Saturday, July 12, 2014

ObamaCare on the rocks?

In "ObamaCare Halbig Court Decision," Hillary Is 44 has added an update which includes:

Update II: Well at least one person agrees with us – Obama’s law professor: There’s a “very high risk” that a federal court is going to gut ObamaCare. How big is Halbig? Big, big, big, says Lawrence Tribe from his feathery perch at Harvard:
Obamacare could take another spin in front of the Supreme Court – with vastly uncertain consequences.
Harvard legal scholar Laurence H. Tribe warned Tuesday of a “very high risk” that a crucial aspect of Obamacare – its government subsidies provision – could fall victim to a major legal challenge being mounted by conservatives. That is why, he also said, that the Supreme Court will almost certainly get “a second bite of the apple” in determining the fate of President Obama’s signature health law, with uncertain consequences.
Tribe, 72, a prominent proponent of the Affordable Care Act – who taught both Obama and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as constitutional law students at Harvard Law School years ago – warned of the ACA’s prospects for surviving intact during an exclusive, hour-long interview in New York with editors of The Fiscal Times. [snip]
“It looks like the panel is quite divided over what to do with what might [have been] an inadvertent error in the legislation or might have been quite deliberate,” Tribe said. “But it’s very specific that only people that go onto a state exchange are eligible for the subsidies. And if that becomes the ultimate holding of the U.S. Supreme Court, where this is likely to end up – that’s going to have massive practical implications for the administrability of Obamacare.”
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Tribe said in discussing the law’s chances should it reach the Supreme Court for yet another critical review. “But I wouldn’t bet the family farm on this coming out in a way that preserves Obamacare.
Tribe, whose new book, Uncertain Justice, takes a deep dive into the Roberts court, said the plaintiffs make a strong argument. The legislative language is clear, he said, that the subsidies apply to exchanges established by states. Yet in drafting the law, Tribe said the administration “assumed that state exchanges would be the norm and federal exchanges would be a marginal, fallback position” – though it didn’t work out that way for a plethora of legal, administrative and political reasons.

ObamaCare is a gift to the insurance industry, not to the people.

Wouldn't that be something if ObamaCare was struck down?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, July 11, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the Kurds take over 2 oil fields, Kurdish Cabinent ministers boycott the Cabinet, a CIA base in the KRG gets some attention, Nouri's War Crimes continue, and much more.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin has never stopped covering Iraq.  The US media withdrawal following the 2008 elections did not include Trudy. She has continued to write columns on Iraq.  Sometimes I agree with her, sometimes I disagree.  But there is no doubting that she cares about Iraq and no doubting that she continues to pay attention to what's happening there.  She has a new column at the San Jose Mercury News entitled "To save Iraq, dump al-Maliki:"

Having ignored Iraq since 2009, the Obama team is now desperately trying to devise a way to prevent its total collapse -- and to roll back the jihadi state newly established on a third of Iraqi territory.
The only slim hope of doing either requires the ouster of the leader whom the United States has backed for nearly a decade, Iraq's paranoid prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki's sectarian Shiite politics have driven Iraq's Sunnis -- a fifth of the country's population -- into the arms of the Islamic State movement (known as ISIS). This jihadi group recently seized control of the country's second-largest city, Mosul, and declared a "caliphate" spanning western Iraq and eastern Syria.

Clearly, I agree with her that thug Nouri needs to go.  Normally, I'd agree with her that they ignored Iraq.  But after calls from State Dept friends and a White House friend today, I'm not sure if they ignore or they just don't grasp.

Today, the White House was in a panic and wanted the State Dept to explain why Brett McGurk -- who's been in Iraq taking various meetings -- had not been passing on what was going on with the Kurds.

The White House was genuinely shocked that the Kurds do not come running when the US snaps its fingers or whistles.  The Kurds -- shocking -- are acting like people who can make up their own minds. Leadership will meet with US officials and have pleasant conversations with the US officials but they will determine what they will do.

Self-determination in the Kurdistan!!!!

It's so shocking to the White House.

The White House friend doesn't read the site but hears enough about it to regularly complain.  The State Dept friends do read it.

So this is where I'm confused.  Trudy Rubin says the administration has ignored Iraq and I've stated that myself.  But since 2012, we've been noting that KRG President Massoud Barzani was a leader on the world stage, that he had become more prominent than Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (also a Kurd) and that, unlike Jalal, Massoud doesn't have a collapsible spine.  He can and will stand up for something he believes in.

We've made some pretty solid calls on the KRG.  We noted, ahead of the elections last fall in the KRG, that the PUK would probably do poorly and that Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, First Lady of Iraq (wife of Jalal) would be held accountable if that happened.  And it did happen and she was.  We noted that video was needed of Jalal if the PUK was not going to lose big in the April 30th election and, sure enough, the PUK put out a video of Jalal just in time for voting.

Let's back up.  December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

Photos like this were released twice.


Both sets were showing Jalal's right side.  Both sets didn't appear to show Jalal connecting with anyone (even in photos where people were around him).  He looked posed.  Social media made jokes about the film Weekend At Bernie's (Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman's characters manipulate Bernie's corpse throughout the film to make it appear Bernie is alive).

Ahead of the September KRG provincial elections, PUK party officials attempted to schedule a meet-up (in Germany) with Jalal.  The Talabani family would not allow it.  It is said the Talabani family demanded Jalal's photos appear on campaign material for those elections.  (It is also said that Hero did not make that request.)  The two dominant parties in the KRG forever had been Barazani's KDP and Talabani's PUK.  But in September, while the KDP remained dominant, the PUK found themselves surpassed by Goran.

The distant third place showing and anger that has been building meant that Hero was asked to (and did) resign as the leader of the PUK.

In the last years, before his stroke, Jalal has been a study in weakness.  He's been a joke.  He would, for example, thunder against the death penalty.  That's fine.  But he is required, as president of Iraq, to sign off on all executions.

So he would thunder he was against the death penalty (which put him at odds with most Iraqis who favor the death penalty) and then just slide the forms needing signatures over to one of his vice presidents who would sign them.

All his bluster and words were meaningless.

He never stopped one execution.  And, as he repeatedly represented himself as someone opposed to the death penalty in one interview after another, Iraqis were left with the impression that Jalal was a fake ass.

Jalal became an object of public ridicule.  His stroke actually saved him from some of the scorn he'd earned.  That's not a surprise to us.  We've talked about it here repeatedly, in real time, as it happened, including when he betrayed the Sunnis, other Kurds and some Shi'ites by 'creating' powers for himself that he didn't have so that he could refuse to forward the petition for a no-confidence vote (on Nouri) to the Parliament.

All of this and so much more the administration was vaguely aware of.  They just lacked the ability to synthesize it into a coherent view of what was taking place and so they were taken by surprise to how the Kurds responded to Nouri's malicious charges that they were aiding or in bed with terrorists.

Mohammed A. Salih (Christian Science Monitor) reports,  "Iraqi Kurdistan careened closer to independence today, with Kurdish forces advancing outside Kirkuk, which they seized last month, to seize two major Iraqi oil fields." Raheem Salman and Mustafa Mahmoud (Reuters) add "Kurdish politicians formally suspended their participation in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government.
[. . .] The Kurdish forces took over production facilities at the Bai Hassan and Kirkuk oilfields near the city of Kirkuk, the oil ministry in Baghdad said."  NINA notes the Bai Hassan oil field "produces about 195,000 barrels per day."

On the issue of the Kurds walking out of the Cabinet, Al Jazeera notes:

Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, said on Friday that Kurdish politicians would stop running their ministries, a day after they had announced a boycott of cabinet meetings.
The ministries affected include Zebari's foreign ministry, the trade ministry, the ministry of migration, the health ministry and the deputy premiership, the Reuters news agency reported.
Kurdish MPs would continue to attend the parliament, elected on April 30, Zebari said, adding the country risked falling apart if an inclusive government was not formed.

BBC News reminds the seizure and the walkout follows an earlier action, "They did so after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki accused the Kurds of harbouring extremists."
 Nabih Bulos (Los Angeles Times) also provides context, "The always-fraught relationship between the two sides escalated sharply when Maliki on Wednesday accused the Kurdish leadership of harboring Sunni Arab insurgents dominating large swaths of the country's northern and central provinces. The Sunni rebellion prompted Kurdish forces to occupy large tracts of Iraqi territory, including the oil-hub northern city of Kirkuk."

The Kurdistan Regional Government issued the following statement in response to Nouri's charges of terrorism:

Salahaddin, Kurdistan ( – The Spokesperson of the Kurdistan Region Presidency responded to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s accusation against the KRG.
“He [Nouri al-Maliki] has become hysterical and has lost his balance. He is doing everything he can to justify his failures and put the blame on others for these failures,” read the statement.
The Spokesperson added that Erbil, which Maliki has accused of harboring terrorists, has always been a refuge for the oppressed, including Nouri al-Maliki himself.
“Kurdistan is proud of the fact that Erbil has always served as refuge for oppressed people, including yourself when you fled the former dictatorship. Now Erbil is a refuge for people fleeing from your dictatorship. ISIS and other groups have no place in Erbil, they stay with you. It was you who gave Iraqi land and the assets of six army divisions to ISIS.”
The statement demanded that the Prime Minister apologize to the Iraqi people and step down. “You must apologize to the Iraqi people and step down. You have destroyed the country and someone who has destroyed the country cannot save the country from crises.”

As for the two oil fields?  The KRG issued the following statement on today's events:

Erbil, Kurdistan Region ( - This morning, members of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Kirkuk Oil Protection Forces moved to secure the oil fields of Bai Hassan and the Makhmour area, after learning of orders by officials in the federal Ministry of Oil in Baghdad to sabotage the recent mutually-agreed pipeline infrastructure linking the Avana dome with the Khurmala field.
The nearby Bai Hassan field and the other fields located in Makhmour district are now safely under KRG management. The KRG expects production at these fields to continue normally. Staff at the North Oil Company that previously operated these fields have been informed that from tomorrow they will be expected to cooperate with KRG management. Those who do not want to do so can leave.
The new pipeline linking Khurmala with Avana was designed and constructed with the express purpose of facilitating export from the Makhmour, Avana and Kirkuk area fields through the KRG pipeline network to help increase revenues for Iraqis, at a time of great need and at a time when most of the Iraq-Turkey pipeline is under ISIS control.
The new infrastructure was built and paid for by the KRG, working in full cooperation with officials and engineers at North Oil Company. However, the KRG learned on Thursday that some officials in the federal Ministry of Oil gave orders to a number of NOC staff to cease their cooperation with the KRG and to dismantle or render inoperable the valves on the new pipeline.
The Avana and Makhmour fields have been unable to export since March because the main Iraq-Turkey pipeline has been damaged by terrorist attacks. The main Iraq pipeline lies mostly within territory recently surrendered by the federal government to ISIS.
Despite the inability to export and the halt to refining at Beiji, the Avana and Makhmour fields were producing about 110,000 barrels of oil per day and utilising the associated gas to help with the operation of the LPG bottling plant in Kirkuk.
But instead of using the new KRG pipeline infrastructure to export the produced oil, officials at the NOC were ordered by Baghdad to re-inject the oil back into a small, disused field in Kirkuk. This politically motivated decision risked causing great damage to the field in question with a permanent loss of most of the oil that has been re-injected. It has also deprived the people of Iraq of much-needed oil export revenue.
From now on, production at the new fields under KRG control will be used primarily to fill the shortage of refined products in the domestic market. This will ease the burden on ordinary citizens caused by the failure of the federal authorities to protect the country's vital oil infrastructure in the region.
The KRG will also claim its Constitutional share of oil revenues derived from these fields to make up for the huge financial deficit triggered by the illegal withholding of the KRG’s 17 percent share of the federal budget by Baghdad.
The KRG has been and always will be open to cooperation and coordination with Baghdad, according to the rights and responsibilities of the Regions as outlined under the Iraqi Constitution. The KRG still hopes that Baghdad climbs down from its policy of punitive political and economic sanctions against the citizens of Kurdistan.
This morning’s events have shown that the KRG is determined to protect and defend Iraq’s oil infrastructure whenever it is threatened by acts of terrorism or, as in this case, politically motivated sabotage.

EFE notes Iraq's Ministry of Oil released a statement declaring, ""(T)his irresponsible behavior ... violates the constitution and the national wealth, and disregards the federal authorities and threatens national unity."

One immediate effect?  Iraq no longer has a Foreign Minister.  Hamdi Alkhashali and Michael Martinez (CNN) report:

In a possible portent of growing factional conflict, a leading Kurdish minister was removed from Iraq's government, and the Kurdish semi-autonomous government took over two oilfields in the north, officials said Friday.
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the face of Iraqi diplomacy for a more than a decade, was removed Friday by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, two senior Iraqi government officials said.

There are reports that Nouri's replaced Zebari.

No, he really hasn't and can't.  Were he to nominate someone -- questionable with Iraq's caretaker state currently -- that person couldn't be confirmed because that requires the Parliament.

Now he did something similar in a previous time when a government hadn't yet formed.  When he did that before, he took someone already confirmed by Parliament to the Cabinet and just taxed that person with additional duties and an additional office.

Deputy Prime Minister Hussain Shahristani has never been confirmed to head a Ministry so it's a stretch to call him "acting" or "interim" anything.  You can call him "illegal" or "unconstitutional."  But that's about it.

The news that Kurds were not robots who awaited US command shook the administration up so badly there was no State Dept press briefing.  However, the State Dept did issue a follow up on Wednesday that we'll note now.

Rewards for Justice: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Taken Question
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 9, 2014
Question: Is there a Rewards for Justice offer for information on Al Baghdadi?

Answer: Yes. Since October 2011 the Rewards for Justice program has advertised on its web site ( a reward offer of up to $10 million for information leading to the location, arrest, or conviction of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Al-Baghdadi also is known as Abu Du’a.
This RFJ reward offer remains active and is currently posted on the RFJ website at


We're not chasing down all the nonsense.  We've been around long enough to remember all the false cries of 'we got him!' by the Bully Boy Bush administration.  There are various leaders of various wings of the elements fighting the occupation government in Iraq.  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of the Islamic State (like AFP, we'll refer to it here as "IS" unless we're quoting someone).

And the main reason we're noting the State Dept statement above is because a Mother Jones friend asked/demanded that Jeanna McLaughlin's "Was Iraq's Top Terrorist Radicalized at a US-Run Prison?" McLaughlin's article is about al-Bagdadi

James Skylar Gerrond, a former US Air Force security forces officer and a compound commander at Camp Bucca in 2006 and 2007, says that he believes Baghdadi's stay at the prison contributed to his radicalization—or at least bolstered his extremism. After Baghdadi proclaimed the Islamic State a new nation and himself its leader, Gerrond tweeted, "Many of us at Camp Bucca were concerned that instead of just holding detainees, we had created a pressure cooker for extremism." Gerrond is now a civilian working for the Department of Defense.
"Like many Iraq vets, I've been following the situation with ISIS for the last several weeks and trying to understand why things are falling apart so badly in the region," Gerrond tells Mother Jones in an email. "When some of Baghdadi's personal history started to come out, such as the fact that he was detained at Camp Bucca around the same time I was deployed there, I started to reflect on my deployment and what the conditions were at the facility during that time."

Meanwhile Nouri wants lethal US drones over Iraq.  Barack's given him that -- although not control of them.  Barack thinks that somehow leaves him in control.  Patrick Cockburn (Independent) weighs in:

The US is pleased with the way drones have worked in Yemen and Waziristan against small groups of Al Qaeda-associated groups. But these isolated gangs are not a serious threat compared with what is brewing in Syria and Iraq, where there will soon be tens of thousands of trained, well-equipped and fanatical militants under a strong central command.

But there is one important aspect of drone warfare to which Washington has not given enough attention. Drones have hitherto been used largely against ill-equipped tribes people in isolated parts of the world and not against well-organised groups such as Isis.  The latter may not be able to do much against drones at the moment they strike, but it will certainly retaliate later against American or European targets. 

On the drones, Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

A supposedly secret but locally well-known CIA station on the outskirts of Irbil’s airport is undergoing rapid expansion as the United States considers its options in Iraq, where Sunni militants have seized control in many regions.
Western contractors hired to expand the facility and a local intelligence official confirmed the construction project, which is visible from the main highway linking Erbil to Mosul, the city whose fall June 10 triggered the Islamic State’s sweep through northern and central Iraq. Residents around the airport say they can hear daily what they suspect are U.S. drones taking off and landing at the facility.

Now Patrick Cockburn's not the only one questioning the 'wisdom' of Barack's 'plan.'  Mary E. O'Leary (New Haven Register) interviews Senator Chris Murphy and reports:

Murphy said the civil war raging in Syria and Iraq has no respect for the boudaries that were put together by, “as someone said smarter than me, ‘drawn by diplomats after World War I who were lying to each other.’”

He said on the one hand, the U.S. has cast its lot “with a Shiite-Iranian proxy leader (Nouri al-Maliki) fighting a Sunni insurgency. On the other side of the conflict, we have cast our lot with a Sunni insurgency fighting against a Shiite-Iranian proxy leader. We are literally on both sides of the same fight right now.”

As the US continues to (at the very least) indulge tyrant Nouri al-Maliki, Nouri continues his War Crime of collective punishment by bombing the residential neighborhoods of Falluja resulting in 4 dead civilians and seven more injured.  That's today.  For a look at the bigger numbers, let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot:

On the topic of tyrant Nouri, NINA reports Falluja General Hospital released numbers today on the dead and injured from Nouri's bombings of Falluja's residential neighborhoods (which is legally defined as a War Crime).  Since January 1st, Nouri has killed 542 civilians in Falluja and injured 1880 more.
Yet, Nouri keeps getting more bombs and missiles from the US government -- in violation of treaties, laws and the Leahy Amendment.
After the hospital's announcement, another of Nouri's bombings killed 3 civilians in Falluja and left four more injured.

Al Mada reports that Nouri's bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja is increasing -- to the point that people are having to bury their loved ones (killed by these bombings) in local parks, public squares or keep the remains in their freezer while they wait for some form of security or peace to return.

When that will happen, no one knows.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Jurfis-Sakhar battle left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and three more injured, security forces say they killed 4 suspects in an aerial bombing of Muqdadiyah, an Iraqi aerial bombing of Jurfist-Sakhar killed 20 suspects, and a Kirkuk suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of 3 Peshmerga.  AFP notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing and suicide car bombing left 28 people dead and twenty-five more injured. This as Margaret Griffis ( explains, "Human Rights Watch reported that Iraqi forces and Shi’ite militias killed at least 255 Sunni prisoners last month and considers the executions a war crime or possibly a crime against humanity. The group collected evidence from five prisons massacres in the Mosul area, but the government said the allegations were inaccurate. However, there is evidence that Iraq has been killing prisoners in other regions, such as in Hashimiya and in Baquba during the same time period."

Moving over to veterans issues, yesterday's snapshot noted a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following press release regarding the hearing:

 Mother of Marine Who Died By Suicide Takes Fight To Washington

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or

Mother of Marine Who Died By Suicide Takes Fight To Washington 
Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt, testifies before Congress, stands with IAVA, HVAC Chairman Miller to introduce The Clay Hunt SAV Act

WASHINGTON, DC (July 10, 2014) – Susan Selke, mother of Marine veteran Clay Hunt who died by suicide in 2011, today will stand with members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Congressional leaders from both parties, and House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) as he introduces a suicide prevention bill that is named after her late son. This morning, Susan testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee alongside other families, sharing her gut-wrenching story of losing her son to suicide three years ago. As a shocking 22 veterans die each day to suicide, and failures at the VA continue to emerge, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention For American Veterans Act (Clay Hunt SAV Act), is historic legislation that addresses veteran suicide and improves access to quality mental health care. 
“Had legislation like this existed years ago I believe Clay would be here with us today,” said Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt. “All veterans, but especially those struggling with invisible injuries, should not have to go through red tape to get the mental health care they need and very much deserve. They should not have to jump through hoops to get an appointment, or see a doctor. I’m here in Washington because I don’t want any mother, father, sister, brother or friend to have to experience another suicide. Our country is at a crossroads right now as 22 veterans die by suicide each day, at a time when more of our servicemembers are returning home. We need an urgent solution to this emergency and this bill is the first step. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle must get behind our veterans and pass this bill.” 
Susan’s powerful testimony was carried live on C-SPAN3 and can be found in written form here.
“Clay was a friend, leader and patriot. And we’re all here today to honor his memory by carrying on his urgent fight for better care for veterans. Clay led this fight with IAVA in Washington years ago, and his mother is here now to finish it. Susan is a true hero. And IAVA members from across America are here today to have her back. Susan’s courage and determination should inspire all Americans to action,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “We salute Chairman Miller for his strong leadership today and throughout the last few years. He has listened to IAVA members and made suicide a top priority. We also salute Congressman Tim Walz. As a vet himself, he’s always stood by IAVA’s veterans.” 
Rieckhoff continued, “The Clay Hunt SAV Act will change thousands of lives for the better by providing access to top-quality mental health care. We thank the Chairman for his courageous leadership in addressing this issue. With work days on the Congressional calendar dwindling, we urge Congress to move swiftly to pass this legislation before August recess. Taking this step to reverse the suicide trend among our veterans should be a priority, not a political fight. Congress must pass this bill as soon as possible. Our veterans cannot afford to wait for summer recesses and election campaigns. They deserve action now.”
Rieckhoff added: “Combating suicide remains IAVA’s top issue in 2014 as 22 veterans die by suicide a day. In IAVA’s 2014 Member Survey, 47% of respondents said they know at least one Iraq or Afghanistan vet who has attempted suicide, and 40% of respondents know a veteran that has died by suicide. The men and women who served our country and protected us abroad now need our help back home. IAVA has answered the call, and we urge more lawmakers to join us. We also call on the President to respond to this issue. Despite months of the VA scandal, and repeated requests, he has still not met with IAVA and leading veterans groups or answered our calls for an executive order on veterans suicide. It’s time for the Commander in Chief to step up and show our veterans he is serious about our issues.”
“The key to curbing the epidemic of veteran suicides is improving the accessibility and effectiveness of mental health care available to our returning heroes,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Over the past seven years, VA's mental health care staff and budget have grown by nearly 40 percent, but the fact remains, veterans are still committing suicide at a frightening pace. This slow-motion national tragedy is likely to continue as long as the Department of Veterans Affairs sticks to its normal, business-as-usual approach of treating veterans where and how VA wants as opposed to where and how veterans want. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act will help create a greater accounting of available services and an enhanced  community approach to delivering veterans suicide prevention and mental health care treatment, which is why I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.”
“One veteran lost to suicide is one too many,” said Rep. Tim Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress. “While the wars overseas may be ending, all too often our heroes return only to face a war of their own at home. While there is no bill that will completely end veteran suicide, this comprehensive, bipartisan measure is a step in the right direction. I’m proud to have worked with Chairman Miller, Rep. Duckworth, a combat veteran herself, and the veteran advocates at IAVA to introduce this bipartisan, important legislation.”
The Clay Hunt SAV Act:
Increases Access to Mental Health Care: 
Amends the requirements for reviewing the discharge characterizations of individuals diagnosed with PTSD or TBI.
Requires a centralized website of all of the mental health care services available within each Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) which will be updated at least every 90 days. 
Increases Capacity to Meet the Demand for Mental Health Care: 
Authorizes the VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists. 
Requires the DoD and National Guard to review the staffing requirements for Directors of Psychological Health in each state.  
Improves the Quality of Care for Troops and Veterans: 
Requires a yearly evaluation, conducted by a third party, of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the DoD and VA.
Provides Continuous, Seamless Care to Troops and Veterans: 
Establishes a strategic relationship between the VA and the National Guard to facilitate a greater continuity of care between the National Guard and the VA. 
Authorizes a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the transition of care for PTSD and TBI between the DoD and the VA.  
Develops Community Support for Veterans: 
Establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers with accessing VA mental health care services. 
The Campaign to Combat Suicide was designed to raise public awareness of the suicide crisis, demand Congressional action and a Presidential Executive Order to start to reverse the suicide trend.
As part of its Campaign to Combat Suicide, all year long IAVA will activate every element of its membership, programs and partners – both on-the-ground and online. IAVA will incorporate this effort into everything we do from our monthly VetTogethers to our over 500,000-person strong social media community. We will empower our almost 300,000 members and supporters to serve as a ground force for outreach, support and advocacy. And we will travel the country, turning public attention to the issue of veteran suicide and promoting solutions.
A press event will be held at the House Triangle at 2:30 pm. 
Note to media: Email and call 212-982-9699 for requests to interview IAVA leadership.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.

Emmy nominations were announced Thursday.  It became the topic for theme posts.  Cedric's "He was almost Emmy nominated" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! HE WANTS TO GO HOLLYWOOD!" (joint-post) dealt with a nominated short, Marcia's "The Emmy f**k up -- an Academy Award nominee can't also be an Emmy nominee" dealt with a film already nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary now wrongly nominated for an Emmy, Ruth covered nonfiction in "Cosmos is the best nonfiction series," Isaiah covered animated TV show with "The Second Run (and why Bob's Burgers should win)," Kat noted the importance of sound and visuals in "Emmy category that shouldn't be overlooked," Ann noted that only one African-American (Jackee) has ever won the best supporting actress (comedy) Emmy and that there's no person of color nominated this year "How White Was My Emmys," Ann noted she was building on Betty's "Where are the women of color in comedy?," Mike survedy the tired best actor comedy nominees and then focused on the supporting actors with "Where's Andy Samberg?," Rebecca looked at best guest star in a drama with "5 worthy nominees ... and jane fonda," Trina focused on the non-comedy in the nominees for best comedy in "Emmy nominees for Outstanding Comedy" and Stan focused on best actress in a drama with "Give the Emmy to Kerry" Washington for her performance on Scandal.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Where are the women of color in comedy?

The Emmy nominations were announced and my big question is where are the women of color in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories?

Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black

Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Allison Janney, Mom
Kate Mulgrew, Orange Is the New Black
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Anna Chlumsky, Veep

Not one of the 12 women listed is a woman of color.

Edie Falco?

Even she's admitted she's in the wrong category.  Lena Dunham can't act.

The most notable oversight is Sofia Vergara.  There is no "Modern Family" without her.  But she was overlooked.

So was Retta who plays Donna on "Parks and Recreations."  So was Toks Olagundoye ("The Neighbors"). So was Mindy Kalig from "The Mindy Project."  So was Xosha Kai Roquemore ("The Mindy Project").  So was Melissa Fumero ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine").   So was Hannah Simone ("New Girl").  So was Cecily Strong ("Saturday Night Live").  So was Niecy Nash ("Getting On").

What an insult to the women of color -- not one got nominated -- 12 women and not one was a woman of color.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, July 10, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, The NewsHour covers for Nouri, assessments by US 'advisors' in Iraq should be done shortly, Nancy Pelosi brags about how and why she made sure Bully Boy Bush didn't get impeached, the House Veterans Affairs Committee hears from parents whose children took their own lives after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and much more.

Iraq was noted at today's US State Dept press briefing by spokesperson Jen Psaki.

US House Rep Krysten Sinema:  Thank you, Mr. Miller and Mr. Michaud for allowing me to participate in today's hearing.  And special thanks to my colleague from Arizona Ms. [US House Rep Ann] Kirkpatrick who represents our state's veterans so well on this Committee.  I want to thank all of today's panelists for joining us.  In particular, thank you to Daniel's parents Howard and Jean for being here.  We've worked together quite closely since learning of Daniel's suicide.  And it is an honor and a privilege to be with you here today.  Unfortunately, Daniel's story and the story of the other young man who committed suicide is just all too familiar in our country.  And 22 veterans a day are still committing suicide even after we have heard the tragedies of the young men who lost their lives here and their brothers all across the country.  And, as we heard from Mr.[US House Rep Tim] Walz, Congress has addressed this issue before, has passed legislation before, has said they were going to fix it before and yet the problem has not only not gotten better, it's gotten worse.  I have heard a lot of testimony today about ideas to actually reform the system and make it better.  The Hippa  issue is one I think the Committee would agree needs to be addressed.  I am particularly interested in the pilot program that Sgt [Josh] Renschler participated in.  And my question, to Dr. and Jean Somers, would be about Daniel.  Daniel's experience at the Phoenix VA -- like many, many veterans' experience at the Phoenix VA -- was one of lack of concern, lack of care, lack of follow through and a discombobulated system that didn't allow veterans to receive the care they needed.  In particular, one of the struggles Daniel faced was as an individual who had served in classified service.  He was unable to participate in group therapy because he was not able to share the experiences he experienced while in service.  And yet, at the Phoenix VA, he was unceremoniously put in group therapy and when [he] requested private therapy was not able to get that care.  And of course as we know he took his own life as a result of being unable to get that care.  One medical home model, I believe, in the private  community, has provided an opportunity to create patient-centered care and allow civilians to get the care they need in one home easily that's centered directly on their needs.  While the pilot program in Washington was ended because of -- Well I don't understand why.  They say they really didn't have enough money for it which I think is outrageous -- horrible, horrible reason to stop providing care that we knew was effective.  My question for Dr. and Jean Somers is do you believe a medical home model would work or could be helpful to veterans like Daniel?  We know that many of our post-9/11 veterans face co-occurring disorders --  PTS, TBI, anxiety, depression, physical maladies.  Would a medical home model have been a model that may have worked better for Daniel than what he faced?  

Jean Somers: Absolutely.  As Daniel's irritable bowel syndrome worsened, he didn't feel he could physically leave the house.  I can't imagine that embarrassment.  [Long pause.]  And then, as Howard mentioned, at the time, Phoenix had the speed traps set up on the major highway to get from his home to the Phoenix VA.  So he had to actually find a way to get off the highway so that the flashing lights would not effect him.  So absolutely, I can see that it would have been very helpful to him just to have the privacy capability. 

Dr. Howard Somers:  I-I completely agree.  I think that not only the medical home model but what we talked about -- the ability within the facility for the different people because of his IBS and his TBI and his PTSD.  You're being treated, as we learned here, the term is in "silos."  And what you have to do is get out of the silos and you have to combine resources, combine knowledge.  And we have heard of programs such as was mentioned that are very successful and  that people can have problems and, for whatever reasons, you have an optometrist or an ophthalmologist in there and they say, 'Well, it sounds like it's not this but this.'  And it's something you might not have thought of.  So the medical home model, the ability to create these panels of care, I think anything like that would be overwhelmingly positive.  

US House Rep Krysten Sinema:  Thank you. And, Mr. Chair, while Mr. [US House Rep Dan] Benishek has already left, I do want to take a moment to thank him for co-sponsoring legislation [H.R. 3387: Classified Veterans Access to Care Act] that we drafter with the Somers to address the issue specifically of service members who have served in classified settings and who need appropriate care when they return to the VA.  And I want to thank the Committee and the Subcomittee for supporting just a part of the solution to this issue.

That was from today's House Veterans Affairs Committee.  US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Committee Chair and US House Rep Mike Michaud is the Ranking Member.  The Phoenix VA is, of course, only one part of the national scandal in the VA's failure to provide timely and needed to care to veterans who have been left to suffer.

Chair Jeff Miller:  Following a Committee investigation which uncovered widespread data manipulation and accompanying patient harm at the Dept of Veterans Affairs' medical facilities all across this nation, this Committee has held a series of full Committee oversight hearings  over the last several weeks to evaluate the systemic access and integrity failures that have consumed the VA health care system.  Perhaps none of these hearings have presented the all too human face of VA's failures so much as today's hearing will in fact do.

Jean and Dr. Howard Somer are the parents of the late Daniel Somers, an Iraq War veteran who took his own life following his facing multiple obstacles while he attempted to receive care.  His parents, in their opening statement, cataloged some of these obstacles:

A1.    At the start, Daniel was turned away from the VA due to his National Guard Inactive Ready Reserve status.
A2.    Upon initially accessing the VA system, he was, essentially, denied therapy. 
A3.    He had innumerable problems with VA staff being uncaring, insensitive and adversarial.  Literally no one at the facility advocated for him. 
A4.    Administrators frequently cited HIPAA as the reason for not involving family members and for not being able to use modern technology.
B1.    The VA’s appointment system known as VISTA is at best inadequate. It impedes access and lacks basic documentation.
B2.    The VA information technology infrastructure is antiquated and prevents related agencies from sharing critical information.  There is a desperate need for compatibility between computer systems within the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration, and the DOD. 
B3.    Continuity of care was not a priority.  There was no succession planning, no procedures in place for “warm handoffs”; no contracts in place for locum tenems; and a fierce refusal to outsource anyone or anything.
B4.    At the time Daniel was at the Phoenix VA, there was no pain management clinic to help him with his chronic and acute fibromyalgia pain.
B5.    There were few coordinated inter-Agency goals, policies and procedures.  The fact that the formularies of the DOD and VA are separate and different makes no sense since many DOD patients who are stabilized on a particular medication regimen must re-justify their needs when they transfer to the VA.

B6.    There were inadequate facilities and an inefficient charting process.

His parents were on the first panel along with the parents of Clay Hunt -- Susan and Richard Selke -- and the mother of Brian Portwine -- Peggy Portwine -- and retired Sgt Josh Renschler.

Clay Hunt was an Iraq War veteran and an Afghanistan War veteran, a member of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  He took his own life following a move to Houston where he was unable to get the prescription for his Post-Traumatic Stress and was told he'd have to wait two months to see a psychiatrist.  Committee Chair Jeff Miller's suicide bill is named in the memory of Clay Hunt.

Brian Portwine was an Iraq War veteran.  His mother Peggy Portwine explained that Brian's first deployment to Iraq found his unit patrolling Haifa Street in Baghdad and that 8 of his fellow service members would die during this deployment.  He survived a 2006 RPG attack.

Peggy Portwine: Brian suffered a blast concussion and had lacerations to his face and legs from shrapnel. This was Brian’s first episode of Traumatic Brain Injury. During another mission Brian and his 1st Sgt were on patrol in a Humvee and had switched seats so Brian was now in the passenger seat. Twenty minutes later an IED hit the Humvee and his 1st Sgt was killed and Brian was thrown from the Humvee and injured his back. Besides these two  incidents Brian was involved in five other IEDs during his 15 month deployment.  After coming home after his 1st deployment Brian had trouble with short term memory. When his friends were going somewhere he would often say "Where are we going again?  You know I have scrambled brains." To help cope with this he would post everything he had to do on his calendar or computer. In 2010 Brian was recalled to the Army and deploying from Fort Shelby, Miss. During this deployment Brian did not email or call home or to his friends. Little did we know how he was struggling with PTSD and TBI. He had panic attacks being on the same roads he had traveled on the 1st tour where IEDs went off often. He had nightmares 3 x a week and would wake up his unit and someone would have to wake him up. He suffered with anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor concentration, and hypervigilance. But he was never sent home.

Peggy Portwine noted Rose Kennedy [mother of President John F. Kenney, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy -- among others] once stated that "time heals all wounds."  Peggy Portwine declared, "I disagree.  The wounds remain.  In time, the mind -- to protect its sanity -- covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.  But it is never gone."

She would like to see S. 2182: Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (introduced by Senator John Walsh) passed.

Sgt Josh Renschler is an Iraq War veteran.  He served in the military for almost six years. He was medically retired from injuries he sustained in Iraq   He did not receive treatment, he received drugs from the VA to mask the pain, not to help make him healthier.  His doses of Percocet were repeatedly increased until his tolerance for the drug was so strong that they had to switch him to methadone. He was placed on a cocktail of over 13 drugs ingested daily.  Among his many pains, there were pains resulting from nerve damage -- something his VA physical therapist (or 'therapist') had not considered or raised but would be discovered in an MRI.  Renschler has suffered a liver scare and remains in intense pain.  Acupuncture was thought to be a possibly viable treatment for relief from some of the pain, however, it would require him to travel one hour to treatment and one hour back which would defeat any relief he might experience as a result of the treatment.

On the topic of alternative treatments, let's note this exchange from the hearing.

US House Rep David Jolly:  You've raised concern about personalized care and it would seem to me that's clearly lacking.  I don't know what your impressions would be -- if you could speak to that.  And also, simply whether or not alternative therapies have ever -- your sons had that discussed perhaps, or Sgt, in your counseling, the ability to get alternative therapy?  And I say that based on a personal experience as well.  At VA Intake Day, I had a man in my office who said, "Equine therapy works." Well that was good enough for me. But it wasn't good enough for the VA.  So can you speak to any discussions about alternative therapies?  Availability of?  Your opinions to that?  

Sgt Josh Renschler:  Yes, sir.  So again, within the VA medical center, they-they had at one time available to poly-trauma, those who suffered from comorbid conditions, we were able to access recreational therapy and I was put on a six month waiting list.  And when the six months came up, they lost the recreational therapist. That was my only experience there.  Never had a chance to engage in that because I was downgraded from poly-trauma care when the VA determined that my Traumatic Brain Injury had reached a plateau of recovery and it probably would not get better.  That's a completely separate hearing day but as far as the efficacy of alternative therapies, we could -- Again, it really helps and the VA --

US House Rep David Jolly:  The availability? 

Sgt Josh Renschler:  The availability is not there through VA channels.  It's private community is where you have to go. 

US House Rep David Jolly: Doctor and Ms. Somers, do you?

Jean Somers: Yeah, yeah.  I would agree with that.  Daniel himself was a musician so it was easy for him.  He got a piano and a guitar and that was his therapy.  But I would totally agree with that.  At the San Diego VA, I know that they have pottery classes which we were thrilled to hear about and a guitar program.

Dr. Howard Somers: And-and when you talk about evidence-based, it's certainly not just medications.  I mean there are in the psychological treatments that are out there but they are only using two of them when  there are so many potentials out there.  And the other thing that we had mentioned was the MDMA Ecstacy and LSD for pain -- the MDMA for PTSD and the LSD for pain.  Because of our national phobias against these particular chemicals, we're making it very difficult to do trials with these, uh, potential-potential benefits. 

There were three panels. The above is only regarding the first panel and it's not even a real sample because, as Chair Miller noted at the end of it, the first panel had gone on for over three hours.  Just the first panel.  I would love to return to this hearing in tomorrow's snapshot.  That will be dependent upon events going on in Iraq.

Chair Miller noted a veteran shared a story with him about being in need of medical attention and visiting the VA for it.  The veteran was told he could get an appointment in six months.  But, the veteran was informed, if he were to say right now that he was thinking of killing himself, he could get an appointment much sooner,  "three months instead of six."

That story is appalling on so many levels including that if every veteran used it the ones who were seriously considering taking their own lives would be waiting the same length of time as those who were not.  But the thing that appalled me the most is a veteran is told it will be six months for an appointment.  That's unacceptable. If VA can't do better than that, you schedule an appointment with an outside provider -- VA schedules and VA pays, to be clear.  But what adds another layer of sadness to this is the fact that if you are thinking of killing yourself, you still wait three months.  Three months for help.  The whole thing is disgusting.

Ranking Member Mike Michaud:  I know that speaking about the loss of a loved one -- particularly a child  -- can be an incredibly difficult and exhausting experience.  But, in this case, I think we have to listen to their stories, identify what went wrong, and we can take action to ensure those failures aren't repeated again. So I want to thank you very, very much for joining us today and sharing your stories. Eighteen to 22 veterans commit suicide each day. In my opinion, that is 18 to 22 brave men and women each day who our system has let down in some capacity.  It is a totally unacceptable.

Moving over to Iraq which was noted at today's US State Dept press briefing by spokesperson Jen Psaki.

QUESTION: I want to go to Iraq if I can.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: ISIS recently said that it has acquired a chemical weapons facility and 2,500 degraded weapons. Does the State Department have a comment on that, and what is the potential fallout over acquiring those weapons and this chemical facility?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I do have something on this. Give me one moment.
Well, first, let me note that there was a copy of a letter – and I know you’re aware of this, but just so everybody is aware – of a letter that the Iraqi permanent representative to the United Nations sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon which was circulated yesterday to members of the Security Council, which outlined this. The purpose of the letter was to notify the international community of the seizure of University of Mosul facilities containing nuclear materials in June and to request international assistance.
In typical fashion, these requests are sent just directly to the IAEA and they look into them. And that is, of course, the natural process at this point. I would point you to the comments and the statement made by the IAEA today, that they believe the material involved to be low-grade and not presenting a significant safety, security, or nuclear proliferation risk. Of course, they’re the appropriate identity to make any decision about whether there is a risk or concern, but it doesn’t seem that is the case at this point in time.

QUESTION: But what do you say that – if you see the letter – in that it says that – from the Iraqis – that “threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad.” So how – what do the Iraqis say about it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they sent the letter that was referenced and the – they took responsible action by informing the UN Secretary General and the international community and it’s been referred, of course, to the IAEA. They, of course, made initial comments. I would leave it to them if they have more to say about it. I would point out that the letter also notes that this is material used for scientific and medical purposes, which is an important contextual point on our level of concern or their level of concern.
Go ahead.


MS. PSAKI: Oh. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So are you worried that some other kind of materials that – weapons that can go into these hands. And they were also – in the letter they say it can be used in Iraq or it can be taken abroad. So --

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I would just highlight the fact that the Iraqi Government and the United States Government are not the experts like the IAEA is on this type of material and what risk it may or may not pose. So it’s in their hands. They’ve made an initial statement. I would point you to that and I would refer to them if there’s more they plan to say on this.
Go ahead.

Psaki rightly notes that the US isn't an expert and refers to the IAEA call.  That's correct because the US hasn't examined the materials and the material may or may not pose a risk.  If it did pose a risk, there's a small chance the IAEA might wait to reveal that until efforts had been made to reacquire the material.  The US government cannot vouch for material they haven't vetted.  And the world hopes the IAEA is being upfront about the material.

Tom Coghlan and Deborah Haynes (Times of London via The Australian) report:

Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former army officer and expert on weapons of mass destruction, confirmed that the uranium could not be turned into a nuclear bomb. “The most likely terror use for it would be some dirty bomb, but a dirty bomb is not terribly effective anyway except for the psychological impact ... You are more likely to die from shrapnel,” he said.

Other experts disagreed. “This material is not good enough for a dirty bomb,” said Olli Heinonen, a former IAEA chief inspector. “You cannot make a nuclear explosive from this amount, but all uranium compounds are poisonous.” In a dirty bomb scenario, terrorists could detonate a device mixing conventional explosives and radioactive material in an effort to scatter radiation in a major western capital.
The capture of the uranium represents a psychological coup for Isis. “The real victory is the kind of fear it will instil,” said Dina Esfandiary, a research associate in the non-proliferation program at the international institute for strategic studies. Far more worrying was the takeover by Isis of a base north of Baghdad that holds Iraq’s old but still lethal stockpile of chemical weapons — hundreds of warheads containing sarin and mustard gas, according to Colonel de Bretton-Gordon, who is chief operating officer at SecureBio, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear consultancy.

There are some outlets who have taken a 'case closed' stance on the possibility of the material being used for a dirty bomb.  It's really not that simple and they would do well to take the approach Jen Psaki did in today's press briefing.

Iraq was briefly noted today on The NewsHour (PBS, link is text, audio and video):

GWEN IFILL: In Iraq, the rift between Kurds and Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki deepened today. Kurdish ministers announced they will boycott weekly cabinet meetings after Maliki accused them of harboring Sunni militants who’ve captured Iraqi territory.

ROZ NOURI SHAWEZ, Deputy Prime Minister, Iraq (through interpreter): We declare that we will not take part in the upcoming cabinet sessions to show our protest, and we cannot endure any more such behavior, statements and stances.

GWEN IFILL: The Kurds have infuriated Maliki by seizing Kirkuk and its oil reserves and moving toward a referendum on independence from Iraq.

I'm sorry, is Gwen an agent of a foreign government?

She's certainly not speaking as a journalist.

Note her false construct. (A) Today the rift "deepened" because Kurdish Cabinet members say they will boycott the weekly Cabinet meetings.  (B) The Kurds have infuriated Nouri, Gwen says, by seizing Kirkuk and its oil reserves and exploring independence.

Does that ridiculous skull cap wig she wears create a Vitamin D deficiency for Gwen?

Let's drop back to The NewsHour's Wednesday's coverage of Iraq in full:

GWEN IFILL: In Iraq, security forces found the bodies of 53 men blindfolded and handcuffed. The corpses were near a mainly Shiite village about 60 miles southeast of Baghdad. Most of the victims had been shot. The motive for the attack remains unclear, but the discovery comes amid a Sunni insurgency in Northern and Western Iraq.

Now let's pull this from Wednesday's Iraq snapshot:

If you're not grasping it, right now, while Barack's insisting the country needs a "political solution," Nouri's yet again attacking political rivals.  Rudaw reports:

Hours after Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused the Kurds of harboring insurgents, the Kurdistan Region decided that Kurdish ministers appointed to the Iraqi cabinet will not be going to Baghdad.
“As a first response to Maliki’s threats, the Kurdish leadership has decided that our ministers will not attend any meetings of the Iraqi cabinet,” said an official from the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
The official said that there is a consensus among all Kurdish political parties, including the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), to boycott Baghdad.

Nouri is begging the US for help and US President Barack Obama has provided him with weapons and now with US troops.  And Nouri says "thank you" by attacking the Kurds?

If you use the link to yesterday's snapshot, you'll also see that Jen Psaki addressed the charges Nouri made.

The NewsHour elected to ignore it.

But today, when the Kurds respond to the attack on their reputation and integrity, The NewsHour is suddenly interested and 'report' as though the Kurds started something.

Contrast Gwen's nonsense with Hamza Mustafa's report for Asharq Al-Awsat which opens:

Recent remarks by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki in which he accused Erbil of harboring fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have provoked the ire of Kurdish politicians, who have dismissed the accusations as “unfounded.”

“It is unfortunate that the prime minister has descended to the level of Hanan Al-Fatlawi, the State of Law coalition MP, who has always levelled unfounded accusations at Kurds for no apparent reason, accusing Erbil of harboring [fighters from] ISIS,” former Kurdistan Alliance spokesman Moayad Tayeb told Asharq Al-Awsat.
In his weekly televised speech on Wednesday, Maliki lashed out at the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), branding its capital, Erbil, as being “a headquarters for ISIS, [the] Ba’ath [Party], and Al-Qaeda and terrorist operations.”
The accusation has provoked Kurdish lawmakers who have in turn accused Maliki of failing to deter Islamist fighters.

“ISIS is not in Erbil but . . . [is approaching] Baghdad, and if he [Maliki] wants to fight and expel it, it is but a stone’s throw away from him,” Tayeb added.

AAP adds:

Iraq's Kurds say Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is "hysterical" and not fit to run the country, further dimming the prospect of a new leadership uniting to face jihadist fighters.
The worsening political discord comes three days ahead of a planned parliamentary session, meant to revive the process of replacing what has effectively been a caretaker government since April elections.

Maliki "has become hysterical and has lost his balance", a statement from the office of Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani says on Thursday, reacting to accusations by the prime minister a day earlier that his administration was harbouring militants.

You can also refer to the end of Tom Coghlan and Deborah Haynes' report to see how you accurately cover the events Gwen mangled.

A major story was reduced by Gwen in such a way that Nouri was the injured party.  If PBS wants to air The PropagandaHour, they should be sure and give Gwen much more airtime.

Jason Ditz ( observes, "Tensions between Iraq’s central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are soaring further today, with reports that Prime Minister Maliki has imposed a ban on all cargo flights into Kurdistan, after accusing the Kurds of aiding ISIS in their takeover of western Iraq."

On the topic of tyrant Nouri, NINA reports Falluja General Hospital released numbers today on the dead and injured from Nouri's bombings of Falluja's residential neighborhoods (which is legally defined as a War Crime).  Since January 1st, Nouri has killed 542 civilians in Falluja and injured 1880 more.

Yet, Nouri keeps getting more bombs and missiles from the US government -- in violation of treaties, laws and the Leahy Amendment.

After the hospital's announcement, another of Nouri's bombings killed 3 civilians in Falluja and left four more injured.

In other violence,  National Iraqi News Agency reports Lt Gen Qassim Atta declared that armed forces killed 25 suspects in Jurfis-Sakhar, Atta also declared 47 suspects were killed in Tikrit, a Kirkuk motorcycle bombing left seven people injured, a mortar shell attack on Jurf al-Sakar left five people injured, a Baiji mortar attack left 3 people dead and sixteen injured, an armed attack in Ramadi left 3 people dead, 11 farmers were kidnapped in Al-Gelam, and 3 bombings south of Tikrit left 4 police members dead and two more injured.  Reviewing the violence today, Margaret Griffis ( notes 151 deaths and 86 people left injured.

Hannah Allem (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

An official from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s office confirmed Thursday that a high-stakes standoff is unfolding at the country’s largest oil refinery, but he disputed details of a McClatchy report that said only 75 commandos were holed up inside and that the government wasn’t sending food or reinforcements.
The Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to make public statements on sensitive military operations, said that up to 1,500 counterterrorism forces are inside the Baiji refinery, a sprawling, 300-acre compound about 150 miles north of Baghdad.

Read more here:

At the Pentagon on Tuesday, spokesperson Rear Adm John Kirby was asked about the status on the assessments US troops have been making in Iraq:

REAR ADM. KIRBY:  What I -- what I would tell you is that we're taking a very measured, deliberate approach here to a very complicated problem inside Iraq. And right now, there are two missions for the U.S. military -- providing some static security for our diplomats so that they can continue to do their very important work, the embassy, and our facilities there at the airport. And the second mission is to advise -- I'm sorry, to assess -- to have six assessment teams on the ground, mostly in and around Baghdad, to assess the cohesiveness of the Iraqi security forces, the situation on the ground, and, again, the follow-on advisory mission.
We also have a small number of people that are working in two joint operations centers, one in Baghdad and one up in Erbil, all designed to help us get a better sense of what's going on, on the ground before any follow-on military decisions are made. That's the mission that we've been given; that's the strategy that we're pursuing. And I won't -- I won't go into...

Q: (OFF-MIC) timeline to assess -- to finish the assessment that the U.S....

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah. I mean, as I said at the outset, it was going to -- we expected the assessment teams to take about two to three weeks. We think that they're nearing the end of -- of that initial assessment phase.

Q: What have they found so far?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, the reports that we've been -- we've been staying in touch with them. I'm not going to prejudge or get ahead of the assessments as they -- as they come in through more official channels. But -- but they have done most of the work, completed most of the work, assessed most of the units that -- that we asked them to go look at.

Q: What have they found so far?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, the reports that we've been -- we've been staying in touch with them. I'm not going to prejudge or get ahead of the assessments as they -- as they come in through more official channels. But -- but they have done most of the work, completed most of the work, assessed most of the units that -- that we asked them to go look at.

Q: Can you characterize what they found?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I'm not going to do that from here. No, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to get ahead of a decision-making process that -- that hasn't even started yet. So we need to let the work finish. It's almost done. The assessments will come up and then leadership will get a chance to take a look, and we'll go from there.

Q: Will it be done this week?

  REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think it'll be done very soon, Justin, very soon.

The assessments shouldn't be too rosy.  Nouri's lost chemical weapons, nuclear material, cities and so much more. He's also attacked the Kurds verbally while continuing War Crimes in Falluja.

Nouri is a failure.

So is Nancy Pelosi.

She lost her post as Speaker of the House and the Dems lost their majority.  But the Queen of Plastic Surgery didn't have to step down her leadership role because few can whore for corporations the way Nancy does.  She can make it rain.

However, her ethics, like her fact, appear botched.

As if a bad wig and a pathetic refusal to accept her age isn't bad enough, Nancy demonstrated just how trashy she is today -- link is video and text:

Nancy Pelosi: The argument against President Bush was about a president and an administration that sent us into a war based on a false representation of a threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That's a major accusation against the president, and I, myself, said that at the time. You know, in 2002 when the bill came up. The intelligence does not support the threat that the president -- not the president, his administration is contending.

Having said that, it's not about impeaching the president. It's about putting the country through that. I thought what the Republicans did to President Clinton was shameful, irresponsible, and wrong for the country. And what he did was stupid, but it had nothing to do with public policy and his office, his responsibility and his office.

I do think people could have made a case about President Bush, but I did not want to go down that path because of what it would mean for the American people. We've just tried to impeach -- well, we did impeach but did not remove from office one president in a very irresponsible manner in my view on the part of the Republicans in the House at the time.

And I thought it was time for us to address -- try to end that war, which we voted to do, and the president vetoed our bill, but to deal with it in a policy way rather than take us down that path. 

Nancy didn't want to go down that path.  She had to get her elderly tits lifted off her knees and three inches pulled back on her face.

That was path Nancy wanted.

An Oval Office occupant lying to the American people didn't rise to high crimes and misdemeanors for Pelosi.  She didn't want to put the country through an impeachment.

What a lousy failure she is.

It's really time for Nancy tired ass to stay home. Maybe by dropping out of Congress, she could use her free time to find something else to have tightened?  Maybe her vagina?  Maybe her anus?

But what she clearly cannot do is serve the country or honor the oath she took to the Constitution.

Bully Boy Bush should have been impeached.

Nancy is a coward, Nancy is a fool.

She should go down in history as the biggest enabler to War Crimes.  And maybe people will start to also remember Nancy's participation in torture.  She tried to act surprised and, with the pop-eyes from all that plastic surgery, some may have believed she was surprised.  However, the truth always was that Nancy was briefed in full on water boarding and other forms of torture.

jason ditz

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Halle's Extant


Halle Berry's "Extant" debuted on CBS Wednesday night.
I enjoyed the show.
Halle's at the center.
She's the victim of some sort of conspiracy.
While in space, she becomes pregnant and she can't figure out how.
There's a man she knows who warns her that people are watching (and the little 'coming' trailer at the end of the episode made this even more clear) and he appears to have some knowledge of what's going on.
This is kind of like a version of the "X-Files" and it should make for a thrilling summer season.

Goran Visnjic plays her husband and while he and Halle have chemistry, his attachment to a robot is among the reasons I'm already wondering if he's part of the conspiracy against Halle?

(Goran played Luka on "ER.")

I like that it's got the twists and turns and the whole conspiracy vibe of "X-Files."

"Alcatraz" should have had a conspiracy feel but didn't because it was trying too hard to be a "Lost" copy.

"Extant" is off and running and I have big hopes for it.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, July 9, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Americans don't feel the Iraq War was a war "worth fighting," Nouri al-Maliki tries to censor the press, Joe Biden talks to the Kurds, and much more.

In a [PDF format warning] press release noting that they were now partnering with NBC News and the Wall St. Journal for the 2014 election polling, Annenberg Public Policy Center noted the latest poll found:

71 percent of Americans said that the conflict in Iraq was not worth fighting, and 49 percent said that Washington does not have a responsibility to help the Iraqi government fight off insurgent groups.

49% is a very high number when you consider that they are opposing US President Barack Obama's so-called 'plan' for Iraq.  It's not even been a month since Barack drew vague outlines in a June 19th speech.  Yet 49% are already opposed to it.

And for good reason, it's not a plan and it backs Nouri al-Maliki -- the man whose destroyed Iraq over two terms and wants a third one.

Josh Rogin (Daily Beast) speaks with Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi:

ISIS is only one small part of a larger Sunni revolt in Iraq that sectarian groups have been preparing for years, according to Iraq’s exiled Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. And defeating ISIS won’t stop the greater battle.
“We shouldn’t look at this development of ISIS as apart from the uprising of the Arab Sunni provinces over two years,” Hashimi told The Daily Beast in an interview from Turkey, where he has been living since the government of Nouri al-Maliki purged him in 2012 by indicting him on murder charges, then convicting him in abstentia.
“The provinces have done a peaceful Sunni revolt against the oppression, the injustice, the inhuman conditions the Arab Sunnis have been suffering for years,” he said.

The issue of 'advisors' came up in today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki:

QUESTION: Okay. And let me just follow up on the advisors on the ground. Their first assessment last week was that the Iraqis may be able to defend Baghdad but are unable to sort of retake territory already conquered by the Islamic State. Has there been any update to the situation? Are they doing anything other than assessment and perhaps talking to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, assessing is certainly a part of --


MS. PSAKI: -- what their mandate is. But I would refer you to DOD for any updates on their work on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay. But the fact that al-Baghdadi so boldly goes to a mosque that is a well-known mosque in Mosul and within – knowing exactly where he is, his location was well known and so on, is the United States or would the United States be willing to engage militarily to ensure that, like they did back in 2004 and ’05 and ’06 when they targeted Zawahiri, that they would actually target al-Baghdadi?

MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with the options that we always have and the President always has at his disposal, but as has consistently been the case, our focus is on the political process and encouraging that to move forward. And again, we have 300 advisors on the ground. They’re in the process of assessing, but I would refer you to DOD for any more specifics on their work.

Advisors were raised by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.  Kristina Wong (The Hill) reports:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday the Sunni fundamentalist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) poses a threat not just to the government in Baghdad, but to the United States as well.
"This country should not make any mistake on this, nor anyone in Congress — this is a threat to our country," Hagel said while meeting with troops at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia.
"This is a force that is sophisticated. It's dynamic, it's strong, it's organized, it's well-financed, it's competent, [ISIS]. And it is a threat to our allies all over the Middle East. It's a threat to Europe. It's a threat to every stabilized country on Earth, and it's a threat to us," Hagel said.


Ramzy Baroud ( offers this take:

Not only is Obama failing to accept even a level of moral responsibility over the current plight of Iraqis, but he is haggling to achieve some political gains from Iraq’s misery. Hundreds of US troops have been ordered back to Iraq to "assess" the fighting capabilities of the Iraqi army, and a cautious attempt at intervention is building up slowly in Washington.
Interventionism is once more permeating American foreign policy thinking; this time around, however, it is ‘soft’ intervention, although it is laden with the same kind of language and misleading references. It seems that the American government has learned so very little since the last botched effort, championed by Perle’s neocons at remaking the Middle East to its liking. 

Nouri is the problem in Iraq and he cannot bring the country together.

He is inept and he is corrupt.

If you're not grasping it, right now, while Barack's insisting the country needs a "political solution," Nouri's yet again attacking political rivals.  Rudaw reports:

Hours after Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused the Kurds of harboring insurgents, the Kurdistan Region decided that Kurdish ministers appointed to the Iraqi cabinet will not be going to Baghdad.
“As a first response to Maliki’s threats, the Kurdish leadership has decided that our ministers will not attend any meetings of the Iraqi cabinet,” said an official from the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). 
The official said that there is a consensus among all Kurdish political parties, including the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), to boycott Baghdad.

Nouri is begging the US for help and US President Barack Obama has provided him with weapons and now with US troops.  And Nouri says "thank you" by attacking the Kurds?

If you're not getting how offensive Nouri's remarks are, how destructive they are, note the lukewarm reception they received in today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by Jen Psaki.

QUESTION: Yes. Prime Minister Maliki in a TV address today, he accused the Kurdistan Regional Government of allowing Erbil to become a base for the ISIS and the al-Qaida and terrorists. And he also kind of confirmed that he will not allow them to take over disputed areas like Kirkuk. Do you have any reaction to this kind of a --

MS. PSAKI: Well, without seeing the full context of his comments, let me just reiterate that our view is that the focus in Iraq right now should be on taking steps to urgently move forward with government formation. There have been – there’s a long history here of a lack of inclusivity, and at this pivotal point in time, it’s important for all leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki, to act in a way that welcomes in and unites leaders in the country instead of dividing.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that Erbil might become a hotbed for extremists?

MS. PSAKI: Erbil?


MS. PSAKI: I think we’re concerned about any threat that ISIL poses to citizens and communities in Iraq.

For those unfamiliar with the State Dept press briefings, Jen Psaki not rushing to defend Nouri and his comments is a major shift.

Iraq is a powder keg and Nouri's lighting matches.

The Tehran Times notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday the Kurdish-controlled city of Arbil was becoming an operations base for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group that seized swath of northern and western Iraq last month."  AP observes, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's allegations are likely to worsen Baghdad's already thorny relationship with the Kurds."  Al Arabiya News quotes Nouri declaring, "They (militant groups) will lose and so will their hosts, because they failed to provide an example of patriotic partnership."  AFP points out, "The incumbent on Wednesday appeared to damage his efforts to retain his post by turning on Kurdish leaders whose support he needs, accusing them of hosting militant groups behind the onslaught."

Back to today's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: How realistic to – is it to assume that if Prime Minister Maliki started acting in a more inclusive way and if the Sunnis and Kurds bought into this inclusive policy of governance, that this would neutralize the threat from the Islamic State group. How realistic is this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think I’m not going to speculate on that. I think there’s no question in anyone’s mind that a unified Iraq and one that – where the leaders are moving forward toward a government formation would strengthen Iraq and strengthen the case and the fight against ISIL and the threat it poses.
Do we have more on --

QUESTION: But does that mean – I mean, it just seems as if the Administration has been creating this impression that if the political climate will change, then magically this threat from the Islamic State group will just --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think --

QUESTION: -- will just be eradicated. And it seems as if, given --

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all – let me stop you there. That’s not at all the impression we’re sending or we’re intending to send, or I don’t think anyone thinks we’re sending. We’re – our focus here is on the reality on the ground, which is that this is – there’s a grave security situation on the ground. There’s a threat that’s being posed to all Iraqi people, as well as to leaders in the region, and right now the focus should not be on political disagreements. It should be on unifying against the threat that they all face. And so what we’re talking about is how to strengthen the Iraqi leadership, Iraqi security forces, in order to take on the threat they face. And I think there’s no question that in order to work towards a long-term sustainable Iraq, that that is an essential step toward that process.

QUESTION: But given the widespread criticism of Maliki’s leadership in the past eight years, it’s going to take time to build trust among Sunnis and among Kurds. And so it just seems as if it’s going to take a while to get that political structure right-sized. In the meantime, Islamic State is going to be doing what it’s doing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, they’re meeting – let me disagree with you. They’re meeting on Sunday, as you know, to move forward with the political process. We’re encouraging them to do that rapidly. It’s up to the Iraqi people to determine who their future leadership will be, but there’s no question they have it in their capacity to move forward. And once they’ve put a new parliament – speaker of the parliament, a new president, a new prime minister in place, that will begin the path, or – be an important step on the path towards unity and towards strengthening their fight on the ground.

Nouri is a complete and utter failure.  So he attacks the Kurds to distract from his failures.
His failures are immense and the list keeps growing.
Insurgents in Iraq have seized nuclear materials used for scientific research at a university in the country's north, Iraq told the United Nations in a letter appealing for help to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad."
Nearly 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of uranium compounds were kept at Mosul University, Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the July 8 letter obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.
Militants -- insurgents, resistance fighters, ISIS, al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, what have you -- now can make a dirty bomb?

The history of the dirty bomb has yet to be written, because fortunately no one to date has ever deployed a conventional explosive laced with radioactive material. However, a slew of worrisome incidents in several countries involving loose or orphaned radioactive devices forms a chilling chronology and a stark reminder that a dirty bomb could explode tomorrow anywhere in the world. Terrorist groups are actively pursuing unsecured radiological material, and several of them may already possess dirty-bomb capabilities. In this timeline, review the past 15 years of news-making incidents involving unprotected radioactive materials worldwide, including many occurrences of accidental encounters that prove just how easy it is to acquire these dangerous substances.
RT zooms in on this, "The stolen materials are not believed to be enriched uranium, which would make it difficult for them to be made into weapons, a government source told Reuters."  Let's hope that's correct, that claim that can't be verified.
Regardless, this is a huge failure.  And, with regards to weapons, it just gets worse.  RT reports:
The Iraqi government has informed the United Nations that it has lost control of a former chemical weapons depot to Islamist insurgents affiliated with ISIS, or IS, and cannot carry out its obligations to destroy what’s stored in the compound.
In a letter penned by Iraq’s UN Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim, it was revealed that “armed terrorist groups” took over the Muthanna complex on June 11. Located north of Baghdad, the facility was the main center for chemical weapons production prior to the 1991 Gulf War, and is still home to 2,500 rockets containing the lethal nerve agent sarin.
Edith M. Lederer (AP) notes, "U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki expressed concern on June 20 about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seizing the complex, but played down the importance of the two bunkers with 'degraded chemical remnants,' saying the material dates back to the 1980s and was stored after being dismantled by U.N. inspectors in the 1990s."  BBC News adds, "It is believed that some 2,500 rockets filled with nerve agents - including sarin and mustard gas - are stored at Muthanna."
Still not getting the damage despot Nouri is doing? 
How Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki plans to defeat the horribly abusive Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) and other Sunni groups that have seized control of large swathes of Iraq remains unclear. And under his government’s new media regulations, the Iraqi public isn’t likely to find out.
The new guidelines, issued on June 18 by the state media commission to remain in effect “during the war on terror,” in effect require local and international media to cheer on the government. For example, the rules forbid media from reporting information from insurgent forces and compel coverage of government forces in only glowing terms.
As one Iraqi journalist put it, the guidelines “basically ban journalists from covering war activities, because whatever you report about terrorists could be considered support for them.”
When not verbally attacking Kurds, Nouri encourages his flunkies to attack them.  Bas News reports:

Asaib ahl-Haq militias supported by Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki have created a checkpoint on Erbil–Baghdad Road that insults and tortures Kurdish Taxi drivers.
Kurdish taxi driver Abu Walid who works along Erbil-Baghdad Road told BasNews that “due to Asaib Ahl-Haq threats, I have stayed here for a month with no work. On the road, whoever is Kurdish will be captured and tortured.”
Walid stated that they are 510 taxi drivers working on Erbil-Baghdad Road but only 17-20 drivers have shown their readiness to work lately faced with the danger.

Readout of Vice President Biden's Conversation with President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani

This morning, Vice President Biden spoke with Masoud Barzani, President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. The Vice President underscored the United States’ support for Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Vice President expressed his condolences for all Iraqis who have lost their lives defending their land against ISIL including members of the Kurdish Peshmerga. Vice President Biden and President Barzani also agreed on the need to accelerate the government formation process pursuant to the time-lines set forth in the Iraqi constitution.

Violence continues in Iraq.  WG Dunlop (AFP) Tweets:

Margaret Griffis ( notes, "At least 145 people were killed and 74 were wounded in the latest reports."  Some of today's reported violence?   National Iraqi News Agency reports Peshmerga "killed Mufti of Daash in Jalawla," a Saidiya sticky bombing left one police member injured, 2 Babil car bombings left 4 people dead and eight more injured, 50 corpses were found dumped north of Babylon, a Tuz Khurmato shooting left four "Turkmen youths" injured, 2 Kirkuk roadside bombings left three people injured,  and 1 corpse was discovered dumped to the "north east of Baghdad," and, dropping back to late last night, 1 military officer was shot dead in Jurf al-Sakar.  All Iraq News notes 2 corpses were discovered dumped "to the east of Baquba," 1 corpse was found dumped in Saydiya ("southwestern Baghdad") a Baquba sniper shot dead 1 police member and left another injured, and 2 bombings in "southwestern Baghdad" left five people injured.  On the fifty corpses, Sinan Salaheddin and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) explain, "The dead were men between the ages of 25 and 40, and it appeared they had been killed days earlier and then dumped in the remote area, said a police officer and a medical official."  Most outlets say it's an area X from this or that town.  Hamdi Alkhshali and Holly Yan (CNN) say the corpses were discovered in Alexandria and, "The bodies of two children were among the dozens found in different parts of the town."  Raheem Salman and Isra'a al-Rubei'i (Reuters) quote Babil Province Governor Sadeq Madloul stating, "Fifty-three unidentified corpses were found, all of them blindfolded and handcuffed."

As chaos in Iraq continues, hostages have been taken.  Saturday, Alsumaria reported over 40 boarded a plane to India.  Belfast Telegraph added, "The 46 nurses had been holed up for more than a week in Tikrit, where fighters of the Islamic State group have taken over."  Indian Express notes, "Nearly 600 more Indian nationals will return home from the conflict-hit Iraq over the next two days, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Saturday. It said 200 of them will return by an Iraqi Airways special chartered flight from Najaf to Delhi late Saturday night itself." The Times of India spoke with 25-year-old nurse P Lesima Jerose Monisha who went to work in Iraq in hopes of paying off her student loans:

Though the insurgents assured them they would not be harmed, there was always a fear that a bomb would land on the hospital, she said.
She said the scariest moment was when the militants gave them just two hours to get ready and leave the hospital on July 2. "Indian embassy officials told us over phone to follow the gunmen's instructions for our own safety." Monisha said they were taken in a bus to Mosul where they were detained in a jail-like building. Finally on Friday they were onceagain told to pack up their belongings and board a bus. "Only then we realized we are being released. The insurgents released us on the outskirts of Mosul from where Indian embassy officials took care of us," she said.

While the nurses have returned to their homes, not all hostages have been as fortunate.  Sevil Erkus (Hurriyet Daily News) reports, "Some 49 Turkish consulate staff members in Iraq are entering their second month in captivity with uncertainty surrounding their fate despite the release of Turkish truck drivers last week." Today's Zaman notes that Tuesday was day 27 of the hostage crisis  and that, "The Turkish government imposed a gag order on reports of the ISIL hostage crisis, immediately after the hostage-taking at the Mosul Consulate General. Critics see this as a way to prevent criticism of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government's handling of foreign policy, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan accuses the opposition parties and the media of trying to provoke the government to say negative things about ISIL and of putting the lives of hostages in danger."

The Turkish hostages were noted in today's US State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: It has been about a month now there are 49 Turkish consulate staff and diplomats still being held hostage by the ISIS. Do you have any update on any of those?

MS. PSAKI: I do not have an update. We remain in regular touch through our team on the ground with Turkish officials, and of course, we remain concerned about those who are being held, as we do about Americans who have been held, as we do about any international citizens who are being held by ISIL.

QUESTION: Have Turkish officials asked you any kind of help to --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update to offer for you on this case.

QUESTION: Last time you said that a door is – door remains open if there is any need by Ankara. The door is still open?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. And we are engaged in continued discussions.

Turning to veterans issues, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following:

On Eve of HVAC Testimony, Texas Family Urges Lawmakers to Combat Veteran Suicide

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or

Washington DC (July 9, 2014) – Today, Susan and Richard Selke – parents of Marine veteran Clay Hunt who died by suicide in 2011 – met with Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator John Walsh (D-MT) on Capitol Hill about combating veteran suicide and addressing access to mental health care. The Selkes met with the Senators ahead of their testimony tomorrow morning at a hearing on access to mental health care. IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff and Legislative Director Alex Nicholson were also present at the meetings. 
During IAVA’s 10th annual Storm the Hill in late March, Sen. John Walsh introduced the Suicide Prevention For America’s Veterans Act (SAV Act), S.B. 2182. Tomorrow, House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) will introduce the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention For American Veterans Act (Clay Hunt SAV), named after the Selke’s son, at a 2:30 p.m. press conference at the House Triangle. 
“Had this bill been passed a few years ago, I do believe we would still have Clay today,” said Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt. “Our country is losing 22 veterans to suicide a day – about 600 veterans a month. It is so difficult for one to grasp that number. These losses don’t take into account the impact of family members and loved ones and how their lives are changed. We thank Chairman Sanders and Sen. Walsh for hearing our story and for pressing their colleagues to address veteran suicide.” 
Combating veteran suicide and improving access to mental health care has been IAVA’s top priority for 2014. According to IAVA’s 2014 Member Survey, 40% of respondents said they know at least one Iraq or Afghanistan veteran that has died by suicide. 
“Susan and Richard have shown so much strength as they continue to advocate on behalf of veterans,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “We thank Chairman Sanders and Sen. Walsh for meeting with us today and continuing to support our community. The Selkes are here because they personally know this is an urgent fight. The first step in reversing the suicide trend among veterans is to pass the Clay Hunt SAV Act. We want members of Congress to know this is an important, nonpartisan issue that will change the life path for thousands of veterans and their families.”
The Campaign to Combat Suicide was designed to raise public awareness of the suicide crisis, demand Congressional action and a Presidential Executive Order to start to reverse the suicide trend.
As part of its Campaign to Combat Suicide, all year long IAVA will activate every element of its membership, programs and partners – both on-the-ground and online. IAVA will incorporate this effort into everything we do from our monthly VetTogethers to our over 500,000-person strong social media community. We will empower our almost 300,000 members and supporters to serve as a ground force for outreach, support and advocacy. And we will travel the country, turning public attention to the issue of veteran suicide and promoting solutions.
IAVA connects veterans to mental health services, including partnering with the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line to ensure that every servicemember, veteran, family member and provider knows that there is free and confidential help available 24 hours a day through phone, text and online. Veterans, or those concerned about veterans, can call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to be directly connected to qualified responders.
Note to media: Please contact to schedule an interview with IAVA leadership or Susan and Richard Selke. 
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator. 

IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff Tweeted the following today:

Sloan Gibson is the acting Secretary of the VA.  Still on veterans, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following yesterday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, July 08, 2014                                                      (202) 224-2834
Murray Delivers Remarks on VA Reform, Secretary and Conference Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), senior member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding reform at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), the VA Secretary nominee, and the ongoing conference committee.  

Full remarks as prepared:

“M. President, I believe that when it comes to caring for our nation’s heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence. Like many of my colleagues I have been very troubled by the most recent allegations of VA failing to provide veterans with timely health care. VA generally offers very high quality health care and does many things as well as -- or better than -- the private sector. But when you are caring for the nation’s heroes, and you have the backing of the full resources of the Federal government, ‘just as good’ is not enough – we expect more.  

“So I am very frustrated to be here again talking about these deeply disturbing issues, and the Department’s repeated failures to change. GAO and the Inspector General have reported on these problems many times over the years. And last Congress we did a great deal of work around wait times, particularly for mental health care. I think VA is starting to see that business as usual is not acceptable. 

“The Administration has taken steps to begin addressing some of the major, system-wide problems -- but much more needs to be done. Tomorrow, when I meet with the President’s nominee for VA Secretary, I will ask him about how he plans to make these changes. And that is why I am very glad to be serving on the veterans conference committee – because Congress needs to act as well.

“The most important thing we can do right now is to pass responsible and effective legislation to bring much needed reforms to VA. And we need to do it soon.

“There have been major bipartisan efforts in both the House and the Senate to move legislation addressing these problems. Many Members have been part of those efforts and I commend them all for their commitment to bipartisanship and for putting the needs of our veterans first. 

“Now it is vital that we continue to build on this bipartisan momentum – and continue making progress if we are going to address some of the immediate accountability and transparency concerns plaguing the VA, and to fix its deep-seated structural and cultural challenges.

“I know Members have a wide range of concerns with the bills. And I believe we can address these concerns responsibly and in a way that puts our veterans first and gives the VA the tools they need to address the challenges they face. That means building and strengthening the VA system so it delivers the best care over the long term.

“But it is important for us to act quickly to start making these changes.  We cannot allow this process to break down. Veterans are still waiting to get the care they need. Many of us were rightly outraged that VA did not act to help veterans – because the Department ignored all the information and did nothing. 

“This Congress must not do the same thing and fail veterans by not acting. I urge all of my colleagues to work as hard and as quickly as possible to finalize an agreement and get it to the President.

“As more problems will be uncovered, and the investigations will proceed, and we will need even more action from VA, the Administration, and Congress.

“Because the nation made a promise to the men and women who answered the call of duty—and one of the most important ways we uphold that is by making sure our veterans can access the health care they need and deserve – no matter what it takes.”

Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office