Saturday, August 11, 2012

Curiosity lands on the cover of Time!

time

So Curiosity landed on the cover of Time!!!!!!

Yea.  The bad news is that you can't buy the cover yet because Time is sleeping on the job.

I was willing to buy several covers today. One for my office, one for my bedroom and one for my boys.  But can't because they're not ready yet.

Maybe in 5 weeks or so, they'll be ready.  Of course, America's ready for Curiosity right now!  We love Curiosity.  Today on "Morning Edition" (NPR), they reported on our love for Curiosity:

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now, at the same time that Adam Steltzner's team was waiting for news from Curiosity, tens of thousands of people around the world were waiting for some news from the rover's own Twitter feed. One week after landing, nearly 900,000 followers are getting to know the unique personality of Mars Curiosity. That's the rover's name on Twitter.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Here are a couple of Curiosity's tweets so far: You asked for pics from my trip, here you go: my first look of many to come of my new home, Mars.
INSKEEP: And, well, looky here: I'm casting a shadow on the ground in Mars' Gale Crater.
MONTAGNE: Well, since the rover has its own voice and personality on Twitter, we thought it would be fun to give Curiosity an actual voice. So we've been playing around with a computer.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It once was one small step, now it's six big wheels.
INSKEEP: Or maybe you imagine a female rover.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It once was one small step, now it's six big wheels.
MONTAGNE: Three women from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena here in California are responsible for the rover's Twitter thoughts. And to them, the rover is a she. One of them, Stephanie Smith, says Curiosity has a distinct character.
STEPHANIE SMITH: Thinking about her as the most advanced, biggest, most complex robot Earth has ever sent to the surface of another planet, and she's got a rock vaporizing laser on her head, I think she's got some well-earned bravada.
INSKEEP: And, of course, if a rover starts tweeting from Mars, you want to ask a question. Questions to Curiosity are being tweeted from all over the world, and they cover everything from the ridiculous to extremely detailed science questions. NASA's Smith explains.
SMITH: We want to be engaging. We want to be surprising. And if we get a laugh and a chuckle out of someone, that's marvelous, but it never trumps the fact that we're trying to share the real science and engineering of this mission.


Dave Mathews of the "Galveston Daily News" sees Curiosity as the first thing to cheer NASA about in years.  And listen to this BBC News report about the geology on Mars.

America loves Curiosity.  We're fascinated by her and think how great that is.  As a nation, we're all watching and it's not a high speed chase or a celebrity gone wild.  As a nation, we're all watching and learning.

And isn't America supposed to be collectively increasing its science skills?

Curiosity is amazing and we want more on her. 


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, August 10, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the US State Dept issues a warning, look who's spinning the illegal war now,  the effects of the KBR burn pits claim another life, and more.
Starting in the United States.  Mark McCarter (Huntsville Times) reports, "Russell Keith, who served as a paramedic in civilian life and during two tours of duty in Iraq, died Wednesday at age 53.  He suffered from Parkinson's disease that he believed was related to his exposure to burn pits while serving in Balad."  Services will be held tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. at Laughlin Service Funeral Home with the burial at Jefferson Memorial Gardens. 
November 6, 2009, we covered the Democratic Policy Committee hearing that Russell Keith testified at.  He explained,  "While I was stationed at Balad, I experienced the effects of the massive burn pit that burned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The ten-acre pit was located in the northwest corner of the base. An acrid, dark black smoke from the pit would accumulate and hang low over the base for weeks at a time. Every spot on the base was touched by smoke from the pit; everyone who served at the base was exposed to the smoke. It was almost impossible to escape, even in our living units,"
Then-Senator Byron Dorgan was the Chair of the DPC and he stated at that hearing:
Today we're going to have a discussion and have a hearing on how, as early as 2002, US military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan began relying on open-air burn pits -- disposing of waste materials in a very dangerous manner. And those burn pits included materials such as hazardous waste, medical waste, virtually all of the waste without segregation of the waste, put in burn pits. We'll hear how there were dire health warnings by Air Force officials about the dangers of burn pit smoke, the toxicity of that smoke, the danger for human health.  We'll hear how the Department of Defense regulations in place said that burn pits should be used only in short-term emergency situations -- regulations that have now been codified. And we will hear how, despite all the warnings and all the regulations, the Army and the contractor in charge of this waste disposal, Kellogg Brown & Root, made frequent and unnecessary use of these burn pits and exposed thousands of US troops to toxic smoke.
Dire warnings were ignored.  Service members and contractors came back to the US with sicknesses resulting from that exposure and they have had to fight continually to try to have their illnesses and conditions recognized.  Russell Keith was part of those who came forward and spoke out.  He also was part of the class action lawsuit against KBR.  KBR has still not had to pay for their actions. 
The US government has thus far refused to create a burn pit registry.  When we speak to veterans groups, I note that 2013 might be a good year for that registry.  Senator Jim Webb refused to allow it to come out of Committee back when then-US Senator Evan Bayh proposed it and appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to advocate for it.   June 13th, Senator Mark Udall appeared before the Committee advocating on behalf of a registry:
Senator Mark Udall:  Sitting in the audience today is Master Sergeant Jessey Baca a member of the New Mexico Air National Guard and his wife Maria.  [to them] Just give everybody a waive here, you two.  Master Sgt. Baca was stationed in Balad, Iraq and exposed to burn pits. His journey to be here today was not easy.  He has battled cancer, chronic bronchitis, chemical induced asthma, brain lesions, TBI, PTSD and numerous other ailments. Maria has traveled that difficult road with him.   They know first hand the suffering caused by burn pits and they need to know the answers.  It is because of them and so many others like them that we are here today.  Last year, I introduced S. 1798, the Open Burn Pits Registry Act with Senator Corker.  Representative Todd Akin introduced it in the House.  It is not a partisan issue.  We have each met with veterans and active duty members of the military and they have told us how important it is that we act now.  In both Afghanistan and Iraq, open air burn pits were widely used at forward operating bases.  Disposing of trash and other debris was a major challenge.  Commanders had to find a way to dispose of waste while concentrating on the important mission at hand.  The solution that was chosen, however, had serious risks.  Pits of waste were set on fire -- sometimes using jet fuel for ignition.  Some burn pits were small but others covered multiple acres of land. Often times, these burn pits would turn the sky black.  At Joint Base Balad Iraq, over 10 acres of land were used for burning toxic debris.  At the height of its operations, Balad hosted approximately 25,000 military, civilian and coalition provision authority personnel.  These personnel would be exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals released into the atmosphere.  According to air quality measurements, the air at Balad had multiple particulates harmful to humans: Plastics and Styrofoams, metals, chemicals from paints and solvents, petroleum and lubricants, jet fuel and unexploded ordnance, medical and other dangerous wastes.  The air samples at Joint Base Balad turned up some nasty stuff. Particulate matter, chemicals that form from the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas garbage or other organic substances, volatile organic compounds such as acetone and benzene  -- benzene, as you all know, is known to cause leukemia --  and dioxins which are associated with Agent Orange.  According to the American Lung Association, emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. All of this was in the air and being inhaled into the lungs of service members.  Our veterans have slowly begun to raise the alarm as they learn why -- after returning home -- they are short of breath or experiencing headaches and other symptoms and, in some cases, developing cancer.  Or to put it more simply, by Maria Baca, when she describes her husband's symptoms, "When he breathes, he can breathe in, but he can't breathe out.  That's the problem that he's having.  It feels like a cactus coming out of his chest.  He feels  these splinters and he can't get rid of them."  The Dept of Army has also confirmed the dangers posed by burn pits.  In a memo from April 15, 2011, Environmental Science Engineering Officer, G. Michael Pratt, wrote an air quality summary on Baghram Airfield.  And I would respectfully ask that the full memo be included in the record.  Referring to the burn pits near Baghram Airfield,  he said there was potential that "long-term exposure at these level may experience the risk for developing chronic health conditions such as reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, atherosclerosis  and other cardio pulmonary diseases.  Many of our service members are coming home with these symptoms.  I believe, like you do, Madam Chair, that we are forever in debt for their service, so we must ask the question, "How did these burn pits impact the health of our returning heroes?"  This bill is a step towards finding the answers we owe them.  The legislation will establish and maintain and Open Burn Pit Registry for those individuals who may have been exposed during their military service.  It would include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines is applicable to possible health effects of this exposure. develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the registry and periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pits exposure.  It is supported by numerous groups including BurnPits 360, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Association of US Navy,  Retired Enlisted Association, the Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees and the National Military Family Association.  Madam Chair and Ranking Member Burr, thank you for your attention to this important issue.  I look forward to working with both of you and members of your distinguished Committee on this important legislation.  Thank you and a pleasure once again to be with you today. 
In 2013, Webb will be gone.  His war on veterans -- he lashed out at VA Secretary Eric Shinseki for Shinseki's efforts to recognize all who were suffering from Agent Orange exposure during Vietnam and his penny-pinching opposition to a Burn Pit Registry -- is why Webb didn't run for re-election.  He did not have the votes in his home state, largely due to his actions against veterans.  With Webb gone, I believe Senator Jon Tester's opposition to the registry crumbles (I could be wrong) and that it's much easier to get it passed.   The problem with that is, not only can you not take back the years where they were ignored or lied to, you also can't bring back those who've died from those burn pits.   This is the Laughlin Service Funeral Home's obituary for Russell Keith:  
Leon Russell Keith, 53, of Huntsville, passed away Wednesday. Mr. Keith devoted his life to helping others by serving as a paramedic. He spent three years in Iraq serving the needs of the sick and wounded. Mr. Keith was a staunch Alabama football fan. He was also a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Local 3263.
Survivors include his wife of 25 years, Vickie Keith; daughter, Renatta Keith of Huntsville; sons, Chad Keith of Decatur, Chris Keith (Rachel) of Decatur and Carlton Keith of Huntsville; granddaughter, Isabella Wood; mother, Geraldine Lowe of Morrison, CO; sister, Wendy Greene of Florida and brothers, Howard Keith of Morrison, CO and Jimmy Keith of Boston, MA.
Visitation will be from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Friday at Laughlin Service Funeral Home. The funeral service will be at 11:00 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home chapel with Pastor I.V. Marsh officiating. Burial will be in Jefferson Memorial Gardens in Trussville.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. (www.michaeljfox.org)
Javier Blas (Washington Post) reports, "Iraq has overtaken Iran as the second-largest OPEC oil producer for the first time since the late 1980s, a symbolic shift that signals the huge impact of Western sanctions on Tehran and the steady recovery of Baghdad's energy industry."  Steve Hargreaves (CNN Money) adds, "Iraqi oil production inched over the 3 million barrel a day mark in July, according to numbers released Friday by the International Atomic Agency.  That's 300,000 barrels per day higher than the country's average output in 2011."  And that has to pass for progress in Iraq.  Not that the Iraqi people see any monies.  Nouri's Cabinet just announced that there would be no surplus oil revenues to divide among the people.  Moqtada al-Sadr rebuked that claim publicly but you know Nouri never share what he can steal.  So this is another example of no progress in Iraq.   The US State Dept says "no progress" as well.   Yesterday they issued a travel warning on Iraq which included:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq given the security situation. Travel within Iraq remains dangerous. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated January 19, 2012, to update information on security incidents and to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns for U.S. citizens in Iraq, including kidnapping and terrorist violence. The United States completed its withdrawal of military forces from Iraq as of December 31, 2011. The ability of the Embassy to respond to situations where U.S. citizens face difficulty, including arrests, is extremely limited.
Some regions within Iraq have experienced fewer violent incidents than others in recent years, in particular the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). Although violence and threats against U.S. citizens persist, reported instances have lessened in the past six months. U.S. citizens in Iraq also remain at risk for kidnapping. Methods of attack have, in the past, included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including explosively formed penetrators (EFPs); magnetic IEDs placed on vehicles; human and vehicle-borne IEDs, mines placed on or concealed near roads; mortars and rockets, and shootings using various direct fire weapons. Numerous insurgent groups, including Al Qaida in Iraq, remain active throughout Iraq. Although Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) operations against these groups continue, terrorist activity persists in many areas of the country. While terrorist violence occurs at levels lower than in previous years, it occurs frequently, particularly in the provinces of Baghdad, Ninewa, Salah ad Din, Anbar, and Diyala.
The security situation in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), which includes the governorates of Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk, has been more stable relative to the rest of Iraq in recent years, but threats remain. U.S. government personnel in northern Iraq are required to be accompanied by a protective security escort when traveling outsidesecure facilities. Although there have been significantly fewer terrorist attacks and lower levels of insurgent violence in the IKR than in other parts of Iraq, the security situation throughout the IKR remains dangerous. Increasingly, many U.S. and third-country business people travel throughout much of Iraq; however, they do so under restricted movement conditions and almost always with security advisors and teams.
U.S. citizens should avoid areas near the Turkish or Iranian borders. The Turkish military continues to carry out operations against elements of the Kongra-Gel terrorist group (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK) located along Iraq's northern border. Additionally, extensive unmarked minefields remain along the same border. The Governments of Turkey and Iran continue to carry out military operations against insurgent groups in the mountain regions. These operations have included troop movements and both aerial and artillery bombardments. Borders in these areas are not always clearly defined. Iranian authorities previously detained, for an extended period, U.S. citizens who were hiking in the vicinity of the Iranian border in the IKR. The resources available to the U.S. Embassy to assist U.S. citizens who venture close to or cross the border with Iran are extremely limited. 

The U.S. Embassy is located in the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad. The IZ is a restricted access area. Iraqi authorities are responsible for control of the IZ. Travelers to the IZ should be aware that Iraqi authorities may require special identification to enter the IZ or may issue IZ-specific access badges. Individuals residing and traveling within the IZ should continue to exercise good personal safety precautions.
The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. government personnel in Iraq to be serious enough to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. government employees under the authority of the U.S. Chief of Mission must follow strict safety and security procedures when traveling outside the Embassy. State Department guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of protective security details. Detailed security information is available at the U.S. Embassy website.
The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services to U.S. citizens throughout Iraq, including Baghdad, is particularly limited given the security environment. The U.S. Consulates in Basrah Erbil, and Kirkuk cannot provide routine services such as passport applications, extra visa pages, and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad. U.S. citizens in need of these services while in Iraq must travel to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The Embassy's website (
http://iraq.usembassy.gov) includes consular information and the most recent messages to U.S. citizens in Iraq. U.S. citizens in Iraq who are in need of emergency assistance should call 0770-443-1286.
For information on "What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis," please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Emergencies and Crisis link at www.travel.state.gov. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
They have to issue that warning because there is still no progress in Iraq.  On the violence front, 
 Alsumaria notes that a suicide bomber drove a car up to a mosque in Muwafaqiya (east of Mosul) and detonated, taking his/her own life and the lives of 5 worshipers while leaving twenty-five more injured. Reuters updates that to 5 dead and seventy injured.  Al Jazeera adds that "part of the mosque building collapsed over the heads of the worshippers as they were leaving." KUNA notes that the statement from Niniveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi "condemned that deadly attack of the Shiite place, warning that the attack is meant to instigate tension between Iraqis of different sects."  The governor is the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.     Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) notes a Dujail attack in which 4 Sahwa ("Awakenings," "Sons Of Iraq") were shot dead and a Muqdadiyah roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left two more injured. AFP adds that Haditha city council member Nabil Shaakar was shot dead with his two brothers left injured.


There's no progress in the political stalemate either.  Dar Addustour notes the interrogation of Nouri before the Parliament has been tabled until they can see what the Reform Commission will propose.  Lots of luck with that.  Al Mada reports the National Alliance is declaring that the Reform Commission is proposing three special committees be formed.  Great!  Maybe they can waste months in 'studying' the problem which is about as far as anything ever gets in Nouri's Iraq.  Al Mada also notes Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi put out a press release praising Moqtada al-Sadr, noting that Moqtada had attempted to chart a path best for Iraqis and that Moqtada's father (Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr) was one of the martyrs from the reign of Saddam Hussein.

Alsumaria notes that Imam Mahmoud al-Issawi declared in morning prayers today that the Iraqi government should release the many detainees they continue to hold imprisoned that have never been found guilty of anything.  You might remember that was among the demands the protesters made in February 2011.  Nouri promised action.  There was none.
And there is no link to a story many noted in the public e-mail account.  Australia's ABC had a report and maybe it was solid and maybe it wasn't.  But it's a topic that can split so you need to know what you're talking about.
Newsflash: Andrew Cockburn is not dead.  He is the husband of journalist Leslie Cockburn and they are the father of actress Olivia Wilde.  His brother Alexander passed away July 21st.  When you're expert on a religious issue advances (a) that the most suffering in the world among religions are Christians, I'm willing to include it as I would any other religion in Iraq.  But when your expert who says that also feels the need to note Andrew Cockburn's passing ("two weeks ago") and offers praise for him -- At some point, people are going to say (rightly), "You don't even know which Cockburn passed away, how can I trust you on another detail?"

Turning to the topic of Camp Ashraf.  The US wants to move all residents to Camp Liberty.  Who are the residents?  Iranian dissidents who've been in Iraq longer than Nouri al-Maliki who fled Iraq years ago and only returned in 2003 after the US invaded.  The US disarmed them and promised them protection.  That protection still hasn't come.   July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."
Today AFP reports, "Ten UN human rights experts on Friday denounced the 'appalling situation' of 3,400 Iranian refugees in Iraq amid fears of a fresh 'massacre' by security forces."  The statement included, "We call for immediate intervention of the UN Secretary General, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the international community to prevent another humanitarian disaster."
Yesterday, CSPAN offered a panel of non-experts and, as a CBS News friend who passed it on, that was fitting since CSPAN believes "James Jeffries" is a former US Ambassador to Iraq.  (His name is James Jeffrey.  It's not even "Jeffreys."  Jeffrey.)  AP's Kimberly Dozier moderated the panel which also include the internationally famous War Criminal John Negroponte.  And we might normally assumed Negroponte was the worst panelists.   In 2004, when War Criminal Negroponte was appointed as ambassador, there were numerous headlines.  Like Michel Choussudovsky's "Bush appoints a Terrorist as US Ambassador to Iraq" (Centre for Research on Globalisation). 
But Negroponte, the War Criminal, was but a flea on the ugly underbelly of the conference.  It needs to be noted that the US has only had one ambassador to Iraq who was opposed to the Iraq War before it started.  Do you know who that was?
Ryan Crocker.  Appointed by Bully Boy Bush.
Barack Obama got the Democratic Party nomination because of his mythical opposition to the Iraq War.  If you're late to the party, sell your spin somewhere else I am especially not in the damn mood today.  When Barry Kiss Ass was running for the US Senate, his handlers planned a big money event for him and all who attended would get face time with this wonderful, amazing, anti-war politician.  Elaine and I went, checkbooks in hand, prepared to max out but who we encountered was not an anti-war candidate.  He told us that the US was in Iraq now and didn't matter.  What didn't matter  to us was another piece of s**t lying politician and Elaine and I immediately left the fundraiser without donating a cent. 
And his attitude/belief expressed then is why a President Barack was never going to nominate anyone worthy to be the US Ambassador to Iraq.  Ann Wright, for example, may have done everything right but he was not going to ask her to come back as the US Ambassador to Iraq.  (She resigned over the Iraq War right before it started.)  No, the DLC-er Barry  Kiss Ass was going to nominate War Hawks and that's what he did.  That's why his choices were so linked to George W. Bush.  Three people nominated, all of them War Hawks. 
Only two were confirmed: James Jeffrey and Chris Hill.  The event took place early in the afternoon yesterday (starting, in fact, around 11:55 a.m.) and apparently that was so as not to interfere with Chris Hill's afternoon nap.  John Negroponte -- whom I believe has blood on his hands that will never wash off -- looked almost civilized when up against the Pig-Pen Ambassador.
Kimberly Dozier, as moderator, wanted the discussion to start on a few things that all could agree upon.  And most could but not little Chrissy Hill. While Negroponte and Cambone could talk about intelligence failures and Curveball, Chrissy had an agenda of his own.
Chris Hill:  I don't -- I don't think it was about -- just about intelligence. I think that was part of the issue, the interpretation of the intelligence.  I think that was part of the issue.  The interpretation of the issue, the intelligence, the fact that we had sensors really turned up in the wake of 9-11 and we're listening to a lot of different things. So the question was how you interpreted the things you were listening to. But I think it was -- the decison was a much -- it was based on a much broader concept of we have this Saddam Huseein in this critical country.  He, uh, had, uh, a reputation for -- you know, for murdering people en mass.  I mean anyone who's been to Iraq for five minutes and can see what this person did -- I mean, I went up to Hywaptchua where he had used gas against the Kurds.  So, I mean, there's a real compelling reason why you'd want to go after this guy.  Uh, and so and-and, also in the wake of 9-11, I mean, the mood was, we can't let people like that stay out there.  So the real issues [wheezes and sighs as he pauses] I think ultimately -- You know, I saw a number that cost us 1.8 trillion and I think you can ask the question from that perspective is-is -- was it the right thing to do?  But I-I -- you know, when you're there, when you look at some of these just heinous operations that Saddam had you do have the sense that, 'Okay, we're doing the right thing and maybe some things went awry but  it was kind of the right thing to do and I -- You know, this current mood in our country where we look at these kinds of things now and we say, "My God! What was -- What possessed us to this?" You know you have to be careful about presentism.  You have to think about what the mood was at the time.  And he was a -- Saddam Hussein was a person who -- You know, I think arguably and in the wake and the mood after 9-11 was someone we wanted to take off of the board.
That idiot was a US Ambassador to Iraq and the idiot and liar was nominated by Barack.  That idiot who didn't have the decency to even note the deaths -- not US or Iraqi -- and it took Kimberly Dozier to point out the deaths.  That idiot who wants to rewrite history and pretend like the things that took place never could have been forseen. 
Chris Hill is an ass.  He will always be a dumb ass and the University of Denver will be a joke for hiring him as faculty. (Academic institutions aren't supposed to welcome dishonesty or an unwillingness to evaluate past events.)  This isn't presentism.  In reality, there was huge opposition to the Iraq War before it started.  I was on campuses speaking out against it in February 2003 -- one month before it started.  I spoke to college students who were against it as well.  Now some of them may qualify as geniuses but I'm back of the bus and even that's just barely.  So if idiot me was able to see how it was built on lies, Chris Hill, don't pretend no one could have known.
Within 24 hours of then US Secretary of State Colin Powell lying to the United Nations in February 2003 (his self-described 'blot'), his claims had been rebutted.
For Chris Hill to lie the way he did and try to spit polish the government's choice to start an illegal war is disgusting. 
Grasp that honor is not an applique you can apply after the fact. 
While Hill lied and spun, even John Negroponte -- even John Negroponte -- could demonstrate more honesty.  (The intel was wrong.  But it was not wrong by accident.  It was wrong because it was cooked to fit the administration's desire for war.  Negroponte can only admit that it was wrong, that the intelligence was a  "notorius enough mistake to cause the revamping of the intelligence community."  That's still more than Chris Hill can provide.  And he was a huge supporter of the Iraq War in 2002.  Again, the only Ambassador to Iraq that the US has had so far who opposed the start of the Iraq War was Ryan Crocker.)
Hill lied and lied non-stop.  And sucked up to Nouri al-Maliki like crazy.  Someone needs to tell Dumb Ass, that he wasn't in Iraq in 2008.  So when he wants to impugn the reputations of Ryan Crocker and the then-top US Commander in Iraq General David Petraeus (now CIA Director David Petraeus) by hauling the crazy out his ass, someone needs to call him out.  I really cannot believe what a whore Chris Hill is and a whore for Nouri al-Maliki.  He painted Petraeus -- David Petraeus -- as a scared coward who was reluctant to take on Moqtada al-Sadr but brave Nouri to the rescue.
Chris Hill is appalling.  We sounded alarms in 2009 when Barack nominated him.  We have stated since then that the manic depressive needs help.  Now he's taking his crazy out in public and someone needs to step in.  Take his keys away, he's not fit to drive.  (And David Petraeus should demand an apology.  And I'm no David Petraeus groupie, check the archives.  We've long praised Holly Petraeus for her work -- his wife -- but we were never fans of her husband and the e-mails from Centcom never stopped coming with this public relations officer or that one insisting we were unfair to Petreaus here, there and everywhere.)
 In the US there are many third party and independent candidates making a run for the presidency.  We're following two.  Jill Stein has the Green Party's presidential nomination and her running mate is Cheri HonkalaRoseanne Barr has the nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party and her running mate is Cindy Sheehan.  We're following them because four women is exciting and it's news and I'm feminist which means I shouldn't be spending my time fluffing for the patriarchy.  Today let's enjoy the fact that there are two tickets of women running for the highest office.  
Roseanne was on Piers Morgan Tonight (CNN) last night.  Piers was obsessed with love and I wonder if it had been a male candidate if that would have been the focus of so much of the interview?  CNN notes that Roseanne managed to declare, "I was asked to carry the water and carry a message during this election and to make socialist solutions part of narrative, because they're being left out and they work."  And while he focused too much on love in my opinion,  Piers can still assert he let Roseanne present her case, that's more than some feminist outlets can claim.  Judging by a press release from the Freedom Socialist Party today, Roseanne's getting the Peace and Freedom Party nomination has ticked off some:
Barr, who reinvented herself as a socialist in the few weeks before the PFP vote, did not show up for a candidates' forum the night before the convention. She was represented there by her vice-presidential partner, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. On Saturday, Aug. 4, the opening day of the convention, Barr's appearance was preceded by a security detail while delegates sat waiting for her to arrive, which she did in a flurry of media. She left after giving her speech, and took the media attention with her, headed for the taping of a Comedy Central roast in her honor. Delegates were unable to ask her questions.
Barr had originally announced as a candidate for the Green Party nomination, but lost decisively to Jill Stein, whom Barr had pledged to support should Stein become the nominee. Barr did not attend the Green Party convention in July.
Now Barr is promising to do major fundraising and help register voters for PFP, a California-based left electoral coalition that is in a fight for its life thanks to new state ballot laws hostile to minor parties. The Durham-López team had argued for making a PFP registration drive part of a bold two-year grass-roots campaign statewide, explicitly anti-capitalist and feminist, to protest the rigged electoral system and organize with others to demand relief for those hit hardest by war, bailouts for corporations, and austerity for workers.
And Jill Stein's campaign has released the following:
Today the Stein campaign announced success in petition drives led by Greens and Volunteers for Jill Stein groups in Alaska, Kansas, Maryland, Washington, and Wisconsin. In each of these states, state elections authories have received more than enough qualified signatures to place the Green Party or the Stein/Honkala ticket on the ballot. 
"As of today, voters in at least 30 states will see Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala on their ballot lines," said Erika Wolf, associate campaign manager. 
The ballot drives in Maryland and Washington states were led by their respective state parties, and supported by Stein volunteers. The ballot drive in Wisconsin was a combined effort, and the petitioning efforts in Alaska and Kansas were led and heavily financed by the Stein campaign itself, with support from local Green parties and the national Green Party of the United States.
"This is the August crunch, when the final 20 state ballot lines can either be won or lost, and we need every dollar and every volunteer we can get, right now, to make sure this campaign is truly national," said campaign manager Ben Manski. 
For the latest ballot access news, see: http://www.jillstein.org/ballot
To make a donation, click here: http://www.jillstein.org/donate
 afp

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Mars and Curiosity

"Barack Obama - The Welfare Queen" (Hillary Is 44):
By now we expected to have published our Marco Rubio VP article (that will be our next article). But the obsession this week has been ads. The outrage has built up all week from all sides. “The Romney campaign has really taken “lying” to a “new level,” or something” say the Hopium Guzzlers. But the lying liars are on the Obama side with a truly despicable ad.
The ad is a knot of lies produced by the SuperPac that Barack Obama asks his supporters to flood with donations and run by the deputy press flack in the Obama White House press corpse [sic]. In order to deflect from that bog of lies, the one that even MSNBC is critical of (watch the video: Mika Brzezinski takes Obama campaign to task for lying about cancer ad), the Obama thugs are whining about a new Romney ad.
The Romney ad is brilliant (notice the usual tag line “Obama isn’t working” takes on added resonance here) and entirely predictable. We predicted it more than three years ago. Moreover, the Romney campaign wisely took our advice and is using Bill Clinton liberally in its ads.
Here’s what we wrote in March of 2009 in our article called Tax And Spend Obama Dimocrats:
“Real Democrats understand the need for fiscal responsibility. Real Democrats remember the recession Bill Clinton inherited and how Bill Clinton restored genuine confidence to consumers and genuine fiscal responsibility by paying the bills on time. Bill Clinton did not waste money as policy nor did Bill Clinton ignore the debilitating effects of endless deficits and growing debt.
After Bill Clinton Republicans could no longer attack Democrats as “tax and spend” wastrels. After Bill Clinton Republicans had to retire attacks on “welfare queens”. Bill Clinton enacted responsible fiscal policy and deprived Republicans of their most useful and effective epithets against Democrats.
Now Republicans are calling back to active service those ugly epithets because they describe the Obama economic “plans” with precision.”
Our prediction/warning to Obama Dimocrats, like Cassandra to Agamemnon, has once again proved deadly on target. Mitt Romney’s campaign brilliantly brings to life our predicted deadly attack:


Barack brought it all on himself.  What else can you say?


mars3

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Mission to Mars.  What I'd much rather blog about.  Pete Spotts (Christian Science Monitor) has a really great article on the rover Curiosity:


Ironically, NASA's mechanical alien from Earth landed in quad 51, a postage-stamp patch that shares a number with the US Air Force Base in southern Nevada that is the object of many a UFO conspiracy theory.
The science team now is working up an agenda for the rover, identifying "the key observations we can make here that will tell us about our landing site," Dr. Sumner says.
The team has been using images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to develop their maps, but those images lack the detail to spot small features that also may be of interest. Researchers plan to overlay those with images from the Mars Descent Imager, which took high-resolution photos of the approaching ground as descent stage delivered the rover to Mars.
For all the harsh conditions Curiosity faces on Mars, it's got the easy part of this mission, compared with its human coworkers. Its designers figured out how to keep it comfortable in the wide temperature swings of a Martian day, or sol, and it’s built to withstand the elevated levels of radiation coming in from the cosmos.

 I love Curiosity.  To me, he or she is like the robot in Short Circuit.  Rebecca's been covering the Mars mission as well and her daughter is in love with Curiosity.  "mars" was her writing about that.  so I called her (Rebecca's daughter) to see what she thought about Curiosity today.  She told me that "Curiosity is going to make it home safe" and is "so brave to be up there teaching us."  And she is right, Curiosity is going to make it home safe.  She's so precious.  Curiosity is like a real person to her.   And, confession, I've got a little bit of a crush on the robot myself.

Which makes me smile.  Again, I wish the mission had been pushed back a few weeks so that all the kids could be in school and following the mission in class.

Reuters reports:

After three full days on the Red Planet, "Curiosity continues to behave flawlessly" and has "executed all planned activities" without a hitch, mission manager Michael Watkins said at a JPL news briefing.
The latest round of equipment checks included an instrument designed to determine mineral composition of powdered rock and soil samples; one to analyze soil and atmospheric samples for organic compounds; one to detect traces of water locked in shallow mineral deposits; and another that uses particle X-rays to identify chemical elements in rocks and soils.
The very delivery of Curiosity to the surface of Mars already has been hailed by NASA as the greatest feat of robotic spaceflight.

Curiosity is a rock star and the perfect kid's hero.  Curiosity's never going to cheat or do drugs or get caught in a sex scandal or anything similar. Again, I wish they had waited a few weeks to start the mission so the kids could be back in school.


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, August 9, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi government wastes money on luxury trucks, a woman whose husband was kidnapped in 2006 appeals to the International Olympic Committee for help, birth defects resulting from chemical war is recognized somewhat, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein decries "the politics of fear [which] have brought us everything that we are afraid of,"  Peace and Freedom vice presidential candidate Cindy Sheehan gets arrested, and more.
 
Today, as Jeff Carlisle (ESPN) reports, the US women's  soccer team won the gold medal, as NBC noted, it was their third Summer Olympics in a row to take home the gold in that event.
With three more days left for the London Summer Olympics, Ahmed al-Samarrai gets a little of the press attention.  Who?  In 2004 ESPN reported on Ahmed noting that he was in charge of Iraq's Olympics  and had "survived an assassination attempt when attackers threw grenades and fired automatic weapons at his care in Baghdad after a roadside bomb failed to kill him."  In February 2004, Sinomania noted on the election the month before of "63 year old former athlete Ahmed al-Samarrai" as president of the Iraq National Olympics Committee.  Two years later, he would be in the news for a different reason.   Alan Abrahamson (Los Angeles Times) reported Jully 19, 2006:
 
Al-Samarrai was kidnapped Saturday. He and his colleagues had been at a sports meeting at a cultural center in downtown Baghdad. In all, dozens were seized. Reports say they were taken by heavily armed men dressed in camouflage and police uniforms.
In May, meanwhile, 17 members of an Iraqi taekwondo squad, including four on the national team, were kidnapped on their way to Jordan, where they had hoped to obtain visas for a tournament in Las Vegas -- all 17 disappeared into the desert, with no word since. It remains unclear whether Rasheed was among them.
The head of the Iraqi taekwondo association, Jamal Abdul Karim, was among those kidnapped Saturday.
The abductions Saturday followed the killing Thursday of the Iraqi wrestling team's Sunni coach, shot dead in a Shiite district of Baghdad.
 
Of the dozens, 13 would eventually be released.  Ahmed was not one of the ones released.  In August 2008, Kim Gamel (AP) reported that Ahmed remained missing and that his "wife, Niran, who claims her Sunni husband was kidnapped at a time of sectarian violence and high-level government officials took little action.  She alleges her husband was targeted because he resisted attempts to use the committee as a political forum."  Niran spoke of the need for closure and for justice, for her husband and for the others who were kidnapped as well.  Gamel observed that Niran "faults the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for failing to investigate the attack or to arrest any of the kidnappers."  Niran stated, "They were abducting within al-Maliki's era.  He is the prime minister.  He's supposed to look after the people."
 
Today she tells Andrew Warshaw (Inside The Games), "Since 2006 not a single person from the Iraqi Government has helped me, the same Government who are still in power.  It's simply obscene.  I believe they know who was behind this.  They couldn't push my husband out legally [Nouri wanted to remove Ahmed from the committee and the kidnappers told Ahmed he was an embarrassment to Nouri] so they did it by force.  I have to believe Ahmed is still alive though maybe he has been tortured.  I'm tired and scared with not knowing his fate after this savage crime.  Somebody has to give us some hope.  Some of the families of those kidnapped with my husband had new-born babies who have never seen their fathers.  The IOC represents my last chance."  She wants, as the BBC explains, for the International Olympic Committee to ask serious questions of Nouri's government about the kidnappings.  If that is to happen, it will require public pressure.  In 2010, Jacquelin Magnay (Telegraph of London) explained the official position by quoting the Association of National Olympic Committees President Mario Vasquez who declared that they were not interested in finding out what happened to Ahmad and the others,  "It's not that we forget this issue, it's that we intentially do not want to deal with it.  We deliberately do not want to discuss these matters or mention this to the ministers. They don't want to deal with this either, we come here to discuss sports matter and not matters related to violence. They are regrettable, of course."
 
 
On the issue of the Olympics, Saturday, KUNA noted that Tunisia's Oussam Mellouli (swimmer) and Iraq's Dana Abdul Razak (pictured above, competes in the 100 meter track event) were the only Arabs to make it through the heats and qualify for the first rounds in their competitions.  And from there?  Jim Caple (ESPN) reported the Friday first round,"Dana Abdul Razak lined up in Lane 2 at Olympic Stadium for Heat 5 in the first round of the women's 100-meter dash. Two lanes over, Allyson Felix planted her feet in the starting blocks. The starter's gun went off and the Iraqi runner burst down the track alongside America's most famous female sprinter. Abdul Razak finished last in the heat, losing to Felix by eight-tenths of a second, but that didn't matter much. Earlier in the day, the Iraqi had won her heat. She had raced with some of the world's best and she had advanced women's sports in her country."  John Canzano (Oregonian) observed, "It wasn't lost on me that many of the sprinters around Abdul Razak in the mixed zone didn't grow up in a nation where being able to compete would even be a question. Also, with Allyson Felix of the U.S. coming through moments later after winning the heat and wearing the finest track and field gear to go with the best training/nutrition to go with a USA Track and Field handler who escorted her, I wondered about the vast disparity in resources available to athletes here."  She now holds the record for Iraq in the 100-meter dash (11.91).

When Dana Abdul Razak first competed in the Summer Olympics it was 2008 and she was the only athlete from Iraq.  This year she was one of eight at the Summer Olympics.  She's part of a group of Iraqi athletes making steady progress.   The other seven Iraqis competing in London were Ahmed Abdulkareem, Adnan Taess Akkar, Noor Amer al-Ameri, Mohanad Ahmed Dheyaa al-Azzawi, Safaa al-Jumaili, Rand al-Mashhadani and Ali Nadhim Salman Salman.
 
 
From London to Vietnam, on The Takeaway (PRI) today, environmental destruction was addressed.
 
John Hockenberry: Today the US started a clean up effort to deal with the effects of spraying millions of gallons of the toxic defoliant known as Agent Orange over jungle areas to destory enemy cover during the Vietnam War.  In the almost 40 years since the war ended, Vietnam says several million people have been affected with up to 150,000 children born with severe birth defects because Agent Orange seeped into the water and soils. 
 
US Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear [audio clip]:  The dixon in the ground here is a legacy of the painful past we share.  But the project we undertake here today hand-in-hand with the Vietnamese is, as Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton said, "a sign of the hopeful future we are building together."
 
John Hockenberry: Speaking there that's US Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear.  He was at a ceremony today here in Danang where all of this is being kicked off.  Joining us now is Susan Hammond Director of the War Legacies Project, joins us from Chester, Vermont.  Susan Hammond, thank you for joining us.
 
Susan Hammond: Thank you for having me.
 
John Hockenberry:  How much unfinished business do you say is here?  It's more than just a clean up that begins today, yes?
 
Susan Hammond:  It is.  Well this is the first part of a multi-part problem. The fact that there is still dixon in several hot spots throughout Vietnam -- It's significant that the US is finally getting around to helping the Vietnamese clean this dioxin up.  But there's also the longterm health effects in Vietnam that still need to be addressed.
 
John Hockenberry: And how would those be addressed?  Separate treaties or is that a part of this agreement, it's just in a different stage?
 
Susan Hammond: No.  At this point, it's -- the US has provided some limited funding for programs within the Danang area to provide services for children with disabilities though they do not say it's directly related to Agent Orange.
 
John Hockenberry: How much political interest is there on Capitol Hill to pursuing, you know, programs of recompense like this?  As we know, there's a very, very strong lobby on the POW - MIA issue.  I'm wondering if they go together on this or if they are opposed to this?
 
Susan Hammond:  Uhm, most are not opposed.  There are veterans with their own issues with Agent Orange, that they're labeling Congress but even many of the veterans are supportive of addressing this issue in Vietnam because they're facing it themselves in their own human health and their children's to some extent.
 
 
 
Xin chao.
This morning we celebrate a historic milestone for our bilateral relationship.
Today's ceremony marks the start of a project between Vietnam's Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, to clean up dioxin contaminated soil and sediment at the airport left from the Vietnam War. Over the next few years, workers will dig up the contaminated soil and sediment and place it in a stockpile, where it will be treated using thermal desorption technology. This process uses high temperatures to break down the dioxin in the contaminated soil and make it safe by Vietnamese and U.S. standards for the many men, women, and children who live and work in this area.
We have worked together closely over many years in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation to reach this point. With Presidential and Congressional support from Washington, my Embassy has cooperated with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Office 33 since its establishment in 1999 to coordinate Vietnam's policies and programs on Agent Orange. We've used annual meetings of the Joint Advisory Committee under the leadership of Office 33 and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to seek science-based solutions to complex environmental and health issues related to Agent Orange.
As part of Vietnam's contribution to the cleanup, the Ministry of National Defense cleared unexploded ordinance from the airport site and will construct a power substation to supply electricity for the remediation process. We also greatly appreciate the strong commitment of other partners, including the Danang People's Committee and Airport Authorities, to the success of this project.
 
 
It is a historic moment.  And it's several decades after the end of that conflict.  What of Iraq? 
 
Dropping back to the October 13, 2010 snapshot:
 
Alsumaria TV reported yesterday that the Adan school in northern Baghdad was one of the areas where cancer is breaking out at alarming rates and that the cancer is traced "to Dijla water pollution caused by wastes."  Today they report that breast cancer cases remain high.  Wastes in water again? Breast Cancer Society of Iraq [PDF format warning] surveyed Iraqi women and found that only 21% of conducted a self-exam for lumps.  Last July, Democracy Now! (link has text, audio and video) addressed the rising cases of cancer in Falluja:
 
JUAN GONZALEZ: Patrick, I'd like to ask you about this whole other issue of the report on -- by Chris Busby and some other epidemiologists about the situation in Fallujah and the enormous increases in leukemias and cancers in Fallujah after
the US soldiers' attack on that city. Could you talk about that? 

 
PATRICK COCKBURN: Sure. I think what's significant, very significant, about this study is that it confirms lots of anecdotal evidence that there had been a serious increase in cancer, in babies being born deformed, I mean, sometimes with --grotesquely so, babies -- you know, a baby girl born with two heads, you know, people born without limbs, then a whole range of cancers increased enormously. That this was -- when I was in Fallujah, doctors would talk about this, but, you know one couldn't -- one could write about this, but one couldn't really prove it from anecdotal evidence. Now this is a study, a scientific study, based on interviews with 4,800 people, which gives -- proves that this was in fact happening and is happening. And, of course, it took -- you know, it has taken
place so much later than the siege of Fallujah, when it was heavily
bombarded in 2004 by the US military, because previously, you know, Fallujah
is such a dangerous place to this day, difficult to carry out a survey, but it's
been finally done, and the results are pretty extraordinary. 

 
AMY GOODMAN: What were the various weapons that were used in the
bombing of Fallujah in 2004? 

 
PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, primarily, it was sort of, you know, artillery and bombing. Initially it was denied that white phosphorus had been used, but later this was confirmed. I think one shouldn't lose sight of the fact, in this case, that before one thinks about was depleted uranium used and other things, that just simply the use of high -- large quantities of high explosives in a city filled with civilians and people packed into houses -- often you find, you know, whole
families living in one room -- was, in itself, going to create, lead to very, very
high civilian casualties. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're
talking about the increase in cancers and so forth, and the suspicion that maybe depleted uranium, maybe some other weapon, which we don't know about -- this is not my speculation, but of one of the professors who carried out the study -- might have been employed in Fallujah, and that would be an explanation for results which parallel, in fact exceed, the illnesses subsequently suffered by survivors of Hiroshima. 
 
The study referred to is by Chris Busby, Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi and is [PDF format warning] entitled "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009" (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health). 
 
 The damage caused by the US government's decision to use harmful chemicals in Vietnam gets some US government recognition today.  When does that same recognition arrive for Iraq?
 
 
Prashant Rao (AFP) reported yesterday on Falluja General Hospital where, last month, 4 American nurses and 2 American doctors helped with the opening of a cardiac catheterisation lab nearly eight years after the November 2004 assault on the city in which various weapons -- some banned -- were used resulting in birth defects -- continued birth defects in Iraq.  He notes:
 
Medics and officials in Fallujah, however, including hospital director Lawas, have no doubt the defects have been caused by the US forces' alleged use of depleted uranium rounds in 2004.
"Fallujah has seen many wars, and it was attacked twice by American troops, and many weapons were used in this city," said Lawas. "We think that there is a link between those weapons and the diseases."

 
Press TV observed this week, "The US dropped thousands of depleted uranium bombs on the Iraq city of Fallujah in 2003, which killed thousands of people. A great proportion of all births in Fallujah since the strike have suffered from abnormalities and the rate of mutation among newborns is higher than what was found in Japan after America attacked the Asian country during the Second World War."
 
As with Vietnam, the destruction did damage to the native population as well as the US troops sent to the country.   Juan Gonzalez (New York Daily News) has long been reporting on the US service members who assume they're in good health.  In September 2004, he reported on Spec Gerard Darren Matthew whose "face would swell up each morning. He had constant migraine headaches, blurred vision, blackouts and a burning sensation whenever he urinated."  In the summer of 2004, he and his wife Janice had a new baby, Victoria Claudette who "was missing three fingers and most of her right hand.  Matthew and his wife believe Victoria's shocking deformity has something to do with her father's illness and the war -- especially since there is no history of birth defects in either of their families."
 
Iraq's health care system has not recovered from the Iraq War which not only overtaxed the hospitals, also led to the facilities and their equipment being injured and forced many trained medical professionals out of the country.  A major reinvestment in medicine would be a good move for Iraq but instead doctors have to plead with the government to protect them and to pass laws to ensure they can practice medicine.   On the issue of money, Nouri has insisted there are no surplus oil revenues to share with the Iraqi people (Moqtada al-Sadr publicly called out that claim) but Trade Arabia reports there is money for luxury trucks, "Mercedes-Benz recently delivered 250 of its Actros trucks to Iraq's State Company for Automotive Industry (SCAI) to assist in reconstruction efforts in the country." Lucky Gold and Samuel Burke (CNN's Amanpour --, link is text and video) observes that while Iraq is seeing record profits on oil, "ordinary Iraqis are still waiting to share in those profits and to live in saety."
In ongoing violence, Alsumaria reports that 1 Sahwa ("Awakening," "Sons of Iraq") was killed in his home this morning when unknown assailants stormed the house and began shooting.  In addition, they note that Iraqiya's Salman Jumaili survived an attempted assassination via a roadside bombing -- three bodyguards were injured.   AFP adds that two Baghdad roadside bombings left 2 people dead and nineteen injured. Travis Brecher (Reuters) notes a Baghdad car bombing has claimed 8 lives and left thirty people injured.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 24 dead and over 50 injured in Wednesday's violence.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes at least 113 deaths so far this month due to violence.
 

Tuesday saw Nouri declare an end to terrorism.  So why are mass arrests still taking place?  Alsumaria reports police rounded up and arrested over 100 people in Nineveh Province for 'terrorism.'  Again, you have to be willfully ignorant to believe Nouri changes.  Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram) also questions Nouri's claim of an end to terrorism:
 
Last month, the Al-Qaeda front group the Islamic State of Iraq said it was launching a "sacred offensive" aimed at recovering territory given up by the militants. It also vowed to target Iraqi judges and prosecutors and said it would try to help prisoners break out of jails.
Some 325 Iraqis were killed in July and 679 wounded, making it the bloodiest month in two years. Some 282 others were killed in June, and about 700 people were injured. The figures, released by the government, showed that civilians, soldiers and policemen were among casualties.
 
In addition, Nasrawi observes, "The most recent spate of attacks comes amid a prolonged political crisis over power-sharing in Iraq, with the leaders of the country's Sunni and Kurdish communities accusing Shia Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki of authoritarianism and seeking to reinforce his rule."
 
Al Rafidayn reports Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh states that the political blocs met with Nouri yesterday but there was no agreement reached.   al-Dabbagh also attempted to justify to the press Iraq's lousy treatment of the Syrian refugees (the refugees are apparently treated well in the KRG -- the UN has visited those camps and reported to the Security Council on those camps, I'm not referring to the KRG treatment, I'm referring to Baghad housing the refugees in abandoned buildings and refusing to allow them mobility).  And he yet again denied that there were any secret prisons in Iraq.

Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that the election law is still bottled up in Parliament with no forward movement.  State of Law Mp Abbas al-Bayati states that they are a long way off from resolving various issues about the proposed law.  AKnews notes Martin Kobler, UN Secertary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq, expressed dismay at the start of the week over this delay that he dubbed a "threat to democracy."

July 19th, Kobler appeared before the UN Security Council and stated:

As we speak, my political deputy, Mr. [Gyorgy Busztin], is engaged in facilitation efforts to bring about the formation of a new, Independent High Election Commission which is representative of the main components of Iraq -- including women and children and minorities.  The urgent selection of the commissioners is essential for ensuring that the provincial council elections due to take place in March 2013 can be conducted on time. I'm concerned that the ongoing political stalemate is hindering the process however.  In recent days, I have discussed with political leaders -- including Prime Minister al-Maliki -- the need for a swfit conclusion of this political process and the need for an adequate representation of women and minorities in the commission. Today, I would like to re-iterate my appeal to all political blocs to expedite the selection of professional commissioners.  UNAMI stands here ready to actively assist.  


Tuesday came news that Parliament thought they'd arrived at a stop-gap measure: they'd tack on 35 days to the current Electoral Commission.  AK News quotes the Chair of the Electoral Commission Faraj al-Haidari stating, "A new board of commissioners was supposed to be formed because the delay creates confusion.  The required period to complete the commission's procedures after the ratification of the election law and the budget according to international standards is six months.  Until now the law is not published in the official newspaper and the budget hasn't yet arrived."
 
On electoral laws, Mustafa Habib (niqash) reports:
 
 
Last week, the Iraqi parliament approved a law that many, including the country's highest court, say is unconstitutional.
What MPs did was approve amendments to a law regulating how provincial elections are decided. Provincial elections are due to be held in April 2013. They will be governed by the provincial election law 36, passed in 2008 and upon which the 2009 provincial elections were based.
But in 2009 there were conflicts about electoral districts and minority representation and this was what led to calls for a revision of the law. A parliamentary committee was formed to look into the matter. 
"The law contains many violations and irregularities," Ziad al-Thari, a member of the committee tasked with amending the law, says. "These affected the 2009 elections and that's why we needed to amend this law. However all the efforts made by the regions and provinces committee to introduce major amendments to the law over the last year have failed. And mainly this has been because of the conflicts between the different political blocs."
As a result, an amended version of the electoral law was only passed into law by the Iraqi parliament on August 2.
And what is causing conflict now is a part of the revised electoral law which says that if some parties don't get enough votes to make any difference to them, the votes they did get will be given to bigger parties. In 2009 this led to a lack of representation for many smaller Iraqi parties.
 
 
Well it would appear Barack Obama and Bully Boy Bush conveyed the importance of eliminating other parties to ensure dominance and corruption.  In the US there are many third party and independent candidates making a run for the presidency.  We're following two.  Jill Stein has the Green Party's presidential nomination and her running mate is Cheri HonkalaRoseanne Barr has the nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party and her running mate is Cindy SheehanRob Kall (OpEdNews) interviewed Dr. Jill Stein yesterday and we'll again note that audio interview:
 
Jill Stein:  It is very important, I think, that we stand up and we vote with our feet and we vote with our votes and we not bow to the disinformation campaigns and the propaganda that tells us that we better just be good little boys and girls and let them call the shots and that silence is the best political strategy.  You know, this is the time to reject that politics of fear and to recognize he politics of fear which has told us to be quiet, that we've got to just vote for the lesser evil.  The politics of fear have brough us everything that we are afraid of: The massive bailouts for Wall Street, the expanding war for oil, the declining wages for workers, the offshoring of our jobs.  This president is negotiating the latest free trade agreement which is like NAFTA on steroids -- the attack on our civil liberties in which President Obama co-signed all the violations of George W. Bush and then took it further to where he can not only throw anybody in jail for whatever his pleasure is, you know, he doesn't have to justify it or even tell anybody, need not accuse you of any crime or try you before a jury.  You know, he has the power of indefinite detention including the power of assassination.  So it's just staggering how our civil liberties are being stripped from us.  We cannot afford to sit back and let this happen.  He sabotaged the international accord on climate so that there will not be an agreement until after 2020 when it is too late.  The science is telling us now that it was too optimistic.  It's going to be far worse. It is far worse already than the worst models predicted.  And that - that model said if we haven't made substantial progress before 2020, we're basically going up into flames.  It's not like the climate goes through some limited change and then it's in a new, steady state.  It never gets to a steady state.  It moves into temperature acceleration.  That's not okay.  That's not compatible with life, let alone compatible with an economy or civilization as we know it.  The politics of fear have brought us everything that we are afraid of.  It is time to reject that propaganda campaign -- bought and paid for by Wall Street and corporate America.  It's time to reject the politics of fear and stand up with the politics of courage  and move forward now with the solutions that will actually fix this problem, that will provide the jobs that will stabilize the climate, that can create health care and education, for that matter, as a human right, that will downsize the military and rightsize the military, that will tax the rich and ensure that we have the resources to do it.  We do have the resources.  We're just running out of time.  The clock is ticking.  So be afraid of passivity, be afraid of being co-opted, be afraid of being betrayed.  But do not be afraid of yourself and that we are the ones we have been waiting for and we need to move this forward in a hurry.
 
 
16 people were arrested yesterday as they protested the nuclear Bangor Trident Sub Base.  One of the sixteen was Cindy Sheehan
 
 
Peace activists lined the roadside with anti-nuke signs, banners and a full-scale inflatable Trident II D-5 ballistic missile.  Around 7:00 am Peacekeepers from Ground Zero entered the road to safely stop incoming traffic.  Three activists entered the roadway carrying a banner with the message "Abolish Nuclear Weapons."  Washington State Patrol officers escorted the protestors to the median for processing.

Almost immediately, another group of activists entered the roadway with a banner bearing the message "Give Peace a Chance. No, Seriously."  As they were being removed from the roadway two more groups carried banners calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons onto the roadway in the same sequence and were subsequently removed.  Traffic entering the base was stopped continuously until all protestors were cleared from the roadway.

A total of 16 persons engaged in the blockade.  All were issued citations at the scene for "Walking on roadway where prohibited" and released.   Those cited were Tom Rogers, Poulsbo, WA; Cindy Sheehan, Vacaville, CA; Marion Ward, Vancouver, WA; Michael Siptroth, Belfair, WA; Mal Chaddock, Portland, OR; Ann Havill, Bend, OR; Betsy Lamb, Bend, OR; Bernie Meyer, Olympia, WA; Leonard Eiger, North Bend, WA; Constance Mears, Poulsbo, WA; Gordon Sturrock, Eugene, OR; Brenda McMillan, Port Townsend, WA; Mack Johnson, Silverdale, WA; Gilberto Z Perez, Bainbridge Island, WA; George W Rodkey, Tacoma, WA and Elizabeth Murray, Bellingham, WA.
 
There are many candidates running for the Oval Office.  We're noting Jill and Cheri and Roseanne and Cindy.  Why? They're independent runs and they're peace candidates.  In addition, they are women.  One of the saddest things about 2008 is how so many women and feminist outlets silenced themselves -- politics of fear! -- and refused to cover the women in the race (Cynthia McKinney was running for president on the Green Party ticket, Rosa Clemente was her running mate; Sarah Palin was John McCain's running mate on the Republican Party ticket).  You didn't have to like them, you didn't have to say you'd vote for one of them but if you are, for example, Feminist Wire Daily, I think we have the right to expect that you will cover runs for the presidency by women.  Your failure to do so not only embarrassed and shamed you in 2008, it continues to and that will always be the case.  100 years from now, someone will ask, "Well did Feminist Majority Foundation or Women's Media Center at least have one kind word for Sarah Palin on some area?  The woman wasn't Adolf Hitler.  Surely a feminist could be counted on to say at least one thing nice even if they weren't going to vote for her.  I mean Ralph Nader even noted she was the only candidate with executive branch experience so surely feminist outlets were able to disagree with her on some issues but to find one positive statement about her, right?"  Wrong.  And on disagree, Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr are both strong women.  They want votes.  I'm not going to hold them to a different standard than I would male politicians.  Meaning, if they hit hard, even at each other, that's politics.  It's great that we've got four women on two tickets this year.  That's something to celebrate.  And all four are strong women.  I can't imagine the kind of internal shame of your gender you'd have to have in order to be silent on these four women and their campaigns. 
 
 
 
 
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