Thursday, September 12, 2013


From NASA:

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion km) from our sun. New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars.

> Voyager Mission Page
> How Do We Know When Voyager Reaches Interstellar Space?

CBS News reports, "Covering nearly a million miles a day, NASA's nuclear-powered Voyager 1 spacecraft, 36 years and 12 billion miles from Earth, has crossed the boundary between the sun's influence and interstellar space, sailing into the vast gulf between the stars to become humanity's first true starship, scientists announced Thursday."  That's really amazing.

And do you know who gave a speech 50 years ago today?  A President who gave a damn about space, JFK:

President Pitzer, Mr. Vice President, Governor, Congressman Thomas, Senator Wiley, and Congressman Miller, Mr. Webb, Mr. Bell, scientists, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen:
I appreciate your president having made me an honorary visiting professor, and I will assure you that my first lecture will be very brief.
I am delighted to be here, and I'm particularly delighted to be here on this occasion.
We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.
Despite the striking fact that most of the scientists that the world has ever known are alive and working today, despite the fact that this Nation¹s own scientific manpower is doubling every 12 years in a rate of growth more than three times that of our population as a whole, despite that, the vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far outstrip our collective comprehension.
No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man¹s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power.
Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America's new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.
This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.
So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward--and so will space.
William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.
If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.
Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it--we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.
Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world's leading space-faring nation.
We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say the we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.
There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.
In the last 24 hours we have seen facilities now being created for the greatest and most complex exploration in man's history. We have felt the ground shake and the air shattered by the testing of a Saturn C-1 booster rocket, many times as powerful as the Atlas which launched John Glenn, generating power equivalent to 10,000 automobiles with their accelerators on the floor. We have seen the site where the F-1 rocket engines, each one as powerful as all eight engines of the Saturn combined, will be clustered together to make the advanced Saturn missile, assembled in a new building to be built at Cape Canaveral as tall as a 48 story structure, as wide as a city block, and as long as two lengths of this field.
Within these last 19 months at least 45 satellites have circled the earth. Some 40 of them were "made in the United States of America" and they were far more sophisticated and supplied far more knowledge to the people of the world than those of the Soviet Union.
The Mariner spacecraft now on its way to Venus is the most intricate instrument in the history of space science. The accuracy of that shot is comparable to firing a missile from Cape Canaveral and dropping it in this stadium between the the 40-yard lines.
Transit satellites are helping our ships at sea to steer a safer course. Tiros satellites have given us unprecedented warnings of hurricanes and storms, and will do the same for forest fires and icebergs.
We have had our failures, but so have others, even if they do not admit them. And they may be less public.
To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time in manned flight. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead.
The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school. Technical institutions, such as Rice, will reap the harvest of these gains.
And finally, the space effort itself, while still in its infancy, has already created a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands of new jobs. Space and related industries are generating new demands in investment and skilled personnel, and this city and this State, and this region, will share greatly in this growth. What was once the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier of science and space. Houston, your City of Houston, with its Manned Spacecraft Center, will become the heart of a large scientific and engineering community. During the next 5 years the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to double the number of scientists and engineers in this area, to increase its outlays for salaries and expenses to $60 million a year; to invest some $200 million in plant and laboratory facilities; and to direct or contract for new space efforts over $1 billion from this Center in this City.
To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year¹s space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year--a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United Stated, for we have given this program a high national priority--even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.
But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold.
I'm the one who is doing all the work, so we just want you to stay cool for a minute. [laughter]
However, I think we're going to do it, and I think that we must pay what needs to be paid. I don't think we ought to waste any money, but I think we ought to do the job. And this will be done in the decade of the sixties. It may be done while some of you are still here at school at this college and university. It will be done during the term of office of some of the people who sit here on this platform. But it will be done. And it will be done before the end of this decade.
I am delighted that this university is playing a part in putting a man on the moon as part of a great national effort of the United States of America.
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there."
Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
Thank you.

You can stream a video of the speech here.  And don't you wish that the current president gave a damn about space. Or better yet, can the mannish Michelle tackle science?  Why does she need a frilly subject (student luches)?  Why can't she tackle science?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, September 12, 2013.  Chaos and violence, Moqtada al-Sadr makes an announcement, Atheel al-Nujaifi clears up a matter, Iraqi women garner some press attention, Vladimir Putin offends a number of people (including Nancy Pelosi and John McCain) by citing international law, and more.

Starting with Syria.  Jason Ditz ( reports of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, "Assad is said to have given an interview to Russian television announcing his intention to cede control of the arms to the international community. He will reportedly endorse the Russian plan, and say that it was Russia’s efforts, not US threats, that led to his decision."  The spotlight is on Russia.  Russian President Vladimir Putin has a column in the New York Times.  As Cedric's "He reads" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! SHOCKING!" note, US Senator John McCain is outraged.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi avoids the issue of war:

  1. Hopefully, when Pres. says "we must not forget that God created us equal" he includes gays and lesbians in Russia.

Her avoidance of the topic of war is because she's supporting it.  As Joseph Mayton (The Progressive) reported earlier this week, California's eighth district is not happy:

In the heart of San Francisco, a stone's throw from the United Nations Plaza and the Civic Center, scores of residents gathered in front of senior Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's office to push for an end to what one protester said was the "war-mongering that we saw in the lead up to the Iraq war."
For many, the calls for war are a return to the George W. Bush era of violence as an appropriate response.

To many of us in the eighth district, Nancy has morphed into The Bride of Bush.  Meanwhile Zaid Jilani (Moyers & Company) notes the morphing taking place in the Republican Party:

 In 2011, that started to change, when dovish Republicans like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) took office. In his foreign policy coming-out speech at Johns Hopkins University, Paul said he would “rather send some…professors around the world than I would our soldiers” and would “rather do that than go to war with Iran.” In May, 26 Republicans voted for an amendment by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) to implement a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan that only narrowly failed. Later that year, 225 House Republicans joined 70 Democrats to reject authorizing military action in Libya after hostilities began.
 Two years later, Paul took to the floor of the Senate to conduct a talking filibuster to protest the expanding use of drones. While he started virtually alone, his act of protest eventually drew enough popularity to culminate in 34 votes against the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director – with the majority of the Republican caucus, 31 senators, standing with Paul.

John McCain, Nancy Pelosi and other assorted idiots are appalled by Putin's column. Why?  Here's the section that upset them the most:

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization – the United Nations – was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
The United Nations' founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America's consent the veto by security council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without security council authorisation.
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria's borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilise the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

As Betty explained last night:

Sorry but Putin is right.  Without approval from the UN Security Council, a US attack on Syria would be illegal and constitute an act of aggression -- per international law.
I'm not outraged that Putin's lecturing Barack but I do find it telling of just how awful Barack has been that Vladimir Putin is comfortable calling him out.
On the world stage, Barack is a joke and he has no one to blame but himself.

For those who may have missed how international law works, IPS analyst Phyllis Bennis has repeatedly explained explained it.  We'll include her speaking to Peter Hart on FAIR's Counterspin two Fridays ago:

Phyllis Bennis:  Only if the [United Nations] Security Council votes to endorse the use of force is the use of force legal.  No other agency, institution, organization has that right.  So the Kosovo precedent that you refer to and that unfortunately this is being talked about in the press.  It's being asserted that if the Security Council doesn't agree, there are other options.  Yeah, there are other options.  The problem is they're all illegal.  The Kosovo model was illegal.  What the US did in 1999, when it wanted to bomb, to start an air war against Serbia over Kosovo, realized it would not get support of the Security Council because Russia had said it would veto.  So instead of saying, 'Well okay we don't have support of the Security Council, I guess we can't do it,' they said, 'Okay, we won't go to the Security Council, we'll simply go to the NATO High Command and ask their permission.'  Well, what a surprise, the NATO High Command said 'sure.'  It's like the hammer and the nail.  If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  If you're NATO everything looks like it requires military intervention.  The problem is, under international law, the UN charter is the fundamental component under international law that determines issues of war and peace.  And the charter doesn't say that the Security Council or NATO or the President of the United States can all decide over the use of force.  The only agency that can legally approve the use of force is the Security Council of the United Nations.  Period.  Full stop.

Jon Greenberg and Louis Jacobson (PolitiFact) speak with international law experts and their conclusions are the same as Bennis' conclusion and they point out, "The most important consequence of the United States flouting international law would likely be a loss of credibility whenever it sought to invoke international law down the road. Ignoring international law in one context makes it harder for the United States to invoke international law in other scenarios when the United States believes it furthers national interests or global security."  Bennis and Rev Jesse Jackson (Z-Net) weigh in on Barack's speech Tuesday night:

Still, the President unfortunately reserved the right to launch a military strike if the diplomatic effort does not succeed, and we urge Congress to oppose any such military authorization.
We cannot forget 2002, when then-President Bush persuaded Congress to vote for an authorization for war he claimed was only to strengthen his diplomatic hand. As we know, that authorization was instead used to justify an illegal war and occupation of Iraq, a war whose consequences continue to be felt across the region and here at home.

A potential alternative to a U.S. military strike – a strike opposed overwhelmingly by the American people and the U.S. Congress – is now on the table.

Russian, Syrian and Iranian diplomats are talking. Options that didn’t exist yesterday are suddenly on the table. The U.S. and our allies, with the United Nations in the forefront, seem ready to join those new initiatives to generate a binding, verifiable and enforceable UN resolution to rid Syria of its chemical weapons in a way that does not threaten wider war.

"Who knew there was a wide and deep anti-war consensus in the United States?!" asks Bernardine Dohrn (In These Times).  She then answers:

Apparently not the president, who appears blindsided by the growing opposition to U.S. military attacks on Syria, nor the always hawkish Sens. McCain and Graham, who speak for the aging national security elite, nor the New York Times, which flacked for a violent strike on the first day of Obama’s war announcement but made an about-face the next day, running a devastating front-page photo of “rebel” forces executing their trussed, face-down young prisoners point-blank.

The Voice of Russia notes Madonna, Ed Asner and Mike Farrell have weighed in against war on Syria.   World Can't Wait's Debra Sweet Tweets today:


 Ann Garrison (CounterPunch) notes, "President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Prime Minister David Cameron have all by now invoked Rwanda, 1994 as reason to drop Cruise Missiles on Syria, so I spoke to Paul Rusesabagina, whose autobiography, An Ordinary Man, became the Hollywood movie Hotel Rwanda, in the interest of clarifying the invocation."  Use the link to read the transcript of her interview.  Click here to visit her site where she's posted the audio of the interview (KPFA Evening News).  Yesterday, Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweeted some basic facts about the civil war taking place in Syria.

  1. Sad, sad human rights report on says most children killed by indiscriminate shelling from both sides, government air strikes.
  2. report cites organized against civilians by government forces, says intelligence services could be guilty of war crimes.

  3. report - growing # of foreign fighters, more money and discipline means radical groups outmatching divided moderate opposition.

This afternoon, Free Speech Radio News (link is audio) reported on Syria.

Dorian Merina:  As the conflict in Syria continues, efforts to find a diplomatic solution continue with US Secretary of State John Kerry arriving in Geneva, Switzerland today to begin two days of talks with Russian officials on securing and eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. But the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal report that the US has been sending shipments of weapons and other supplies to the Syrian opposition’s army at the same time it pursues these peaceful negotiations. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the US must stop threatening military force and arming the opposition in order for diplomacy to work. On Capitol Hill, FSRN's Alice Ollstein has more.

Alice Ollstein:  A United Nations spokesperson told news outlets Thursday that it has received documents from the Syrian government regarding the prospect of joining the chemical weapons convention  -- the first step of a Russian-backed proposal for the government of Bashar al-Assad to turn over his chemical weapons stockpiles to the international community.  But in an interview with the Russian TV network Russian 24 on Thursday, Assad said the continued threat of military strikes from the United States as well as US supplied arms to the opposition could derail this diplomatic progress.  White House spokesperson Jay Carney defended the arms shipment in a press conference Thursday.  

Jay Carney:  The President on down has said that we are -- have been -- stepping up our assistance to the Syrian military opposition, no question.  The issue of Assad's chemical weapons is separate from our policy response to the civil war in Syria.  And that response is built around humanitarian support for the Syrian people, assistance to the opposition -- including assistance to the Supreme Military Council as well as an effort with a broad range of allies and partners -- including Russia -- to bring about a resolution of that civil war through a political settlement because that is the only way to end that war

Alice Ollstein:  But many peace advocates, international law experts and former government officials say the weapons shipments will only fan the flames of the violent conflict.  Ray McGovern who worked in military intelligence for 27 years told FSRN he's concerned the arms shipments will hurt the negotiations between Russia, Syria and the United States and so they're also likely to prolong the fighting on the ground.

Ray McGovern: It's chaos and so for us to be sending weapons into that calculus?  Well, it's just to give sop to the CNN crowd to say, 'Well we're doing what we can to help the rebels' -- al Qaeda and al Nusra, the most belligerent anti-American factions are the ones that are doing all the effective fighting.  The other factions, such as they are, will either join them or give up their weapons to them or whatever.  I mean this is a civil war in the most messy sense.

Meanwhile Adbusters ponders the selectivity of Barack's outrage over chemical weapons:

The use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium in Iraq are a violation of the same international law Obama is now righteously defending. As we see the piles of dead children in Damascus, we're reminded of the pictures of deformed babies in Fallujah, Iraq. On August 29, 2013, a decade after the US invasion of Iraq, Al Jazeera reporter Dahr Jamail points to videos of babies born in Iraq with horrendous defects and malformations. This is the legacy the morally upright US left in Iraq. Jamail says, “we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II.”
Meanwhile, as Assad admits to its chemical weapons stash and considers handing it over to avoid attack, Obama still, albeit tentatively, considers striking..

Chemical weapons being used in Syria would be bad.  Chemical weapons being used in Iraq is nothing to acknowledge.  It's a highly selective outrage.  Larry Kaplow (NPR) observes, "Iraq is one of those slow-boil crises -- not as dynamic or transformational as a military coup in Egypt or a civil war in Syria. Refugees aren't creating havoc on the borders. Iraq's government doesn't seem on the verge of falling. Instead, Iraqis are stuck in a middle ground: A daily life wracked with danger but without enough upheaval to raise international alarm."  AFP's Prashant Rao discussed violence on Twitter today.

    1. So far this month, at least 241 people have been killed and 463 wounded by violence in Iraq - tally:

    2. this never seem to be ending

    3. Sadly, if anything, the violence seems to be worse than before.

Turning to today's violence in Iraq, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Ramadi bombing claimed 3 lives and left four people injured1 army captain was shot dead in Mosul, 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul (17-year-old male who had previously been taken into custody by the military), and a Ramadi car bombing claimed 2 lives and left two more people injuredLu Hui (Xinhua) reports, "Three soldiers were killed and 31 soldiers and would-be soldiers wounded in a suicide truck bomb attack targeting an Iraqi army recruitment center near the northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday, a local police source said." KUNA notes a Ramadi home bombing which "killed three and injured three others including women and children."  Also on violence, UNAMI issued the following today:

Baghdad, 12 September 2013 – The Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (DSRSG), Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, condemns in the strongest terms yesterday’s suicide bomb attack against a mosque in the northern area of Baghdad, which killed and injured dozens of worshipers, as they were exiting after evening prayers.
“This heinous act of violence which shocked the country, shall not undermine the belief in peaceful coexistence among the Iraqi people,” Mr. Busztin said, extending his deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wishing a speedy recovery to the wounded.

In other news, AFP and Al-Akhbar report that, "The survivors of a mass killing in an Iraqi camp housing Iranian exiles were moved during the night to another camp on the edge of Baghdad, the United Nations said on Thursday.  The Iraqi authorities ordered the transfer of the 42 in the wake of violence in Camp Ashraf in the central Iraq province of Diyala on September 2 in which 52 members of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran died."  Reuters adds, "The dissidents belong to the Mujahadin-e-Khalq (MEK), which wants Iran's clerical leaders overthrown. They are no longer welcome in Iraq under the Tehran-aligned Shia Muslim-led government that replaced the late Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein."

Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. 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."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."

The United Nations issued the following today:

12 September 2013 – A United Nations official in Iraq today announced the successful relocation of the last group of Camp Ashraf residents to a camp near the Baghdad area, pending their resettlement outside the country.
“The process, concluded today, has come a long way since its launch in February 2012, with the Government and the residents both abiding by the agreement between the UN and the Government of Iraq on the transfer of Camp Ashraf residents to the temporary transit location of Camp Hurriya,” said the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin.
Camp Ashraf was comprised of Iranian exiles, many of them members of a group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran.
More than 3,000 residents have been relocated to Camp Hurriya, previously known as Camp Liberty, while the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) carries out a process to determine their refugee status, and resettle them outside of the country, in line with an agreement signed in December 2011 between the UN and the Iraqi Government.
Camp Ashraf has been attacked several times, making relocation a priority for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The latest attack, which took place earlier this month, killed and injured numerous camp residents.
“The tragic events of 1st September, when 52 residents lost their lives in a terrorist attack, while seven others are still unaccounted for, was a sombre reminder of the necessity to conclude the final phase of the relocation process without further delay,” Mr. Busztin said.
“Resettlement outside Iraq is now the priority, and it is urgent that countries ready to host the residents come forward to accept them, providing them a safe future outside Iraq.”
Mr. Busztin also called on the Iraqi Government to abide by its commitment to ensure maximum safety and security for Camp Hurriya residents until all of them leave the country.

While the UN spins happy, there are outstanding issues not noted above -- chief among them, missing people.  AFP reports, "The UN has urged Iraq to investigate the disappearances but there has been 'nothing so far', [UNAMI spokesperson Eliana] Nabaa told AFP."  The National Council of Resistance of Iran states:

Kamal Amin, spokesman for the so-called Ministry of Human Rights of Iraq said today: “Iraqi security forces have detained these individuals for attacking their own forces (Iraqi security forces).” (Voice of Free Iraq, September 12, 2013).
As such, 11 days after repeated denials, the Iraqi government accepted responsibility for the abduction of seven members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) and said that the seven missing PMOI members have been detained by the security forces. He preposterously claimed that they had been arrested because they had attacked the security forces.
The Iranian Resistance’s President-elect, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, demanded urgent action by the US Secretary of State, the UN Secretary General, the High Commissioner for Refugees and the ICRC to secure the immediate release of the seven hostages and their return [to Liberty].
In recent days the seven hostages were seen in blue prison uniforms in Maliki's Golden division.

Turning to Iraqi politics, Kitabat reports cleric and movement Moqtada al-Sadr has finished trips to Lebanon and Jordan and paid his respects to his late father at the Najaf shrine and is now ready to re-enter political life.  Moqtada has surprised many by announcing he was stepping away from politics.  Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi publicly called for Moqtada to return to politics.  Allawi's sentiments were echoed by Iraqis of all sects, not just Shi'ite members of Moqtada's movement.  In a statement issued today, Moqtada acknowledged those calls and announces he will heed them.

Some felt the move was a stunt and said so in real time.  Whether it was a stunt or not (it felt like a real announcement and decision to me when he announced he was walking away from politics), the move underscores how important Moqtada has become to Iraqi politics and how he could command respect in the role of prime minister.  Because of the stances he has taken in the last three years, Moqtada the politician is seen as fighting for the interests of Iraq.  That's a huge shift from the early years of the war when Moqtada was seen by many Iraqis as only interested in Shi'ites (and only in fundamental ones at that).

Of all the leaders decrying the occupation, Moqtada was viewed with the most suspicion outside his Shi'ite followers.  That might have had to do with youth.  It might have been that he was being judged against his father (a problem Ammar al-Hakim is still struggeling with).   There was an understandable and natural rallying around Moqtada in early 2008 as Nouri attacked Basra and Sadr City.  But with his public return to Iraq just a few years ago, Moqtada has made for a more worldly and mature figure.  In statements and actions, he's made nods to Sunnis and Kurds and to a more inclusive Iraq.

Iraqis of all sects have grown weary of the violence and of the leaders like Nouri who only represent a part of Iraq and whose actions are attacks on other Iraqis.  At a time when the Iraqi people are feeling a universal kinship with one another (which is the only reason a full blown civil war is not taking place currently) Moqtada has emerged as a national figure embracing a national Iraqi identity.

Nouri al-Maliki wants a third term.  Whether he's worked that out with the US or not, he wants it.  Ayad Allawi remains a powerful political rival but Moqtada is the truly threatening one for and to Nouri.
 Sunday, we noted Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi had an arrest warrant out.  Alsumaria notes that al-Nujaifi appeared before the Integrity Committee today in Baghdad and the warrant has been rescinded.  Hopefully, that ends the matter.  While Atheel was in Baghdad, his brother was in Turkey.  All Iraq News notes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss mutual relations and how to ease tensions.  Furthest distance traveled for a meeting this week may go to the Kurds.  Hurriyet Daily News reports:

A delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is in Washington to hold meetings with U.S. officials, including senators, congressmen, think tank policy researchers and companies to update them on developments in the Kurdistan Region, Iraq and the wider region.
Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, and Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG High Representative to the U.K., met Brett McGurk, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq at the Department of State, and Kelly Clements, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration, the KRG website reported.

No one's had it easy in post-invasion Iraq.  Women have been targeted with violence and targeted by politicians who have repeatedly attempted to strip them of their rights.  In the face of all this, Iraqi women have remained strong.  UNAMI notes:

Years of repression, economic sanctions, and armed conflicts have led to deterioration in the lives of women in Iraq and an associated loss to the country since women are marginalized and unable to contribute economically, socially, and politically. Iraqi women today suffer from a lack of educational opportunities, a lack of health care and limited access to the labour market as well as high levels of violence and inequality. These conditions are often exacerbated by misconceptions of traditions, cultural and social values, false perceptions, and a lack of awareness of women’s rights and potential, as well as institutional and legal barriers. 

Saleem al-Wazzan (Niqash) reports today:

Human rights groups say there’s been an increase in female suicides in Basra and it may well be because of the difference in the lifestyles Iraqi youth see online and what they must deal with in real life. Only problem is, suicide, especially by girls, is seen as dishonouring one’s family and many are hidden.  
The story of Maha Abbas is a sad one. Apparently the 14-year-old Basra local soaked her clothes with oil and then set herself on fire. The teenager died 24 hours after being taken to hospital and after her death, her family locked the door of their house and refused to speak to anyone about the incident. 

But the neighbours were soon talking. It was a suicide, they said. She was depressed, said one neighbour, Ahmed Mujber. “There were ten children in the family and the father would always fight with his wife and daughters. When he divorced he prevented the children from seeing the mother. That was why she killed herself,” the neighbour concluded.

The fact that Maha’s family tried to hide her death is not uncommon. Because when women in Iraq commit suicide they supposedly bring disgrace to the family and to the dignity and honour of their tribe. Suicide is also unacceptable in religious circles: Islam says that only God may take a life, including one’s own.  

Because a lot of society in Iraq is still fairly conservative and also tribal, mention is not often made of female suicides. The suicide’s family may try to convince others that their daughter died in an accident and they may not even hold a funeral ceremony for the woman.

While when compared to the West, the numbers of women committing suicide in Iraq remain fairly low, some believe that those numbers are rising. Figures are by no means conclusive though and there is sometimes also deliberate confusion between suicide and an honour crime – that is, where a woman is killed because she has been sexually active in a way perceived as illicit by her family or husband. Although adultery is seen as dishonourable, suicide woman is worse – and no doubt, the murderer prefers to avoid jail time.

Also reporting on Iraqi women is Diovan Barwari (Al-Monitor):

 She set her small body on fire after pouring several liters of kerosene over herself and lighting a match. This is how she ended her life after her father refused to allow her to marry her lover and insisted she marry someone she did not know.
  Shahnaz, who was not yet 25 years old, died at a burn center in Nineveh in April 2010 after physicians failed to save her from the injuries that disfigured her entire body. She is now another number on the long list of tragic victims of forced marriages.
Kalnaz, Shahnaz’s younger sister, described the incident to Al-Monitor: “It was an ominous day, [but] we did not expect her to carry out this disastrous act.” She added, “Fire devoured my sister’s body while she screamed out against at all those who were unjust to her.”
The decision made by Layla, 27, was different. She acquiesced to a marriage that she was forced into by her family, to live a life that she described as a “silent death,” rather than a “scandalous death,” after her family refused to allow her to marry her university classmate.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) held their national convention this week.  As with any organization's convention, various business will take place.  This includes passing resolutions.  One vying for approval at this convention:

Resolution 21: Resolution in Support of Labor Rights in Iraq

Submitted by the South Carolina AFL-CIO
Referred to the Resolutions Committee
WHEREAS, Hassan Juma’a Awad, President of the Federation of Oil Unions in Iraq, has been criminally charged by the Ministry of Oil for allegedly organizing strikes at the South Oil Company; and 
WHEREAS, strikes in this sector have taken place with increasingly regularity as workers in the oil industry seek to protect their rights and interests, improve their working conditions, and seek redress for their grievances; and
WHEREAS, if convicted, Hassan Juma’a Awad could face stiff fines or even 3 years of imprisonment, and the Federation of Oil Unions could be severely crippled—all part of an effort by the al-Maliki government to remove a huge obstacle and source of resistance to privatization of Iraq’s oil resources; and
WHEREAS, the attacks on Hassan Juma’a Awad and the Federation of Oil Unions—which are attacks on freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively—reflect the government of Iraq’s intention to hold onto repressive laws and policies issued by the Saddam Hussein regime, namely, Decree 150 of 1987 and Labor Law No. 71, both of which are in contradiction with ILO conventions and international labor standards, including conventions to which Iraq is signatory; and
WHEREAS, U.S. Labor Against the War (with which CWA is affiliated), the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center and the Iraq Civil Society Solidarity Initiative have spearheaded an international campaign to protest the ongoing violation and denial of worker rights in Iraq, the harassment and persecution of labor activists, interference in the internal affairs of unions, and now an effort to criminalize union activity and prosecute Hassan Juma’a Awad and other union leaders; and
WHEREAS, these actions on the part of the al-Maliki regime are part of a larger pattern of increasingly authoritarian, sectarian and anti-democratic actions and policies that threaten not only the labor movement but all independent civil society organizations that seek to build a peaceful, tolerant, democratic society;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the South Carolina AFL-CIO joins USLAW, Solidarity Center, the Iraq Civil Society Solidarity Initiative and unions the world over to demand that the government of Iraq immediately drop all charges against Hassan Juma’a Awad and cancel the punitive orders issued by the Ministry of Oil to union activists, including all retaliatory transfers, reprimands  and disciplinary penalties against union activists; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the South Carolina AFL-CIO calls upon the Iraqi government to abide by internationally recognized labor standards, including the right of free association to organize, collectively bargain and strike as reflected in International Labor Organization Conventions and Iraq’s own Constitution, and further calls upon the Iraqi government to expeditiously adopt a basic labor law that affirms those rights for all workers, both public and private sector; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the South Carolina AFL-CIO will inform its members about the threat to labor rights in Iraq and encourage them to participate in appropriate solidarity activities in support of the unions and workers of Iraq, and will submit this resolution  to the AFL-CIO with a request that it be adopted at the forthcoming Quadrennial Convention of the Federation.

 Good for the South Carolina chapter but the resolution did not pass.  No real surprise from the increasingly weak-ass and pathetic AFL-CIO.  US Labor Against War has always been more of a friend to Iraqi labor.  John Wojcik (People's World) reports:

Hassan Juma'a Awad, president of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions, was in town as a guest at the AFL-CIO's 2013 convention where he spoke at a special event organized by U.S. Labor Against the War.
Hassan Juma'a said that workers in his country are routinely denied their right to organize unions and to speak out about working conditions. And he said oil workers whom he represents are engaging in a full-fledged battle to prevent big multinational oil companies from completely taking over the nation's oil industry. Until the U.S. invasion of Iraq the oil companies were nationally owned. BP, ExxonMobil and others have systematically been grabbing control over the industry ever since the U.S. invasion, he said.
"They started out by coming in as consultants and in some cases now essentially control the major oil fields. There are $43 billion in oil profits that should be going to solve the lack of electric power and housing in the post-war cities and towns of Iraq," he said, "but the gangster element in control now after the U.S. invasion has ensured that the Iraqi people haven't seen a dime of that money."
"The situation is such that the people of Iraq gain very little from their own oil industry and in fact have to ask how does it benefit us at all?" he said. "We get environmental problems, higher cancer rates, but the money doesn't go to improving conditions for the people."
Iraq's Ministry of Oil, doing the bidding of the multinational oil companies, filed criminal charges against him earlier this year alleging that the strikes he has led undermined the Iraqi economy. But after the government failed to produce evidence, a judge threw out the case in July.

Iraq War veteran Chelsea Manning leaked documents to WikiLeaks about the US government's criminal actions in Iraq and Afghanistan (counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, ignoring torture of Iraqis by Nouri's forces, etc).  For that, she was court-martialed and, last month, sentenced to 35 years in prison.  Debra Sweet Tweets the following today: