Season three has taken the humor to another level. There have been the sight gags -- best the Halloween costumes where they went as the Jacksons and all picked up on Latoya (Dave), the prank schemes -- hilarious ending with Alex (Elisha Cutbert), the mistaken moments -- Brad (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Penny think they've killed Alex's racist parrot Tyler, the angry get-backs -- Brad getting back at Jane saying he was a trophy wife by playing one at her work, complete with tea cup pet pig Carnitas, and so much more.
It's been a hilarious season. Instead of spinning wheels, the show's deepened the characters and deepened the laughs. Every detail matters. So in the Daniel Chun scripted "Ordinary Extraordinary Love" (episode nine), Penny offers a song she wrote whose lyrics include, "Take a penny, leave a penny." And in the Jason Berger scripted "Bros Before Bros" (episode 17), her father (Andy Richter) explains he met Stephen Sondheim when he grabbed an umbrella at what he thought was a communal stand "give an umbrella, take an umbrella kind of thing." And hats off to Beth McCarthy-Miller for her strong direction of episode 5 "P&P Romance Factory." Brad sliding across the hood of the car in faux sexual excitement was comedy magic. And the episode with Black Plague: A Love Story hasn't even aired yet.
When the show came on, the strongest were Casey Wilson, Damian Wayans Jr. and Max Pally. Now days, every one of the six is the strongest. Zachary Knighton's Dave is among the biggest surprises. He and the writers have fleshed out the character that a whole episode could track Dave and it would be hilarious. Alex and Jane (Eliza Coupe) have their own special chemistry -- even in "The Incident" when gearing up to kick the s**t out of each other.
I love "Happy Endings." And ABC's showing two episodes each Friday. And last night, the one with "Black Plague: A Love Story" aired.
Penny explains, "I got back to my theater roots. I wrote a play."
"Black Plague: A Love Story." No, she wrote a musical.
Singing . . .
Clete: My heart is bursting inside of me.
Black Plague: So will you boils from lepersy.
Clete: Joy and love, I have a surplus
Black Plague: Too bad I'll fill your lungs with puss
Clete and Black Plague together: Pandemic of the heart
It's a pandemic of the heart
It's a pandemic of the heart
it's a pandemic of the heart
It's a pandemic of the heart!
Oh, it was so awful. The musical. And during that number, it cuts to Alex, Max, Brad, Dave and Jane -- all disgusted. Well, not Alex. She's chair dancing along to "Pandemic of the Heart." :D
I love Alex.
Then, as the play's supposed to end and Penny (playing Black Plague) is supposed to kill Clete, she loses it.
So Brad hops up on stage and ad-libs talking about how Clete will be fine. And Penny did a favor breaking up with him, now he can find someone who will love him.
Penny begins ad-libbing a song, "The black plague will rise again . . ." Brad sings cautionary notes about how that's not a good thing because a million people died. It was almost as funny as the song where they sang "bluebonic" plague. :D
That was the second episode.
The first episode?
Penny and Pete broke up. Yes, Penny wrote a play (second episode) about herself (Black Plague) destroying "Clete" (rhymes with Pete, Alex pointed out to Jane -- before telling Jane she thought Penny was writing about Dave :D).
In this episode, Penny was really sensitive to what everyone said about Pete and her. And she goes off on Jane who tells her, "Slow it down Jackie Joyner Crazy."
As for who knows who better? Couples game night! It will be Alex and Dave, Penny and Pete and the winners Alex and Brad.
Max isn't invited.
Max says he's fine with that and they flash back to Jane winning a board game and knocking it off the table while telling everyone they're losers.
Max says he will be there, dead or alive!
Dave's got problems. His psychic moved to Arizona.
Dave believes in psychics, the gang notes, Alex believes in ghosts.
They're real, Alex insists listing other things that are real, ending with Chupacabra.
But Dave's in a pickle. No psychic to advise him. And a guy who loves his food at his food truck has offered him a job as a chef at Knife.
Alex is happy, "Dave, congratulations. I love that restaurant. They have a lot of food there."
:D I love Alex. She is so clueless.
What's he going to do?
As he goes on and on about this throughout the episode, Alex really wants him to ask her opinion on the job offer. But he doesn't get that. So Alex asks if he can ask Psychic Tammy what to do over the phone.
Dave: She has to read my energy in person. Don't you know how science works?
Alex: Hey! Hey! You know I don't.
Dave: I'm sorry.
They go shopping. On their way out, she's hoping he's going to ask her. He doesn't. But he does get insight. He'll go to this fortune teller whose office is next to the store.
It's not his normal style . . .
Dave: But sometimes in life you got to take chances. You know who taught me that? Tammy. I miss her every single day.
Alex: (Sighing) It's only been one day.
When he asked, "You know who taught me that?," Alex was so waiting for him to say "You!" Poor Alex.
So in the end, Dave decides he's a psychic. (Things do not go well with "Magic Ann" -- including when Alex asks her if her mother named her that?)
And he decides to keep his truck.
And game night? A disaster for Brad and Jane. Even Max and Scotty do better than Brad and Jane. (Scotty? Remember the creepy guy who showed up for the intervention that Max and Penny did on Brad that time, where they felt Brad had an addiction to v-necks? The creepy guy who is the neighbor is Scotty. He knows Max very well causing Max to joke that he's a stalker. "We prefer the term Obsessive American," Scotty insists.)
Pete and Penny.
But she tells Jane she's not feeling it, not the love like Brad and Jane have. She and Jane end up in the bathroom. Brad comes in worried. They inform him what's going on stopping only when Scotty comes in, opens the medicine chest and takes some bottles out. Then Scotty leaves and they go back to talking. Max comes hopping in. Penny's touched that Max was worried about her. No, Max needs to go to the bathroom. But Penny never catches on. Then Pete comes in to complain that they've left him alone with Scotty who's trying to sell him speed but it's really Advil.
So Penny takes Pete into the living room and breaks up with him.
Which, again, leads her to write the musical "Black Plague: A Love Story" which is the second episode.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Last month, Banen al-Sheemary (Mondo Weiss) observed, "'The war in Iraq will soon belong to history' stated Barack Obama, in an address marking the supposed end of the occupation of Iraq. America will remember it as history, but Iraqis live through it every day." Masarat editor Saad Salloum offers at Niqash:
The war being fought in Iraq today pits Iraqis against one another. Today the people of Iraq are fighting over a ruined and divided country with no real national identity. Iraqis don’t know whether they have a theocracy, similar to that in neighbouring Iran, or whether they have a more secular democracy, complete with sectarian and ethnic quotas in leadership, similar to those used to rule Lebanon.
After 2003 the US has played a similar role to that played by Great Britain in 1921, when they installed Faisal bin Hussein as the king of a new Iraq. Some say Iraq was never created by God; rather it was created by Winston Churchill, who was Colonial Secretary with special responsibility for the Middle East at the time.
Now, in 2013, Iraqis are still trying to formulate their identity – but they’re doing it in a way where they must challenge one another. On the ethnic level, they are Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and Turkmen. On the religious level, they are Muslims, Christians and Yazidis as well as Sunnis and Shiites too.
It has become clear to many that the US only removed the lid to a melting pot containing a stew of many foul-smelling flavours. Those smells had been repressed during the short life of the Iraqi state.
This newly discovered pluralism makes Iraqis more afraid of each other than they are of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. It makes them more afraid of each other than of the Safawi [Shiite Muslim religious] state, an Ottoman Empire [out of Turkey] or the UK or US.
As noted in an Iraqi Spring MC video, Sheikh Ali Hamad spoke in Jalawla today at the protest there. He asks a basic question in his speech: If the Constitution guarantees Iraqis the right to protest and demonstrate why are those who exercise the right being targeted, arrested and tortured?
The question lingers in the air with no answer forthcoming.
On one side of the Sheikh, a protester carries a sign that reads, "Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?" On the other side of the Sheikh, a protester carries a sign which reads, "IRAQ has become the Wild West, Land with NO LAW." In Samarra, they burned flags of Israel and the US. At the start of 2009, Iraqis had such hope for the US. A new president was being sworn in, Barack Obama. He'd make things so much better. Instead, in 2010, when they voted Nouri out, Barack demanded he stay. Barack went around the Constitution, having the US broker a contract, The Erbil Agreement, to give Nouri a second term. As they've seen that the US government does not care about human rights, does not care about the torture and secret prisons Nouri runs, as they've seen that Barack is no better than Bully Boy Bush, they burn more and more American flags.
As a young Iraq male explains on this month's War News Radio, "We hope that Americans will help us or something like that. But they did nothing. They just, I think, I not sure, they steal some oil or something. Nothing's changed. The government now is worse and worse." A young Iraqi woman, Noor, tells War News Radio, "We like the people of America" but not "the power, the government." The State Dept wants to pour over two billion into Iraq in the next fiscal year -- most of it to prop up Nouri. It doesn't matter. The Iraqi people can't be bought. You can't ignore their 2010 vote and then bribe them with money. Barack cannot buy away the bruises he has left on the dignity of the Iraqi people.
All Iraq News quotes MP Majida al-Timimi declaring, "The many government in Iraq after 2003 failed to improve the services and economic situation in Iraq." She is with the Moqtada al-Sadr affiliated Ahrar bloc.
At the sit-in in Baiji, protesters declared that their biggest concern was the release of our men and women. This goes to the point we've been making all week. The Justice and Accountability Law and Commission -- not the big concern for the average Iraqi. It's concerns for politicians and government officials. The people are concerned with Article IV. That's what allows innocent people to be arrested. That's what the protesters mean when they say release the innocents. It's not that complicated or difficult to follow unless you're paid by a western media outlet and then you're cluseless. In Mosul, protesters delcare they will not relinquish their rights. In Falluja, activists chanted, "We will not retreat. We will not surrender." They turned out in Tikrit.
Alsumaria notes that thugs tried to infiltrate the Kirkuk protests and they were expelled by the activists. (The reason they tried to infiltrate? They were carrying the Iraq flag from the days of Saddam Hussein, hoping to pose as protesters and discredit the movement.) NINA quotes Dr. Abdullah Jawala stating, "We continue our demonstration and sit-ins until our demands are met."
NINA reports, "Thousands of protesters and worshipers flocked from the early hours of the morning to the main squares of sit-ins north of Ramadi and west of Fallujah to participate in Friday prayers." Alsumaria reports tens of thousands in Ramadi (and check out their photo). NINA also quotes Sheikh Qusai Zein of the Ramadi sit-in declaring, "We do not only demand to bring down Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, but we want to execute him from crimes committed against humanity that he tolerate." Al Mada reports that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief crooked thug of Iraq, was denounced by protesters in Ramadi and Falluja who said he only pretends to listen to the demands of the protesters. Iraq Times reports that students demonstrated at the University of Basra.
For strong and varied coverage of the protests, refer to the Iraqi Spring MC -- here for Facebook, here for Twitter, here for Flickr.
Meanwhile Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Kanaan double bombing targeting Sunnis leaving a mosque which has claimed 7 lives and ldeft twenty-five injured. Alsumaria has a photo of some of the wreckage here. Xinhua notes the mosque was near Baquba. Raheem Salman and Patrick Markey (Reuters) quote survivor Ahmed al-Karkhi stating, "We were about 250 worshippers, we were just leaving when the explosion went off. Police were not protecting the mosque and people had to be taken to hospital in cars." The Irish Independent notes, "The blasts struck as worshippers were leaving after midday prayers from the town's Omar Bin Abdul-Aziz mosque, said police officials in Diyala province, where Kanaan is located." DPA notes that the death toll has risen to 15 (twenty-six wounded) and that a third mosque bombing (Baquba) claimed 1 life and left five people injured. The United Nations issued the following statement today:
12 April 2013 – The top United Nations envoy in Iraq today condemned “in the strongest” terms a deadly attack on worshippers at a mosque in Diyala province and appealed for peaceful coexistence among all groups in the sensitive region.
According to published reports at least seven people were killed and 25 wounded in front of a Sunni Muslim mosque, as worshippers were leaving after Friday prayers in the town of Kanaan in Diyala where a surge of attacks by Sunni Islamists have targeted Shi'ite Muslims in growing sectarian confrontation.
“These brutal acts of violence, particularly in such sensitive areas, will not undermine the true and deep belief in peaceful coexistence among the people of Diyala,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Iraq Martin Kobler said in a statement.
He extended his deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery for the wounded.
In other violence, All Iraq News notes a Shurqat bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa and left another injured. National Iraqi News Agency notes that 3 corpses were discovered in Hatra (south of Mousl, 2 police officers, 1 Iraqi soldier, all shot to death), an armed clash in Samarra left 5 people dead, a sniper shot and wounded a police officer in Falluja, a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured,
On the topic of violence, Tuesday's "Iraq does executions, press doesn't do corrections" noted AFP's ridiculous claim of 271 violent deaths in Iraq for the month of March was disputed when UNAMI released a statement Monday noting that they counted 456 violent deaths. As noted Tuesday, AFP's way of dealing with that 'discomfort' was to ignore the UN release in its reporting but to mention it in a Tweet by journalist Prashant Rao.
It's bad enough they wouldn't do a correction -- and let's be clear Prashant left Iraq during that time period and no one kept up with the daily deaths until he was back so AFP knew their count was wrong (or 'incomplete') before they published it. Today AFP repeats their lie, "Violence killed 271 Iraqis last month, the highest monthly figure since August, according to an AFP tally."
If you're not going to get the violence, don't pretend to cover it. AKI, Iraq Body Count and the United Nations all have over 150 more deaths than AFP.
In eight days, 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces are scheduled to hold elections. Anbar Province and Nineveh Provinces have seen the largest protests against Nouri. Nouri's responded by declaring that they can't vote in the provincial elections. Alsumaria notes that Iraqiya MP Salman Jumail declares that Nouri is doing this to isolate the two provinces and in an attempt to ensure that only his allies win in the elections. Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections, besting Nouri's State of Law. NINA quotes Jumaili stating, "The postponement of the elections is used for political purposes, to ensure that the prime minister's allies get the required seats of the provincial council."
Alsumaria notes the Electoral Commission for elections in Basra announced that they had completed all steps necessary for Saturday voting (at 34 centers) by Minister of Defense and Minister of Interior employees. Special, or early, voting takes place tomorrow and, All Iraq News explains, is only supposed to take place tomorrow. Alsumaria notes that tomorrow voting will take place in Kirkuk by over 10,000 soldiers and officers at 27 polling station from seven in the morning until five in the evening. Yesterday, Alsumaria reported that the Electoral Commission notes 651,000 security forces will be voting in the provincial elections. Dropping back to Tuesday's snapshot:
Still on the political, from the April 2nd snapshot, "Alsumaria reports that Salah al-Obeidi, spokesperson for the Sadr bloc, declared today that pressure is being put upon police and military recruits to get them to vote for Nouri's State of Law slate." Al Rafidayn reports today that Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, has also called out the efforts to pressure police and army to vote for a specific list of candidate (Al Rafidayn notes that al-Hakim avoided naming the list in question).
All Iraq News notes the electoral commission declares it has 110,000 vote observers to witness the special vote tomorrow and the regular vote April 20th -- the hope is that this will prevent voter fraud or voter intimidation. Al Mada reports that the Electoral Commission has denied Mishan al-Jubouri the opportunity to participate in the elections due to his criminal record. His party also won't appear on ballots. This is seen as a serious "blow" for Nouri who had been publicly promising he would pardon him and publicly embracing al-Jubouri in an attempt to take support away from Iraqiya (al-Jubouri is Sunni). State of Law (and Nouri) are seen as anti-Sunni. Alsumaria adds that the Electoral Commission was told by the United Nations that al-Jubouri could not run due to his criminal record and that, if he ran, they would stop elections in all of Salahuddin Province.
In the last years, Nouri has repeatedly verbally attacked Iraq's northern neighbor. This intensified in 2011 when Turkey offered Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi asylum. Nouri has accused Turkey of funneling violence and weapons and sewing unrest and one thing after another. Last week, Nouri suddenly declared that he wants better relations. Trend AZ reports the reaction to Nouri's questionable statements:
"The words of the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki about the country's desire to strengthen relations with Turkey do not seem convincing to us. This is al-Maliki's peculiar manoeuvre," Davutoglu said.
According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Iraq should first of all democratise the regime in the country and create the necessary conditions for the peaceful coexistence of all ethnic groups.
Turkey has no reason to suck up to Nouri. He's dishonest and doesn't keep his word. Meanwhile, they've established a strong relationship with the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. They have no need of Nouri or his drama at present. As Daniel J. Graeber (Oil Price) explains:
Crude oil from the semiautonomous Kurdish region of Iraq has reached the international market for the first time. Oil was ferried by truck across the northern Iraqi border to Turkey from the Taq Taq oil field, operated by Turkish energy company Genel Energy. The central government considers unilateral oil trading from the Kurdish north illegal, highlighting a political row that's been festering for years. Iraq, however, is now the second largest crude oil producer among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Production is gaining steam 10 years after U.S. forces invaded the country, but its full potential is limited by a lack of export options. Baghdad says it has sole authority to determine Iraq's energy future, but developments in the Kurdish north may eventually undermine its confidence.
Good for AP, they discovered the Kurdish delegation in Iraq. We noted it earlier this week and the silence from the media on it. Today, AP reports, "The Kurdish Regional Government’s Energy Minister Ashti Hawrami was meeting with Obama administration officials Friday following recent talks with Turkey about completing pipelines over Baghdad’s objections that could vastly expand the Kurds’ ability to directly sell its oil and gas." NINA reports today:
Kurdish delegation discussed in Washington with the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations developments in the Iraqi political arena and the Syrian crisis.
A Kurdish well informed source said : " Series of meetings with the Council on Foreign Relations and press organizations, intelectuals forums and friends of the people of Kurdistan in the United States of America.
The PKK has headquarters in the mountains of northern Iraq which had created problems for the KRG and Turkey. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." An uneasy peace may have been reached between the Turkish government and the PKK. Last week, we noted an excerpt from Voices of the Middle East and North Africa discussing Turkey and the Kurds. They continued the conversation this week. You have until April 24th to stream the episode which aired on KPFA (each Wednesday, the show airs on KPFA at 7:00 pm PST). We'll include an excerpt.
Malihe Razazan: In his new year message on March 21st, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, declared a cease-fire and called on armed militants to withdraw from Turkish territory. He said, "Today we are waking up to a new Middle East, a new Turkey and a new future." Ocalan's message was warmly welcomed by the million-strong crowd gathered in the city of Diyarbakir. The next day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to apologize for "operational errors that led to loss of life" during a 2010 raid by Israeli soldiers on the Mavi Marmara ship. Nine Turkish activists who were trying to attract the world's attention to the Israeli blockade of Gaza were murdered by Israel during that incident. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially accepted the apology and declared his intention to normalize relations with Israel. In the second part of an interview partially aired last week, Sharam Aghamir speaks tonight with US Berkeley sociologist Cihan Tugal about regional and US reactions to peace talks between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Cihan Tugal: It's always a question of how are the other state actors and the non-state actors going to react to this?
Sharam Aghamir: Nearly three years after a raid by US soldiers on the Mavi Marmara ship that killed nine activists who were trying to attract the world's attention to the Israeli blockade on Gaza and break that blockade with humanitarian aid, on March 22nd, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to apologize for "operational errors that led to loss of life" during the incident and agreed to complete agreement on compensation for the families of the victims. Act I is March 21st, Ocalan's statement.
Cihan Tugal: Mmm-hmm.
Sharam Aghamir: Act II is Netanyahu's call to Erdogan as President Obama's watching him making this phone call --
Cihan Tugal: Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm.
Sharam Aghamir: So what is Act III? Obviously, there is some sort of a plan laid out that involves the Israelis, the United States and Turkey -- and possibly a fourth actor added to this play which is the Kurdish part. So how is that whole thing going to play out
Cihan Tugal: Of course, these are really major changes. We don't know Act III yet, but I think these two are big enough. So what's happening is all of this talk about Turkey being the major resistance against Israel, Turkey being the leader of the Palestinian cause has now evaporated. And all of this talk about a change of access in Turkey? You know, the western press had also made a big deal of this. A change of access, is Turkey shifting east and it's becoming anti-American? Of course not. That was not happening. This was all very smart game on the part of Erdogan's government to gain more ground in its dealings with Israel and the US. And, at the same time, the attack against Mavi Marmara on Israel's part was not an attack to destroy its relations with Turkey but to compete better with Turkey within an alliance. So the triple alliance has not gone away.
Sharam Aghamir: That's Israel, United States and Turkey?
Cihan Tugal: Yes, exactly. And I've been talking about Turkish tutelage over the Kurds but the real big brother in the room is, no question, the US. So this call has happened, almost completely it seems, as to Mr. Obama's dealings. It seems that he has arranged and overseen the talk. This is the way it is constructed in the Turkish press as well as the Arab press.
Sharam Aghamir: Mmm-hmm.
Cihan Tugal: So it seems this is too much of a coincidence -- this thaw coming at the same time with the peace process with the Kurds. It seems that this is being coordinated internationally. But, of course, these are speculations. We lack the solid proof. But if you look at both anti-government and pro-government journalists in Turkey, this is the way they talk about it. And so from the critical side, the point is obvious if you want to really simplify it: The critical side is saying the US is arranging all of this -- in the very bluntest terms. But even when you look at the pro-government journalists, what they are saying is, "Oh, through these wonderful maneuvers, what is happening is, we are no longer enemies with Israel, we are no longer having problems with the west, so now we can rule the whole region.
Sharam Aghamir: Israeli - Turkey trade had increased by nearly 50% since Turkey severed its diplomatic links with Israel. And there were reports of how Turkish trucks were carrying Turkish products and Turkish commodities because they can no longer go through Syria and Jordan to the Gulf, now what they do is go through the Port of Haifa in Israel and from there they go on to Jordan and then they make their way to the Gulf. It is a volume of, they say, 100 trucks going through that route every day.
Cihan Tugal: Yes, what is really important is that these business ties are not really severable between Israel and Turkey because a big part of the ties is formed by the new conservative big bourgeois in Turkey, one of the solid forces behind the new regime in Turkey. So they would lose a lot -- they would lose a lot of business, a lot of business.
Sharam Aghamir: The economic plan of AKP -- Justice and Development Party -- is essentially following the New Liberal paradigm.
Cihan Tugal: Yeah, they're a free market party. They worked very closely with the IMF [International Money Fund] in the beginning -- but at this point the IMF no longer needs to monitor them. I mean, they trust them so much. They are probably the most neo-liberal party the whole region has ever seen -- not only in terms of their policies, but the public support they get for their policies. So their empowerment also came with the silencing of protests against neo-liberalism in Turkey.
Sharam Aghamir: So one of the things Erdogan's government sees in its favor is the so-called Turkish economic boom. They're promising the same thing for Diyarbakir and Anatolia region -- where the Kurdish population is -- in the event that a peace accord is signed.
Cihan Tugal: Yes, exactly. And there is actually an economic boom and a business boom in northern Iraq. So the point is, 'Well, since your Iraqi brothers are benefiting from it, why wouldn't you?' And the pro-government talk going on in Turkey at this point is that this peace process with the Kurds in Turkey is moving Turkey even closer to northern Iraqi oil. So Turkey's going to have a bigger share of the pie. In terms of overall business, Turkey is big in construction especially in northern Iraq. But it hasn't played its hands very well on oil. And there is now going to be more and more Turkish involvement in southern Kurdistan's oil. I mean, that's the governmental hope.
Sharam Aghamir: So talking about this, sort of, grand US plan for the region as envisioned by the Turkish AKP-led government, a question of Iran and it's role in the region? How is that accommodated in this plan? How is that being dealt with?
Cihan Tugal: Well this is all being done with Iran in mind. So it's not always being explicitly brought up but, as I'm saying, even the pro-ggovernment journalists at their most earnest, they do mention Iran and see this peace process with the Kurds and the thaw with the Israelis a way to further corner Iran in the region. I mean, that --that's the whole plan. But, of course, they don't see this as adding up -- adding up to the ultimate marginalization of Iran. I mean, step-by-step. First of all, Syria is really high on the agenda. So the first set is getting rid of the [Syrian President Bashir al-]Assad regime. So that's the first blow they envision, thanks to this thaw with Israel and the peace with the Kurds.
On the topic of re-routing due to issues in Syria, Meris Lutz (Daily Star) reports, "Deteriorating security in Syria is forcing Lebanese truckers carrying regional exports to abandon the Damascus road altogether, crossing instead through Homs and Iraq before entering Jordan."
Prensa Latina notes, "Syria has requested again that the United Nations include the so-called Al-Nusra Front in its list of terrorist organizations, a request that has been disregarded by the U.N. Security Council and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon." Al-Nusra Front, as noted by Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch), Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) and Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com), this week, includes al Qaeda in Iraq which fought against the US military and was declared a terrorist organization by the US State Dept. Now the US government funds the same group. Still on Syria, Doctors Without Borders notes:
The number of Syrians registering as refugees at the Domeez camp, near the city of Dohuk in the Kurdish region of Iraq, continues to climb, but there are not enough services in the camps to keep pace with the increased demand.
Of late, as many as 1,000 people have been crossing from Syria into this part of Iraq every day.
“We left because of war,” says one woman. “We came from Qamishli. The city is completely besieged. There’s no fuel for heaters, no water, no electricity. The trip was really difficult and long because we went through the mountains. I have five very young children and they all had to walk. We had to go through much suffering to get here but thank god we arrived.”
Domeez camp was established in Dohuk province in April 2012 and was initially designed to host 1,000 families. However, the population in the camp has now risen above 35,000 people. Despite the efforts of local authorities, the camp is stretched to its full capacity, the level of assistance is clearly insufficient, and aid workers are struggling to keep up with the needs of all the residents.
At present, the lack of shelter for newcomers is especially critical. Most of the newly arrived refugees must share tents, blankets, mattresses, and even their food with other families.
On the second half of this week's Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, the show includes a conversation with journalist Henry Norr who expands on his printed critique of NPR. Henry Norr used to work for the San Francisco Chronicle. March 20, 2003, he participated in a protest against the Iraq War (which had just started) and was fired as a result. The paper maintained that he used a sick day for the protest which was wrong and why he was fired. The paper maintained that if he had used a vacation day, it would have been fine. By using a sick day, they claim a record (time card) was falsified. Even they began to see how ridiculous that claim appeared which is why, less than a year later, they reached a settlement with Norr.
On the topic of reporters, Al Tompkins (Poynter) notes this years list of honorees by the Investigative Reporters and Editors includes Carl Prine:
That award went to Carl Prine at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for his project “Rules of Engagement” – an honor that caught the reporter by surprise. Prine said he hadn’t known the work had been entered in a contest, and his goal was never to win an award. In a phone interview, Prine told me his goal was to hold somebody accountable for what happened in a remote Iraqi village on March 6, 2007. That was the day U.S. soldiers shot three unarmed deaf Iraqi boys.
Prine’s search to find out what happened in a cattle field in northern Iraq would lead him on a two-year search. He conducted interviews in five states and eventually made an illegal journey into Iraq. (See one of those interviews here.)
Yesterday the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the budget and took testimony from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, among others. For coverage, see yesterday's snapshot, Ava 's "Shinseki tries to present 134% increase as a gift for women," Wally's "How the VA and DoD waste your tax dollars (Wally)" and Kat's "DAV calls for Congress to reject 'chained CPI'."
In the hearing, the Committee Chair made a statement expressing how continued support for Shinseki was conditional.
Chair Jeff Miller: I'm proud of the efforts this Committee has made to protect VA's resources. But the point of those efforts is to ensure improved benefits and services to America's veterans. And, right now, I'm not seeing improvement in many key areas. I'm seeing the opposite. Mr. Secretary, we need to see results. We need to see the outcomes the Administration promised with the resources Congress provided. The excuses must stop. I have supported you and your leadership up to this point. I believe the Committee and the Congress has provided you with everything you have asked. It's time to deliver.
Yesterday the Washington Post ran a column co-authored by Concerned Veterans for America's Pete Hegseth and US House Rep Duncan Hunter entitled "Time to shake up the dysfunctional VA:"
It is painfully clear that VA leadership is not up to the task. Eric Shinseki is a patriot and an honorable man who has served this country faithfully in and out of uniform. We have the utmost respect for him and his service, but his tenure at the Department of Veterans Affairs has not produced results.
In other spheres, a leader who falters would be swiftly replaced. Can you imagine a battlefield commander failing yet staying in place? We cannot and therefore believe that new leadership at the VA -- from top to bottom, in Washington and across the country -- is necessary.
Lastly, whistle blower Bradley Manning is a political prisoner. Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. Independent.ie adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor." February 28, Bradley stood up and publicly declared he had released the documents and stated, "I felt we were risking so much for people who seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and hatred on both sides. I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists. I wanted the public to know that not everyone living in Iraq were targets to be neutralized."
Today, Media Channel notes:
Since our return, we have sought out the most informative perspectives, provocative critiques, and cogent news relating to the evolution of the worldwide media system with a clear subtext, that system needs more monitoring, dissecting, and dramatic improvement.
In keeping with that MO, we are very pleased to bring you the latest Mediachannel.org interview with the awesome Alexa O’Brien, one of only a handful of journalists covering the trial of Bradley Manning. It is no exaggeration to say that Alexa is responsible for the lion’s share of information we have about what may very well be the most important trial in a generation. Her work is simultaneously a stellar example of great journalism and a glaring indictment of our “established” media institutions.
You can read her reporting at the definitive Alexaobrien.com. Please pay her site a visit, learn about Bradley’s case, send a kind word and/or material support her way, and get involved to the extent that you are able.
Additionally, we have uploaded a TV report from a series I produced titled, Who Rules America. This installment, The Power of the Media, focuses on the unelected elite who rule the corporate media and how they shape how we interpret reality, constrain our civic debates, and manipulate public opinion in the service of narrow interests.
Over the coming weeks we will be posting many more interviews with people who are covering important issues, analyzing the veracity of mainstream content, and imagining the future possibilities of media.
However, the future of Mediachannel.org is totally dependent on your donations, so please consider making a one-time or monthly donation via PayPal or by sending a check to The Global Center, PO Box 677, New York l0035 (Please mark for Mediachannel.org). A big THANK YOU to those of you who have already given, you make our work possible.
iraqi spring mc
the iraq times
national iraqi news agency
all iraq news
daniel j. graeber
trend news agency
the christian science monitor
tom a. peter