Friday, June 18, 2010

Idiot of the Week, Roy Gutman and more

Friday! At last!!!!! :D

Idiot of the week kicks off.

Who will this week's big winner be?


Drumroll . . . The Idiot of the Week is . . . Mike McKinnon!

That's right! I won! :D

How come?

Roy Gutman e-mailed to tell me "limp dicked" was the term he found objectionable. :D

I'd honestly forgotten that was in the e-mail. (I mailed it Monday. I didn't see his response until Thursday. In his response, he did not include mine below so I was thinking, "What did I say? Fat ass?") Good for me for using "limp dicked."

I should have done variations including Limp Bizkit. :D

I love "limp dicked." :D But I grew up playing sports. And I'm guessing (slowly) that Roy wasn't on the football team or basketball team or baseball team. I hear tell he played a mean game of jacks. No one could beat at two-sies! :D

So, as a jack player (considered more hobby than sport and requiring no locker room), Roy Gutman was not exposed to frank locker room talk.

As such, he had virgin ears and had never heard "limp dicked" until I used it in my e-mail. He had to run out into the streets and ask people. An 80-year-old woman slapped him across the face and called him "young feller!" :D But he finally found out what it meant and he was shocked.

Roy, my apologies. And congratulations on two-sies.

Okay, some local business, this is "GRP State, District Candidates to Headline GRP Berkshire Regional Convention (June 19/Pittsfield) :"

When: Saturday June 19, noon - 4 pm
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church, 175 Wendell Ave., Pittsfield, MA
Featuring an appearances by GRP gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein and district legislative candidates Scott Laugenour and Mark Miller; J. D. Hebert; and others. Also on the agenda: election of StateCom representatives from Berkshire County.
With music and food (A tasty buffet of Indian takeout appealing to vegetarians and omnivores alike, with donations encouraged to partially cover costs of lunch.)
Questions? Contact Mark Miller:
Click here for a map to the convention

Will I be going? If I'd gotten that in my e-mail before tonight. I may still try to go. But I'm kind of like, "Uh, my whole Saturday's pretty much planned already." So I don't know. I'm up in the air at this point. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, June 10, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's border problems now include the one they share with Syria, Allawi says Iraq needs help to end the political stalemate that has gripped the country, and more.

We'll start with
this by Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adrienne Kinne:

The US Social Forum is taking place in Detroit, MI from June 22-26, 2010 and IVAW will be there!
1) IVAW will be leading a GI Resistance Workshop. Iraq and Afghanistan War Resisters will testify to the struggle and value of resisting militarism and discuss what support is needed to build the GI Movement.
2) Building a Military Resistance Movement: Veterans, Service Members & Allies Organizing Together. This workshop, lead by IVAW and Civilian- Soldier Alliance will be an introductory training on supporting war resisters and being a strong and accountable ally to veterans and service-members organizing for change.
3) Veterans and Military Families: Impact of the Wars; Impact on Movements. An exploration of how veterans and military families use their unique voices and perspectives to end wars and promote peace and social change.

In the US, the morning began with
AFP reporting a car bombing in Baquba today has resulted in at least thirty-two people injured. BBC News explains the bombing targeted a police officer's home and that a Tuz Khormato car bombing which claimed 7 lives and left at least fifty injured in a bombing targeting a Shia Turkmen councillor. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports the death toll has risen to 9 for the Tuz Khomato bombing. DPA notes a Baghdad home invasion in which a Water Resources Ministry worker, his wife and their two sons were all shot dead. Of the Baghdad home invasion and that the wife was pregnant while adding that Hossam al-Majmaai ("chief of the Awakening Councils tribal security force in Diayala province") survived an assassination attempt.

As noted in
yesterday's snapshot, Turkey and Iran continue to shell northern Iraq. Jason Ditz ( explains today, "The Turkish military today said that they had killed over 100 Kurdish rebels in the past month of attacks on northern Iraq's Kurdistan region, including 20 in the past week. Most of the deaths came in air strikes against the region, but earlier this week hundreds of Turkish soldiers also briefly marched into Iraqi Kurdistan in 'hot pursuit' of rebels, sparking a multi-hour gunbattle." Iraq shares borders with Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. Two of those borders -- Iran and Turkey -- are now sources of violence. A third may be emerging. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports 7 Iraqi soldiers were killed near the shared border with Syria today by unknown assailants.

In addition,
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad International Airport was shelled with mortars Friday afternoon, a Thursday night Babuba police station bombing claimed the live of 2 police officers with three more wounded and, dropping back to Wednesday, a Mosul sticky bombing which clamed the life of 1 police officer. Reuters notes a US interpreter, Hameed al-Daraji, was shot dead last night in his home by his son and his nephew due to being seen as a collaborator and traitor to Iraq.

Today the Washington Post offers an editorial entitled "
The Senate picks a bad time to slash funds for Iraq" and it's a notion that we disagree with. But we'll pan for gold and ignore the alleged calamity that may result/is resulting from the Senate halfing Barack's request for $2 billion for the Iraq War to $1 billion. The board thinks it's a good thing that Iraq's spending so much on their security forces that that they have "needed bailouts from both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to fund its budget" and even more so that US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill and Gen Ray Odierno have written a letter about how Iraq (quoting letter) "will have to issue new debt to cover its budget deficit in 2010." Note where the money goes, note where it doesn't go. Note also that 'security forces' have not stopped the violence (though they've frequently actively contributed to it).

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government.
CNN interviewed Ayad Allawi and they report he states that the stalemate will continue and the country "needs a lot of support to get out of this bottleneck and to secure its borders, to secure its stability, and to form a government." Meanwhile Jeffrey Feltman, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, is in Iraq in an attempt to minimize the damage Chris Hill's doing. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) interviews him:Q: Do you feel there's a risk of another sectarian war, or has that danger passed?
I don't think anyone should be complacent. There is a history here. But in general Iraqis have turned to politics rather than violence as reflected in the political spectrum, as reflected in the elections and these are encouraging signs.

Q: What is the worst-case scenario for the road ahead, and what is the best?

I think that right now a worst-case scenario is that the government formation process be deadlocked to the point where institutions stop functioning. I don't see that happening, but one has to keep that in mind that that could happen. There are just a number of scenarios that are positive scenarios.… I would say an Iraq that is sovereign and self-reliant, that integrates into the region, where Iraq's communities feel their interests are represented.

In a new UN PSA, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie notes, "Having a home, a place where we feel safe, is something most of us take for granted. Yet those who flee from conflict and persecution no longer have a home. And it will be years before they can even return. In fact, many may never go home again. On this day, World Refugee Day, please remember the millions of people around the world forced from their homes whose only hope of returning is to not be forgotten." World Refugee Day is this Sunday (June 20th). In 'honor' of that, England, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands have been doing forced deportations of Iraqi refugees. Jim Muir (BBC News) reports that the UNHCR has started an investgation into whether or not British Border Agency employees beat Iraqi refugees, "The UKBA declined to comment on the specific allegations, but said minimum force would only be used as a last resort." Apparently grasping that their 'heartwarming' statement would not go over well, the UKBA sent David Wood out to make the press rounds. Tom Pugh (Press Association) quotes him stating, "We reject all allegations that Iraqi returnees removed from the UK were mistreated by our staff. We can confirm that 43 Iraqi nationals were removed on a chartered flight to Baghdad on Wednesday 16 June." Owen Bowcott and Sam Jones (Guardian) add, "Iraqi officials were alleged to have boarded the flight when it touched down early yesterday to help security staff employed by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) punch and drag reluctant failed asylum seekers off the plane." What a great way for Great Britian to kick off World Refugee Day.

Let's switch over to the US. Senator Daniel Akaka is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. His office notes:
Senators call for specific actions from Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to the secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs sent yesterday, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and a bipartisan group of Veterans' Affairs and Armed Services committee members urged stronger coordination and better follow up on traumatic brain injury (TBI).
"For the past nine years we have been a nation at war, and traumatic brain injury has become the signature wound. The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have taken commendable steps to understand and treat TBI, but they must improve collaboration and share what they have learned. Veterans and their families should not have to wait nearly a decade for the government to adapt to the needs of the wounded," said Akaka.
The Senators called for specific improvements from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, including:
Prompt action to finalize and implement DOD's draft policy mandating evaluation and rest periods for individuals with TBI, and to ensure that existing policies are being adhered to by each military service branch;
Action to ensure documentation of TBI and follow-up during Post-Deployment Health Assessments and Reassessments;
Expedited establishment of DOD centers of excellence for military eye injuries, and for hearing loss and amputations;
Quicker progress to make VA/DOD collaboration and data transfers more robust, comprehensive, and seamless; and
Making full use of authority granted by Congress for VA to partner with state, local, and community providers to improve access to care and reduce the burden on veterans receiving treatment for TBI, and their family members.
Last month, the Veterans' Affairs Committee held an
oversight hearing on the state of care for troops and veterans suffering from TBI. In January 2008, Congress passed provisions authored by Chairman Akaka and approved by the Veterans' Affairs Committee to reform VA/DOD collaboration and care related to TBI as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Akaka continues to work with committee members and others to ensure effective implementation.
To view the letter, click here:
Kawika Riley
Communications Director and Legislative Assistant
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman In addition, Wednesday the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing which Chair Akaka brought to order noting, "Today we will discuss VA health care in rural areas. Rural settings are some of the most difficult for VA and other government agencies to deliver care. I beieve, and I know many of my colleagues on this Committee share the view, that we must utilize all the tools at our disposal in order to provice access to care and services for veterans in rural and remote locations." We covered the first panel in Wednesday's snapshot and we'll grab the second panel now. The second panel was made up of Brig Gen Deborah McManus, Yuckon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation's Dan Winkelman, the VA's William Schoenhard, the VA's Verdie Bowen and Dr. Robert Jesse (Dr. Jesse also appeared on the first panel). This section of the hearing was chaired by Alaska Senator Mark Begich. Verdie Bowen explained that it could be difficult getting veterans to register for the programs and Dan Wikelman noted obstacles for rural areas including access to basic services and the cost of them. As Brig Gen McManus noted, there are areas in Alaska that, forget the internet, do not even have phone service.

Chair Mark Begich: [. . .] General, I know you with your work with women veterans -- and I know the coordination that you're doing there -- even within women veterans, it's a small, I want to say it's about a third of them are signed up or taking advantadge. Can you elaborate a little on what you think and maybe following up a little bit on Mr. Bowen's comments regarding how hard it is to register. What are you finding specifically in the area with women veterans? I know it's a concern for me, I know it's a concern for Senator [Patty] Murray. Give me a little bit of thought on that.

Brig Gen Deborah McManus: Well when we look at our women -- female -- women veteran population, a lot of them are from the older wars and I think there's a cultural issue there. Many of them, they were in subordinate roles or support roles and their service was not greatly appreciated when they returned to the States. And also, a lot of them experienced Military Sexual Trauma whether its rape, sexual assault or harassment and so there was a fear of seeking help through the system so a lot of them just faded away. However, I think, it's different with our current OEF/OIF veterans. There are mechanisms so that they can report it and receive help. And a lot of times women do not recognize they're veterans and women have traditionally been in a caregiver role so I think there's a cultural issue but there's an education issue and when we did that veterans -- women veterans outreach campaign in November of '09 last year, we did see an increase in enrollment and use of services. 300 women additionally enrolled and 400 seeking services. So I think it's a routine, education system, let women know, they are vets too, they have earned these rights and these are their benefits. And a lot of them have female specific health care needs. So now they understand that the VA facilities can provide services in those areas as well.

Chair Mark Begich: Very good. Let me, if I can move over to this side, to either one of you who'd answer, is there more that the VA can do? And as an example was just given, how the outreach was done to increase the amount of women who recognized that they have benefits available to them but not be taking them for a variety of reasons as just described. Do you have any thoughts on that, Dr. -- Dr. Jesse then?

Dr. Robert Jesse: Mmm. A couple of things. I think the issues that have been brought up are really important. We've historically, in the health care side, measured access by wait times to clinic visits or wait times --

Chair Mark Begich: How many came through? How long they waited?

Dr. Robert Jesse: How long they waited. And-and all that's irrelevant if they don't know that they are entitled to services, they can't access those services, uh, they can't get to us, we're not connected to them in one way or another. And particularly as we move to our new models of care if you will where, uh, we're not talking about episodic access as a driving function but actually connectivity, that front end engagement becomes absolutely crucial. And we-we have an awful lot of effort going on trying to understand this now. Why don't people declare themselves as veterans on forms? Why-why can we repeatedly send people information and they just don't act upon it? Our assumption is, "Well, we sent it to you and you should have acted on it." And the simple answer is peope should probably be enrolled when they swear into the military. I mean we talk about seemless transition and there is a lot of discussion going on with -- between VA and Department of Defense, how do we best effect that? And I can only say that, again, this is the Secretary's, one of his top priorities and he understands these issues probably better than-than any of our leadership in prior years. So we are trying to understand this. We are trying to make it easier. But there are complex issues here. In terms of the women's issues, this gets, again, really interesting because historically we measure what we do in health care statistically, we look at quality statistically. But whenever we try and look at women's health issues, the numbers aren't big enough to make sense of the statistics and what we've really learned from this is we-we have to treat each individual as a [. . . "end"?] of one and try and understand how we can manage their health care needs in much more specific manner. And so the VA in the past several of years has done a lot of that, every VA facility now has women's health coordinators. We do have an office for women's issues that's very proactive in-in-in trying to develop these -- The issue of Military Sexual Trauma are extremely complex. Just to get them coming forward, I think, is, uhm, is happening because the discussion is coming out into the open. And again, we're-we're-we're willing to accept any help, any advice and we see these as very important issues and are trying to deal with them.

Chair Mark Begich: Do you -- So obviously for, if the General has some ideas, she'll be able to share them with you and you'll? That's good. I'll leave that to you two to go forward. Let me kind of narrow down if I can on one and that's the Rural Health Project. Mr. Winkleman laid out some concerns and I know you've heard from me more than once on this issue. The idea, and I think you had three suggestions, but I want to take it to a little broader and maybe, Dr. Schoenhard, if you could respond to this and that is, maybe be a little bold here, the effort and the idea is good. I don't think anybody disagrees with that. The implementation is the struggle. And it sounds like, based on the testimony, there might have been some linkages in the front end that might not have been put together as well and now we're trying to kind of patch it as we go along. I'm wondering if it's better to kind of freeze frame for a second on it and say, "Okay, let's sit down with our rural health care providers who've been in the business for years and have figured out how to deliver to the most remote areas of the world, in a lot of ways, health care and how to restart it"; rather than I think what's happening, the sense I get, I may be wrong about this but I hear from so many different people, it's almost like we are trying to patch a little issue here and patch a little issue when really maybe what we really need is to freeze frame it, stop it, step back, what's the right approach? Bring some of the people who've been in the field say what's the should we do differently? Just the fact that you have to go get -- opt in through another type of system before you're really in? You know, I can only tell you from my experience and Dan [Winkelman] has much more experience around this for rural individuals who live in rural areas for most of their life, that's just another piece of paper they're not going to read. They're just -- I don't want to say they give up, but they do less. Is there -- Is that too bold of an opportunity? I'm just trying to -- It seems like every time I talk about this issue it's like almost starting a knot and moving the knot . Give me your thoughts on that.

William Schoenhard: Yes, Senator. I think the numbers on that speak for themselves. We obviously are struggling with getting veterans to sign up for this program. At this point, only 21% in the pilot have signed up and, of that, very few have asked for primary care authorization or mental health consulations. So I think the numbers speak for themselves. We need to improve. We have hired a
company to do a focus group to understand better why we haven't had more success in enrolling veterans but we welcome what Mr. Winkelman, Mr. Bowman have shared today. I think we need to sit down and understand together because IHS has assets on the ground, they are in the communities. They understand well what is needed there much better than anyone else that would be in a distant location with VA or anywhere else. And we should collaborate. And I think your suggestion that we freeze frame, we were talking a lit bit during the break, during the recess --

[Laughing] That was strategically done, you know that.

Yes, sir. We had good conversation and I welcome undertaking the discussion of the three recomendations that were shared and see how to better serve and better get veterans engaged with IHS in these locations.

Turning from veterans to service members, from
Wednesday's snapshot: "For the month of April, the US Army announced yesterday, they can confirm 4 suicides among active-duty service memberrs with six still being investigated and there are nine ongoing investigations into May deaths. For the reserves, the US Army said there 7 suicides in April and 2 in May with ten more still being investigated." Jaime Tarabay reported yesterday on army suicides for Morning Edition (NPR -- link has text and audio):Mr. EDWARD COLLEY: I'm Ed Colley. I'm the father of Stephen Colley, Private First Class, United States Army. Stephen committed suicide three years ago in May of 2007.
TARABAY: The last time Colley saw his son was at a family gathering in April 2007. Stephen, a helicopter mechanic, had been back in the country for about five months since a tour in Iraq. Colley says Stephen was detached. He spent the days watching cartoons. He fought with his wife.
TARABAY: From there it was a downhill stumble, struggling in a work environment an Army investigation later called hostile. On May 16, 2007, home alone, Stephen Colley argued with his wife through text messages. Edward Colley says at one point his son asked her if there was rope in the storage shed.Mr. COLLEY: He had texted his wife that suicide was an option. She immediately called the appropriate folks at the base, but Stephen - unfortunately in this case, Stephen was a very, very smart boy. And he had figured out how to make sure that nobody else would interfere with his plan.TARABAY: The plan was to overdose on medication and then hang himself from a tree. He was 22 years old. The military ruled his death a suicide. But for Edward Colley the hardest thing about his son's death is he believes it could've been prevented. The day before he killed himself, Stephen Colley took an Army mental health assessment - multiple choice questions, including some about intent to harm yourself. There were four possible answers.Mr. COLLEY: And he picked the most severe, that he was thinking about committing suicide more than half the time.TARABAY: And instead of acting on that information, the social worker who did Stephen Colley's assessment put him down for a sleep study in three weeks' time. The Army's own investigation said the established procedures failed to address his mental condition.

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported Friday that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Mike Gogulski has started a website entitled Help Bradley Manning. Simon Lauder (Australia's ABC News) provides this update: It has since been reported that American officials are searching for Mr Assange to pressure him not to publish the cables. But an unnamed source in the Obama administration has told Newsweek that the US government is not trying to convince Mr Assange not to release the cables, but it is trying to contact him. The World Today has also received an email from Mr Assange which says: "Due to present circumstances, I am not able to easily conduct interviews".In an email to supporters this week, Mr Assange denies Wikileaks has 260,000 classified US department cables. But he confirms the website has a video of a US air strike on a village in western Afghanistan in May last year. The Afghan government said at the time of the attack that 140 civilians died.

TV notes. On PBS'
Washington Week, Charles Babington (AP), Joan Biskupic (USA Today), Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) and Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) join Gwen around the table. Gwen's column is "Covering the oil disaster." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Jehan Harney, Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's online bonus is a discussion on the press' latest attempt to start Mommy Wars. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Assault on PelindabaScott Pelley investigates the boldest assault ever on a facility containing weapons-grade uranium, a still-unsolved crime that could have had calamitous consequences had it been successful.
Watch Video
The LiquidatorThe man in charge of recovering assets from Ponzi scheme king Bernard Madoff says there is about 18 billion still out there that he hopes to recover for victims of the scam. But it won't be easy. Morley Safer reports. Watch Video
A Living For The DeadMarilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis are dead and now, so is Michael Jackson. But as Steve Kroft reports, they are very much alive when it comes to earning money for their estates.
Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, June 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

antiwarjason ditz
the new york timestim arango
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
bbc newsjim muir
the guardian
owen bowcott
sam jones
the washington postcnnmike mount
the los angeles timesliz sly
nprmorning editionjamie tarabay
60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbe
washington week

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Roy Gutman

Thursday. Okay, tonight's most pressing question: When using "fat asses," which is the bad word?

Reading Ava and C.I.'s "Media: Let's Kill Helen!" and listening to the program, I e-mailed Roy Gutman to let him know that I didn't find it entertaining that he didn't defend Helen Thomas and that he laughed when Yochi insisted the press was not responsible for the Iraq War.

I didn't expect him to write me back (and I won't quote from his e-mail without his permission) but he did and what a whiney.

My use of "fat" or "asses" was objectionable. I'm still confused as to which.

I'm also amazed that a seasoned reporter has never heard "fat" and/or "asses" before me. You sort of get the impression that Roy Gutman's spent the last decades covering socials and tea rooms.

Second, don't lie to me. Roy tried to say he didn't laugh.

I don't think they realize how audible stuff is.

C.I. has amazing hearing. She can tell you waht song's playing during an interview and you're like "What song?" You don't hear it, you don't know what she's talking about. You put on ear phones and blast it and you hear it.

She can hear people breathing on the microphone, for example. And never whisper around her. She'll hear. (She will warn you about that and advise you to talk in a normal tone. Because if she hears a whisper, she's as curious as anyone else.) She has a great hearing.

So the point is, Roy Gutman, you did laugh. It's right there on the broadcast. Pop some ear phones into your Fat ears or your Ass ears and listen. You will hear the laughter. I say it's Roy because it's a man -- eliminating Diane -- it's not Yochi who is blathering away and the third man is Arab with a distinctive voice and that laugh isn't his pitch. It's Roy. (And I'd think that even if Diane Rehm's people hadn't identified the laughter as Roy's.)

So I have no idea why he wants to pretend otherwise.

Though it did occur to me that he might have laughed and forgotten.

I'll grant him that. And that's about all I'll do. But he needs to listen to the broadcast before he whines again. And he needs to watch what he does on a microphone in the future.

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

Thursday, June 17, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, England continues forced deportations of Iraqi refugees, Sahwa members remain targeted in Iraq, Turkey and Iran shell northern Iraq, and more.

In Iraq, the targeting of Sahwa continues. Sahwa -- also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" -- are Sunni (largely Sunni, though Gen David Petreaus told Congress in 2008 there were some Shi'ites as well) fighters who went on the US payroll after they agreed to stop attacking the US military in Iraq and to stop attacking their equipment. The Sahwa then were in charge of securing their own areas. Nouri al-Maliki was long ago supposed to have brought them into the Iraqi forces, put them on the payroll and paid them regularly. None of that happened.

Quick to feed our hungry hopes
A feast of our affections we were born anew
With open eyes we tried to make it work
And for a while the magic took
But cracks began to show as soon as things got hard
-- "Awakenings," written by
Sarah McLachlan, from her new album Laws Of Illusion released this week and Sarah's on tour all summer with various artists on the traveling Lilith Fair festival

He was claiming in the summer of 2008 that too many of them could not be trusted. This month,
he pulled Sahwa's right to carry firearms in Diayala Province. AFP reports that the latest attack on Sahwa took place today in a village outside Falluja (Al Anbar Province). Yasmine Mousa and Timothy Williams (New York Times) report it was a home invasion and the assailants used "automatic weapons" to kill Khudair Hamad al-Issawi, his wife and their three children and: "The killings occured about 10 days after responsibility for security in the village had been transferred from the Iraqi police to the Iraqi Army. Members of the Iraqi police complianed about the transfer, arguing that they knew the area better and that they were themselves former Awakening Council members." Kim Gamel (AP) notes, "The farmer, his wife, two daughters and a son were killed, according to local police chief Brig. Gen. Mahmoud al-Issawi. Another son was wounded." Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) add, "At least 47 members of the Awakening, or Sahwa, also known as the Sons of Iraq, and their family members have been killed across the country in the past 45 days, according to a Washington Post count."

The Economist notes that sectarian tensions continue to build in Iraq and that violence is rising while there is "no new government in sight" as the months drag by with no prime minister declared:

During this time, no new laws have been passed, no new national vision enunciated. Violence, though far less bloody than three years ago, has risen again. Worst of all, Iraq's ethno-sectarian divisions seem as deep as ever. No Iraqi equipped to appeal across them looks likely to emerge as prime minister. Indeed, though a party strongly backed by the Sunni Arab minority narrowly won the most votes and seats in the March election, the two biggest mainly Shia alliances, which came second and third, have agreed to gang up in a wider front to form a ruling coalition in which the Sunnis may not play much of a part. Since the two mainly Shia alliances teamed up only recently, it is unclear whether the constitution should treat them as the election winners and give them first shot at forming a government.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government.

Looking at the stalemate,
Sami Moubayed (Middle East Online) sees a power struggle going on within the Iraqi National Alliance which doesn't involve Nouri. He sees the power struggle between Moqtada al-Sadr (whose bloc holds the most Parliament seats in the Iraqi National Alliance) and Ammar al Hakim, "For years, Al Sadr had accused Al Hakim's father of being an Iranian stooge, because he fought alongside the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Al Sadr has always boasted that he never fled Iraq -- not for a single day during the heyday of the Saddam regime -- while the Al Hakim family spent years in Tehran, and were bankrolled and protected by the Iranians. [. . .] Now that Abdul Aziz Al Hakim is gone, the rivalry between the two turbaned young men is stronger than ever. They come from heavyweight families that have competed for leadership of the Shiite community for decades, are both sons of legendary figures, and happen to be only two years apart in terms of age." Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) focus on the rumors that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is no longer standing apart from politics but has now become a partisan and, on behalf of Iran, brokering political deals including the power-sharing coalition between State Of Law and Iraqi National Alliance.

In other news,
Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports on US military 'team building efforts' between Kurdish and Arab security forces, "The deployment is a sign of how seriously U.S. commanders view the threat of an Arab-Kurdish conflict. An initiative of Army Gen. Ray T. Odierno, the commander of American troops in Iraq, the deployment of U.S., Arab and Kurdish forces was originally billed as a means to protect lightly guarded towns and villages on both sides of the line that were hit last summer by Al Qaeda in Iraq suicide bombings." But how effective these exercises can be in the best of times is unknown and certainly Kurdish forces are not experiencing the best of times as northern Iraq remains under assault by the Turkish and Iranian military. With at least two Turkish soldiers killed this week in border clashes with the PKK, the Turkish military has been bombing northern Iraq and sent in at least 800 soldiers on the ground. You really think 'team building' is going to take or this is the time?Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert (CNN) report that Turkish officials say they've pulled their soldiers out of Iraq and that "At least 12 Turkish soldiers and sailors have been killed by increasingly bold rebel attacks over the last three weeks. But the fighting has been upstaged by Turkey's rapidly deteriorating relations with former ally Israel." The fighting has been upstaged by whom? By a media that can't cover more than one story at a time? By a feeding frenzy resulting from a bunch of chicken s**t producers and editors who are so scared of losing their jobs that they cover exactly what everyone else is covering because everyone else is covering it?And Iran? Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) notes: Over the past month Iran has continuously and relentlessly shelled villages along its border with Iraqi Kurdistan, displacing thousands, wounding many and killing one 14-year-old girl. The ostensible target of these attacks is the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, an Iranian-Kurdish militant movement known as Pejak. However, the decision to send military units across the border and establish bases (according to Kurdish sources) could be part of a broader Iranian strategy to maintain a long-term physical presence inside Kurdish territory. At the very least it is a provocative measure that Iran may justify on the basis of what it considers to be a threat posed by Pejak, but the reasons may go beyond this. Cross-border incursions (shelling included) have been a convenient way for neighbouring states to send a subtle message to Iraq's political actors. This includes reminding them of the limitations on the level of success they can achieve, particularly as American troops withdraw. The 14-year-old he's mentioning was Basouz Jabbar Agha. And the Iranian military entered Iraq and set up a base in northern Iraq. (Which Iran will no doubt insist -- if outlets produce photos -- is really on the Iranian side of the border and that Iraq is trying to advance into their territory. Similar to the 'explanations' offered when Iran attempted to seize an Iraqi oil well (last December). Meanwhile Middle East Newsline reports that the "U.S." military has asserted that Iraq does not intend to shut down an Iranian opposition camp." That's Camp Ashraf. US Lt Col Bob Owen is quoted stating, "United States Forces-Iraq has absolutely no control over Camp Ashraf. Camp Ashraf is in the complete hands of the government of Iraq. Camp Ashraf is not closing on July 1st." Camp Grizzly, the US base, is closing and it's said to have 'protected' the MEK residents of Camp Ashraf. Said to? The assault last July by Nouri's forces was carried out in full of the US military and they did nothing to stop it. Earlier the US government and military had promised the residents protection and led them to believe this was protection with no end-date. Whereas the Bush administration was not afraid to press on this issue, the Obama administration has never known what the hell was going on in Iraq. (Call it "Chris Hill Syndrome.") A year after the deadly assault, Camp Grizzly is closing and the US military's flacks are insisting to the press that Camp Ashraf, like a Celine Dion song, will go on. This in contrast to a report Press TV is carrying which has Iraq eager to crack down on the MEK. The report is filled with laughable assertions about 'terrorist operations' in Iran -- current and future -- when the MEK in Iraq is not shuttling back and forth to Iran. The Iranian government has also accused the United Kingdom of backing the MEK (under the Bush Doctrine and the Obama Doctrine, that allegation alone gives Iran the 'right' to bomb the United Kingdom). Sify reports the UK Foreign Office denies the charges. Reuters notes that Iran is also accusing "France, Sweden and other Western nations" of the same support and claiming that they arrested MEK from Iraq on Saturday in Tehran while residents of Camp Ashraf deny the charge. As all the above takes place, Benjamin Harvey (Bloomberg News) reports Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denies that Iran is an ally of his country. The article avoids the two countries (Turkey and Iran) attacking northern Iraq and Kurdish terrorists or 'terrorists.' The Kurdish region was the subject of a report issued yesterday. Human Rights Watch released "They Took Me and Told Me Nothing: Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan" (link goes to HTML overview, report is in PDF format). The 80-page report documents the continued and widespread practice of FGM in the KRG. Besides the wire services, the New York Times' Namo Abdulla and Timothy Williams, CNN and BBC's Jim Muir covered the report. At Babylon & Beyond (Los Angeles Times blog), Becky Lee Katz and Asso Ahmed note: Nadya Khalife, a Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, called for action from the Kurdish authorities. "FGM violates women's and children's rights, including their rights to life, health, and bodily integrity. It's time for the regional government to step up to the plate and take concrete actions to eliminate this harmful practice because it simply won't go away on its own," Khalife said. "Eradicating it in Iraqi Kurdistan will require strong and dedicated leadership on the part of the regional government, including a clear message that FGM will no longer be tolerated." Stephen Jones (Epoch Times) also covers the report: The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as comprising "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons." FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, says the WHO. The practice is relatively uncommon in the rest of Iraq, but has taken root in Kurdistan, where it is sometimes advocated by local Sunni Muslim clerics. You can also refer to Jason Van Boom's "Call for Kurdistan to Ban Female Genital Cutting" (Illume). Turning to some of the violence reported today (in addition to the home invasion which killed the Sahwa member and his family) . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing targeting a US convoy with no dead or wounded reported and, dropping back to Wednesday for all that follows, a Tikrit sticky bombing which injured one person and Iran continue to shell villages in Erbil


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 man was shot dead in Baquba yesterday and anotehr wounded. Reuters notes a Kirkuk shooting which left a teacher injured.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse was discovered in Baghdad yesterday.

Naaser is an Iraqi refugee who left his country for Lebanon due to violence.
He shares his story with the Guardian and notes, "Iraq is destroyed. There is death everywhere. There was a lot of talk about democracy when the Americans first came but it is the same as it was under Saddam [Hussein]. Democracy is something we only hear about, it's something I might see when I'm an old man. What kind of democracy is that? Killing, stealing, torturing; the old government, and the new. There is no protection in Iraq. The fear will turn your hair grey. All I wanted to do was get out of Iraq. There is so much poverty there, I was providing for six members of my family but earning only $2 a month."
So far, Nasser hasn't been sent by to Iraq. Others haven't been so lucky. England and other European countries have apparently decided the best way to celebrtae World Refugee Day this year was forced deportations. Which makes you fear just how they might choose to observe November 20th (Universal Children's Day).
Jim Muir (BBC News) reports that the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands deported Iraqis last week. Some of the forced returns remain in custody of Iraqi security forces at the airport still. What a welcome. Muir explains that the terminology is "enforced return" and that "Those on the list for deportation told the BBC they had already been moved to short-term holding centres ready for a flight they do not want to take." And flights that the UNHCR, Amnesty International and others have warned should not be taking place. Sam Jones (Guardian) reports:
Keith Best, the chief executive of the
Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, said the charity shared the UNHCR concern about the violence in the region, and had seen evidence of torture. "With the highly-volatile security situation and continuing human rights abuses in Iraq, I'd ask how the government can assure the safety of those being returned," Best said. "The Medical Foundation has provided care and treatment to a significant number of Iraqis … who have fled to Britain having been tortured in Iraq. Their health and security depends on adequate rehabilitation and stability."The charity's own experience, he said, suggested torture still happened in Iraq. "The UK Border Agency should be identifying torture survivors … and not sending anyone back unless it can be demonstrated their human rights will be respected."Iraqi refugee Ziad al-Dulaimi is an Iraqi refugee in England -- at least for now -- and he tells Al Jazeera that the deportations are taking place at the request of Nouri al-Maliki, according to what he's been told by British government officials:The batch that was deported last week had difficult times, I know two of them. They called me and said they refused to leave the plane and security forces climbed on board and beat them. How can we go back to humiliation? On the other side, what are we costing the British government? Nothing. When I came to the UK five years ago, I was detained in Dover. They would not release me until I signed a paper saying I would never ask any financial help from the British government. Why can't they be patient until things are really better in Iraq?

Last week on
Inside Story (Al Jazeera), Iraqi refugee Arevan Mohammed explained what his proceeding at the United Kingdom Border Agency (Arevan remains in England at present). We'll excerpt this section.

Mike Hanna: Let me go back to Arevan Mohammed and we understand that when you had your interview about deportation, there were Iraqi members present during that interview. Is that correct?

Arevan Mohammed: Is that correct? Yes. Basically when I had an interview, an immigration officer denied me access to my representative -- legal representative. I pleaded with him to just let me bring my legal representative with me because you are forcing me to be interviewed with some peoples which you are putting my life in danger with. But basically he denied that. After when I went to the interview I basically told them I live in the UK and I would prefer the interview has to run with an English language. The [Iraqi] Interior Minister diplomat, he became annoyed in some point in the interview and he shouted at me [. . .] "I know what I'm going to do with you by the time you're returning back home and I will put you -- I know where I will put you and how I will treat you." So don't you think that's a threat? In the middle of a democracy, like the country of UK, Iraqi diplomats threatening me by the time I will return back to Iraq, he's simply telling me, I will put you in hidden prison or secret prison and I will kill you later on."

Helsingin Sanomat reports that they've learned Air Finland is transporting the refugees and:The Finnish airline Air Finland Ltd has its head office in the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport complex.More than half of the airline is owned by Berling Capital Ltd., belonging to CEO Esa Karppinen and his family, while 45 per cent of the airline is owned by its executive management.In 2009, Air Finland posted a sales profit of more than EUR 2 million.In the current year, the airline has started the sales of package tours to a number of destinations, including Turkey.The airline's package tours use the same planes as those used for the repatriation of asylum-seekers. Iraq is a failed state as the Fund for Peace's report [PDF format warning] "Iraq On The Edge: Iraq Report #10 2009 - 2010" makes clear (see yesterday's snapshot for overview). And that's what Iraqis are being sent back to.

World Refugee Day is this Sunday (June 20th). Yesterday, Mike Hanna (
Inside Story, Al Jazeera) spoke with Stop Deportations To Iraq's Richard Whittle, Euro Council On Refugees and Exiles' Bjarte Vandvik and UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards. We'll excerpt the following:

Richard Whittel: Iraq continues to suffer from the consequences of war. Iraqi refugees leaving that and going to, for examples, countries like the UK. When they get to the UK, they're then faced with anti-immigrant -- I mean, hysteria is a fair word for it -- encouraged by governments and the right-wing media which is then leading to people being forcibly deported from the UK. For example, last week there was a flight from the UK and Sweden to Baghdad with 50 people on. There's another one scheduled for tomorrow back to Iraq which continues to suffer from the insecurity and violence caused by the war. [. . .] And a further compliction of this is that, for example, 13 of the people who were deported on the flight, I mentioned, last week from the UK and Sweden to Baghdad, are currently still in detention in Baghdad Airport because the authorities there say they do not have the right i.d., they do not have proof they're Iraqis which begs the question -- Well, it begs yet another question, why they were sent back there in the first place?

Mike Hanna: , many of those Iraqi refugees from Europe Does this point to the necessity for some kind of regional agreement? Some kind of standards that can be observed by the host countries in terms of when refugees should be returned and why?

Bjarte Vandvik: Well I think it's a very important point you're raising and the colleague in London as well because with the Iraqi situation -- which was the biggest refugee crisis in the Middle East since the Second World War -- we saw that a lot of European governments were actually shying away from their responsibility. On the one hand, some of the same states that were so eager to create peace, democracy, human rights in Iraq that they sent soldiers there, when people were fleeing because there was no peace and human rights were then turning their backs to them and saying, "Well go somewhere else." I think there is a very unfortunate and very politically hostile environment in many European states today when it comes to refugees in particular. And I think we, as Europeans, must really take a good look at ourselves when it comes to contributing as a very privileged part of the world to finding solutions for the world's refugees. We can't just build a wall around our part of the world and then pretend that these problems will disappear because they won't and we need to play a more active role -- both in helping countries in the region such as, in this example, Iraq and Jordan and also show by example that it's important to uphold the international standards, to respect human rights and that means the same things that European Union is built on to-to avoid persecution and to give shelter to people that are being persecuted. That is under threat in Europe today, I'm afraid.

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported Friday that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Mike Gogulski has started a website entitled Help Bradley Manning. Yesterday, Shenon was interviewed by Deborah Amos (NPR's Morning Edition) on the news that WikiLeaks is planning to release video of a US assault on Afghan civilians.

AMOS: Let's talk for a minute about this second video. There are reports about what's on it. Can you tell us?

Mr. SHENON: The first video that was released involved an American airstrike in Baghdad in 2007. The one Assange is now talking about is an airstrike in Afghanistan that occurred last year that is apparently it is believed to have been, in terms of civilian casualties, the most lethal American attack in Afghanistan since the war began.

AMOS: So has anybody seen this second video of the aftermath of a bombing in Afghanistan?

Mr. SHENON: To the best of my knowledge, it's only been seen within the Defense Department. This will be the first time that it's had any sort of public viewing.

AMOS: And how do we know that this is the same one?

Mr. SHENON: Well, we only have at this point Assange's claims that he has it, and we also have these Internet chat logs in which the young soldier in Iraq boasts of having stolen that video.

Deborah Amos is the author of
Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. IPA (Institute for Public Accuracy) issued the following today [minus link to Wired whom we have not linked to on this story for obvious reasons]:

British Guardian reports: "The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks says it plans to release a secret military video of one of the deadliest U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan in which scores of children are believed to have been killed." In April, Wikileaks released the "Collateral Murder" video showing U.S. soldiers in Iraq killing civilians including a Reuters photographer and then shooting at people, including children, in a van attempting to rescue the wounded. The following statement was released today by Coleen Rowley, an FBI whistleblower who was one of Time Magazine's people of the year in 2002; Ray McGovern, CIA analyst for 27 years; and Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers (top-secret government documents that showed a pattern of governmental deceit about the Vietnam War):"Today, Washington is trying to shut down what it clearly regards as the most effective and dangerous purveyor of embarrassing information -- Wikileaks, a self-styled global resource for whistleblowers. It is a safe bet that NSA, CIA, FBI and other agencies have been instructed to do all possible to make an example of Wikileaks leader, Australian-born Julian Assange, and his colleagues. Much is at stake -- for both Pentagon and freedom of the press."Those who own and operate the corporate media face a distasteful dilemma, both in terms of business decision and of conscience. They must choose between the easier but soulless task of transcribing government press releases, on the one hand; or, on the other, following Wikileaks into the 21st century by adapting high-tech methods to protect sources while acquiring authentic stories unadulterated by government pressure, real or perceived."Deference to the government seems largely responsible for the failure to explore the implications of particularly riveting reportage that gets millions of hits on the Web but has been, up to now, largely ignored by mainstream media. The best recent example of this is the gun-barrel video showing a merciless turkey-shoot of Baghdad civilians by helicopter gunship-borne U.S. soldiers on July 12, 2007. Like the humiliating and graphic but actual photos of Abu Ghraib, the publication of which Pullitzer-prize winning Seymour Hersh repeatedly defended as necessary to the story of Iraqi prisoner abuse, such raw footage is essential to people's understanding of what is happening. Like Daniel Ellsberg's copying of 7,000 pages of the 'Pentagon Papers,' such whistleblowers are a great means of exposing the lies upon which the current wars are based."Assange went public this week with an email announcement that Wikileaks is preparing to release a classified Pentagon video of a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in May 2009, which left as many as 140 civilians dead -- most of them children and teenagers. He added that Wikileaks has 'a lot of other material that exposes human rights abuses by the United States government.'"Wikileaks has also published a secret U.S. Army report of March 2008 evaluating the threat from Wikileaks itself and possible U.S. countermeasures against it. This will undoubtedly prompt American officials to redouble efforts to find Assange and to prevent Wikileaks from posting additional information they have classified to avoid embarrassment."Americans have a right to know what is being done in our name, and how important it is to protect members of the now-fledgling Fifth Estate so that it can continue to provide information shunned or distorted."Assange ended his email with an unabashed appeal for donations for his website. 'Please donate ... and encourage all your friends to follow the example you set; after all, courage is contagious.' His words sounded a bit like those of Edmund Burke: 'When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.'"For the good to associate effectively, they need to know what is going on. It's our hope the old Fourth Estate press will recall the good and high-calling that Burke, Jefferson and other leaders of democracy have extolled through the centuries and catch some of that 'contagious courage'."See on "Daniel Ellsberg Fears WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange's Life In Danger"; (on MSNBC) and today on Democracy Now.Available for interviews:RAY McGOVERNMcGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years.COLEEN ROWLEYRowley, an FBI whistleblower, was named one of Time Magazine's people of the year in 2002. She recently co-wrote the piece "Wikileak Case Echoes Pentagon Papers." [. . .] The New York Times reports today: "Iceland's Parliament, the Althing, voted unanimously in favor of a package of legislation aimed at making the country a haven for freedom of expression by offering legal protection to whistle-blower Web sites like WikiLeaks, which helped to craft the proposal." For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

As noted in the release,
Daniel Ellsberg was a guest on Democracy Now! today:

AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Ellsberg, let's go to you. The reports are that the Pentagon is searching for Julian Assange. They have already arrested the soldier in intelligence who says he was responsible for the release of the videotape. He's been held for three weeks without charge. What are your comments on this case?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, of course, I was in the position of Bradley Manning, having decided that I was in the possession of information that the public deserved to know and the Congress deserved and it had been wrongfully withheld. And at my own risk, I released it, just as Manning has done. At the same time I was in the position of Julian Assange this week, eluding authorities while I was preparing to put out further secrets. Assange is more in the position of the New York Times and the Post and seventeen other newspapers who received classified information from me. But in my case, as I was putting it out to them, it was essential for me not to be apprehended, so that I could get those copies to them. I hope that Julian stays out long enough to give us, for example, the tape of the other massacre in Afghanistan, the Garani massacre, which allegedly killed some 140 civilians.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Daniel Ellsberg, this whole issue of the 260,000 classified documents that include quite a bit of, apparently, cable communication between State Department officials and diplomats, what's the potential here in terms of --you're familiar with cable traffic between diplomats. What is the potential embarrassment that the United States faces here?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, their potential embarrassment is foreshadowed by the leak of the cables from Lieutenant General Eikenberry, our emissary in Kabul, the ambassador to Kabul, whose cables were leaked by some patriot -- and I say that with consideration here -- someone who properly put out those cables showing that Eikenberry regarded the man to whom he was accredited as irredeemably corrupt, an inappropriate partner for pacification who held no promise of supporting any progress from our point of view there ever, and who was deeply involved in the drug trade, etc., etc. Since he was someone who was soon to be feted by the President personally in the Oval Office and given a tour of garden spots in Georgetown by Secretary of State Clinton, it was, of course, embarrassing to have cables from our ambassador there calling him a drug-dealing crook who had stolen the election and was totally incompetent and offered no possibility of progress. That kind of embarrassment could appear with our relations with most of the dictatorial regimes we've been supporting in the Middle East for years, as in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere. Any candid assessments like that would, of course -- would actually recommend the realism to us of our own officials, that they their feet on the ground, even while they're lying to us about who it is they're supporting and what they hope to achieve.

Lastly (and I'll try to start with it in tomorrow's snapshot), we'll note
this by Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adrienne Kinne:

The US Social Forum is taking place in Detroit, MI from June 22-26, 2010 and IVAW will be there!
1) IVAW will be leading a GI Resistance Workshop. Iraq and Afghanistan War Resisters will testify to the struggle and value of resisting militarism and discuss what support is needed to build the GI Movement.
2) Building a Military Resistance Movement: Veterans, Service Members & Allies Organizing Together. This workshop, lead by IVAW and Civilian- Soldier Alliance will be an introductory training on supporting war resisters and being a strong and accountable ally to veterans and service-members organizing for change.
3) Veterans and Military Families: Impact of the Wars; Impact on Movements. An exploration of how veterans and military families use their unique voices and perspectives to end wars and promote peace and social change.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Barack flops and Queer Voices

Hump day, hump day. :( So tired these days. Is it the heat? I don't know. I just know I had to, HAD TO, have a Dr. Pepper at 7:30 just to stay awake (7:30 tonight). I love Dr. Pepper and usually drink it for that reason. But I was yawning and nodding off so I had to go get some caffeine just to stay awake.

I'm guessing it's the heat. Okay, reviews of Barry O's performance last night. This is from Gabriel Winant (Salon):

So Obama gave a lame speech, failing to lay out the case for the reform that he knows perfectly well to be the only viable one. And now we're left with a choice. Should we gnash our teeth and tear our hair at another disappointment at the hands of this president? Or maybe that would be naïve and foolish, blind to the political and institutional realities that constrict and govern his ability to act. Instead, maybe we should shrug unhappily and concede that he's doing what he can. The man has no power to force Lindsey Graham or Jim Webb to vote how he would like.
This latter view, the pessimistic defense of the president, has an unfortunately strong relationship with the truth. There's no clear path through the Senate for cap-and-trade, even in its current form, watered-down and riddled with corporate giveaways. Saying some favorable things in an Oval Office speech might make us feel better, but it doesn't actually get the bill closer to law.

Generally sympathetic commentators Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews likewise honked with critical reviews on MSNBC. Voices on the right, not surprisingly, were even more critical.
The White House said before the speech the president’s goal was to speak more broadly to the American people and frame the oil spill in a larger context about the need for a new national energy policy. There was scant polling by Wednesday morning to measure his success.

If you're really lucky or smart, you read that and you imagine how bad the speech was. Otherwise (like me), you're left remembering. I should have skipped it and just read the news coverage.

I wonder when the Cult of St. Barack will begin attacking Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan? In a report by Emily Schulteis (Politico), Granholm makes some fairly basic points that wouldn't be controversial if Bush or Bill Clinton were in the White House but with the Christ-child, everyone has to step lightly on egg shells:

Part of the cause of this anti-incumbency, she said, comes from a “rhetorical and emotional disconnect” between the president’s policies and the way voters perceive them – that voters want unemployment benefits when they need them and bailouts for the auto industry if they work there but still complain about government spending.

I agree with her and actually go much, much further than she does.

Okay, radio time. KPFT's Queer Voices radio out of Houston, Texas, a two hour program that airs each Monday night. I think it's 10:00 pm my time (EST) but I'm too tired to do the math so plug in your own calculations.

This week they discussed, during the first hour, things like nonprofits and how they can take part in the process and not break the law. It was probably most interesting on the discussion about how gay groups used to have to hide under "human justice" or some other label back in the seventies in Houston, Texas to get recognized by the government as a charity.

I did like that.

I did not like last week. They had on a council member who pissed me off for a number of reasons.

1) If you're on a city council, learn to speak. Nouns and verbs must agree.

2) If you did something wrong, take accountability. Do not blame the group that called you out on your mistake (I'd say homophobia, not "mistake").

3) Do not continue to make excuses and minimize your behavior.

4) Do not proclaim your 'equality' on an LGBT show by saying you hired other minorities but not LGBT.

I could go on and on. But that woman was an idiot.

She whined that one of the LGBT groups called her out -- she voted against an AIDS house/caring facility (and tried to 'finesse' it by saying she didn't vote against it, she just knew she couldn't vote for it so she didn't vote). And get this, they called her out with contacting her to let her know first that they were about to call her out.

That piece of s**t got on my last damn nerve. I didn't write about it last week because it made so mad.

It still makes me mad and I understand that the hosts needed to be civil but I think they really let her get away with a ton of crap.

She should have been on the air apologizing.

Instead, she was minimizing her actions and blaming LGBT groups that called her out and then bragging that 'other gays' agreed with her. And they're the ones who contacted her to let her know that those LGBT groups don't speak for them. Other gays?

She'd later say that she didn't get one call commenting onthe LGBT protest. So how can she also claim to have heard from 'other gays' who said she was right?

She was a liar. And she's uneducated hick who needs to take her ass to a speech class and learn how to conjugate verbs.

Please note, if this hick had been some local person (local there or local in my area), I'd probably ignore them. But this homophobe sits on a city council. She needs to learn to get her s**t together.

Again, this week was much better than last week's show.

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a new report released today indicates Iraq is now a failed-state, another report released today explores the continued and widespread practice of Female Genital Mutilation in the KRG, the US Senate explores rural issues effecting veterans care, the US Army announces 11 suicides, and more.

Today the
Fund for Peace (US think tank) released their tenth report on Iraq since the start of the Iraq War, Pauline H. Baker's [PDF format warning] "Iraq On The Edge: Iraq Report #10 2009 - 2010." At the opening of the report, it's explained that this is the tenth and final report and that:

The U.S.-led invasion pushed the country over the brink, making it a failed state. Saddam [Hussein] fled, state institutions collapsed, a power vacuum emerged, the professional classes left, millions were displaced, and sectarian rivalries plunged the country into a well-organized insurgency and a vicious civil war. [. . .] Seven years later, U.S. costs have soared to an estimated $704 billion, none of which was paid for out of Iraqi oil revenues. Instead of a democracy, terrorism soared, a sectarian civil war broke out, oil production plummeted, and public services declined. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed.

The report argues that March 2008-March 2009 was the "Turning Point" (of the "Full-Scale Civil War') and that from March 2009 through March 2010, Iraq has been in a period of "Stasis." This is eveident by the fact that very few of the 4.7 million internal and external refugees have returned to their homes, by the sectarian rivalries on display in the March 7th elections and the aftermath of lethargy which has followed, the corruption and the lack of adequate social services.

The report concludes with a summary of March 2010 in which "weak" is the rating given to the Iraqi police in part due to "infiltration of police ranks by various insurgent groups" The category of leadership was also judged "weak." The report notes that Nouri al-Maliki is expected to use the long-drawn out process of selecting the next prime minister (which Nouri hopes will again be him) by attempting to "leverage his power over both political and judiciary institutions to secure a second term. As the government formation process drags on, the political vacuum and a general atmosphere of uncertainty can be manipulated by various insurgent groups bent on undermining political progress and delegitimizing the Iraqi government by spreading fear and public terror through violent attacks throughout the country." The civil service is judged "weak" while the judiciary is judged "poor" and the report notes, "The heated debate around the legal standing of the Justice and Accountability Commission continued this month, with legal experts raising concern about the lack of a clear distinction between judicial bodies and administrative committees in Iraq. As a judicial body, the impartiality of the Commission has been compromised by the participation of [Ahmed] Chalabi and [Ali] al-Lami in the parliamentary elections for which they were charged to qualify the candidates. This blurring of the lines between political and judicial institutions testifies to the weakness of the Iraqi judicial system and the permeation of corruption throughout all of the national government bodies." Finally, there is the Iraqi military which is graded "moderate."

We may continue with the report later in the week. But it is one of two major reports released today. FfP's report will probably get a bit of attention from policy journals but the other report is lucky to get attention from the wire services.
Human Rights Watch released a new report today, "They Took Me and Told Me Nothing: Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan" (link goes to HTML overview, report is in PDF format). The 80-page report (page 81 is acknowledgements) documents the continued and widespread practice of FGM in the KRG:For thousands of girls living in Iraqi Kurdistan (northern Iraq), female genital mutilation (FGM), the removal of parts of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons, is a fact of life. FGM is a conventional social practice seen by many as contributing to girls becoming women, being marriageable, as a religious requirement and as part of their identity as Kurds. An irreversible and painful operation usually carried out by older women, FGM, however has immediate and long-lasting consequences for physical, mental, and sexual health.The report documents not only the continued practice but the refusal by the Kurdistan Regional Government to not only punish the practice but to even acknowledge it. A (weak) bill within the KRG legislative body never advanced and was not open to discussion. When something is passed, there is no evidence that enforcement ever takes place. As with failure to follow through with turning bills into laws and to enforce the laws that do get passed, attempts at long range plans exist as attention-getting press announcements with no follow ups such as the Ministry of Health's boasting in 2009 of "a five-year strategic plan outling a long-term strategy for intervention" which was quickly and quietly dropped.In addition, the KRG refuses to collect data on the issue. This may be due to their desire to insist that the widespread practice is actually a minority one. The report cites two studies which demonstrate how widespread the practice is in the KRG.Why FGM?A number of reasons are given but fear of female sexuality is at the heart of it. Sometimes it's hidden behind claims that girls who don't go through FGM won't be able to be married, sometimes it's more overt with claims that in the 'hot' climate, without FGM, young females wouldn't be able to control their sexual urges or assertions of "purity."What some may find most disheartening is that this isn't newly emerging. In other words, the women performing the procedure (midwives) and the mothers and aunts having it performed on their family members have usually experienced it themselves and yet still force a new generation to go through the pain and the danger (which can cause severe problems that we'll get to in a minute). Though they also went through the procedure involving a razor and no medication, weeks of bleeding and pain, they turn around and continue it for the next generations. Sirwa tells HRW, "You must think we are monsters." While Sirwa is a victim of the same culture that the young girls are, it's hard to sympathize with those who should know better but continue and foster a brutal and inhumane procedure.We'll note this section of the report:Even later in life, women told us that the memory of their cutting, pain, and the blood still overwhelmed them. Shelan B., a 26-year-old woman from Kallar, said that she had a very bad experience and continued, "I was seven when I was circumcised. It was me and my cousin. I bled in a way that was not normal. . . . When I remember what happened, I get emotionally tired." The lack of health care, particularly emergency care, makes FGM -- always unsafe -- a potential death sentence in Kurdistan. When young girls in rural areas, where FGM is most prevalent, are cut and bleed severely, they are unlikely to have access to life-saving care. Because no official data is kept on deaths associated with FGM -- there is no policy in hospitals of recording whether the cause of death for young girls is related to FGM -- the number of girls who have lost their lives due to the practice remains unknown. The risk of infection is likely to increase where midwives use unclean cutting instruments, which is a frequent occurrence in Kurdistan, and when the same instrument is used to cut several girls. Since infections are only documented when women seek care, it is difficult to ascertain the extent of these complications. Even where women and girls do seek care, the Ministry of Health does not have policies or guidelines to help hospitals or clinics to systematically document and monitor the health consequences of FGM. Dr. Fattah Hamarahim Fattah explained that the sexual health consequences of FGM include pain during intercourse, low desire for sex, and less pleasure during intercourse. These long term effects may surface only when a woman marries because that may be her first sexual encounter. Pre-marital sex is socially stigmatized in traditional Muslim societies like Iraqi Kurdistan. Dr. Atia al-Salihy, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist in Arbil, noted that women who undergo FGM suffer psychologically. She said that when they marry, women may begin to remember the assault on their bodies when they were children, with severe consequences for their sexual and mental health. 40-year-old Kochar was a young girl when she was brutalized. Even so, she tried to run away repeatedly and was "pinned down by three women" for the assault to be performed. She refused to do the same to her own daughter indicating that it is possible to break the chain. The report notes, "Iraq has signed all key international human rights treaties that protect the rights of women and girls, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). These treaties place responsibility and accountability on the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government for any human rights violations that take place in Iraqi Kurdistan, including FGM." The report has a list of recommendations. Public pressure doesn't make the list; however, it should be noted that the KRG has always been sold as "the other Iraq" and "the safe Iraq." If each marketing attempt (passed off as reporting) on the KRG noted FGM, it would force the government to take action. However, don't expect that to happen. Let's remember that, in its zeal to sell the KRG not all that long ago, Newsweek was insisting that young women being set on fire by their families were doing it to themselves because it was 'cool' and the 'hot' teenage thing to do. In such a climate, it's a bit hard to expect the press to be of much help.If you doubt that, Ian Black's "Kurdistan pitches to western investors as secure gateway to Iraq" (Guardian) was just published today -- same day as the report. Where in there do you see any acknowledgment of HRW's findings? You don't. Business Week is all over the KRG's oil exports . . . but no time for FGM. The few articles on the new report are either the wire services (such as Reuters) or the few outlets that cover Iraq (Jim Muir covers the report for BBC News). Yahya Ahmed (AP) has a photo of HRW's Nadya Khalife at a news conference in Erbil today speaking about the report. And the New York Times has just published online an article by Namo Abdulla and Timothy Williams on the report:

During its interviews with Kurdish officials, Human Rights Watch said the government had downplayed the frequency of the practice, in part because of conerns about the damage the study might have on the international reputation of Kurdistan, which is generally regarded as being more Western and less socially conservative than much of the Middle East.
Good for the New York Times which may end up being the only daily US paper to provide their own article on the report.
CNN has also filed on the report. At Huffington Post, HRW's Nadya Khalife writes:

Young girls and women described how their mothers had taken them to the home of the village midwife, a non-licensed practitioner. They were almost never told in advance what was going to happen to them. When they arrived, the midwife, sometimes with the help of the mother, spread the girl's legs and cut her clitoris with a razor blade. Often, the midwife used the same razor to cut several girls in succession.
Doctors in Iraqi Kurdistan told Human Rights Watch that the most common type of FGM believed to be practiced there is partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or prepuce, also known as clitoridectomy. Health care workers said that an even more invasive procedure was sometimes performed on adult women in hospitals. The practice serves no medical purpose and can lead to serious physical and emotional consequences.

Reuters notes a Mosul car bombing injured two police officers, an armed clash in Mosul with police shooting dead 1 person, a Mosul suicide car bombing which claimed the life of the driver and left fourteen people wounded and a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three people injured. Tang Danlu (Xinhua) adds a Baghdad liquor store bombing injured four people and a Baghdad car bombing which injured one person. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul. In addition, Lin Li (Xinhua) notes that a Turkish soldier was killed by the PKK on the border between Turkey and Iraq where clashes continue in Sirnak Province (yesterday, another Turkish soldier was killed on the border by the PKK). AFP notes that 3 members of the PKK were killed "overnight" in clashes along the border. BBC News puts the number at 4 killed. We'll note this from "Attacks threaten unusual Turkish outreach to Kurds" (Today's Zaman):World attention has focused on the nine Turks killed and hundreds detained late last month in the Israeli boarding of a Turkish vessel seeking to break the Gaza blockade. Inside Turkey, fury at the raid has been accompanied by alarm and anger over strikes on army units in the traditionally safer south and north, hundreds of miles from the poor, Kurdish-dominated southeast where the terror fight for autonomy is concentrated.The public outrage and escalating military response appear likely to derail an already faltering government effort to defuse the Kurdish insurgency by granting unprecedented cultural and political freedoms to Turkey's largest minority group. Al Jazeera reports that "hundred of troops" have been deployed to northern Iraq by Turkey. Hurriyet Daily News adds that the Turkish air force "bombed targets in northern Iraq" tody.

"Today we will discuss VA health care in rural areas," declared Senator Daniel Akaka this morning calling the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs to order. "Rural settings are some of the most difficult for VA and other government agencies to deliver care. I beieve, and I know many of my colleagues on this Committee share the view, that we must utilize all the tools at our disposal in order to provice access to care and services for veterans in rural and remote locations."

Before the testimony could start, Chair Akaka explained that the VA had not submitted their prepared statements in time and the VA's Robert Jesse to convey that message.that "the Department's testimony was submitted over 29 hours late."
May 19th, OMB also struggled to meet a known deadline when appearing before the Committee. Jesse was on the first panel along with Disabled American Veterans' Adrian Atizado, Veterans Rural Health Advisory Committee's James F. Ahrens and Haywood County Veteran Service Officer Ronald Putnam. The second panel was composed of Yukon's-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and Brig Gen Deborah McManus.

Adrian Atizado noted that 1/4 of the US population lives in rural areas and over 44% of the military recruits serving today are from rural areas; however, only 10% of physicans are practicing in rural areas. This limits their access to health care. This leads to "disparities and differences in health status between rural and urban veterans." Atizado advocated for the expansion of tele-health capabilities. Ronald Putnam stated, "The rural areas of our country have become a sanctuary for many veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other service connected disabilities which adversely affect the veterans." He further noted, "Although a lot of the VA's current efforts to communicate more closely with veterans by utilizing modern media and technology, I want to remind both this Committee and the Veterans Administration that there are still a number of WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans that have unique education deficiencies and social disconnects that make it extremely hard to receive the information that is being presented on these twenty-first century medians. I will remind this Commitee, the Veterans Administration and all my colleagues that the best communication with these veterans is face-to-face interaction with someone who is knowledgeable, well trained and willing to assist these men and women that we owe such indebtedness to."

On the issue of getting providers to rural areas, raised by Senator Jon Tester, it was pointed out by Ahrens that most of the training centers for veterans providers are in urban areas and that getting the residents into rural areas would likely help that. Tester asked about home dialysis and Dr. Jesse responded that approximately 7% of veterans (apparently of veterans receiving dialysis) get home dialysis. "It's doable," he explained. "It doesn't require sending someone into the home. Even patients and their families can do it." Asked if it is cost-effective, Dr. Jesse replied, "We think it's at least cost-neutral."

What is tele-health? Tele-health -- more commonly spelled "telehealth" -- is diagnosing over the phone, it also includes video-conferencing, counseling, allowing x-rays and other screenings to be interpreted outside the rural area and discussed via a phone conference or 'visit.' Dr. Jesse stated that tele-health programs are currently in 140 of the VA's medical centers and allow "41,000 veteran patients to remain living independently in their own homes."

Senator Mark Begich represents a state which is largely rural: Alaska. We'll note his exchange with the first panel.

Senator Mark Begich: You had made the comment, you're trying to expand these contracts and you used Anchorage as an example and you're working through it. Can you elaborate a little more, what does that mean? And why I say this is because, to be very frank with you, I've heard that on a regular basis. There's one thing that we have is a huge opportunity of medical facilities and then health care services is a great example because the way we manage them up there but also huge facilities both in Fairfield and in Anchorage that I think are under-utilized. But help me understand when you say you're working out a process or you're working through contracts, tell me what that means and what kind of a timetable?

Dr Robert Jesse: I-I-I-I think Mr. Schonhard could speak to that better since he's the one involved in that.

Senator Mark Begich: He's behind you and smiling. So that's --

Dr Robert Jesse: It's Providence --

Senator Mark Begich: If you want to reserve some of your answer, you can.

Dr Robert Jesse: Since you've asked, it's - it's the Providence Health System in Anchorage that they're in the process of developing or negotiating to cover at least the cancer care.

Senator Mark Begich: Let me ask you if I can -- and I'll hold more detail for the next panel -- but let me ask you can you or do you keep data on -- in any state -- how utilization of non-VA facility by VA receipiants -- In other words, do you have data points so if I said to you, "What's the percentage in Montana or Nebrask or in Alaska that take advantage based on proximity and other things?" Do you have such a -- And what kind of services do they receive?

Dr Robert Jesse: Well this is complex because, uhm, there's-there's a couple of terminologies that we need to be clear about. One is what's called "fee care." Fee care by the strict definition means we don't provide the service and we authorize the veteran to go and get it and we pay that bill.That's a small component of what's in broad-encompassing non-VA care which would include both fee care but also uhm, uhm, care that is through contract, through community providers, care that's delivered through contract or other agreements if you will through our academic affiliates.

Senator Mark Begich: Yes.

Dr Robert Jesse: And, uhm, the other is that we don't have a handle on it because we don't really pay for it is care that the veteran themselves choose to get on the outside because many of them do have secondary insurance and/or in addition to Medicare. And we have uh-uh that dual care is a particular challenge to us -- not from the financial side, but from the managing care side. So we have uhm, uhm, the ability to track fee care obviously. We a lot of the contract care -- the ability to roll it up is less robust because some of it is -- it rolls in rather than a flat rate that we're paying on an annual basis. But we can -- we can tell you what that is with at least some level of precision I'm sure.

Senator Mark Begich: Is that something that you can provide to us?

Dr Robert Jesse: I believe so and, without making a promise, I will go back and tell you what granular area we can apply that in.

Senator Mark Begich: Excellent. And as you said, there's fee and then there's contract and --

Dr Robert Jesse: Right. There's a host of vehicles by which we-we --

Senator Mark Begich: The more defined you can do that, the better off.

Dr Robert Jesse: Sure.

Senator Mark Begich: I'd be very interested in that. Let me, if I can, there's been some good testimony on tele-health and in Alaska we use it a great deal not only from a VA perspective but our Travel Consortium which is our Indian Services is a huge piece of the puzzle of how we move through delivering health care in areas where one -- Even a van -- I know, Mr. Ahrens, I know you talk about increasing the vans, but we can't even get a van there. Let alone a plane depending upon weather. Is there, both of you, uhm, clearly have stated, that where rural health centers are located, that where the Office of Rural Health is located, do you think elevating that to a higher level will get some more recognition of the data that needs to be done, the need to understand it better and deliver it better or is the location -- You [Dr. Jesse] were concerned about where it was located in the kind of system where the office is but Mr. Ahrens, I didn't hear you make a comment on that. Do you have any comment in regards to that?

James F. Ahrens: The Office of Rural Health

Senator Mark Begich: Yes.

James F. Ahrens: I think the higher elevation you can give it, the better off we are. And we're slowly getting it staffed -- been a lot of staff changes -- and I think it's got the attention of the Secretary [of the VA] and we ought to keep it right at the highest level we can. It's very important.

Senator Mark Begich: Do you think that where that it's located now -- You know the tele-health issues? I agree with you, if you don't have the data, it's irrelevant. You can spend a lot of time talking about how important it is. We see it in real life in Alaska. But do you think that has anything to do with the level of data necessary? Or is it just two separate issues that need to be addressed? In other words, data collection has its own and then moving this office up higher?

James F. Ahrens: Well -- I think -- Again, keep the office as high as you can. Data collection is very important. We don't even know where veterans are. And we need to know the utilization of their services -- if that's what you're asking me. And we have to have certain data in order to proceed -- If you're running a business how you going to proceed with that if you don't know where your customers are? And so we have to continue to get that. We can't even make some decisions with our committee because we don't know where they are, what disease entity they might have and what services should be placed in those areas. If we knew a little more about that, we'd be better off. So the Office of Rural Health ought to get on that and get it done.

Senator Mark Begich: Let me -- and my time has expired -- the report that you sent up to the Secretary, do you anticipate that to be public or available to us -- at what point, do you think?

James F. Ahrens: As I said, it's under the Secretary's scrutiny. I'd love you -- If I could release it to you today, I would but I can't. It's a public document, it should be available to you.

A thirty minute recess followed due to voting and other issues. When the Committee returned Senator Begich was presiding and informed the second panel that they would each have five minutes for their opening statements and the clocks would indicate when there time was up. He added some levity to the proceedings by following that with, "If you violate that, the floor will release below you." After opening statements, the remaineder of the second panel was approximately twenty-two seconds. We'll grab that tomorrow or Friday to cover one other domestic topic and one topic (lengthy passage from this morning) that British community members asked be included in today's snapshot.

For the month of April, the
US Army announced yesterday, they can confirm 4 suicides among active-duty service memberrs with six still being investigated and there are nine ongoing investigations into May deaths. For the reserves, the US Army said there 7 suicides in April and 2 in May with ten more still being investigated. From the press release:

The Army has identified additional crisis intervention resources available to the Army community. Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance are strongly encouraged to contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center (DCoE). Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United States is 1-800-342-9647, the Military One Source Web site can be found at . Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location
The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, and at http://
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For more information see: .
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention site is, and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is .
Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at .
The Army's most current suicide prevention information is located at .
The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at .
Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials) .

Turning to England where Labour, now the minority party in the Parliament, is in the process of selecting a new leader.
Newsnight (BBC) featured a debate among the hopefuls. James Macintyre (New Statesman) offers this observation:One of the most striking elements of the debate was the behavior of Ed Miliband, who left no doubt at all that he is fighting, hard, to beat his own brother and win this contest. He said he wanted to be "prime minister" in his introduction and repeatedly attempted to interrupt David Miliband, on one occasion saying Labour's fortunes were down to "more fundamental" issues than those which were being discussed. He seemed to have had a haircut, wore a smart pink tie and peered straight into the camera, Nick Clegg style, as much as he could.I'll go with Macintyre, Ed wants it. I was wrong. (As disclosed before, I know David and Ed Miliband. And I've noted before -- wrongly -- I didn't think Ed was serious about wanting the post.) Though David and Ed are not the only two competing for the top post (Diane Abbott, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham are also competing), the 'battling' brothers are garnering the bulk of the press attention. Sify offers "Miliband brothers bitching for Labour leadership." The Sun goes with "Brother of all battles is on" for Tom Newton Dunn's article:THE Miliband brothers are waging a bitching war against each other as they battle for the Labour leadership, another rival has revealed.Ed Miliband's supporters have been slagging off his brother David's "eccentric personality".And David's fans are mocking Ed's "dodgy decision-making", according to former Education Secretary Ed Balls, who is also in the running.Emma Griffiths live blogged the debate for BBC (and link also has video of the debate). Benedict Brogan (Telegraph of London) breaks from the pack to put the emphasis elsewhere than the Milibands, he dubs the debate "Diane Abbott and the Pimps" and he observes:The biggest area of contention was the Iraq war. Ed Miliband continued his attempt to exploit the issue by highlighting his newly-discovered opposition. Ed Balls also voiced his doubts, but to his credit pointed out that had he been an MP at the time he would have voted with the Government and for the war. David Miliband rightly pointed out that Labour's defeat had next to nothing to do with a war that did not stop Labour being re-elected in 2005. The best response though came from Andy Burnham, who stood by the decision, in particular because it strengthened our hand in negotiating with Iran: "We should continue to make a principled argument for what we did and why we did it."Allegra Stratton (Guardian) adds:Ed Miliband came under attack last night when his rivals for the Labour leadership hit out at any attempts to "rewrite history" on the Iraq war.Ed Miliband, David Miliband, Diane Abbott, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham appeared in the first televised hustings which are due to run into August. Some of the candidates turned on the younger of the two Miliband brothers who in the first few weeks of his candidacy has made much of his opposition to the war. Though he was not an MP at the time of the invasion, Ed Miliband has said he thought UN weapons inspectors should have been given more time.Ed Miliband told the studio audience of lost Labour voters at BBC2's Newsnight hustings that the broader lesson he drew from Iraq was that war should always be the last resort, to which his brother David Miliband, the shadow foreign secretary, said: "The idea that anyone on this panel doesn't think that war is the last resort doesn't do justice the substance of this issue."As always, I would hate to be Amitbah Pal. I would hate to be him. The Iraq War did not vanish from the British landscape -- despite what a lot of gas bags want to tell you.

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