Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Crooked Congress, Jimmy Dore

Another Congressional scandal. From POLITICO:

At least four members of Congress have reaped benefits in some way from the half-trillion-dollar small-business loan program they helped create.
And no one knows how many more there could be.
It’s a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have acknowledged close ties to companies that have received loans from the program — businesses that are either run by their families or employ their spouse as a senior executive.
Republicans on the list include Rep. Roger Williams of Texas, a wealthy businessman who owns auto dealerships, body shops and car washes, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, whose family owns multiple farms and equipment suppliers across the Midwest. The Democrats count Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada, whose husband is CEO of a regional casino developer, and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell of Florida, whose husband is an executive at a restaurant chain that has since returned the loan.

They really are that disgusting. And there needs to be consequences. Public shaming is not enough. When they do these violations, we need criminal charges and we need convictions. This has gone on too long, happened too many times. We need accountability. They are public servants and when they betray the public trust, they need to go to prison. That's as bad a crime as armed robbery, let's not pretend it's not. Put a few of them in prison and you'd see a Congress that worked harder to serve the people.

I watched Jimmy Dore's live broadcast but it's not up yet.  So I'll note this instead.

And I'll note this.  Killer Mike Tweeted:

He was the ONLY candidate talking about holding bad cops accountable federally. I hope others pick up his progressive policy and push it thru. twitter.com/farrukh_shamsi…

And Jimmy Dore responded:

Only one talking about it, and the only one unwilling to lead a movement to achieve it. Bernie will talk about the solution, but in the end he'll campaign for the person who created the problem. We are the leaders.

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2020.  Turkey continues to terrorize Iraq, the new prime minister of Iraq is good at gathering the press but not good at actually demonstrating anything that they should cover, US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard introduces legislation regarding burn pits, and much more.

Starting in Syria where hundreds took part in a demonstration in Aleppo to protest Turkey's continued bombing of northern Iraq.

Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:

This morning, Zhelwan Z. Wali (RUDAW) notes the Turkish government is yet again claiming that they targeted terrorists, however . . . :

 PKK-linked Firat News Agency claimed the strikes targeted a refugee camp and a hospital. 
“ The Turkish state has launched a wave of air raids in southern Kurdistan, northern Iraq tonight. The strikes targeted several positions in the regions of Qandil, Maxmur (Makhmour) and Shengal (Sinjar), including a refugee camp and hospital,” it said.
Makhmour camp hosts more than 12,000 Kurdish refugees who have fled persecution by the Turkish state, largely in the 1990s. The camp has a governing council and an armed force, the Makhmour Protection Units, established in 2014 when Islamic State (ISIS) militants attacked the area. The units are believed to have ties to the PKK.
Bedran Pirani, co-mayor of the Makhmour Camp Municipality, told Rudaw that strikes near the camp left several children unconscious, who were then rushed to hospital.

"The airstrikes lasted an hour from 12:10am to 01:10am. They were a large number of unmanned drones and jets hovering overhead," Pirani said.

 The Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) condemned on Monday the Turkish airstrikes against suspected positions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in several areas in northern Iraq.
A JOC statement said that 18 Turkish warplanes carried out a series of airstrikes late on Sunday night on refugee camps in Sinjar, some 100 km west of Nineveh's provincial capital Mosul, and Makhmour, about 60 km southeast of Mosul.
The Turkish warplanes also flew over the areas of al-Kuwayr, Erbil and al-Shirqat, with 193 km deep inside the Iraqi territories, the statement said.
The JOC described the Turkish airstrikes as "provocative act and is inconsistent with the good-neighborliness in accordance with international conventions and is a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty."
Iraq called on Turkey to stop the violation of Iraqi territories and said that it is "fully prepared for cooperation between the two countries to control the security situations on the common borders," the statement added. 
When will other government join the Iraqi one in condemning the terrorism that Turkey continues to carry out?  When will Turkey be forced to respect Iraq's sovereignty?

The Turkish government calls it Operation Claw-Eagle, the world should be calling it what it is: terrorism.  And it continues daily including today.  This morning, THE JERUSALEM POST notes:

Turkish aircraft and Iranian artillery targeted the town of Haji Omeran in the Erbil Governorate of Iraq on Tuesday, according to Sky News Arabia.
Haji Omeran is located along the Iran-Iraq border in northeastern Iraq.
The district mayor of Haji Omeran, Farzang Ahmed, told Rudaw that Iranian artillery has targeted Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in the area before, but that Turkish strikes on the area were unheard of.
"We suspect that the two sides are in coordination, because this is the first time that Turkey has bombed this region," said Ahmed to Rudaw. "This region is frequently and every year under Iran's shelling, on the grounds that they are targeting Kurdish opposition parties."

This is terrorism.  The US government remains silent.  The world remains silent.  Day after day, year after year, Turkey violates Iraq's sovereignty and terrorizes people who live in northern Iraq.  Hiwa Shilani (KURDISTAN 24) reports:

The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday announced that it had summoned the ambassador of Turkey in Iraq and handed him a complaint memo condemning the violation of Iraqi sovereignty and its airspace after recent Turkish airstrikes in the Kurdistan Region.
A statement from the foreign ministry announced that Iraq had “summoned” Turkish Ambassador Fatih Yildiz “against the backdrop of the Turkish bombing that affected a number of regions in northern Iraq, causing terror to the population, and spreading panic among them.”
“Ambassador Abdul Karim Hashim met the Turkish ambassador and delivered him a protest note, which included the Iraqi government’s condemnation of violations of the sanctity, sovereignty, and Iraqi airspace.”

Twitter is more alive than the corporate media. 

The Terrorist Turkish strikes in Iraq reflected Turkey's underestimation of international law and its relations with its neighbours

All of us condemned Turkey’s airstrikes on several areas of northern Iraq as part of a pattern that had become a cause for concern, The strikes represent an attack on Iraqi sovereignty and are taking place without coordination with the government in Baghdad.

Help Iraqi refugees to reach safety by delivering their voice to the whole world to rescue them from the 4to8 years of harsh wait in the host countries(like Turkey). Tell countries to receive their files to save their future.. They lost everything in Iraq&during the long wait.

May 7th, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi became prime minister of Iraq.  June 10th, he took a press gaggle to Mosul.  John Davison of REUTERS published his report on June 11th.  Today, Alissa J. Rubin (NEW YORK TIMES) offers her report:

 Mr. Kadhimi is in many ways a Western-style leader. He has a message for every event, and he stayed on schedule through a 12-hour day. His chief of protocol ensured that everyone with him was constantly supplied with disinfectant gel.
But nothing could prepare Mr. Kadhimi, 54, for the anger and grief that people called out to him every chance they got.
Among his first stops were the Mosul Museum, its collection hacked to pieces by ISIS, and the Al Nuri Grand Mosque, a renowned Iraqi landmark with an intricately carved leaning minaret.
The wind blows through the lower part of the mosque now, which was badly damaged in the fighting., During the Islamic State takeover of Syria and Iraq, the militant leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared himself the group’s caliph from its pulpit.
If ever there were a place where the stones have voices, it is Mosul. The destruction is almost audible. Whole blocks are piles of debris, chunks of concrete are massed three and four stories high, and clinging to them are shacks, tacked together out of scrap metal and canvas. This is what passes for homes today in Mosul.
The prime minister only glimpsed this chaos as he swept through the city in a motorcade of cars and army vehicles, tearing down streets emptied of people to ensure his safety.

It's been a little over a month.  Not seeing much change.  Not seeing any effort to get moving on holding elections -- that is the primary job he is tasked with.  His is not supposed to be a four year term.  He is supposed to quickly set a timetable for elections.  

Human Rights Watch Belkis Wille just offered a look at censorship in Iraq (here) and we noted it yesterday. Today, we'll note Paul Aufiero's interview with Belkis about the report:

What is different about this moment in Iraq?

In October 2019, a massive protest movement hit the country, with millions of people in the streets. Young people in the center and south of the country came together through a non-sectarian lens to call for basic human rights for all Iraqis, regardless of ethnicity, language, or belief. Their demands and the wave of protests they sparked forced Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign in November, marking the first time popular protests in Iraq led to a change in power.

In May, a new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, took over. Al-Kadhimi is a former journalist and went into exile under Saddam Hussein. When he came back to Iraq, he became the head of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service. Since becoming prime minister, he has been vocal about tackling some of the most difficult and sensitive human rights issues in Iraq, which is quite incredible. So with this new leadership, there is an opportunity to realize one of the loudest demands of protesters: that authorities reengage with the public.
This is also one of the first times since 2003 where the violence in the country has diminished to the point that Iraqis can start talking about things not related to war. The country has endured years of conflict, through the United States-led invasion and occupation, a civil war, and the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). Now Iraqis can finally demand politicians engage in issues affecting their human rights not through the lens of national security.

But there is another story taking place alongside this. What does your report describe?

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, those he oppressed have been interested in opening the country in terms of elections and free speech. But things took a turn in the opposite direction over the last decade. Authorities have dealt with critics not only through violence, which we have seen when protesters were beaten and killed, but also through campaigns using laws to prosecute speech they don’t like, intimidating people into silence.

Who is being targeted in this campaign? Why?

In the autonomous Kurdistan Region in the north, like in Baghdad-controlled areas, there is almost no money for independent media, so most of the outlets are funded by one of the two main Kurdish political parties, or smaller groups. Journalists working for the outlet of one party are often sent to cover protests instigated by that party in territory controlled by another and are sometimes arrested or beaten by Kurdish security forces, or even killed. And prosecutions against journalists are also happening in Kurdistan along political lines.

But this is happening across the country, also in Baghdad and the south. Authorities are using vague legal provisions to target journalists, activists, and frankly, anyone posting criticism on social media, including people writing on their own Facebook pages. This should not be illegal.

In Baghdad, the penal code has provisions that broadly deal with defamation. You could be prosecuted if you say anything that “insults” an Arab country or someone in power, for example. But there is no definition of what constitutes an insult, so these provisions are extremely opaque. Another set of provisions deals with incitement, and authorities use these against people they claim posted something online that could either incite someone to carry out a criminal act or threaten national security. But there is no standard for what this means in practice.

And in addition to being arrested, a lot of these people are getting threatening messages on their phones saying, “You’re next. We’ll kill you if you keep writing about this [topic].” And there is a systemic problem in Iraq where if those receiving threats go to the police, the police do nothing to protect them.

What penalties do people face if found guilty of these vague charges?

Depending on the provision someone is charged under, they could face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to about US$800, or both. And some say security forces beat them while interrogating them. But what is interesting is that we documented very few cases where someone is forced to serve an actual prison sentence. Authorities are clearly not interested in filling prisons with these people. I suspect that the point of these prosecutions is to intimidate people so much that the next time they want to post something critical of the government on Facebook, they don’t. It’s about harassment and silencing.

In the course of your research, were there any cases that particularly stood out to you?

One man, Haitham Sulaiman, is a 48-year-old protest organizer based near Baghdad, who got involved taking on corruption in Iraq. In early April, after hearing that the local health department might be making exorbitant profits off the cost of paper masks amid the Covid-19 pandemic, he posted the allegation on Facebook and called on authorities to investigate. The next day, intelligence officers from the Ministry of the Interior came to his house and left a warning that he had to stop writing about corruption. A few days later, four men in plain clothes arrested him and took him to the intelligence office, where they beat him and forced him to sign a document saying the Iraqi protest movement of 2019 had been bankrolled by the US. They then charged him under the penal code for willfully sharing false or biased information that “endangered public security.”

Another woman, “Amal” (not her real name), has protested corruption in Basra for years, been openly critical of different political parties online, and had posted videos of herself protesting in 2018, at the time of large-scale protests in southern Iraq. Around that time, while at home one night, she saw three masked men open gunfire on her house. She fled the city with her children but came back three weeks later. A few days after returning, an armed man came to her house and threatened that if she didn’t leave with her family, they’d all be killed. She has since fled the country.

What hope does the new government offer to address these issues?

The first thing the government should do is institute legal reforms and amend the penal code and other problematic laws to limit the abusive impact of these vague provisions. Security forces should investigate threats and acts of violence against journalists, activists, and social media critics.

But the prime minister, having seen the power of the country’s protests firsthand, should send the message down through Iraq’s government structure that he will no longer put up with those who abuse their powers to go after people who said something they don’t like, and will punish them. And maybe for the first time in Iraq’s history it’s possible this could happen.

We'll close with this from US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard:
More than a million of our brothers and sisters who served in the military are suffering every day as a result of being exposed to toxic burn pits during their time overseas. This is the Agent Orange of our post-9/11 generation of veterans. Yet, the Department of Defense and the VA have so far failed to ensure every veteran and servicemember dealing with health issues related to their exposure to these toxins gets the care and benefits they deserve.
This is why I’ve introduced H.R.7072 — the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act — and other legislation to prevent another generation of veterans from suffering in the way that our brothers who served in Vietnam did.
Heath Robinson was one of too many servicemembers who deployed to the Middle East, only to come home and fight another battle — for Heath, a 3-year battle with lung cancer. A father, husband, and patriot, he recently lost that battle with cancer and died as our nation's leaders failed to acknowledge the link between his diagnosis and his toxic burn pit exposure.
This is an egregious failure to those who serve. Our veterans deserve better. Their families deserve better. Our veterans deserve care, compensation, and disability benefits.
It is too late for some like Heath, but more are suffering and more need help. Congress must act now.


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