Friday, June 15, 2018


I know I’ve slacked off in science this week.  So let’s do it today.  Jessia Boddy caught my attention at GIZMODO with her piece on crab spiders:

If you’re arachnophobic, I hate to tell you this, but spiders can fly.
Don’t panic—it’s pretty much only the extra-tiny ones that take flight, which is a behavior called ballooning. By releasing a bouquet of streamer-like silks, baby spiders ascend into the air to find new homes after hatching, and adult spiders do so to get around more easily and find mates and new food sources. Some have even crossed entire oceans using these silk parachutes to stay aloft on wind currents.
And though the behavior is widespread, scientists haven’t nailed down exactly how spiders are able to take to the skies. Moonsung Cho, an aerodynamics engineer at the Technical University of Berlin, wanted to find out, so he studied crab spiders to see when they decide to take off and how they do it. Crab spiders are decently large for spiders that fly—though still only 5 millimeters long—so Cho thought they’d be excellent test subjects, because he wouldn’t need a heavy-duty zoom to record their behavior.
He gathered 14 of them and placed them on a small, dome-shaped structure in a Berlin park to see how they reacted to natural winds. He also studied them in the lab using controlled wind tunnels. He found that before flying away, the spiders would lay down an anchor silk strand for safety. They would then reach one of their front legs into the air to evaluate how fast the wind was blowing, and from which direction. That’s the spider equivalent of licking your finger and sticking it in the air.

And then what?  They shoot out their webs – their parachutes.  USA TODAY notes:

Spiders don't have wings to fly, but some can weave 10-foot-long silk parachutes to float through the air, researchers recently discovered.

Crab spiders, which are about 5 millimeters long and can change color, were observed checking the wind, raising their abdomen and spinning 7- to 13-foot-long silk parachutes, according to an observational study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS Biology. These spiders seem like expert fliers, too. 

When I was a kid, Jessica Drew was Spider-Woman and she could do all sorts of cool things.  The Gypsy Moth was one of her foes.  I loved it and then they changed her whole story and did a revamp.  Don’t get me started on the Joan Van Ark’s voice over for the Spider-Woman TV cartoon.
But spiders are so interesting.  And my favorite Spider-Man remains Toby.  He was the best.

Last time, I offered "Tammy Duckworth, the manliest in the Senate " and I wanted to note these:

  1. Justin Raimondo Retweeted Tammy Duckworth
    What’s dangerous is warmongers like Duckeorth
    Justin Raimondo added,
  2. Justin Raimondo Retweeted Tim Shorrock
    Dump Duckworth!
    Justin Raimondo added,

Duckworth is a huge embarrassment.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Friday, June 15, 2018.  The western press obsesses over foreign countries interfering in Iraq -- foreign countries that are not the United States.

The big news out of Iraq continues to be Moqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Ameri teaming up.

Iraq: The leader of the Sadrist movement Moqtada al-Sadr had announced the formation of an alliance between the people & the opening to form the largest bloc in parliament, came during a joint press conference with President of the Al-Fathahidi alliance held in Najaf.14-06-2018



WHAT would politicians the world over like to do when they lose an election? Annul the results and burn the ballots, of course. In Iraq such dreams come true. On June 6th outgoing MPs voted to hold a recount of Iraq’s election and sack the head of the electoral commission. They were furious that a populist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, won the poll, held in May. Then, on June 10th, a warehouse in Baghdad containing a million ballots went up in flames. Firefighters claim to have saved most of them, but the equipment for counting the votes was destroyed.
Weary of the democratic process, Mr Sadr and his rivals are again readying their militias. An arms cache that exploded under a mosque in Mr Sadr’s Baghdad stronghold killed about 20 residents and brought his militia, Saraya Salam, onto the streets. “Certain parties are trying to drag Iraq into civil war,” he warned.
The fiercest rancour is between the Shia factions vying for the post of prime minister. Mr Sadr’s electoral bloc, Sairoun, seeks to wrest power from Dawa, a Shia Islamist party that has led the government since 2005. Dawa held the most seats in the outgoing parliament, but the electoral bloc of its leader, Nuri al-Maliki, a former prime minister, tied for fourth in the poll. Mr Maliki and his allies cried foul and said a new electronic-voting system made the poll easier to rig.

Some are fretting over the alliance between Moqtada and Hadi but this is an alliance that resulted from US interference.  The US government egged on the losers encouraging them to demand a recount or a revote.  They thought that would happen.

All it did was lead to Moqtada teaming up with Hadi to block the US interference.

Moqtada teaming up with others was limited.  And, as Mustafa Habib (NIQASH) observed in his analysis last week, "Al-Sadr is satisfied because the state of law alliance – another Iran-allied group but one that is less popular than the militias’ – is not part of this agreement."  State of Law is Nouri al-Maliki's coalition.


Sadr and Amiri are strange bedfellows.
Sadr, who once led violent campaigns against the US occupation that ended in 2011, has emerged as a nationalist opponent of powerful Shia parties allied with neighbouring Iran and as a champion of the poor.
"Our meeting was a very positive one, we met to end the suffering of this nation and of the people. Our new alliance is a nationalist one," Sadr said.
Al-Sadr's alliance comprising of communists and secular Iraqis has announced it is fiercely opposed to any foreign interference in Iraq - whether Tehran's or Washington's.
Amiri, a fluent Persian speaker, is Iran's closest ally in Iraq, having spent two years in exile there during the era of former President Saddam Hussein.

The Fatah alliance he led in the election was composed of political groups tied to Iran-backed Shia armed groups who helped government forces defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters.

Hadi heads the militias bloc.  Mustafa Habib (NIQASH) offers a look at the group:

The Fatah, or Conquest, alliance is led by Hadi al-Ameri, a former government minister-turned soldier, leader of the Badr brigades and well known for his closeness to Iran and his friendship with senior Iranian soldier, Qasim Soleimani.  It is made up of 18 different political parties, most of which are backed by armed militias. The Badr group is probably the most prominent in the group but the alliance also includes political wings of parties like Hezbollah in Iraq and the League of the Righteous. And they managed to do better in the elections, held May 12, than the two other alliances – that led by Haider al-Abadi and another led by cleric Ammar al-Hakim - who formerly got many of the Shiite Muslim votes in Iraq.
When the extremist Islamic State, or IS, group sparked the security crisis in 2014, that would impact the country so critically over the next three years, a Shiite Muslim-led government was in charge. The IS group exploited opportunities – political unrest, sectarian divisions, a lack of security, a mismanaged military – to take control of certain cities and towns in Iraq. Locals believed that many of these things were the fault of the current government.
Many Shiites came to believe that the Shiite Muslim political parties that had ruled for over a decade bore a large part of the responsibility for the IS group’s development.
Meanwhile the Shiite Muslim militias formed in response to the security crisis and were seen as a new hope. They were defended their own homes and also went to fight the IS group on its territory. Locals came to see them as a group with potential – not just in security terms but also with the potential to resolve other longstanding problems in Iraq, such as the wobbling economy and the lack of state services.
In 2015, Shiite Muslim militia leaders began to exploit that vision of them and started making political statements. The leader of the League of the Righteous held a press conference commenting on the nature of Iraqi politics and how a change was needed. In a year marked by extremely high summer temperatures and the deterioration of power supplies, a statement from Hezbollah in Iraq said it would hold the minister of power to account and called on police not to use violence against demonstrators who were protesting the power cuts. Such calls were unusual, coming from a militia. A few weeks before the Iraqi election, the militias also added the fight against corruption to their list of priorities.

“The fight against corruption is the first step we will take when we get into parliament,” Abdul Amir Fattah Hassan, a member of the Conquest alliance, told NIQASH. “For too long, personal interests have disrupted state services.”

The US government made a huge mistake when they thought they could force Moqtada to step aside after his bloc won the elections.  Their efforts to circumvent him led to his alliance with Hadi.  As usual, the western press finds outside interference shocking -- when it's not the US.  So they spend all their time focusing on the manipulations of non-US governments.  THE ARAB WEEKLY features an AFP piece focusing on Iran's role in the teaming:

Insiders said the unlikely tie-up to try to form a new government came after Iran decided that if it couldn't beat Sadr, then it might be better to seek to join him.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Tehran had launched a political offensive to try to unite its allies and block Sadr's path to power.
But Iran changed tack on realising pushing the popular cleric aside was too problematic, and instead sought to include Sadr in a Shia alliance broad enough to neutralise his influence.
At a meeting Sunday with Ameri and former premier Nuri al-Maliki at Iran's embassy in Baghdad, top emissaries from Tehran apparently endorsed a link-up with Sadr as the lesser of two evils.
"Dismissing Moqtada Sadr could allow him to assemble other groups and increase the criticism levelled at Iran's role in Iraq," said a source close to participants of the meeting.

What might the landscape in Iraq look like if the governments of Iran and the US stopped trying to control things from behind the scenes?  The world will probably never know.  Just like PBS' FRONTLINE will repeatedly ignore the US role in Iraq while always focusing on Saudi Arabia and Iran's attempts to control Iraq.

XINHUA notes, "A security personnel was killed and six others wounded on Friday in a militant attack on a security checkpoint in central Iraq on the first day of Eid al-Fitr festival, a police source said."  In addition, Leith Aboufadel (ALMASDAR NEWS) explains, "The Turkish military killed at least 26 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Qandil Mountains region of northern Iraq today, Turkish state-owned Anadolu Agency reported."

The Turkish conflict continues and it has no end in sight.   Fazel Hawramy (AL-MONITOR) points out:

"If the occupying enemy sleeps even one night comfortably … we won’t accept that," Adasa Janwelat, a young female sniper from Afrin said May 20 as she prepared to go into battle alongside other fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) against units of the Turkish army, which has occupied a large swath of territory in the Sidakan area in northern Iraq.
"After kicking out the Turkish army from south Kurdistan [Iraq], I will go to Afrin and fight against the occupying forces there." Two weeks later, on June 3, a website close to the PKK released a video, which showed the group's snipers observing Turkish soldiers on peaks in the Sidakan area through their binoculars and shooting five of them dead.
The Sidakan area is an inaccessible triangle with spectacular high peaks, rocky and precipitous gorges and rivers flowing between Iraq, Iran and Turkey. It has served as the perfect corridor for PKK fighters to cross into Turkey and attack the security forces. Since July 2015, when a 2½-year cease-fire collapsed between the government and the PKK, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has undertaken a crusade against the group in Iraq and Turkey and its affiliated groups in Syria.
Erdogan feels emboldened — especially after wresting control of Afrin from the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) in March, which was followed by PKK fighters' withdrawal from Sinjar and more recently the YPG's withdrawal from Manbij. But the tenacity of the PKK and its ferocity in fighting its enemies — be they the Turkish army or other Kurdish groups — show that if Erdogan indeed attacks Qandil, which is very unlikely, he should expect a bloody and long war with serious consequences for the stability of the region and Iraqi Kurdistan. While Turkish firepower appears to have been fairly effective in the flatlands and hills of northern Syria, the highlands of northern Iraq are a different story and could become a death trap for any ground invasion by the Turkish army.


The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS and THE DIANE REHM SHOW -- updated:

  • Thursday, June 14, 2018

    Tammy Duckworth, the manliest in the Senate

    Or that's what she wants to be.

    She's such a War Hawk and such a joke.

    The democrats have gone quite mad. The good thing is that with their pathological hate for Trump they are revealing themselves for the reactionary, right-wing party that they are.

    Ajamu links to this ABC report:

    A pair of Senate Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday that would prevent President Donald Trump from unilaterally drawing down the American troop presence on the Korean peninsula – not necessarily because he’s said he will, but because they don’t want to rely on his word that he won’t.
    Other measures that also tie the president’s hands, but don’t go as far, are already closer to being passed as part of an essential military policy bill.
    The new legislation, from Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., would prevent Trump from withdrawing troops from South Korea unless the secretary of defense says it’s in the interest of national security and that it would not undermine the security of allies in the region.
    “U.S. troops are not bargaining chips to be offered up in an off-handed manner,” Duckworth said in a statement.
    I thought that was a decision for the commander in chief?

    I know Tammy thinks she has testicles, but just because she's tugging on her phantom nuts, that still won't make her commander in chief.

    She's a War Hawk.  She lusts for war and destruction.  Pity her children as well as the citizens she's supposed to be representing. 

    Oh, and Tammy, kiss my Black ass.

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
     Thursday, June 14, 2018.  Another scandal involving the VA while, in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki fears he might be left out in the cold.

    At the end of last week, the big news should have been about the Defense Dept refusing to attend a Congressional hearing on burn pits.  VA's presence was requested and they attended.  DoD's presence was requested but they didn't attend and numerous Committee members commented on the no-show.

    At THIRD, we offered "Hold Trump accountable for his Defense Department."

    It should have been a major media story but the media doesn't appear to care about US veterans.  Oh, they'll offer up empty slogans but they don't really want to report.

    Which is how one of the biggest scandals continues to take place with no media coverage.

    I said we'd return to the House hearing and here it is.

    US House Rep Julia Brownley:  Furthermore, until a fully operative integrated electric health record system is set up between the two agencies, VA will continue to be beholden to DoD's willingness to cooperate.

    What's she talking about?

    The EHR.

    It's an important tool.  VA House Committee Chair Phil Roe noted in the hearing, "I think we have an opportunity to watch a population throught its life."

    Yes, it is a wonderful tool, one that could help countless veterans.


    "I hope we do it right," Roe added.

    He has to hope that because it is still not a reality.

    When we first started attending the VA hearings in Congress and reporting on them here, Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.  And back then, an EHR -- electronic health record -- was going to happen -- Congress and the White House were going to make sure.

    Then, a few years later, Barack Obama was elected president.  During the campaign, one of the things he spoke of was the need for the EHR.

    The EHR, you may remember, was a medical record that would start with a service member's induction into the military.  It would follow the service member throughout their time in the military.  Once they left the military, it would follow them through the VA.

    Former US House Rep John Hall was among the members of Congress who understood that an EHR would be very helpful to veterans.  Not only would an EHR prvent medical records from being lost, it would also allow a veteran to get a full disability rating much easier.  There would be no struggle to go back and get records and testimony on what happened ten years ago in spot X.  You'd have it on your EHR and you would get your full disability rating, not a partial one based upon what paperwork you (the veteran) could provide or find years after the incident.

    On the campaign trail, then-Senator Barack spoke of the importance of this and how it would be easy to do.

    So, explain it to us, how did Barack spend two terms in the White House and leave without the ERH being implemented?

    And where was the press?

    I know where we were.  Check the archives, we called out this failure to implement the EHR repeatedly -- year after year -- right here.

    Money was being spent on this effort -- US tax dollars -- and it wasn't happening.

    Let's drop back to the snapshot for May 30, 2014 which noted that the inept Eric Shinseki was resigning as VA Secretary:

    Shinseki, at the start of his tenure as VA Secretary, was tasked with determining whether or not his computer system would change -- one had to.  DoD and VA were supposed to offer a seamless transition for those going from service member to veteran.  How?  They'd do it with electronic records.  But the two systems couldn't communicate -- this was all determined before Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as President of the United States.  So one of the two would have to change.

    Shinseki chose not to.  He also sat on this issue that Congress poured billions of dollars into.  He's been Secretary of the VA since 2009.  This was supposed to have been handled immediately.  Robert Gates told him to do what he wanted and the Pentagon would adapt.  Then Leon Panetta became Secretary of Defense.  He told Shinseki that whatever Gates had already approved was fine.  And still nothing.  Then Chuck Hagel becomes Secretary of Defense.

    Something finally happens.

    Hagel's not shedding any tears today over Shinseki's departure. Not after Shinseki tried to blame him to Congress.

    April 11, 2013, Shinseki appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee which was irritated by the budget request coming to them late and not coming to them in full because, as they pointed out, what the administration submitted did not include all the costs -- even if you set aside issues of discretionary spending, the VA 'budget' request was a joke.  Ranking Member Mike Michaud noted the money that was being poured into the VA -- others did as well but he's the one who asked for a status on the electronic health record.  And this is where Shinseki chose to lie.  There was no progress, he admitted, but that was because Chuck Hagel hadn't added any input.

    What the hell was that?  It's so high school cafeteria.  Did he think it wouldn't get back to Hagel that the House Veterans Affairs Committee was vocal about the fact that there was no progress on this issue despite the funds provided for it in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and now 2013?

    It had nothing to do with Chuck Hagel.  Good for Hagel that he wasn't going to stay under the bus.  He complained to Barack who had a sit-down with Hagel and Shinseki to ensure that a decision was made and there was no 'confusion' about the status.

    If you're not getting what a little bitch move Shinseki pulled before Congress, grasp that Hagel was confirmed as Secretary of Defense on February 26, 2013.  Not two months later, Shisenski was blaming a multi-year delay to starting the program on Hagel.

    You think this delay doesn't matter?  Iraq War veteran Travis Fugate testified at the Wednesday morning hearing. From his opening statement:

     In 2006, I went for a follow-up visit with an ENT doctor at the Lexington VA Medical Center. The nurse brought him a big stack of my paper military medical files, and he told her, “There’s absolutely nothing relevant that I need in there.” He told me the anatomy of my sinuses was so disfigured, he didn’t know what in my face tissue was natural and what was artificially implanted. He said he wouldn’t feel comfortable doing any further procedures, I trusted that decision because my experience was that the medics and Army doctors are all professionals, and I was used to putting my faith in them.
              For two years, things were OK. I went back to community college, and I started being active with many different disabled sporting events and programs where I had chance to meet other injured OIF veterans, and attended the Blinded Veterans Association national convention in August 2007 and returned to other BVA OIF peer group meetings since.
              Then in November 2008, three weeks before finals, I had to call my dad at 10 p.m. to tell him I thought I had one of those headaches that the doctors at Walter Reed warned me about. They said the damaged sinus and orbit area around my left eye could lead to a severe infection in area around my sighted eye. He took me to the ER, and I was in the hospital for 10 days with a serious infection. The upper left hemisphere of my face was so swollen that my eyelids swelled together, that was the last time I had any sight.
              In December I had been told that when sinus infections cleared maybe some vision would return like before. I strongly believe today the lack of having my eye surgery records in an electronic joint registry where both VA and DOD medical staff can find out immediately what treatments and surgery was done could have made a difference.

              In January, I returned to Walter Reed, where the doctors would have better access to all my surgery trauma records. I saw a retina specialist, and within five minutes, he’d scheduled a five-hour surgery the following day for detached retina and bleeding in left eye. Then, I have had more surgeries, the last one March 6th 2009 where they again tried to save my damaged retina because of another detachment but it failed and have no eye sight since then.

    He strongly believes "the lack of having my eye surgery records in an electronic joint registry where both VA and DoD medical staff and find out immediately what treatments and surgery was done could have made a difference."  2008?  That's before the transition was supposed to take place.  If everyone had gotten on it (the electronic record) sooner, his vision probably could have been saved.  It's very sad that everyone didn't and that he lost his vision.  But this could be any number of veterans with the same issue or others.  That's why the electronic medical record is needed.  And the system's still not up and running.  How many more have to suffer?  The failure to implement this system falls on Shinseki.

    Over a year before (April 2013), we'd offered "Seamless transition? Shinseki wasted the last four years."  There was no excuse for it.  Leon Panetta, as DoD Secretary, told Shinseki he'd agree with whatever worked.  He was all for stating it.  Shinseki was the hold up.

    Later when Barack met with Hagel and Shinseki, the understanding was that the issue would immediately move forward.  It didn't.  A year later, Shinseki finally resigned.

    All this time later, the EHR still isn't a reality.

    The foot dragging was bad in 2013 when it effected a smaller number of veterans.  Now it's effecitng a lot more.  Each year, in fact, the number effected increases.  I can go back to 2006 with Congress asking the VA and DoD to get this implemented.  That's 12 years ago and there's still no EHR.  This is a scandal and the only bigger scandal on this topic would be the refusal of the press to seriously cover it.

    Dropping back to last Thursday's hearing . . .

    US House Rep Mark Takano: Dr. [Ralph] Erickson, last month, as you know, the VA entered into a contract with Cerner to support its efforts to modernize its electronic health records system.  With the development of a system where VA and DoD may share -- while -- while the development of a system where VA and DoD may share electronic health recordfs will directly increase the quality of and access to healthcare for veterans, it will also significantly improve the healthcare solutions as it will allow for the mining and analyzing of date on a much larger scale.  The impact this type of date is likely to have on VA's research arm will be incredible.

    It would be, if it ever happened.  It would be able to pin point health clusters and issues that were developing and had developed.  But, for that to happen, the EHR would have to be implemented and you can't implement something when, as Erickson noted, it is still "under development."

    Again, this is a serious issue and it's one we've covered for years.  It would be really great if this issue -- that everyone agrees is needed -- could be resolved and the EHR could be implemented.  Maybe someday.

    And maybe someday soon Iraq will have a prime minister?

    AP notes, "Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose coalition won the largest number of seats in last month’s parliamentary elections, has announced an alliance with an Iran-backed coalition ahead of marathon negotiations to form a new government."  (See yesterday's snapshot for more on that merger.)

    Moqtada teaming with Hadi al-Amiri is generating a lot of discussions, such as the one below.

    Jordanian newspaper is carrying a story in which a source alleges that Qassem Soleimani lubricated the relationship between al-Amiri, al-Sadr, and al-Maliki, to deny al-Abadi a second term. It could result in Moqtada al-Sadr being PM of Iraq.

  • Sadr would never become a pm of Iraq. They'll find someone that is western friendly for that sensative role. Sadr himself would not take the position even if by a miracle he was nominated for it.

    Okay, and in your view, how would anyone prevent Moqtada al-Sadr from taking the position at this late stage, given that in the Al-Ghad article (assuming the article is accurate) they are citing him as saying that he thinks he 'deserves' to be Prime Minister of Iraq?

    Well, for starters he cannot become PM since he didn't run in the elections. He's the leader of his coalition but he isn't a politician and legally he cannot become PM since no one voted for him but rather the people in his coalition. So yes there's 0 chance he becomes pm

    The merger has left former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki scrambling.  AL-MANAR reports that Nouri's trying to form alliances with anyone and everyone.  He's insisting (after he did so poorly in the May 12 elections) that he's trying to re-form the National Alliance -- that would be the grouping he long ago walked out on to form his own State of Law Coalition for the 2010 elections. He's wooing everyone.

    Nouri al-Maliki former Iraqi prime minister asks to reconciliate with Sadr.

    For those who've forgotten -- the ground shifts so quickly in Iraq -- it was about a week ago when Nouri was forming an alliance with Hayder al-Abadi with the intent to leave Moqtada out in the cold.

    The following community sites updated: