Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bees see a blue halo

We've talked here about bees before but this one is just too good to ignore.

PHYS.ORG reports:

Latest research has found that several common flower species have nanoscale ridges on the surface of their petals that meddle with light when viewed from certain angles.
These nanostructures scatter light particles in the blue to ultraviolet colour spectrum, generating a subtle effect that scientists have christened the 'blue halo'.
By manufacturing artificial surfaces that replicated 'blue halos', scientists were able to test the effect on pollinators, in this case foraging bumblebees. They found that bees can see the blue halo, and use it as a signal to locate  more efficiently.
While the ridges and grooves on a petal surface line up next to each other "like a packet of dry spaghetti", when analysing different flower species the researchers discovered these striations vary greatly in height, width and spacing - yet all produce a similar 'blue halo' effect.

That is really interesting -- not just what's taking place but that they were able to find this explanation.

Science offers us so much and I don't think we appreciate it.

We really need to have more attention on science.  We need to do a huge infusion of cash into public schools for science.  It is our future.

And there is so much to learn.

Like about the blue halo.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Wednesday, October 18, 2017.  Chaos and violence continue, the US media ignores what's been dubbed as The Talabani Treason as they rush to mis-report, Johnson & Johnson is among five corporations being sued by veterans and their families for supporting terrorism, and much more.

For years, Johnson & Johnson has boasted of "no more tears" with regards to their baby shampoo but this week the giant corporation may be among the ones bawling.  Aamer Madhani (USA TODAY) reports:

The families of dozens of U.S. troops killed or injured during the war in Iraq filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against several U.S. and European pharmaceutical and medical supply companies, alleging that the corporations knowingly financed the anti-American militia Mahdi Army through bribes and kickbacks to officials at a government ministry controlled by the group.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., against some of the biggest names in the industry — including GE Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Roche Holdings — claims that the companies regularly paid kickbacks to officials in Iraq’s Ministry of Health through their local agents.

FOX NEWS adds:

The lawsuit alleges that five drug companies won contracts with the Iraqi government during the 2003 peak of the war with knowledge that free drugs and medical devices would end up in the hands of a Shiite militia.
That militia would then sell the drugs and devices to the black market to fund its operations against the U.S., the New York Times reported.
Named in the lawsuit are U.S. firms General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer and European drugmakers AstraZeneca and Roche Holding A.G.
The companies won contracts with the Iraqi Ministry of Health that at the time was controlled by the leader of the Mahdi Army, a group known for attacking U.S. troops and working closely with Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist group, the Times reported.

The group was known as the “Pill Army,” according to the Financial Times, as some of the fighters were known to have been paid in drugs rather than cash.

The law firms Sparacino & Anderson PLLC and Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick PLLC have teamed up to represent the people against the five corporations.  Sparacino & Anderson PLLC issued the following yesterday:

A group of American veterans and civilians, and their families, filed a lawsuit against five major pharmaceutical and medical-supply corporations in federal court today, accusing the companies of knowingly or recklessly supporting an Iraqi terrorist group that attacked, killed, and wounded thousands of Americans in Iraq.  Financing of this group allegedly has come via a longstanding and continuing bribery scheme that many of the defendants have pursued for years and was designed to keep their profits high.

The defendants being sued are the parent companies and/or subsidiaries of AstraZeneca plc (AZN), General Electric Company (GE), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Pfizer Inc. (PFE), and Roche Holding AG (RHHBY).
The defendants are being sued under the Anti-Terrorism Act by more than 100 Americans who were attacked or who had a family member attacked by the terrorist group Jaysh al-Mahdi (also known as JAM or the Mahdi Army).  
Jaysh al-Mahdi is led by Muqtada al-Sadr, a notorious Iraqi cleric known for his fiery anti-American sermons and brutal attacks on Americans serving in Iraq after the fall of Saddam.  As alleged in the complaint, Jaysh al-Mahdi has carried out its campaign of terror in Iraq using money and material provided directly by the defendants.  
The suit follows an extensive investigation by the Washington, D.C.-based law firms of Sparacino & Andreson PLLC and Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick, PLLC. 
"While Americans worked to rebuild Iraq, many were attacked by a terrorist group that we allege has been funded in part by the defendants' corrupt sales practices," said Josh Branson, a partner at Kellogg Hansen.  "This lawsuit alleges that the defendants have aided and abetted terrorism in Iraq by paying bribes to the terrorists who ran the Iraqi Ministry of Health.  We allege that those corrupt payments, including cash and free goods, provided an important source of financing for the terrorists." 
Jaysh al-Mahdi is effectively the Iraqi franchise of Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization, and serves as Iran's terrorist proxy in Iraq.  The complaint alleges that Jaysh al-Mahdi's terrorist attacks against Americans in Iraq have been planned, authorized, and sometimes conducted by Hezbollah. 
"As alleged, many of the defendants have a documented history of paying bribes that supported terrorism under Saddam," said Ryan Sparacino, a partner at Sparacino & Andreson.  "We believe that the evidence will show that when Jaysh al-Mahdi seized the Iraqi Health Ministry, the defendants continued paying the same bribes that many of them provided under Saddam – except in far greater amounts.  The complaint alleges that these corruption schemes are extensive and ongoing.  The lives of the families of those killed and injured have been forever changed, and the results have been devastating."
Kellogg Hansen and Sparacino & Andreson conducted an extensive investigation before filing the complaint.  The firms spent thousands of hours working on the matter and analyzing hundreds of transactions between the defendants and the Iraqi Health Ministry.  For many of the survivors of these attacks and the families of those killed, much of what the investigation uncovered came as a shock.
"My hope is that we can get justice for my brother's death and for so many others who didn't have to die in Iraq," said Ami Neiberger-Miller, the surviving sister of U.S. Army Specialist Christopher Neiberger, who was killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq on August 6, 2007, three days after his 22nd birthday.
The complaint is available at

RT notes:

The lawsuit cites a Pentagon press release, which stated that a senior official with alleged ties to the Jaysh al-Mahdi militia “orchestrated several kickback schemes by using inflated contracts for ministry equipment and services.”
“These kickbacks, which officials believe have funneled millions of US dollars to militia elements, support sectarian attacks and violence targeting Iraqi civilians,” the Pentagon said.
The lawsuit argues that the companies knew the Health Ministry was being run by a terrorist organization and cited how they have previously paid large sums of money to settle similar charges in the past.
In 2011, Johnson & Johnson paid $70 million to settle charges that its subsidiaries paid kickbacks to win contracts in Iraq and other countries. GE also paid more than $23 million in 2010 to settle charges that it had paid kickbacks for Health Ministry contracts under the Oil-for-Food program.

As a few e-mails about this story point out, we've repeatedly noted the war as an effort to create new markets.  Some of the e-mails wrongly credit Naomi Klein and her book SHOCK DOCTRINE.  Sorry, the references pre-date that and the influence there was always Jane Wagner's THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE (specifically Trudy's discussion about marketing in-between meal snacks to people who didn't even know where their next meal was coming from).  No offense to Naomi but Jane wrote an award winning play that was even deeper than many realized.

I'm surprised the corporations haven't rushed to settle.

This is not a case they can win -- even if they should prevail in court.

That's because the more awareness there is of this case, the more harm to the corporations -- especially Johnson & Johnson which is more visible in daily life -- and more dispensable. Pfier may be harder to get around but Johnson & Johnson -- as shampoo, baby oil, etc -- is very easy to stop buying and the reaction of many will be to stop buying those products.

You're going to war with veterans by refusing to settle out of court, yes.  But you're also going to war with their families and advocates on their behalf (the latter is what many -- if not most -- Americans see themselves as).

The smartest thing the corporations could do would be to rush to settle this case.  The smartest thing the law firms representing the veterans and veterans' families can do is make sure that word of this case multiplies.

Turning to yesterday's press briefing at the US State Dept where Iraq was a laughing issue for many -- including spokesperson Heather Nauert:

QUESTION: Similarly, in Iraq --

MS NAUERT: -- because I won’t --

QUESTION: -- the Iraqi Government has had difficulty --

MS NAUERT: I can’t even hear you. I’ll answer your first question first.

QUESTION: No, this – no, it’s the same point. In Iraq, we just saw this in Kirkuk.

MS NAUERT: You know what? I’ve already forgotten what you’ve said as you’ve gone on on your thing.

QUESTION: Well, you can be – you can – well, you can be dismissive, but the fact is --

MS NAUERT: No, I’m not. I would like to answer your first question first.

QUESTION: -- this is a civil war inside Syria and it’s not fair --

MS NAUERT: Can anyone recall her first question? Otherwise I’ll just move on.

QUESTION: -- and it’s not fair --

MS NAUERT: Okay. I’ll just move on then.

QUESTION: -- for this to be – it’s not (inaudible).

MS NAUERT: Okay. Does anyone else have a question about Syria?

[. . .]

MS NAUERT: Hi, Laurie. Let’s go to Iraq.

QUESTION: On Iraq --

MS NAUERT: Oh, and by the way, may I just say when I ask you all to please just give me one question at a time rather than having to respond to a litany of two or three or four questions at once, it helps me to be able to answer your questions succinctly. So pardon me. I’m sorry our journalist from Al Jazeera decided to leave the briefing room. I would have been happy to have answered her questions one by one, but she didn’t want to do that. So, okay, let’s move on. We’re – Laurie, you wanted to talk about Iraq.

QUESTION: On Iraq, individuals like Senator McCain and Senator Rubio and institutions like The Wall Street Journal have criticized you over Kirkuk, saying that you let Iranian-dominated forces directed by Qasem Soleimani attack a valuable ally, namely the Kurds, and this is the exact opposite of the tough new Iran – policy against Iran that the President just announced on Friday. What is your response to that?

MS NAUERT: Look, as we watch the situation unfold in Iraq, we continue to call for calm, to call for calm on the part of the Kurds, on the part of the government in Baghdad as well. We have made no bones about that. The Secretary is making calls to the region, I believe set for today. I know that this is something that he is watching very closely. The whole of the U.S. Government is watching the situation closely. Our U.S. forces have fought side by side with those in Iraq, whether it’s the north or whether it’s in the south, okay. We care deeply about what happens in Iraq. We continue to monitor the situation very closely.
We have monitored the movements of various vehicles and personnel in that. We see these as what has happened to be what I’ll call coordinated movements. I know some have reported it as attacks. We look at it from the standpoint of coordinated movements. Our advisers are not supporting the Government of Iraq and we’re not supporting the Kurdistan Regional Government activities. We’re trying to stay – we’re trying to get the situation calmed as best as possible.

QUESTION: Could you --

QUESTION: It’s not --

MS NAUERT: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Could you tell us who Secretary Tillerson is calling? Does that include Kurdish leaders?

MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of exactly who he is calling. I know he is making calls to the region, and so I just want to leave it at that. I’m not sure he’s – who they’re going to be able to get on the phone.


QUESTION: Okay, if I --

MS NAUERT: Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: My final question. You say coordinated movements, and I understand that. But the complaint is that these movements were coordinated by Qasem Soleimani after he suborned the PUK leadership. Does that bother you?

MS NAUERT: Look, we’re not taking friends – I mean, we’re not taking sides. We are – excuse me. (Laughter.) We are not taking sides in that. I want to be clear about that. Look, that is why we continue to say, please, calm. We’re watching this situation very closely.

QUESTION: Can you say – has the offer that was in the statement that you put out yesterday – there was a suggestion that the offer to mediate or offer to help was out there on the table. Do you know, has that been taken up by anyone?

MS NAUERT: We – look, an actual offer to sit down and do something of that sort, I’m not aware of that. I can tell you, in addition to the Secretary making calls, our Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk is on the ground in Iraq right now. He’s holding meetings. Our ambassador to Iraq, Ambassador Silliman, is also engaged in a lot of meetings and conversations. So we are very engaged, heavily engaged in this. We want to see a unified, democratic Iraq.

QUESTION: Do you – where is Brett, in Baghdad or is he --

MS NAUERT: He’s in Iraq. I don’t – I --

QUESTION: You don’t know where?

MS NAUERT: Beyond that, I don’t know where exactly.

QUESTION: And then secondly – and I think this gets to the broader long question that Roz was trying to ask you – are you concerned about an Iranian --

MS NAUERT: What are you looking at over there?

QUESTION: The map.

MS NAUERT: Oh, the map. Okay.

QUESTION: It helps me focus if I look at Iraq on the map.

MS NAUERT: The blue blob map. (Laughter.) Okay. Yes.

QUESTION: Well, I – my geography’s good enough. I know where Iraq is.

MS NAUERT: Okay, okay.

QUESTION: Now, you made me forget my question. (Laughter.)

MS NAUERT: We’ll come back to you on that. Dave. Dave, go right ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’ll pass.

QUESTION: It was Iran or Iranian influence.

QUESTION: Did the Government of Iraq inform you of its intentions to secure Kirkuk before the act?

MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that. I’m not aware of that.

QUESTION: Would you have dissuaded them, had they done so?

MS NAUERT: Because I’m not aware of that, that would be a hypothetical. So if I have something on you – if somebody in the building has an answer on that, I will certainly let you know. 

Heather's not aware of much of anything -- who the Secretary of State is speaking with, where Brett McGurk is, etc.

It's being called The Talabani Treason on social media -- the Talabanis taking money to sell out the Kurds and pull the peshmerga out of Kirkuk (see yesterday's snapshot).

Yet it's not being mentioned in the US press.

It's reported by the Arabic press, what the Talabanis did, how they betrayed their own and how this will hurt their political party in the next elections.

But there's silence in the US.

And the pretense that the Iraqi military 'won' Kirkuk.

There was no fight.

The Peshmerga were ordered back by the Talabanis.  Jalal Talabani, it turns out, represented his family quite well, they were/are all whores for money.  They will sell out anyone for a few coins tossed their way.

Talk about FAKE NEWS.  How are Americans supposed to be informed when the press lies so badly?

Buried deep in Nahih Bulos' LOS ANGELES TIMES 'report,' they can find this:

 Massoud Haider, a Kurdish member of parliament, said the government takeover was part of a deal negotiated by Iran between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan — a skittish partner of Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s Kurdish region — and Shiite-dominated paramilitary groups that are collectively known as Popular Mobilization Forces and backed by Iran.

Buried deep.  How deep?  It's paragraph 13.

And it's misleading.

"Skittish partner of Massoud Barani"?

Is Nancy Pelosi the partner -- skittish or otherwise -- of Donald Trump?

The PUK is the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan -- the political party controlled by the Talabani family.  It began in the 70s when the Talabanis broke with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (founded in 1946) which is led by the Barzanis.

They are not partners, they are rivals.

KDP is the dominant party in the Kurdistan Region.

The next most popular party, as of the last election cycle, is the CIA-backed GORAN party.  In third place is the PUK.

They're in third place exactly because of this sort of back stabbing move by the Talabanis on Kirkuk.

They are not the partners of Barzani and THE LOS ANGELES TIMES has misled every reader they have -- granted it's not as many as they had ten years ago -- or even five -- but they still have a few.

Meanwhile, a battle did take place between the Shi'ite militias and the Peshmerga -- not in Kirkuk, but near the Mosul dam -- on Monday.  The results?  1 Peshmerga killed and 8 Shi'ite milita members killed.

The following community sites -- plus PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated:

  • Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    That awful Friedman

    Andre Damon (WSWS) tackles Thomas Friedman:

    There are few public figures more justifiably reviled by thinking people than Thomas Friedman. As a columnist for the New York Times, Friedman has served as a propagandist for every war the United States has started over the past two decades, from the bombing of Serbia, to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, to the “regime change” operations in Libya and Syria.
    It was Friedman who infamously declared, hailing the US bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, “The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist—McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15.”
    In another column, he threatened the population of Serbia, “Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1398? We can do 1398, too.”
    In a column publsished in 1997, and entitled “Head Shot,” Friedman wrote that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein “is the reason God created cruise missiles. Cruise missiles are simply the only way to deal with him.” 
    Friedman’s malice is outdone only by his stupidity. Former Times journalist Chris Hedges summed up Friedman’s persona when he recently noted in a WSWS interview that he might as well be writing for the satirical publication, The Onion.

    Thomas Friedman is beyond help.

    Sometimes I get angry e-mails, "Why do you think he's great!!!"

    I don't.

    Go to the first posts, this was a site making fun of him.

    Betinna -- the voice of the site -- was a New Jersey woman he 'rescued' -- drugged and 'colonized.'

    That was the point -- how destructive he was.

    I kept the title even after this stopped being a comic novel.

    Sorry if that confuses anyone.

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
    Tuesday, October 17, 2017.

    "Oil prices continued to climb Tuesday amid fighting in Iraq that threatened production from northern Iraq and as the relationship between the United States and Iran risked more strain," notes Christopher Alessia (MARKETWATCH).  What's going on?

    Kelly McEvers (ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, NPR) explained it yesterday afternoon:

    There's a confrontation going on over the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, and it's between two factions who have been trained and equipped by the United States. On one side are the Iraqi Kurds, and on the other side is the Iraqi central government. Both have been key allies in the U.S. fight against ISIS. The showdown has been a long time in the making, but it really heated up when Kurds recently voted to secede from Iraq. And when it finally boiled over last night, Iraqi forces moved very quickly into what had been a Kurdish stronghold.

    She was speaking to THE NEW YORK TIMES' David Zucchino:

    DAVID ZUCCHINO: As it turned out, they had managed to split the Kurds by cutting a deal with one faction of the Kurds to have them pull back and let government forces come through. But the other faction, the one that actually rules the autonomous area, decided to stay and fight. And so there was an outbreak of hostilities. But because half of the Kurdish factions just kind of surrendered and withdrew, it made it very easy for the Iraqi forces, the government forces to really sweep through very quickly.

    MCEVERS: So does that mean that Iraqi forces from the central government in Baghdad are now in control of the city of Kirkuk?

    ZUCCHINO: They absolutely are. They went to the governor's compound, where there were two flags. One was the Iraqi flag and one was the Kurdish flag. And they took down the Kurdish flag, left the Iraqi one and then went around the city taking down all the Peshmerga posters and flags and replacing them with their own. And there was a huge celebration. People poured out into the streets, mostly Turkmen and Arabs, firing guns and honking horns and parading with flags. And it went on for hours.

    They managed to split the Kurds by cutting a deal with one faction of the Kurds . . .

    Oh, the Talabani betrayers.

    They always betray.

    Usually because the US government pays them off and, yes, they were paid off yet again.

    Jalal Talabani cashed in nicely in 2012 when he betrayed the Iraqi people.  The Shi'ites, the Sunnis and the Kurds came together, remember, to call for a no-confidence vote on then-prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki.  They followed the Constitution and got the needed signatures and all Jalal was supposed to do was officially present the petition in Parliament (at which point the Parliament would vote).  But pressure and rewards via then-Vice President Joe Biden and Jalal refused to follow the Constitution and quickly took his back stabbing fat ass off the Germany.

    The Talabanis have betrayed the Kurds yet again.

    How long before that corrupt family is run out of Iraq?

    THE NEW ARAB reports:

    A deal was struck between the Talabani faction of the PUK, which commands many of the Peshmerga based in southern Kirkuk - a group still grieving over the loss of former leader Jalal Talabani earlier this month - and the Baghdad government.
    PUK Peshmerga withdrew from their positions without resistance - though reportedly under fire in several hotspots. Exactly what they were offered in return remains to be seen. The deal has appears to have been confirmed publicly - a statement from the KRG prime minister's office explicitly accused the PUK of betrayal. Those in the PUK who wanted to stay and fight, notably Kirkuk's former Governor Najmaldin Karim and Peshmerga commander Kosrat Rasol Ali, were cut out of the decision-making process, and by the time they were aware, it was too late. The Kurds has lost Kirkuk. 

    Bought off yet again, the Talabanis betray the Kurds.

    Pavel,Talabani's son,lived all his life in US&EU but returned to Kurdistan only a week to sell Kerkuk out to enemies Im ashamed to read it
    Is this how you continue the legacy of Talabani? He would be ashamed of you PUK. You sold kurdish unity, people of Kurdistan will remember.

    Agreement signed by PUK's Pavel Talabani & PMF's Hadi Al-Amiri according to Gorran federal MP Massoud Haider.

    Ala Talabani called Hashd al Shaabi ‘our brothers’, hours after reports of Hashd beheading Pehsmerga.

    Lahur and Bafel Talabani ordered the PUK Pesh withdrawal from Kirkuk. Lahur was America’s line to YPG. Read US statement in light of that.

    US statement?

    US President Donald Trump yesterday lied and stated, "We're not taking sides."

    On THE NEWSHOUR (PBS), Judy Woodruff spoke with Emma Sky (who "served as an adviser to General David Petraeus while he was commander of U.S. forces in Iraq from 2007 to 2010"):

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Emma Sky, we heard President Trump say today the U.S. is not taking sides in this.
    Is that accurate, that the U.S. isn’t taking sides? What is the U.S. role here?

    EMMA SKY: Well, the U.S. has stipulated over and over again that its policy is to support a united Iraq.
    So you can see the U.S. has given support to Iraqi security forces, but also to the Kurdish Peshmerga, to fight against ISIS. The U.S. policy for the last few years has really been focused on ISIS and not on the day after ISIS.
    But what we’re witnessing at the moment is that different groups are already moving to the day after, which is the power struggle for control of different territories in Iraq.
    And Barzani believed that during the fight against ISIS, he became stronger because he got weapons directly from the international community. And, as Feisal said, he was able to extend his control over the disputed territories.

    He’s also facing domestic problems within Kurdistan. There are tensions between the different Kurdish groups, and some believe that Barzani has overstayed his term as president.

    Yeah, you can't make the policy a united Iraq and still be neutral.

    A lie.

    The Iranian-back militias did not win.  The Kurdish fighters withdrew as ordered by the Talabanis.

    The following community sites updated: