Thursday, April 05, 2018

Vegetables in space

If earthlings went to other planets, what would we do about food?  That's an issue being worked on now.  MOTHERBOARD reports:

Scientists at Germany’s DLR Institute of Space Systems were successfully able to grow eight pounds of greens, 70 radishes, and 18 cucumbers without soil. Temperatures outside reached -6 degrees fahrenheit.
The harsh Antarctic conditions and high-tech grow system are meant to mimic the steps astronauts will need to take to feed themselves on the moon or Mars.
ZME SCIENCE explains:

The plants were grown without soil, in a closed-water circle. No outside lighting was used — instead, researchers optimized and used an LED system. The carbon dioxide cycle was also closely monitored.
While this is a solid crop already, researchers are expecting much more in the future. The German Aerospace Center DLR, which coordinates the project, said that in the coming months, they expect to harvest 4-5 kilograms of fruit and vegetables a week.

Here are some photos:

  1. Scientists in Antartica harvest first vegetables without earth, daylight or pesticides from ‘space’ greenhouse
  2. Pensando en Marte: científicos logran cosechar, en la Antártica, las primeras lechugas crecidas sin tierra, ni luz de sol:

So that's a new development.

One thing I want to repeat that I've noted a few times here already.  Those who've 'explored' (colonized) on the earth haven't done such a great job or been very kind to what supports life.  If we go off into space colonizing, then I hope we will do so realizing we cannot repeat our past mistakes.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Thursday, April 5, 2018.  The reselling of the Iraq War is in full swing.

"We had to get the Iraqi government ready to fight back," explained Brett McGurk at Tuesday's US Institute of Peace event.  He was explaining how the US re-started the military mission in Iraq and speaking from his position as Special Envoy to Iraq.

And speaking with all the hubris you can imagine, serving up all the patronizing We-know-best you can expect.  And all to resell the Iraq War (and the war on Syria).

The government had to be taught to fight back.

Think about that for a moment.  The government had to be taught to fight back.  Why?  Maybe because it wasn't a real government.  It certainly didn't spring up on its own.  Puppet governments never do.  The US created the Iraqi government.  It doesn't represent the people of Iraq so why would it fight for them?  That is what the world saw.

In June of 2014, ISIS seized control of the city of Mosul.  The city was 'liberated' when?  July 2017.  Three years and one month later.  Supposedly, 3,000 ISIS fighters held the city at one point.  And the Iraqi government had to be taught to fight back?

And look at that great 'teaching.'  The US government started 'teaching' Iraq in the summer of 2014.  October of 2016, the operation to 'liberate' Mosul finally began.  Over two years after the city had been seized, the operation to 'liberate' the city finally began.

That's not a real government.

That's a puppet government installed by foreigners.  It's a government that doesn't represent the people.  It fears the people.  That's why the leaders are hunkered down in the Green Zone still -- all these years later.  The heavily fortified Green Zone.  And Mosul could be in ruins and controlled by ISIS but the puppet government never worried until they thought Baghdad might be seized.

The US installed the government.  That needs to be grasped.  The people of Iraq didn't.  The US installed a bunch of exiles, people who fled Iraq decades ago and only returned after the US invaded in 2003.  From Vivienne Walt's TIME profile of the current prime minister Hayder al-Abadi published last month:

An electrical engineer raised in Baghdad, al-Abadi spent more than 20 years in exile in London during Saddam’s regime. He flew home in 2003, just as the U.S. invasion began.

What instills pride and a strong bond better than turning the leadership of a country over to . . . cowards who fled decades before and only returned after foreigners invaded?

But that's how it's been.  One exile after another made prime minister -- all made prime minister by the US government.

Are you surprised they have to be taught "to fight back"?  What do they do when not hiding out behind the fortified walls of the Green Zone?

The Iraq War is being resold.  That's the point of the US Institute of Peace's Tuesday event -- noted in yesterday's "Iraq snapshot" -- and a sub-thread of Friday's CSIS event -- see Tuesday's "Iraq snapshot" and Monday's "Iraq snapshot."  Fresh from moderating the CSIS event, Anthony Cordesman shows up at THE HILL with "Don't take the wrong steps in Syria, Iraq and the fight against terrorism" to argue to continue the US occupation of Iraq as well as for an editor to proof his copy:

As for costs, we need strategic patience, and it is fundamentally wrong to talk about costs of $7 trillion. Anything like this total must include the total cost of the Afghan and Iraq conflicts, massive estimates about additional opportunity costs, and large amounts of regular defense spending that were concealed in the wartime overseas contingency accounts.
In any case, the U.S. military has vastly reduced the cost of our presence in Syrian and Iraq by relying on airpower and limited numbers of train and assist forces to support host country ground forces. This eliminates the need to deploy U.S. ground combat units, and massively reduces our costs as well as casualties. If one looks at the president’s fiscal 2019 budget request, the cost of training and equipping Syrian opposition forces drops from $500 million in fiscal 2018 to $300 million. No estimates are provided of the cost of airpower, but these too are likely to be far smaller.
The costs of staying Iraq are also dropping from $1.27 billion in fiscal 2018 to $850 million in fiscal 2019. We should have learned from rushing out of Iraq, and trying to rush out of Afghanistan, that doing so before host country forces are ready could waste the money we plan to spend on making Iraq secure, allow it to truly defeat ISIS, and give it the strength to deal with Iran.

The costs of staying in Iraq, maybe?  "In"?  Pull the string on the 12 inch Anthony doll and he says, "Prepositions is hard."  So is common sense which explains why he writes that "it is fundamentally wrong to talk about costs of $7 trillion."

There's not much effort going into ending the Iraq War but there's sure a lot of work going on to keep it going.   RUDAW reports:

The KRG’s representative to the United States has called on the US administration to stay the course in Iraq, despite the fact that many Americans are "sick and tired" of their country’s intervention in Iraq. 

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, who heads the KRG’s office in Washington, said she understands the US wants to pull out from the likes of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, but the facts on the ground require their active involvement going forward.

"I do believe the United States has a critical role to play in this," she said during a panel discussion at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington on Tuesday. The discussion was part of USIP’s conference titled ‘Iraq and Syria: Views from the US Administration, Military Leaders and the Region.’ 

In other news, IRAQI NEWS reports:

 Iraq’s President has stressed that his country would not allow Turkey to make any military incursions at the northern region, but voiced concern about a possible reproduction of the Turkish operation against Kurdish factions in Syria.
Speaking in an interview with London-based al-Hayat, Fuad Masum stressed that “after the withdrawal of the party (Kurdistan Workers Party- PKK), no foreign force can come and occupy any part of Iraq.
Masum, however, asked about the possibility of Turkey copying its operations against Kurdish factions in Syria’s Afrin to Iraq, said “We hope they do not take that step”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech last month that his country would, at any time, launch operations in Iraq’s northern Sinjar region against PKK, a group designated by Ankara as a terrorist group for engaging in decades of armed confrontations with it.  He said in a more recent speech that Turkey would not ask for permission to start the operations.

May 12th, Iraq is set to hold parliamentary elections and no one's been bothered by the fact that Ramadan takes place from May 15th to June 14th.   Past elections in Iraq have resulted in many delays -- in the case of the 2010 parliamentary elections, many months -- to settle.  If the post-election process goes even 1/4 as poorly as it did in 2010, Ramadan will only compound that.  Holding the election three days before Ramadan was very poor planning.

Hayder al-Abadi staked his future on the premature claim that he vanquished ISIS in Iraq.  That, of course, hasn't proven to be the case.   ISIS was supposed to be Hayder's big claim to fame.

Nouri al-Maliki was ousted by Barack Obama in 2014 because ISIS had seized Mosul and other spots.  Otherwise, the US would have kept installing Nouri every four years as Bully Boy Bush and Barack had already done.  It's that 'stability' that Cordesman is arguing for.  Forget that Nouri was running secret prisons and torture sites, forget that this had been exposed in the press, forget that he was disappearing people, forget that he was having the military use tanks to circle the homes of members of Parliament that he didn't like, none of that mattered.  Nor did his attacks on journalism and journalists.  His forces kidnapped reporters who covered the protests.  Even after both NPR and THE WASHINGTON POST reported that, Nouri was still given a pass by Barack.

The passes would have continued were it not for the rise of ISIS.

Hayder was installed by Barack to to get rid of ISIS.

He hasn't.

Hayder hasn't been very effective eliminating corruption either.  MEM reported two weeks ago, "Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi yesterday ordered an immediate investigation into allegations that fake jobs in the public sector were being offered to citizens by political parties in order to win votes in the country’s upcoming general elections.ALSUMARIA reported today that the Badr Organization's Hadi al-Amiri stated they would eliminate corruption.  He stated that they would create needed jobs and punish those who had stolen Iraq's wealth.  Hadi is a militia thug and he's also one of the corrupt -- most infamously, he ordered a plane  to remain on the runway and wait for his spoiled son Mahdi to make the flight but the plane left Lebanon without Mahdi on board so al-Amiri, then-Minister of Transportation in Iraq, refused to allow the plane to land.  It caused quite an uproar -- as CNN noted in real time.
The election will require a get-out the vote program.  The United Nations Development Program's David Aasen recently spoke with Nawal Hussein Khaled who heads Iraq's Electoral Commission's Electoral Media and Public Outreach Department.

UNDP: What does Electoral Media do?

NH: This Section establishes and implements the electoral media plans—for the National Office and for each of the Governorate Electoral Offices (GEOs). We oversee the production of TV/radio spots based on the key messages we provide, and coordinate with the Graphics Unit to design and print the materials.
These are the booklets, posters, banners distributed in the meetings with voters and displayed nationwide during each phase of the campaigns. The Electoral Commission has just completed the Voter Registration Update stage of the Governorate Council Elections. The next phase will focus on the concept of ‘get out the vote’, which is part of the polling phase. We also organize the production of promotional materials and place official notices of procedures, like registration of candidates, in the press.

UNDP: How have electoral media campaigns changed since the first elections of the political transition?

NH: In the first elections, the UN was responsible for the whole media campaign. We have been trained by the UN and now we’re doing the job. The campaign is being carried out by Iraqi hands.
We learn from our mistakes in each campaign and take measures to avoid them in the future. Some activities can be a challenge but we adapt to meet the needs of the GEOs. We can call on the UN for advice. They help us to accelerate certain actions; like UNDP placing banners on Yahoo! sites for this campaign. (The website banners, illustrated by ‘Abu Mutar’ (Father of Rain), a popular cartoon character created by the Electoral Commission artists, appear in Yahoo! mail accounts in Iraq. Abu Mutar’s captions clarify electoral information.)

Prime Minister Abadi has announced his plan to lead a coalition of mostly Shia parties and independent Sunni figures under the framework of his Victory (Nasr) Alliance. In launching his own coalition, Abadi is competing with Vice President and former prime minister Nouri al Maliki, who, like Abadi, is a leading member of the Dawa Party. Maliki’s State of Law alliance has been critical of Abadi’s leadership, and some State of Law members are vocal opponents of Iraq’s security partnership with the United States. Several former leaders of the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) militias organized to help fight the Islamic State are participating in the elections as candidates under the rubric of the Fatah Alliance (see textbox below).
Other prominent Iraqi figures have organized coalitions and lists to contest the election, including a largely Sunni list led by Vice President Osama al Nujayfi and the National Alliance jointly led by Vice President Iyad Allawi, COR Speaker Salim al Juburi, and former deputy Prime Minister Salih al Mutlaq. Among Shia leaders, Ammar al Hakim’s Wisdom (Hikma) movement has formally withdrawn from the Prime Minister’s coalition, but Hakim reportedly intends to coordinate with Abadi during government formation negotiations after the election. Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr is directing his followers to support the multiparty, anti-corruption oriented Sa’irun coalition. Sadr has criticized the participation of PMF leaders in the election and is campaigning on a populist reform and anti-corruption platform.

The 2005 election was decided by the US government (Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in May of 2006).  The March 2010 election was decided by the US government (President Barack Obama had The Erbil Agreement negotiated to give Nouri a second term after he lost the election).  The 2014 election was decided by the US government (Barack, now tired of Nouri, installed Hayder al-Abadi).
This time around Iraqis will get to decide?

Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri wants to be prime minister again despite his flunkies repeatedly insisting that is not the case.  ALSUMARIA reported last week that Nouri has insisted Iraq is passing through a serious, make-it-or-break-it period.  Naturally, Nouri believes he's the one who can save the country -- despite nearly destroying it in 2014..  Last week, ALSUMARIA noted that he's saying Iraq needs someone who can lead the country in construction and progress.  Others who would like to become prime minister include Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr who has teamed up with five other groups -- including the Iraqi Communist Party -- for this election cycle.  Two others who'd like to become prime minister, Ammar al-Hakim and Ayad Allawi, have done joint photo-ops.  
 Ayad Allawi should have been prime minister per the 2010 elections.  But Nouri refused to step down for eight months and brought the country to a stalemate.  Let's review, Barack Obama, then president, refused to back the winner of the election and instead brokered The Erbil Agreement which, in November of 2010, gave Nouri a second term as prime minister -- in effect, nullifying the election results and overturning the will of the Iraqi people.

March 7, 2010, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August 2010, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 

November 10, 2010, The Erbil Agreement is signed.  November 11, 2010, the Iraqi Parliament has their first real session in over eight months and finally declares a president, a Speaker of Parliament and Nouri as prime minister-designate -- all the things that were supposed to happen in April of 2010 but didn't.  Again, it wasn't smart to schedule elections right before Ramadan.

We'll close with this from Emma Skye's new essay for FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

On May 12, Iraqis will head to the polls for parliamentary elections. These elections are coming at a pivotal moment. Since the Iraqi military announced the defeat of the Islamic State (or ISIS) in December 2017, millions of refugees and displaced people have returned to their homes. In Mosul, students are now back in school and the library that ISIS destroyed is open again. Baghdad feels safer than it has at any point since 2003—shopping malls are doing good business, new coffeehouses are opening, and parks are once again full of families.                                                           
Iraq has been at a similar crossroads before. In 2010, after the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, the sectarian war appeared to be over and both Iraqis and Americans were hopeful that elections would put the country on the path to sustainable peace. But then it all unraveled. Although the incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who led the State of Law Coalition, did not win the most seats, the Obama administration threw its support behind him. The administration was convinced that Maliki was pro-American and would allow a small contingent of U.S. forces to remain in Iraq when the status of forces agreement between the two countries expired in 2011. They also calculated that maintaining the status quo was the quickest way to ensure that an Iraqi government would be in place ahead of U.S. midterm elections. In practice, however, this decision failed to help Iraq move beyond sectarianism and undermined the notion that change could come about through politics rather than violence.


The following community sites updated:

  • Wednesday, April 04, 2018

    Again on T-Rex and new on the someday end of the universe

    Saturday, I wrote about the Baby T-Rex possible discoveryHOW STUFF WORKS has a piece today which includes this:

    Should the animal indeed be a young T. rex, it's part of an exclusive club. Atkins-Weltman told LiveScience that fewer than five "decently preserved juvenile T. rexes" have been found at Hell Creek. He adds that the new specimen would "probably be the most preserved and most complete" specimen among them.
    Then again, it might be something else. In 1988, dino expert Robert Bakker and two colleagues looked over the skull of a smallish tyrannosaur that had been dug up in Montana. They claimed it belonged to a new species and named it Nanotyrannus lancensis. Supposedly a smaller cousin of T. rex, this thing would've co-existed with the better-known predator.
    Not all paleontologists are convinced. While a few other bones have since been attributed to Nanotyrannus, skeptics argue that these remains — along with that skull — really came from a young Tyrannosaurus rex. In other words, Nanotyrannus may not be a valid genus at all. Like humans, dinosaurs changed shape as they aged. This fact might explain the physical differences between alleged Nanotyrannus bones and other T. rexremains.

    I really hope it's a baby T-Rex.  But I also hope I didn't present it as "this is what it is."  I'm reading over what I wrote and don't think I was clear enough on that. I do have one sentence that reads "If it does turn out to be a baby T-Rex that will be great but regardless this is big news."  I agree with that -- big news either way -- but that's one sentence and I want to be clear that what it is -- actually is -- remains open to debate at this point.

    I apologize for being too excited by the news to get that across strongly last time.

    Okay, new topic.  Is time finite?  Is our time as a planet, as a universe, finite>

    Nothing lasts forever, not even the universe itself. Whether its sentient evil AI that comes to destroy us or a giant Higgs-Boson world-ending void bubble that may already be traveling to devour Earth at the speed of light, as Stephen Hawking predicted, we all know humanity has an expiration date. But now, according to a group of theoretical physicists, we know the exact date.

    In an effort to figure out exactly when all of known creation will cease to exist, theoretical physicists have undertaken an experiment to assess when the laws of physics themselves will start to deteriorate, because, apparently, even something as simple as electromagnetic energy has a shelf life.

    As it turns out, we've only got 10139 years left until everything breaks down and the rules of our universe stop applying in the same way that they do now.

    AOL adds:

    So would the death of a star or some other catastrophic event be needed for this to occur? Scientists don’t think so.
    According to them, all it would take is the destabilization of the Higgs boson -- or the God particle -- which is thought to give all matter its mass.
    What would follow is an explosion of energy that would destroy everything in the universe. 

    Now these are models that they're working with and these are predictions and guess work so no one need panic that the universe might end (it would be trillions of years from now).  But at some point, things do end.  Endings can be sad.  They can also be uplifting.

    I was thinking about something related to this when I saw this topic.

    I was thinking about crazy Barbra Streisand cloning her dog twice.


    And thinking about how if we ended death or moved towards cloning, our already over-populated earth would be even more overpopulated.  And I wondered if cloning were available to the super rich, would death ever come for some people?

    I could make a crack about Barbra living forever but that's not really my point. 

    I honestly don't think I would want to live forever on this planet in this lifetime.

    Would I feel differently if I didn't believe in heaven?

    I don't know.  I don't think it would make much difference.  But who knows?

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
    Wednesday, April 4, 2018.  Alissa J. Rubin reports on checkpoints in Iraq, Brett McGurk reveals the real reason Barack Obama started moving US troops back into Iraq in 2014 (it wasn't the Yazidis), and much more.

    Oh, the stupidity. We were going to go with Peter Baker but there was a bigger fool on Iraq today.

    People treating Laura Ingraham like some sort of free speech martyr didn't seem to mind so much when Phil Donahue lost his show for the crime of being right about the Iraq war.

    People are objecting to a cry baby White boy who shoved his way to the front of the photo op to tear center stage away from students of color only to then throw a tantrum because Larua Ingraham said he was "whining."  Grow the hell up.  And since he can't, broadcasters are being irresponsible by booking David Hogg.  He does not have the maturity to be in public.

    Ingraham said he was whining.  For that, her advertisers were astroturffed by Hogg and his followers who don't hold jobs and have all the time in the world to create sock puppets.  Ingraham has done some appalling things.  Saying someone was "whining" is not one of them.  She doesn't deserve to be targeted for this nonsense.

    But, more to the point, Schooley, you don't know what the hell you're talking about.  Phil Donahue did not lose his show because he was right about the Iraq War.  The Iraq War had not started.  MSNBC pulled his show because they felt his questioning during war time would come off as unpatriotic.  Should he have lost his show?  No.  And it was a hit show.  But let's not alter reality because you're too lazy to learn what happened, Schooley.

    Moving over to THE NEW YORK TIMES, they have re-launched their blog AT WAR and one of the pieces there is by Alissa J. Rubin who returned to Iraq in January and who will have a piece on Iraq in an upcoming NEW YORK TIMES SUNDAY MAGAZINE.  This is from her blog about a three hour trip in Iraq previously was now a nine hour trip due to all the checkpoints:

    After the last Kurdish position, everything changed. We were diverted onto a minor road that twisted through the desert scrub of the Nineveh plains. We emerged at a large Iraqi Army checkpoint with cars and trucks parked haphazardly on either side.
    A soldier asked if I was a foreigner. Yes, we said.
    We were not allowed to pass. At a dilapidated concrete building surrounded by mud and pickup trucks, we were told we could plead our case.
    The one dubious comfort was that there seemed to be others waylaid.
    We entered a room with scuffed walls. Soiled, sunken couches lay along two sides of the room. There was a large battered desk along the third wall. On the fourth wall was an army cot. The only light came through windows so dirty it was hard to see out. A soldier smoked a hookah pipe.
    A man wearing jeans and a leather jacket restlessly paced. He appeared to be in charge. “Papers,” he snapped.
    We produced press cards. Looking around, I saw other idled travelers with forms bearing official-looking stamps. The soldier reviewed each form carefully.
    He seemed decent enough. He said he would call his supervisor, and if we had permission, we could cross.
    We called our bureau in Baghdad. We did have government approval. We asked our office manager to try to get someone with authority to call the checkpoint on our behalf.
    We waited. We waited some more. Other travelers came and went. Our office in Baghdad recommended we call local army commanders. We texted, we called, then we pleaded some more with the checkpoint chief. Nothing happened.
    I looked at my watch. It had been an hour and five minutes. I turned to Kamil: “What can we do?”
    “You know Jabouri, right?” he said.

    No, I answered.
    Kamil was referring to Gen. Najim Abed al-Jabouri, the Iraqi Army commander in charge of Mosul and the surrounding territory, who had a reputation for being reasonable.
    “Even if you don’t know him, why don’t you call him?” Kamil said.
    More calls to Baghdad. Jabouri’s number was sent to me. As I typed him a text message, the checkpoint soldier dialed a number on his phone, muttering in Arabic.
    Kamil had been watching. He spoke softly to me. “The guy just made a phone call and said, ‘Now they are calling Jabouri, I’m going to let them go.’ ”
    An hour and 15 minutes after arriving, we were free. We rushed to our car before anyone of them could change their minds.

    Checkpoints are often associated with borders so let's move to that topic.  Yesterday the US Institute of Peace held several talks on Iraq.  The third and final one included a group composed of Brett McGurk (lead US diplomat on Iraq under Barack Obama, also a diplomat on Iraq under Bully Boy Bush and a diplomat on Iraq under Donald Trump who is ending Brett's current position), US Gen Joseph Votel, USAID's Mark Green and noted leaker Stephen J. Hadley.  Votel was the one who stressed the issue of borders and how this involves the US troops.

    Because, please note, US troops remain in Iraq.  While you are being distracted, US troops remain in Iraq.   It's amazing that the US press appears to be ignoring the events at the US Institute of Peace because this group is funded by Congress and has a direct pipeline to Congress.  As most participants noted, Congress will be making determinations shortly.  And what the so-called peace event was pimping?  Continued US military presence in Iraq.  This came from USAID's Mark Green.  It came from all of the participants.  But Green, someone who has nothing to do with the military, couldn't stop praising the new civilian and military mixture teams -- who, he insisted, were not duplicating one another's work.  The event was all about selling the war, continuing the war.  Why wasn't the American press interested in covering this DC event?

    US Gen Joseph Votel:  We'll-we'll  see a heavy focus on the development of Iraqi border forces. Uh, this will be very, very important. They-they do not want to have a repeat of what happened before. Obviously, ISIS is an organization that operates without regard to borders or boundaries or any, uh, any recognized norm of that sort and so being able to protect their own borders, is, I think is a -- is a key aspect of this. And, along the way, we'll see the coalition forces with the United States continue to provide the support that the government of Iraq has asked of them. And this has been something we've been talking about with them for some time here, so that we do remain in a position where we can continue to help them professionalize, continue to help them develop into the -- into the security force that the Iraqi people need and want to protect them in the future. So uh, in-in Iraq, I think we're in a pretty good place right now security wise. It is -- there still is the presence of ISIS, uh, there's no doubt about that, but I think with the coalition's support, I think the Iraqi security forces are in a pretty good position to begin to address that.

    He was not the only one noting (advocating for) the continued US military presence in Iraq at the Institute of Peace.  SPUTNIK notes Iraq's Ambassador to the US, Fareed Yasseen, who declared, "They played a really critical role.  We will continue to need their support and their expertise to fight ISIS in the comping phases where you will have to move from terrain tactics warfare to intelligence, fusion cells, counter-terrorism, things like that."  ALMASDAR NEWS adds, "Moreover, Yasseen said that Iraq would also need the support of the United States to secure its border with Syria."

    Again, no matter who spoke, they all joined the chorus of "Keep US Boots On The Ground."

    Some sang it a little louder, but they all sang it.

    Some did a solo turn or two.  Chief among them?  Brett McGurk.

    Why did US troops start going back into Iraq in heavier numbers after the second half of 2014?  To help the Yazidis!


    That has been the lie.

    The conference cleared that up.  Don't think Brett realized he was doing that, but he did.  He wanted to talk about how they arrived at this recent point in history and he wanted to start with 2014.  He revealed that Baghdad was seriously concerned the Islamic State would seize the city (which everyone already knew) and that, at this time, the US government was seriously exploring evacuating the US Embassy in Baghdad (a detail not previously discussed in the US press), "that's how serious it was."

    Not everyone's selling the notion of US troops remaining in Iraq.  The idea is especially unpopular in Iraq.  Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr continues to call for US troops to leave the country.  Baxtiyar Goran (KURDISTAN 24) reports:

    Influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday expressed his rejection to the presence of foreign troops in Iraq, vowing resistance against them.
    In a hand-written letter released to the media by his office, Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist Movement in Iraq, warned against the presence of the US or any other foreign military in the country.
    “Our position regarding the presence of the invading US forces, under the pretext of military advisers, and with the endorsement and knowledge of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is clear,” he wrote. “Everyone knows our position, we reject and resist” the presence of the US troops in Iraq.

    Violence continues in Iraq.  UNAMI released their undercount of violence for the month of March:

    UN Casualty Figures for for the Month of March 2018 A total of 104 Iraqi civilians were killed and another 177 injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in March 2018*, according to casualty figures recorded by UNAMI.

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