forces have for conducting 'extra-judicial' killings.

    Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) reported in October 2006 on the response from Jawad Bolani to accusations that police forces were carrying out "sectarian death squad killings."  Daragahi noted:

    Few sectarian gang members who have been arrested were employees of the ministry, Bolani said. Often they worked for a separate Iraqi security force that guards government buildings, or are security guards at other ministries or for politicians. Some arrested have been linked to the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, he said.

    But AFP and Al Jazeera can't be bothered noting any of that.


    Because the Ministry of the Interior has a sterling reputation today and is run by . ..

    Oh, wait.  It's reputation is worse today than it was back then.  In addition, it has no minister heading it.  Nouri never nominated anyone to.  Nouri is the one overseeing it.

    So little suck-ass 'reporters'?  They hump Nouri's leg while whimpering and pretending that passes for reporting.

    We know it doesn't.

    We all know it doesn't.

    What it does do is demonstrate how biased AFP and Al Jazeera are, how they suck up to power and turn a blind eye to the suffering.

    But we already knew that, right?  Al Jazeera and AFP didn't say one damn word about today's massive protests.

    They ignore so very much.  The ignore that Nouri al-Maliki is supporting Shi'ite militias.  Tim Arango (New York Times) broke that story at the end of September:

    In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

    Asaib al-Haq have badges and weapons supplied by Nouri.

    A Shi'ite death squad.

    Unnamed police 'sources'?  AFP and Al Jazeera run with it ignoring the fact that such sources are hardly unbiased.  While they include those sources, they ignore many others.  Here's one example.

  • : MP Ahmed al-Alwani accuses Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq of widespread targeting and killing of Sunni Arabs:

  • For the record, a member of Parliament?  Official source.  But not in Nouri's tent.  So  AFP and Al Jazeera feign ignorance.

    They are pretending, right?

    There's no way that two news outlets could be that ignorant, is there?

    Those weren't the only corpses popping up today.  NINA reports 3 female corpses were discovered in Baghdad with signs of torture.  NINA notes 7 corpses were discovered in Tikrit, Iraqi males who were working in Tikrit on the construction of Tikrit Stadium -- all seven were decapitated.  The heads were found elsewhere in the city -- 5 of which has been "filled with explosives."

    And those weren't the only deaths.  NINA reports another mayor has been killed, this time it was Mayor Sa'ad Ali Sheet by a Hamam Aleel sticky bombing.  Also?  A Baghdad livestock market bombing which claimed 1 life and left seven people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Ministry of Environment employee, a Mousl rocket attack claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers,  a Kirkuk bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi military officer and left three soldiers injured, a Sadiya home invasion left 2 people dead, a southwest Baghdad bombing near a football field left 5 people dead and nine more injured, 2 Baghdad home invasions left 6 women and 1 man dead, and, dropping back to late Thursday, "Unidentified gunment killed six people, including an officer, and his wife, after setting an ambush south of Tirkit last night"

    Staying with violence, Monday, Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory has issued a release on Alaa Idwar (pictured below).

    alaa idwar

    The JFO noted that they hold military and security forces responsible for not providing security -- not providing security as journalists have faced increasing threats and violence in Mosul for the last two months.  They explained that armed forces -- who do not provide their identities -- have also prevented journalists from doing their jobs, interfering with the reporters efforts to report what is taking place.  They called for the federal government to conduct an investigation and to do so quickly.

    Of  Alaa Idhar's murder, they noted his death follows the murder of other journalists in Mosul.  He was shot three times -- once in the head, once in the stomach and once in the chest.  He wasn't far from his home when the attack took place. Alaa was 41-years-old and had begun his TV journalism career in 1999.  In later years, he added photography and frequently free lanced including for Al Jazeera.   The JFO noted that security forces found a "liquidation list" containing forty-four names, all of them journalists.

    Today Human Rights Watch issued a staement which included:

    Four journalists have been assassinated in Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s Ninewa Province, since early October 2013. Iraqisecurity officials have said they were investigating the killings, the most recent on November 24, but have not arrested or charged anyone in connection with the attacks.

    At the same time, Iraqi prosecutors have stepped up criminal prosecutions of journalists for defamation and have increased other harassment of journalists. Three journalists told Human Rights Watch in November that security forces arrested them and confiscated their equipment after they covered politically sensitive topics, such as poor security, corruption, and the government’s inadequate response to the needs of people affected by flooding. Another journalist told Human Rights Watch that police arrested him on charges of defamation, a crime in Iraq’s penal code, for an article accusing officials of corruption.

    “Journalists in Iraq face a double threat, from armed gangs gunning them down and prosecutors charging them, all because of what they write,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The recent spate of assassinations of journalists has had a chilling effect on journalists, who risk being prosecuted by the very authorities that are supposed to protect them.”

    Assassinations of Journalists
    The killings in Mosul have made October and November the deadliest two-month period this year for journalists. Iraqi authorities have released no information about the results of any pending investigations into the killings, nor announced any arrests. The killings follow years of targeted violence against journalists in Iraq. Since the start of protests in Iraq in February 2011 over widespread corruption and lack of services, journalists have faced escalating attacks and threats, including from members of the government’s security forces. According to the Baghdad-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, 48 journalists in Mosul have been killed in violence since 2003.

    In the latest killing, on November 24 unidentified assailants using automatic weapons shot and killed Alaa Edward Butros, a Christian journalist for al-Rashid television news service, as he sat in a coffee shop in the al-Majmua al-Thaqafeyya area north of Mosul. Gunmen shot and killed three other journalists in Mosul in October. Gunmen also killed two spokespersons for the Ninewa governor, Atheel Nujaifi, one in July and the other in October. Both had previously worked as journalists.

    The al-Mada Press news agency, citing a source in the Ninewa police department, reported that security forces had “opened an investigation to find out more details about the assassination and who did it.” So far neither security forces nor the media have provided a reason for the killing. Christians in Mosul are frequently the target of attacks by armed insurgent groups like al-Qaeda.

    Ninewa security forces made similar statements after the assassinations of the three other journalists in October, based on Mosul residents’ accounts to Human Rights Watch and local news reports. On October 5, gunmen shot Mohammed Karim al-Badrani, a television reporter working with al-Sharqiyya news service, and his cameraman, Mohammed al-Ghanem, in Mosul’s central al-Sarjakhaneh market when they were reporting on the neighborhood’s preparations for an upcoming religious holiday.

    On October 24, gunmen using a silencer shot Bashar Abdulqader Najm al-Nouaymi, a cameraman working with al-Mosuliya news agency, in Mosul’s Nabi Shayth neighborhood.

    On October 8, gunmen killed Saad Zaghloul, a spokesman for the Ninewa governor, in front of his home in Mosul’s al-Qadissiya neighborhood. In July, gunmen killed Nujaifi’s spokesman at the time, Qahtan Sami, then laid his corpse on the street while army officers looked on, accordingto a local news report.

    Nujaifi told local media that local security forces know the names of members of “a group that specializes in assassinations,” but that he believes the forces have deliberately not taken any action to investigate or prevent the assassinations. A local journalist told Human Rights Watch that according to information a government source provided him, security forces have a list of 44 journalists that armed groups in the area have targeted for assassinations.

    From the flowing of blood to the flowing of oil . . .

  • As long expected, ExxonMobil unloaded a dingo dog with fleas yesterday.  Global Times reported, "American energy company Exxon Mobil sold part of its controversial stake Thursday in a massive Iraqi oilfield to PetroChina and Indonesia's Pertamina amid a long-running row with Iraq's central government.  The sale of the stake in the West Qurna-1 field in south Iraq, one of the country's largest, marks a key step toward resolving the dispute with the central government over Exxon's contracts with the autonomous Kurdish region."  When ExxonMobil signed a deal with the KRG, Nouri and his flunkies stamped their feet in public, then Nouri said that the US government had said they'd stop the deal, then spokesperson for the US State Dept Victoria Nuland had to note the obvious:  the US government cannot force an oil company to do anything.  Iraq has a history of state-owned oil companies.  That's not the western model -- or the model the US government has repeatedly attempted to impose on Iraq since invading in 2003. Nouri didn't grasp that reality.

    Once he did, he began insisting that ExxonMobil couldn't have the KRG deal and the West Qurna deal.

    Nouri's an idiot.  The West Qurna field is seen as a dingo dog with flease.

    It was part of an embarrassing auction that Nouri's flunkies held and then re-held when the first one did so poorly.

    Multi-national oil corporations aren't thrilled with the deals themselves that Baghdad's offering nor are they impressed with the so-so quality of the fields being offered.

    By contrast, they feel the KRG provides better deals and has richer fields.

    The illegal war has brought nothing but misery to Iraq.  And yet US outlets don't feel compelled to cover what's taking place.  They certainly don't feel remorse over selling the illegal war.   Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) reports:

    Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari announced Oct. 23 that he had prepared a Sharia-based personal-status law and submitted it to the cabinet for approval and referral to the Council of Representatives for passage. Should the law be approved, Iraqi municipalities would be required to apply penalties that violate human rights, such as mutilation and stoning, among others.

    [. . .]
    Civil society movements have launched an extensive campaign in Iraq against the draft law for widely violating human rights, especially those of women and children. Mustafa Kazimi, an Iraqi human rights and democratic activist, wrote on his Facebook page, “This arbitrary and unjust law’s clear violations against the disadvantaged in situations such as granting legal license for parents to marry off girls who are under nine years old and boys who are under 15 years old is an offense against children and an exploitation of childhood. This draft law also considers that a husband provides nafaqah [housing, food and clothing] in return for the sexual pleasure provided to him by his wife. This is an obvious insult to women and a waste of dignity.”
    Attempts to impose Sharia in Iraq will likely lead to deeper sectarian divisions in the society, as religious views differ from one sect to another. Accordingly, there have been calls in some Sunni quarters to separate themselves from the Shiites and establish a Sunni state in their areas, in part because, they allege, the Shiites are moving toward the declaration of a Shiite state.

    In the week where a teacher slapped a young girl for not wearing a veil at a public school, Abbas Sarhan (Niqash) reports some good news for Iraqi women:

    Only a few years ago a woman driving on the streets of Karbala was an unusual sight, one that some considered indecent and odd. But this has changed a lot, with more women driving and more locals considering it acceptable. And despite the city’s conservative ways, local authorities are now sending their female staff to driver education courses.
    Local woman Ruqaya is proud that she was one of the first females, if not the first, to drive a car in the conservative Iraqi city of Karbala. She’s a school teacher and she was taking taxis to work every day. “This was costing almost one quarter of my salary,” she explained to NIQASH. “So I decided to buy a car. It was an old Daewoo and I bought it for US$3,000. In 2009, I sold it and bought a sportier model, a Kia.”
    That was in 2005. “It was strange to see a woman driving a car here,” she continues. “People often looked surprised or outraged when they saw it. And there were men who would make fun of female drivers and who made jokes about them.”
    Once when her car broke down, Ruqaya had to leave it next to a petrol station and she was jeered at by those who saw her predicament as she left the car.
    Karbala didn’t have any actual laws forbidding women from driving and, unlike in some Gulf States, there has never been a fatwa, or religious edict, issued that forbids women from driving. But in Karbala, which is a seat of religious learning and also the home to some of the most important sites in Shiite Islam, it was expected that citizens would abide by the “rules of decency” and avoid any “forbidden acts”. For many, this meant that women should not be behind the wheel of a car.
    However this has changed. “On the whole I think the people of Karbala are civilized in the way they deal with women drivers,” Ruqaya tells NIQASH. “And today there are dozens of women driving in the city. Some of them even drive to other provinces.”

    Monday, UNAMI issued the following:

    Baghdad, 25 November 2013 – On International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) today, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, used the opportunity to appeal to Iraqi leaders to “take concrete steps to enact and enforce laws which prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV), including holding perpetrators accountable, and to create a framework for better outcomes for women and communities.” 

    Acknowledging that a National Strategy on Combating Violence against Women for 2013-2017 had been endorsed in March 2013 by the Council of Ministers, the UN Envoy deplored that “violence still intersects with nearly every facet of women’s lives, including at home, at school, in the workplace and in society,” and called for a fundamental change in mindsets that have been allowing violence to continue. 
    “Violence against women is a human rights violation.  The scale and true nature of it is often hidden,” said Ms. Frances Guy, Representative of UN Women for Iraq. She highlighted the need for continuing action to eliminate violence against women, and for creating the appropriate framework that will enable women to enjoy physical safety as well as economic security. “It is crucial that all Iraqis support this important goal,” she stressed.
    Every year, 25 November and the ensuing 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence which follow – ending on 10 December, Human Rights Day – are commemorated around the world, providing individuals and groups a chance to mobilize and call attention to the urgent need to end violence against women and girls.


    Friday, November 29, 2013

    Thankful not to be Jason Kidd or Cher

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Hope you had a good one.  Did you see Jason Kidd?  I will come back to that.

    First off, Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) has a report on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant:

    Some sources say that part of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s millions were hidden away somewhere between Hawija and his hometown, Awja, and it’s been being used to fund violence and bombing. Other sources say it’s all a spat about ransom money.

    The antagonism between the two has gone so far that recently when Ansar al-Sunna was trying to organize some bombs around the Kirkuk province, ISIS provided information to local intelligence agencies about their activities. This led to the arrest of a large number of Ansar al-Sunna members.

    Qader was obviously pleased with that outcome. “The differences of opinion between these terrorist groups can only lead to an improvement in the security situation in Kirkuk,” he said.

    However Ahmed al-Askari, a Kurdish member of the provincial council and head of the local security committee, says the fight between the two groups was no reason to become complacent. “The conflicts between them are associated with conflicts of their sponsors,” al-Askari told NIQASH. “All of these groups still share one doctrine and there’s no real difference between them. Any conflict is most likely to be short lived so we shouldn’t believe the threat of terrorism has left Kirkuk and its environs.”

    Okay, Jason Kidd's career as coach of the Brooklyn Nets got worse today.

    The NBA announced a $50,000 fine today over yesterday's game and the stunt Kidd pulled.  (To stop the clock and buy time, he deliberately spilled a cola on the floor causing a clean up which gave the Nets a time out after they'd exhausted all their time outs.)

    When the coach is pulling cheap stunts, how does the team end up playing?

    A coach is supposed to provide leadership.

    Kidd's having one problem after another.  Maybe coaching is beyond him.

    Click here for a CBS News video report on the stunt.

    In other news, Cher's hate-fest has had one direct impact.  Her album's dropped 21 spots on the Billboard chart, from 15 to 36.  It's only going to drop further because she can't shut up the hate.  She keeps Tweeting hate.  I'm not a Republican and she's gotten on my nerves with this b.s.

    Does she really thinks she looks cool, at 67, picking these online fights?  Being a bitch on Twitter?

    What an idiot.

    Let's all be thankful we're not Cher -- who may be eased out of TV.  I heard that from a TV vice president today (a friend of C.I.'s who was a guest at her Thanksgiving dinner).  There a lot of complaints coming in about Cher.  So she's only hurting herself putting all that hate up online.

    She really needs to learn to shut up.

    What 67-year-old spends all day spewing hate on Twitter?

    Maybe she's losing her mind?

    I'm not joking.

    So I'm thankful I'm not Kidd or Cher.  I had a great Thanksgiving, hope you did too.

    Here's the content that's gone up at The Common Ills today:

  • The dingo dog with fleas
  • Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Don't Forget T...
  • Violence takes no holiday
  • The talking entry
  • David DeGraw and All In For The Worldwide Wave of ...

  • State Dept opportunities for NGOs working on the r...

  • Thursday, November 28, 2013

    ObamaCare and Thanksgiving Two Bite

    Kate Randall (WSWS) reports:

    As the fallout continues over the cancelation notices sent to millions of people covered by health plans in the individual insurance market, it is becoming clear that millions more workers and their families are expected to lose their employer-based coverage as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.
    According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 156 million Americans—more than half the population—currently receive employer-sponsored health insurance. By 2016, the CBO projects that 6 million fewer people will receive employer-based health insurance compared to 2013.
    Other business surveys place the number losing coverage much higher. A recent survey of 400 mid-size firms by the US Chamber of Commerce and the International Franchise Association found that 28 percent planned to drop their coverage due to the ACA.
    In tandem with the legislation commonly known as Obamacare, a seismic shift is taking place in the employer-sponsored health care market, the means by which the majority of Americans who are not insured under a government-sponsored program like Medicare or Medicaid receive coverage. For those workers who have not seen their coverage canceled outright, companies are already shifting greater costs for coverage to their employees.
    Workers and their families who are dropped from employer coverage will be forced to purchase coverage on the Obamacare exchanges. Under the so-called individual mandate of the health care law, workers without some form of insurance must purchase coverage from private insurers on the insurance exchanges set up under the ACA, or pay a penalty.

    Uh-oh, Brian Gilmore!

    Remember "The Idiot Whore Brian Gilmore"?  Yep, he looks even more whorish now.

    Let me note the posts that have gone up so far:

  • That's 3 posts by C.I.  Did you notice?  And she's doing a guest post for Rebecca right now.  So she'll have done four guest posts.  We're trying to post but we just want to talk -- we = Elaine, C.I. and me.

    And I'm hungry again.  That's all I've done tonight.  :D  Eat.

    I'm being teased that I won't have an appetite for tomorrow.  But I will. Count on it.

    I'm really more in a ham mood than turkey mood.  That might change when it's time to eat but right now I could just eat a ham forever.

    But I will have turkey.

    In fact, let me steal from my mom (Trina's Kitchen, her link is already above) and offer a recipe.

    Thanksgiving Two Bite
    Take one roll.
    Stuff with turkey.
    Stuff now with cranberry sauce.

    Serve by eating -- in two bites.


    That really is my favorite part of Thanksgiving food and Christmas food -- making my little turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches.  :D

    Okay, they're done so I need to wrap up.  I will blog Thursday night -- but I'm in California so it may be around midnight PST.

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

    Wednesday, November 27, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri tries to spin a business success, the KRG upstages Nouri, Jen Psaki throws a hissy fit, the State Dept makes clear just how little they value Sunni lives, corpses in the streets of Iraq, and more.

    The Press Association reports, "The opening of the first branch of a British bank in Iraq has been hailed by its prime minister as a sign of new international trust in the country, and a testament to the ongoing friendship between the new nations. Speaking at the opening of the branch of Standard Chartered in Baghdad, prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki paid tribute to Britain for its support as the two countries continue to work to help Iraq rebuild itself after years of conflict."

    Oh, that's so cute.

    For Iraq and Standard.  In 2012, Jonathan Stempel and Carrick Mollenkamp (Reuters) reported:

    In a rare move, New York's top bank regulator threatened to strip the state banking license of Standard Chartered Plc, saying it was a "rogue institution" that hid $250 billion in transactions tied to Iran, in violation of U.S. law.

    The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) on Monday said the British bank "schemed" with the Iranian government and hid from law-enforcement officials some 60,000 secret transactions to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in fees over nearly 10 years.

    In other words, what really happened today is that a rogue bank opened a branch in a rogue state.

    And it's not really a British bank, is it?  As Standard Charted notes, "We operate in some of the world's most dynamic markets and have been for over 150 years.  More than 90 per cent of our income and profits are derived from Asia, Africa and the Middle East."

    They already operate in Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

    So the customers aren't primarily British.  But the bank, the bank itself is British!

    No, you can't be a "multi-national" -- which Standard Charted is -- and belong to one country.  Or did we forget the meaning of "multi" in "multi-national"?  It was founded in South Africa.  It only 'divested' itself of South Africa (where it was part of the blood diamond trade) in 1987 -- at the point when everyone else with integrity had long ago left.  Scan Wikipedia and you'll see quickly that "no integrity" really sums up Standard Charted which is forever in trouble in India and which attempted bribery in the Philippins and Malaysia.  They got into trouble for inflating claims -- trouble with the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission.

    In other words, they should be perfectly at home in Nouri's corrupt Iraq.

    Poor Nouri, this was his big moment and so much of nothing.

    This month Hyatt announced a new Hyatt Regency . . . in Iraq.  But Nouri can't get excited, the hotel will be in semi-autonomous northern region governed by the KRG.  And Kelly Clarke (Khaleej Times) reported two weeks ago:

    During a conference unveiling a new multi-billion dollar development to go up in the Kurdistan region’s capital, Erbil, last month, Emaar chairman Mohamed Alabbar said it hopes to ‘close similar deals with the country’s government in the future’, building on its already growing economy.
    [. . .]
    “To have such an international brand like Emaar coming in is a big step up for the development of the area and it will surely create confidence,” he (real estate agent and CEO for Elite Homes Ali Asad] told Khaleej Times.
    Asked why he thinks one of the world’s biggest property developers has chosen to develop in Erbil, rather than Baghdad, where property prices are higher, he said it was simple.
    “If they want a footstep into Iraq, Erbil is the perfect place, because it’s secure,” however Asad did mention the Downtown Erbil development will undoubtedly create inflation in the area, as listed prices are already considerably higher than similar developments in the area.

    Not everything's in the KRG.

    For example, today the KRG Prime Minister wasn't.  He was in Ankara.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports that Nijervan Barzani met with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the two discussed "the issue of oil exporting from Kurdistan region to Turkey."  All Iraq News quotes "Turkish sources" stating, "Erdogan signed many conventions with Barzani in oil and gas sectors and after the three hour meeting he announced his intention to visit Baghdad and Erbil to assure the desire of Turkey in promoting relations with all Iraqi components."

    The pipeline could assist with the oil exports that are already taking place between the KRG and Turkey.  Seyfettin Gursel (Al-Monitor) reports:

    Oil production in the region controlled by the KRG is 300,000 barrels per day. About two-thirds of this amount is exported to Turkey in tanker trucks. This is a tedious and expensive method. Nevertheless, the KRG revenues — which were at $150 million seven years ago — have risen to $12 billion, and per capita income has climbed to $5,000 from $300. It is possible to boost the daily production to 1 million barrels with the operating wells. With proven and estimated oil reserves, this production will increase multifold in coming years. According to Celebi, yet-untapped natural gas reserves are estimated at 40 billion cubic meters. The KRG has already signed deals with international oil companies for production and to build the pipelines that would cross Turkey.
    Even limited oil-production revenues have raised Turkey’s exports to Iraq to above $10 billion, which comes after Germany in Turkey’s primary export markets. It is, however, likely to occupy the top slot soon. According to Celebi, 90% of exports to Iraq go to Northern Iraq, with the rest going to the south of the country. Imagine how these numbers are going to multiply when the pipelines are completed and oil and natural gas starts to flow.

    Of today's meet-up, Asharq al-Awsat notes, "Speaking to CNNTurk television on Wednesday, Barzani confirmed that Iraq's Kurds are hoping to start pumping oil to Turkey before the end of the year via the Baghdad-controlled pipeline." AFP reports that Barzani declared before the meeting that the oil could be flowing, via the pipeline, to Turkey "before Christmas" (December 25th).

    Guess which cranky boy forgot Santa Claus was making a list of who was naughty and who was nice?
    Nouri al-Maliki.  AFP quotes Nouri's mouth piece Ali al-Mussawi conveying Nouri's fury, "The Iraqi government informed the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad of its strong opposition to signing the pipeline deal with KRG."  And if that's got Nouri stomping his feet, whatever will he do in December?  That's when, Rudaw reports, a major commerce event takes place in the KRG:

    More than 100 international energy companies and 800 political and diplomatic figures are expected to attend the Kurdistan-Iraq Oil &  Gas Conference 2013 in Erbil next month, notably coinciding with historic oil exports by the Kurds. 
    The four-day conference opens Sunday, just as the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq begins to export oil directly to Turkey through its newly-extended pipeline.

    Maybe he'll have time to adjust?  But today, Nouri thought it was his day.  He'd dominate the news cycle by announcing a one-time tool of the British empire was invading Iraq.  Instead, all anyone cares about right now is what Barzani and Erdogan agreed to.

    How important is today's news?

    Nouri's not the only one throwing a hissy fit.  At the US State Dept press briefing today, spokesperson Jen Psaki took sides and acted like an idiot.  What a proud moment for the State Dept.

    QUESTION: About the energy deal between Turkey and KRG: The KRG Prime Minister Barzani, Nechirvan Barzani, was in Turkey yesterday and he told to the Turkish reporters there that the pipeline between Irbil and Turkey will start to carry all the oil next month, before the Christmas. So I know that you raised this – your concern on this issue with the Turks when Mr. Davutoglu was here, but what is the latest situation and what is your view on the latest arrangement of this --

    MS. PSAKI: Our view has not changed. We don’t support oil exports from any part of Iraq without approval of the Iraqi federal government. We continue to urge the federal government of Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government to reach a constitutional solution, and that has consistently been our position. And it also has not changed.

    QUESTION: There is a plan on the table that Turks are arguing that they’re going to accumulate the revenue, oil revenue, in a Turkish bank in Turkey, and then they gonna split the spoils arising from this energy resources between KRG and Baghdad. So 70 percent will be going to the Kurds, and the rest will be Baghdad. Are you okay with that plan?

    MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that for you. Our position remains the same on this specific issue.

    QUESTION: Did you raise this issue with Mr. Davutoglu when was in town?

    MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s more to report on our meeting with Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

    QUESTION: So, just so I understand correctly, you do stick to the principle that the central governments was responsible for the export of oil from Iraq?

    MS. PSAKI: That’s right, without approval of the Iraqi federal government.

    'We stay out of it! We stay out of it!  We support the Iraqi Constitution and the laws! It's not for us to decide!'

    Did I forget any of the lies that have been told from the State Dept podium?

    The State Dept doesn't give a damn about the Constitution of Iraq.  They don't give a damn about the Iraqi people.

    If you give a damn, you have something to say.

    Let's drop back to yesterday snapshot to underscore how damn little the State Dept cares about Iraq:

    National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 person shot dead in Khalis, preacher and Iman Rakan Hussein al-Naimi was injured by gunfire in a Rilkaif assassination attempt. Sheikh Ghadanfar al-Mahdawi survived (without injury) an attempted assassination "between Baqbua and Muqdadiyah," a Falluja sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad, a Falluja roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured, and the corpses of Sheikh Adnan al-Ghanem and Sheikh Kadhim al-Jubouri were discovered in Basra.  All Iraq News adds that the Mayor of Shuqiara Sufla Village, Jasim Mohammed al-Jubouri, was assassinated.

    Where's the statement from the State Dept.  On mayors?  That's at least the eighth one assassinated since October 1st. Where's the statement decrying that?

    Where's the State Dept on the assassinations of Sheikh Adnan al-Ghanem and Sheikh Kadhim al-Jubrouri?

    Two religious leaders are killed.  Jen Psaki didn't give a damn. She and the Dept she speaks for could care less.

    By contrast, All Iraq News reports:

    The Iraqi Scholars Assembly condemned the crimes of assassinations that targeted Sheikhs, Adnan al-Ghanim, and Kadhim al-Jobouri, in Basra province.
    The head of the Assembly stated to AIN "These crimes aim at arousing sectarianism."

    "The outlaw armed groups are behind these ugly crimes," he added.

    Please let it register in Iraq that when Sunni religious leaders are assassinated, the US government doesn't bat an eye and remains silent.

    Let's stop pretending that this White House is any different than the last.  They don't give a damn about the Sunni people.

    The White House is nothing but a maxipad for Nouri, to help prevent spotting.  When the maxipad is fully stained (Bully Boy Bush) a new one is applied (Barack Obama).

    The US Embassy in Baghdad is also silent as two Sunni Imams are assassinated.

    Silence is what Jen Psaki should have offered today.

    The State Dept may not like what the KRG does but (a) why should the KRG give a damn what the US government thinks or wants (seriously, after being stabbed in the back in November 2010, why should the KRG give a damn?) and (b) the KRG's actions are legal.

    Little Psaki was apparently unable to speak the truth but there's no oil law.

    Nouri was installed (by Bully Boy Bush) as prime minister to pass an oil law.  When Democrats were saying (pretending) they'd end the Iraq War if they got control of even one house of Congress in the 2006 mid-terms?  Well they got control of both houses of Congress and the White House quickly came up with a set of benchmarks that would prove 'progress' in Iraq -- so Congress wouldn't cut off funds. That was six years ago so let's cite a source for any who might be new to the topic.  From Gail Russell Chaddock (Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 2007):

    It's almost 100 days after President Bush requested emergency funds for the Iraq war, and Congress and the White House are converging on a deal that includes benchmarks for progress for the Iraqi government, including a national oil law and provincial elections.
    For Democrats now controlling Congress, these benchmarks – plucked right from the president's 2007 State of the Union address – are a way to avoid giving the White House "a blank check" on a war that a majority of Americans now oppose.

    Nouri agreed to meet the benchmarks.  Where's the oil law?

    Nouri couldn't get it through in his first term and he's failed in his second term.  Nouri introduces bills to the Parliament -- it's not like the US Congress.  Nouri's failed over and over.

    And it's no longer just an issue of the KRG.  As Abdullah Salem (Niqash) reported last week, Nineveh Province is making moves to handle the sale of their own oil:

    But the head of Ninawa's provincial legal committee, Nofal Hammadi al-Akoub, said that Baghdad was relying on out dated oil and gas laws – federal Iraq still doesn't have a national oil and gas law, even though Iraqi Kurdistan has passed it's own.

    Those older laws relate to the preservation of oil wealth by preventing illegal extraction of oil. However, as Hammadi al-Akoub points out, “the provincial council didn't authorise the extraction of oil. Rather they authorised investment in oil. In taking this decision they were relating back to a 2008 law that gives provincial councils this authority – so the Ministry can't actually object.”

    If there is any contesting of the council's decision to be done, “parliament is the only entity that has the right to do this and the Supreme Federal Court will make the final decision,” al-Akoub told NIQASH.

    But it is not only the Iraqi government that is upset by the invitation for tenders. Some of the critics of the local government move come from within the council itself. Different factions within the council are concerned that the move will open the door for more Iraqi Kurdish companies to enter the disputed territory, and put the Iraqi Kurds ahead in the battle over disputed territories within Ninawa. 

    With no national oil law what does that mean?

    It means there's nothing to prohibit the KRG from doing what they're doing.

    Jen Psaki can scream and rip out her own hair.  She can set herself on fire if she wants.

    None of that will change the fact that the KRG is acting within the law.

    Nor will it change the reality, the ugly truth, that the State Dept is not backing Iraq or the Iraqi people. It's nothing but a bloody maxipad kept in place to protect Nouri.

    The bleeding from violence never ends in Iraq.

    Duraid Adnan (New York Times) reports, "But on Wednesday, the daily tally of violence took on an air of pinpoint deliberation with the execution-style killings of several groups of civilians, a grim reminder of the worst days of sectarian warfare in the country. While major bombings have become common, the killings reintroduced the prospect of a resurgence in the type of violence that rattled Iraq in 2006 and 2007."   Salam Faraj (AFP) reminds:, "At the peak of sectarian fighting, Sunni and Shiite militiamen would regularly carry out tit-for-tat kidnappings and assassinations and leave scores of corpses littering the streets, many of them bound, blindfolded and showing signs of torture."  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) also makes that point today, "Bodies were frequently found dumped during the height of Iraq's sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007, when the country was at the edge of civil war."

    Such as the never ending violence.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 suicide car bomber took his own life at a Habbaniyah police station entrance and he was followed by a suicide bomber wearing a belt with both bombings claimed the lives of 3 police officers with five more injured, an Albu Assaf suicide bomber  "blew himseful up at the gate of the police station," 1 "suicide car bomber blew himself up at the entrance of the headquarters of Peshmerga forces in Jabarah county of Khanqin" leaving 3 Peshmerga dead and ten more injured, an Abu Ghraib suicide bomber took his own life at a Baghdad funeral and killed 9 other people with twenty more left injured, an armed attack on a Mosul police station left one police officer and one detainee injured, a Qa'im roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and two more injured, 1 real estate worker was shot dead in Mosul, Hussein Sameer Malalah (Dept of Compensation employee) was shot dead in Mosul and Homam Adnan Ahmed (Dept of Energy employee) was shot dead in Mosul.  BBC News adds that "five members of the same family were shot dead in the mainly Shia district of Hurriya. The victims were reportedly Sunnis."

    Multiple attacks on police stations and assassinations but that's not the focus of the non-Iraqi press.  Check my math but I think that's 35 reported dead and 39 injured (13 of the dead will be noted in a second.)

    There was to have been a protest tomorrow.  Nasiriyah Network News reported earlier today that Dhi Qar journalists planned to protest the French Consulate over the lawsuits against two reporters in the province.  The invitation to the protest noted that Iraqi journalists must protest all efforts to curtail freedom of the press in Iraq and that failure to do so could lead to not just corruption but also dictatorship.  In an update, the outlet notes that the two French companies who were suiing the two journalists have dropped their lawsuits and the protest has been called off.  All Iraq News notes cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr met in Baghdad with the French Ambassador to Iraq Denys Gauer today and the two discussed a number of issues including parliamentary elections in Iraq.

    Moqatada is a Shi'ite cleric so staying with religion, let's note Patriarch Krill I of Moscow, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.  The Voice of Russia (link is text and audio) reports he met with Iraq's Ambassador to Russia Ismieal Shafiq Muhsin today and quotes him stating, "We know that Christian communities have been subjected to violence.  Very many people were killed just for being Christians.  Many people have left Iraq under the threat of death.  That, of course, changed the cultural landscape of your country.  We believe it is in a way a catastrophe for civilization because Christians and Muslims have always lived in peace on the territory of your country." Last week, Prashant Rao (AFP) reported on Iraqi Christians noting:

    Before 2003 more than a million Christians lived in Iraq. Now there are around 400,000, according to Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako, head of one of the world's oldest Christian communities.
    Baghdad has seen a dramatic fall in its own Christian population, which at one point numbered 600,000.
    According to Archdeacon Temathius Esha, an Assyrian priest in Dura, the neighbourhood's Christian population has all but disappeared, from around 150,000 shortly after the 2003 US-led invasion to about 2,000 now.
    Though home to seven churches -- Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac -- Dura now has only two priests.
    Esha's 500-capacity St. Shmooni Church attracted just 20 people for a recent Friday service, and he said only about 150 show up for Christmas or Easter.

    The priest's own family lives in the town of Ainkawa in Iraq's northern Kurdish region, which has been mostly spared from the violence plaguing the rest of the country.

    Religious minorities throughout Iraq are targeted -- including Yazidis, Mandaeans, Caldo-Assyrians, Shabaks and others.  One group that has been repeatedly targeted is the Iraqi Jewish community.

    In 2012, on World Refugee Day, Ron Posner, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote of the climate in the Middle East immediately after WWII and observed of Iraq, "In Iraq Jewish businessman Shafiq Adas, then the country's wealthiest citizen, was immediately arrested on trumped-up charges and publicly lynched. This was followed by bombings targeting Jewish institutions, arbitrary arrests of Jewish leaders, and massive government seizures of property. Within years virtually all of Iraq's 2,500-year-old Jewish community had fled, emptying the country of many of its greatest artists, musicians, and businessmen."  Last week the United Nations held a conference in New York entitled The Untold Story of the Middle East:  Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries.  Jacob Kamaras (Jewish News Service) reports:

    The story of Jews expelled from Iraq has recently drawn significant attention due to the current exhibition in Washington, DC of 24 artifacts from the “Iraqi Jewish Archive,” a collection of 2,700 Jewish books and documents recovered in 2003 in the basement of the Iraqi intelligence ministry and restored by the National Archives and Records Administration. The U.S. has said it plans to return the archive to the Iraqi government following the exhibition, in line with a written agreement between the two countries, but Iraqi Jews say Saddam Hussein’s government confiscated the materials from them.
    Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the U.N. conference reiterated a recent statement issued by 42 groups, addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry, that the archive should be protected and remain continually accessible to Jews.
    “We urge our government not to send them back to an uncertain fate in Iraq, where hundreds of holy Torah scrolls remain in disuse and decay,” Hoenlein said.
    Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor told regarding the Iraqi archive, “There were a lot of resources and assets put together in order to compile it the way it is; it was saved, and we don’t want it to be lost again.” Robert Singer, CEO of the World Jewish Congress, told that the fact that 42 groups signed the statement to Kerry shows “a unified position of the Jewish community on this issue.”

    Ruth covered the issue yesterday and noted Rory Cohen's O.C. Register column:

    Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and one of the initial members of the Muslim Brotherhood, became a Nazi agent after meeting Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust, in 1937. With Nazi funds, al-Husseini organized the Arab Revolt of 1936-39. In 1941, the mufti orchestrated a short-lived, Nazi-backed generals' coup in Iraq. The coup was followed by the Farhud, a vicious pogrom.
    It's an event that is indelibly imprinted in the consciousness of Iraq's Jews.
    The Mufti obtained Hitler's assurance in November 1941 that, after dealing with the Jews of Europe, Hitler would treat the Jews of the Middle East similarly. In a two-day period, mobs rampaged in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. At least 150 Jews were killed and more than 2,000 injured; some 900 Jewish homes were destroyed and looted; and hundreds of Jewish-owned shops were robbed and destroyed.
    My older family members recall witnessing how soldiers pulled small children away from their parents and ripped the arms off young girls to steal their bracelets; pregnant women were raped and their stomachs cut open. My grandfather rescued his little brother when the violence began. My great-grandfather claimed to be a Muslim when Iraqi troops stormed their home. That was how he saved himself and his daughters, including my grandmother. Many of his neighbors weren't so lucky.

    Turning to veterans issues,  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office issued the following:

    FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                        CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Wednesday, November 27th, 2013                                       (202) 224-2834
    MONDAY EVENTS: Murray to Tour JBLM Sexual Assault Response Center, Keynote Ceremony for Military Grads of Microsoft Training Program
    12:30, JBLM: Murray will tour sexual assault response center
    2:00, Saint Martin’s University: Murray will keynote graduation ceremony for military graduates of Microsoft IT training program
    (Washington, D.C.) – On Monday, December 2nd, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will be in Tacoma and Lacey, WA for two events. 

    First, at 12:30 PM PT, Senator Murray will visit the newly opened sexual assault response center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  The center is a first-for-the-military facility that brings together law enforcement, medical support and victims’ advocates in a single space. 

    Second, at 2:00 PM PT, Senator Murray will be the keynote speaker at a graduation ceremony to honor the first graduating class of military students from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy pilot program at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, WA.  The 22 graduates, currently active duty service members from JBLM, will be hired into entry-level roles as software testers at Microsoft or Launch Consulting.  The Microsoft Academy was inspired by Senator Murray’s “VOW to Hire Heroes Act.”

    To RSVP for either event, contact the Murray Press Office ( or the JBLM Public Affairs Office (253-967-0152)

    Event 1:

    WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
                                    Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, Deputy Commanding General, I Corps
            Col. Charles “Chuck” Hodges, Commander, Joint Base Lewis McChord
            Lt. Col. Robert Stelle, JBLM Sexual Assault Response Team Director

    WHAT:        Senator Murray will tour JBLM’s new, first-for-the-military sexual assault response center, which brings together law enforcement, medical support, and victims’ advocates in a single space.
    WHEN:        Monday, December 2nd, 2013     
            12:30 PM PT
    WHERE:     Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Resource Center
            Bldg 2027
                         Joint Base Lewis McChord,
                                       Dupont Gate, I-5 Exit 119
                                       Escort required – please RSVP in advance              
    Event 2:

    WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
                                       JBLM-based service members graduating from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy
                         Col. Charles Hodges, Jr., Base Commander, JBLM
                         Dr. Roy Heynderickx, President, Saint Martin’s University
                         Officials from Microsoft, Launch Consulting

    WHAT:        Murray will be the keynote speaker at a graduation ceremony to honor the first graduating class of military students from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy pilot program at Saint Martin’s University
    WHEN:        Monday, December 2nd, 2013     
            2:00 PM PT
    WHERE:     Saint Martin’s University
                         Norman Worthington Conference Center
                         Lacey, WA

    Sean Coit
    Press Secretary
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

    RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office