Saturday, February 02, 2019

Curiosity scores a victory on Mars while warming ocean water does harm down here on earth

Big news for Curiosity -- NASA's finest land rover.  Jackson Ryan (CNET) reports:

NASA's intrepid Martian explorer, Curiosity, is slowly crawling its way up the side of the three mile (~five kilometre) high Mount Sharp on the surface of the red planet.
Navigating the Martian surface can be risky (just look at the damage done to Curiosity's wheels!) but the rover's accelerometers and gyroscopes make the journey a little easier. And scientists have realized those instruments can be recalibrated to help Curiosity measure Mars' gravity.
The research, published in Science on Jan. 31, describes how NASA collaborators at research universities such as Johns Hopkins were able to take gravity measurements by repurposing data from Curiosity rovers exquisitely precise sensors. 

And if you'd like a video report, check out this from SCIENCE MAGAZINE:

So Curiosity is now measuring rock density!

Some day, we may be able to go to Mars.  Right now, we can't.  But Curiosity is learning a lot that will help us if and when we fly to Mars. 

Now some bad news on a topic we've been noting a lot lately: Antartica.  Julia Jacobs (NEW YORK TIMES) reports:

The Thwaites Glacier on Antarctica’s western coast has long been considered one of the most unstable on the continent. Now, scientists are worried about the discovery of an enormous underwater cavity that will probably speed up the glacier’s decay.
The cavity is about two-thirds the area of Manhattan and nearly 1,000 feet tall, according to a study released Wednesday by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The hulking chamber is large enough to have contained about 14 billion tons of ice — most of which the researchers say melted in three years.
The Thwaites Glacier, which is about the size of Florida, holds enough ice that if it all melted, it would raise the world’s oceans by over two feet, a change that would threaten many coastal cities. Climate scientists tend to watch this glacier closely, usually alongside the nearby Pine Island Glacier, which is also flowing rapidly into the Amundsen Sea.

Also covering the story, CBS NEWS notes:

CBS News climate and weather contributor Jeff Berardelli reports that the cavity is likely a significant finding because the West Antarctic ice sheet is considered one of the most unstable and vulnerable. It seems to not only be melting on the ocean edges, but also from underneath, and warmer ocean waters are infiltrating.
NASA said the hole is large enough to have held 14 billion tons of ice -- the majority of which has melted during the last three years. Scientists say the glacier is responsible for about four percent of global sea level rise.

Remember, climate change is warming our waters.  The heat has to go somewhere and it's been going into our oceans.  I don't think we thought -- I know I didn't -- about how the warmer waters could be melting it from underneath.  😞

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Friday, February 1, 2019.  Australia's government admits some civilians might have been killed in Mosul bombings, Amnesty International calls for other governments to step forward, and much more.

Starting with images of the flooding in Iraq this past fall.

The Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite takes us over one of the areas in Iraq that suffered flooding recently in this week's edition of the #EarthfromSpace programme. Download the image: ★ Subscribe: and click twice on the bell button to receive our notifications. Check out our full video catalog: Follow ESA on Twitter: On Facebook: On Instagram: On Flickr: ESA is Europe's gateway to space. Our mission is to shape the development of Europe's space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. Check out to get up to speed on everything space related.

From yesterday's snapshot:

The Iraqi government remains corrupt, remains unresponsive to the needs of the people, continues to arrest protesters and reporters covering protests (as events in Basra have demonstrated).  And every year, they train and retrain and then train again the Iraqi military in an effort to get it up to speed.  Of course, the Iraqi military repeatedly fails.

The western press repeatedly works overtime to lie about that.  The Iraqi military would not have 'won' Mosul without US war planes blindly bombing Mosul -- a city full of civilians. 

Andrew Tillet (Australia's FINANCIAL REVIEW) reported yesterday:

Australian fighter jets were involved in an air strike believed to have killed up to 18 civilians while fighting Islamic State terrorists in Iraq - the highest casualty rate implicating Australian forces - Defence chiefs have revealed.
But the pilots have been cleared of wrongdoing, with the investigation finding they had acted in accordance with their rules of engagement and laws of armed conflict as part of desperate efforts to save the lives of Iraqi soldiers during brutal urban combat to liberate West Mosul.
The deaths have been attributed to a lack of solid intelligence on the ground as Iraqi troops fought, with no time to properly assess whether surrounding buildings were clear of civilians before bombs were dropped.

While I have no problem with the pilots being cleared of wrongdoing, I do have a problem with those over the strikes and the policy of the strikes being cleared of wrongdoing.  Mosul is a highly populated city.  That was known.  That was known before the US or any other government started dropping bombs on Mosul to 'fight' ISIS.  There were no 'precision' strikes.  That's a lie used to lull the public into stupidity so they won't object to what's really going on -- the equivalent of carpet bombing schools, places of worship, homes, etc.

🚨 ℹ : Defence Force officials have admitted Australian jets were involved in an , which killed in

This morning, Amnesty International issued the following statement:

Responding to the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) admission that its air strikes in Mosul, Iraq may have caused up to 18 civilian deaths in 2017, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:

“The Australian Defence Force’s latest admission that its air strikes killed civilians during the battle for Mosul in 2017 is a step in the right direction. Once again, the Australian government has proven more willing to take responsibility for causing loss of civilian life than its coalition partners, including the UK, USA and France.

“The matter must not end here, however. The ADF should continue to lead by example by providing the further details necessary to help an independent assessment of whether this attack and its operations in Mosul complied with international humanitarian law. We know that an Australian plane struck a target in West Mosul and unintentionally killed up to 18 civilians in a nearby house. In order to understand how this happened the ADF needs to disclose more information, including the type of weapon used in the strike, the nature of the target, what measures were taken to ensure that the target was a military objective, whether other means or methods of attack that would have minimized the risk to civilians were considered, and what was done to collect information about the presence of civilians in the vicinity.

The ADF has taken a positive step by acknowledging that their attacks resulted in civilian casualties. What they must do now is provide the victims’ families with the best chance of achieving justice and accountability. The way to do this is to release the further information required.
Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director   

“The ADF has taken a positive step by acknowledging that their attacks resulted in civilian casualties. What they must do now is provide the victims’ families with the best chance of achieving justice and accountability. The way to do this is to release the further information required.”


The Coalition’s battle to wrest Mosul from the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) began in October 2016 and ended in July 2017. Throughout the campaign, and especially in its later stages in West Mosul, the Coalition relied heavily upon air power, despite the presence of civilians trapped in the city by IS. Amnesty International revealed the effects of this upon the civilian population with its July 2017 report, At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq.

On 31 January 2019, the Australian Defence Force’s Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld acknowledged that as many as 18 civilians were killed in an attack on a target in West Mosul in which two Australian Super Hornet F-18 jets were involved on 13 June 2017. This follows a previous ADF admission on 28 March 2018 that it killed two adults and injured two children in a strike on Mosul that came to light following Amnesty International investigations on the ground.

Will other governments come clean?  Will the US government specifically?  Probably not.  The US government is involved in countless wars while currently working for war with Iran and Venezuela.  Bombing from war planes has always been less 'offensive' to the American people.  It's boots off the ground and, in an operation like Mosul, there's little chance of American fatalities since a group like ISIS (being a terrorist group and not the military of another country) doesn't have a fleet of airplanes.

So they know they can blindly bomb an area for weeks, months, in Mosul's case, years and the American people won't pour into the street or even bat an eye due to being lied to that these are 'precision' strikes and that the government of the United States has done 'everything possible to minimize civilian casualties.'

No, they haven't.

They haven't done anything to minimize civilian casualties.  As for doing 'everything' to minimize, doing everything would include not bombing civilian areas.  But they did bomb civilian areas -- over and over and over.

The US government will most likely never get honest about civilian casualties.  At some point in the near future (say, five years on down the line), they'll offer an under-count of the civilians killed in the Mosul bombings -- but only when they can claim some new technology has come along to make the strikes even more 'precise.'  They'll use that to sell more strikes.

It's really outrageous how little the media cares about the bombs being dropped.  (And if the media doesn't cover it, the American people have a hard time hearing about it.)

Amnesty's issued a statement and applause for that but, as we've noted repeatedly of late, there's no statement on the bombings in Iraq carried out by the Turkish government.  From Monday's snapshot:

Saturday (see "Protests in Iraq" and "About those US bases in Iraq . . ."), protesters stormed a Dohuk base (Dohuk is in northern Iraq and part of the Kurdistan Regional Government).  They were angry over Turkish war planes bombing the area the day before and killing civilians.  Salar Salim and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report the number of civilians killed in the bombing was six.  The Turkish military -- at their base in Dohuk -- fired at the protesters killing 1 and injuring ten more.

AFP reports, "Iraq Sunday said it would summon the Turkish ambassador over the death of a Kurdish protester after Turkish troops opened fire on demonstrators in the country’s northwest."  SPUTNIK adds:

According to the statement, the note read that Ankara’s "actions are a violation of sovereignty, incompatible with friendly relations and brotherhood between the two countries, and called on the Turkish side to stop such unilateral actions."

Maybe the issue of Turkey's bombings can finally get serious attention?  Meaning that the discussion moves beyond the wire services?

Tonight at 20:30GMT on , I will be talking on Strait Talk about the complicated nature of and 's relationship in light of the recent events in and the proposed law in to oust foreign forces.

Turkey has used the PKK as an excuse to bomb the Kurdish region of northern Iraq for over a decade.  The semi-autonomous KRG is the closet thing to a Kurdish homeland that the world has.  Is no one offended that Turkey repeatedly bombs this region?  Does no one see it as an extension of the targeting of Kurds that Turkey does within its own borders?

It's really past time for a serious conversation to take place about what has been happening.

If it does, as Blondie might ask, "Will Anything Happen?"

It's the first of the month.  UNAMI hasn't released its under-count of the dead for January yet but will do so later today.  Margaret Griffis (ANTIWAR.COM) offers:

During January, 184 people were killed, and 178 were wounded. Security forces also found 142 bodies in older graves. At least 45 civilians, 25 security personnel, and 65 militants were reported killed; 84 civilians and 94 security personnel were wounded. The conflict between Turkey and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) left at least 49 guerrillas dead. These numbers are similar to the December casualty figures with only the number of wounded being significantly higher. Fewer bodies were removed from mass graves.

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, THE GUARDIAN, GORILLA RADIO, the ACLU and THE PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated:

  • Wednesday, January 30, 2019

    Save the internet?

    We could have had net neutrality.  All Barack had to do was work with Congress on a law.

    But that would have required work.  And Barack doesn't work.  He poses.  He bows.  He just doesn't work.

    So now we need to save the net.  It's on us.  Free Press Action notes:

    The fight in court to save the open internet kicks off in just two days.
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has announced that oral arguments in our lawsuit to restore the Net Neutrality rules will take place this Friday, Feb. 1st. Our lawyers are working 24/7 to prepare.

    Donate $10 or whatever you can give to support our legal team’s preparations in the critical days ahead.

    We’ve spent the last 13 months preparing for this day because we refuse to let companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon restrict what we do online and run roughshod over our rights.

    Our lawyers are working around the clock to go toe to toe with the Trump FCC in court this week. The future of Net Neutrality is at stake — and your gift today will help us win.

    Thanks for your support—

    Heather, Carrie, Matt and the rest of the Free Press Action team

    P.S. There’s no time to lose and every dollar you donate says “See you in court, Chairman Pai.” Give $10 (or whatever you can) today.

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
    Wednesday, January 30, 2019.  The media and the lack of progress in Iraq is our focus this morning.

    Zachary Cohen (CNN) reports:

    Despite repeated claims by the Trump administration that ISIS has been defeated, US intelligence assesses that the terror group "very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States."
    The Worldwide Threat Assessment, released by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats Tuesday, also states that with the recent loss of territory, "ISIS will seek to exploit Sunni grievances, societal instability, and stretched security forces to regain territory in Iraq and Syria in the long term."

    "US intelligence chief contradicts Trump on ISIS defeat" is the headline.  See any problems?  There are multiples.  First off, the headline (which has already been changed twice since CNN first posted the story) should read "US intelligence chief contradicts Trump, CNN and other media on ISIS defeat."

    Long before US President Donald Trump began wrongly insisting that ISIS was defeated, the media had already been doing so for months.  It happened at the end of December 2017 when then-prime minister of Iraq Hayder al-Abadi was insisting he had defeated ISIS.

    Instead of reporting the truth, the western media went with his lies.  Were they being kind?  A fat, roly poly who had achieved nothing was boasting and they didn't want to contradict him?  If that was the case, the kindest read on the media spin, it didn't help anyone.

    A more cold eyed appraisal of the lie that the media repeated for months and months?  The US government wanted Hayder al-Abadi to be re-elected as prime minister.  He had nothing to show for a four year term.  The US media isn't objective or impartial and exists to serve the US government so it repeatedly lied that ISIS was defeated to aid Hayder al-Abadi in his re-election efforts.

    Please note, unlike CNN or Zachary Cohen or Dan Coats, we didn't need to wait until today to note that ISIS wasn't defeated.  We were calling out the lie when it first took place in December of 2017 and calling it out repeatedly ever since.

    What's the media's excuse?  They have none.

    But in their effort to whore constantly, they do miss a lot.

    For example, the Iraqi people have grown increasingly hostile to US puppets.  

    How has that not been noticed?

    Me, I just realized it while groaning over CNN's 'report.'

    In May of 2006, Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri al-Maliki as the prime minister of Iraq.  Nouri was hideous in his first term.  But remember, the US media largely insisted otherwise.  They also insisted he was a sure thing for re-election.  They didn't do this just during the lead up.  For example, we called out Quil Lawrence and NPR for their 'report' announcing Nouri had won the election -- announcing it before the votes were counted.

    Turns out, how embarrassing for Quil!, Nouri didn't win.  He lost to Iraqiya.  But the US government wanted Nouri so then-President Barack Obama had US officials negotiate The Erbil Agreement which gave Nouri a second term and nullified the results of the election.  

    Nouri wanted a third term.  Remember when he was promising that he wouldn't seek a third term?  Protesters were out in Baghdad, the Egyptian Spring or 'Egyptian Spring' was happening and Nouri was worried.

    But by the time the elections rolled around in 2014, he wanted a third term.  Problem was?  First off, ISIS had risen in Iraq due to Nouri's persecution of the Sunnis.  Secondly, they had seized Mosul.  Third, that Erbil Agreement?  To get everyone to agree to it, Barack had promised the contract had the full backing of the US government.  But then Nouri refused to go along with it (the contract had concessions on Nouri's part to get a second term).  Barack had egg on his face.  Ayad Allawi was publicly criticizing Barack on Arab media -- Allawi was the leader of Iraqiya and, per the Iraqi Constitution should have been prime minister.  The Erbil Agreement gave him a post over National Security as a consolation; however, Nouri used the contract to get his second term and then refused to honor any promise he made in the contract.

    So Nouri had to go.  Barack then installed Hayder al-Abadi.  Hayder was a disaster.  No surprise there.  He was friends with Nouri.  They were both members of the Dawa Party and he was part of Nouri's State of Law coalition.  He was little Nouri -- dangerous only when it was being inept.

    2018 was the time to elect again.  And the media -- western -- whored for Hayder like they did for Nouri.  But Hayder became the second sitting prime minister (since the 2003-led US invasion) who couldn't win re-election.  And not only that, he lost even more than Nouri did in 2010.

    That's a major development and no one's even pointed it out.

    The US government can install a puppet, they just can't get it re-elected.

    That's not good news for the current puppet: Adil Adel Mahdi.

    For years, Mahdi has been the choice of the CIA.  They have been repeatedly overruled.  It now looks like they misjudged Mahdi's abilities and skill.

    However, you won't hear that from CNN, will you?

    In violation of the Iraqi Constitution, Mahdi was moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister at the end of October.  For that move to take place, the candidate is supposed to create a Cabinet.  Mahdi created a partial Cabinet.

    The western media told the world he would quickly finish it.

    As with so much the western media tells us, that was a lie.  January ends shortly (February 1st is Friday) and Mahdi still doesn't have a full Cabinet.

    Most importantly, at a time when Iraq continues to fight ISIS -- in fact, uses this fight to argue that US troops must remain in Iraq -- there is still no Minister of the Interior (over the security forces) or Minister of Defense (over the military).

    Mahdi wants US forces to remain in Iraq.  But he won't even work to fill those two security posts?  US troops are to risk their lives and he won't even put forward a candidate that Parliament can get behind for Minister of Defense?

    That's asking a lot.

    To be clear, Mahdi wants US troops for the same reason Nouri did.  They are puppets.  They fear being toppled.

    We walked away from Scott Horton and his radio show because it was so filled with lies regarding Nouri.  In fairness to Scott, his frequent guest Patrick Cockburn was a big source of those lies.  Nouri was a hero!  He got rid of US troops in Iraq!

    No, he wasn't and no, he didn't.

    The January 18th snapshot covers the long suppressed US military report.  A lot of people who were not at the Congressional hearings got Nouri's wants and desires wrong.  That includes Patrick Cockburn.

    Will we ever note Scott Horton again?  One of his broadcasts?  Probably.

    But I am still angry.  He and Cockburn repeatedly built Nouri al-Maliki up as a hero and a savior.  He was a thug.  He ran torture centers and secret prisons.  And they were treating him like he was Ghandi.  When they were doing this, even Barack had lost patience with him.

    How bad was it between Nouri and Barack?  The day after the 2012 elections, Nouri phoned the White House to congratulate Barack.  Barack refused to take the call and fobbed it off on Joe Biden.

    Our media has failed us repeatedly on the issue of Iraq -- and that's All Things Media Big and Small.

    When a report comes along that actually matters, everyone looks the other way.

    Dropping back to November 7, 2012 for Ava and my "Let the fun begin:"

    Lies about Iraq drove the 2008 election and they drove the 2012 election as well.

    The country was transformed to the elephant in the room for 2012 that no one could be honest about.  President Barack Obama  lied that he'd 'ended' the Iraq War, he misled people into believing that all US troops had left Iraq, and he failed to inform Americans that he was negotiating to send even more US troops into Iraq.

    While the uninspiring victory speech last night blended The Hollies "He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother" ("The road is long") with Jerry McGuire ("You've made me a better president"), it also made clear that the administration was on fumes even before the second term officially begins in January.

    The administration is as empty as the media.  If you doubt that, September 26th, the New York Times' Tim Arango reported:

    Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

    September 26th it was in print.

    Days later, October 3rd, Barack 'debated' Mitt RomneyAgain October 16thAgain October 22nd.

    Not once did the moderators ever raise the issue.

    If Barack's sitting before them and he's flat out lying to the American people, it's their job to ask.  They didn't do their job.  Nor did social menace Candy Crowley who was apparently dreaming of an all-you-can-eat buffet when Barack was babbling away before her about how he wouldn't allow more "troops in Iraq that would tie us down."  But that's exactly what he's currently negotiating.

    Maybe Candy Crowley missed the New York Times article?  Maybe she spends all her time pleasuring herself to her version of porn: Cooking With Paula Deen Magazine?

    That is possible.

    But she was only one of the three moderators.  Bob Schieffer and Jim Lehrer also moderated.  Of course, they didn't foolishly self-present as a fact checker in the midst of the debate  nor did they hit the publicity circuit before the debate to talk about how they were going to show how it was done.

    Grasp that immediately after Tim Arango's September 28, 2012 report, three presidential debates took place, Barack repeatedly claimed he had ended the Iraq War and brought the troops home.  Not one moderator challenged him or brought up what Tim Arango reported.

    Talk about failure of the media.  All that grandstanding and they couldn't offer anything of consequence.

    Bits of truth emerge about Iraq in the media even now.  When they do, they're rarely amplified.  Natasha Turak (CNBC) reports:

    Baghdad signed into law one of its largest-ever spending packages last week after months of gridlock. At $111.8 billion, the 2019 budget is a nearly 45 percent increase on the previous year's, featuring the highest deficit and second-highest spending volume in Iraq's history since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
    But despite desperate need for reconstruction funding after its devastating three-year war with the Islamic State, and with a crippled business sector beset by government corruption, Iraqi experts say the spending plan still fails to address the country's most urgent problems.
    "The amount of waste and wrongly allocated money is outrageous," Abbas Kadhim, director of the Atlantic Council's Iraq Initiative, told CNBC on Tuesday. "Despite being a very large spending plan, Iraq's new budget still suffers from the same problems. Too much of the budget goes to salaries… In the meantime, necessary spending on new infrastructure and reconstruction is not adequate."

    Nearly half of the budget — $52 billion — will go to public sector salaries, pensions, and social security for government employees, a 15 percent spike from 2018. $27.8 billion will go to investments, with the deficit set to more than double to $23.1 billion, as reported by AFP. 

    Repeating from yesterday's snapshot: IRAQI NEWS notes, "Iraq is the 13th among the world’s most corrupt countries, a report has found as the country struggles to recover on both the security, political and economic levels after a strenuous war against  Islamic State terrorism. The corruption index released by Transparency International, today, ranked Iraq 168th, a position shared with Venezuela, among 180 countries covered by the report. It is the Arab World’s 6th most corrupt country, according to the report."

    And as the government of Iraq continues to borrow to fund corruption, grasp that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned against this borrowing.  He was very clear on this issue.  Borrowing this money from the foreign organization (including the IMF) would leave Iraq vulnerable.  As it continues to borrow, you'd think others would rush to echo al-Sistani's message.  They don't.  At this rate of borrowing, austerity measures are likely to be imposed upon Iraq soon.

    In other news, Omar Sattar (AL-MONITOR) reports:

    There's a discrepancy over how many US troops are still in Iraq, and whether they are welcome.
    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently estimated there are 5,000 American troops in Iraq and said there are no plans to remove them. However, that number is under scrutiny, in part because the United States has said it won't publicize such figures, and the Pentagon has removed from the internet official statistics on troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, other groups have different estimates.
    Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi estimates there are 6,000 American troops in Iraq, compared with 7,700 a year ago — just after Iraq declared the Islamic State (IS) was defeated there. His Jan. 14 announcement, however, failed to satisfy some parliamentary blocs seeking "real," definitive statistics on the numbers of foreign forces, their missions and their deployment areas.
    The Iraqi government favors keeping some US troops in the country for training and support. But some opposition blocs want the troops gone; others want to monitor their number and roles, in part to prevent the United States from establishing permanent military bases there to counter Iran's influence and maintain access to Syria.
    Also speaking up on the matter is Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali. The Associated Press reported on Jan. 28 that Khazali implied US troops could be forced out of the country if they don't leave. Asaib Ahl al-Haq is the Shiite paramilitary wing of al-Sadiquon political bloc, and it has ties with Iran.

    Asib Ahl al-Haq is, of course, the League of Righteous.  They killed US troops in Iraq -- most infamously when they wore disguises and invaded a US base.  For this, their leaders were arrested and taken into US custody.  Barack decided to make a deal with terrorists and let the leaders go in exchange for four British corpses and one living British computer guy.  What a way to honor the fallen.  By the way, that was front page news on THE NEW YORK TIMES (Alissa J. Rubin co-wrote the report) and yet it never came up in a debate or a post-Superbowl 60 MINUTES interview or, really, ever.  Barack was never asked about that.

    For those who missed it, we'll drop back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot:

    This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

    Remember Dan Coats quoted at the top of the snapshot.  His remarks were to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  Here he is, before the Committee, on the topic of Iraq:

    Iraq is facing an increasingly disenchanted public. The underlying political and economic factors that facilitated the rise of ISIS persist, and Iraqi Shia militias' attempts to further entrench their role in the state increase the threat to US personnel. The Iraqi Government will confront a high level of societal discontent, institutional weakness, and deep-seated divisions, as well as protests over a lack of services, high unemployment, and political corruption. Baghdad lacks the resources or institutional capacity to address longstanding economic development and basic services challenges, and it faces reconstruction costs in the aftermath of the counter-ISIS campaign, estimated by the World Bank at $88 billion. Iraq’s Kurdistan region is still dealing with political discontent over economic and territorial losses to Baghdad last year. ISIS remains a terrorist and insurgent threat and will seek to exploit Sunni grievances with Baghdad and societal instability to eventually regain Iraqi territory against Iraqi security forces that are stretched thin.
    Iraqi Shia militants conducted several attacks against US diplomatic facilities in Iraq in September and December 2018 . Militias -- some of which are also part of the Iraqi Government Popular Mobilization Committee -- plan to use newfound political power gained through positions in the new government to reduce or remove the US military presence while competing with the Iraqi security forces for state resources.

    Nothing has changed for the better.  The only real change is that the Popular Mobilization Committee went from Shi'ite mobs to government forces -- a desperate move Hayder al-Abadi made when he was prime minister.

    No progress to this day on national reconciliation.  To this day.

    The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS, NPR MUSIC and BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated: