Friday, March 05, 2021



 CNN's video should say the NEW land rover on Mars.  Perseverance is the new rover.  If you're new to Perseverance, NASA offers these links:

  • Mission Name: Mars 2020
  • Rover Name: Perseverance
  • Main Job: Seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.
  • Launch: July 30, 2020
  • Landing: Feb. 18, 2021, Jezero Crater, Mars
  • Tech Demo: The Mars Helicopter is a technology demonstration, hitching a ride on the Perseverance rover.
  • Fact Sheet | Press Kit



Here's NASA on Curiosity:


Launched: Nov. 26, 2011
Landed on Mars: Aug. 6, 2012

Goal: Determine if Mars was ever able to support microbial life.

Key Findings:
Conditions Once Fit for Ancient Life
Active, Ancient Organic Chemistry



Today, NASA issued the following about Perseverance:



This image was captured while NASA’s Perseverance rover drove on Mars for the first time on March 4, 2021.
This image was captured while NASA’s Perseverance rover drove on Mars for the first time on March 4, 2021. One of Perseverance’s Hazard Avoidance Cameras (Hazcams) captured this image as the rover completed a short traverse and turn from its landing site in Jezero Crater.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover performed its first drive on Mars March 4, covering 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) across the Martian landscape. The drive served as a mobility test that marks just one of many milestones as team members check out and calibrate every system, subsystem, and instrument on Perseverance. Once the rover begins pursuing its science goals, regular commutes extending 656 feet (200 meters) or more are expected.

“When it comes to wheeled vehicles on other planets, there are few first-time events that measure up in significance to that of the first drive,” said Anais Zarifian, Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mobility test bed engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “This was our first chance to ‘kick the tires’ and take Perseverance out for a spin. The rover’s six-wheel drive responded superbly. We are now confident our drive system is good to go, capable of taking us wherever the science leads us over the next two years.”

The drive, which lasted about 33 minutes, propelled the rover forward 13 feet (4 meters), where it then turned in place 150 degrees to the left and backed up 8 feet (2.5 meters) into its new temporary parking space. To help better understand the dynamics of a retrorocket landing on the Red Planet, engineers used Perseverance’s Navigation and Hazard Avoidance Cameras to image the spot where Perseverance touched down, dispersing Martian dust with plumes from its engines.

More Than Roving

The rover’s mobility system is not only thing getting a test drive during this period of initial checkouts. On Feb. 26 – Perseverance’s eighth Martian day, or sol, since landing – mission controllers completed a software update, replacing the computer program that helped land Perseverance with one they will rely on to investigate the planet.

More recently, the controllers checked out Perseverance’s Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) and Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instruments, and deployed the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) instrument’s two wind sensors, which extend out from the rover’s mast. Another significant milestone occurred on March 2, or sol 12, when engineers unstowed the rover’s 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm for the first time, flexing each of its five joints over the course of two hours.

“Tuesday’s first test of the robotic arm was a big moment for us,” said Robert Hogg, Mars 2020 Perseverance rover deputy mission manager. “That’s the main tool the science team will use to do close-up examination of the geologic features of Jezero Crater, and then we’ll drill and sample the ones they find the most interesting. When we got confirmation of the robotic arm flexing its muscles, including images of it working beautifully after its long trip to Mars – well, it made my day.”

Upcoming events and evaluations include more detailed testing and calibration of science instruments, sending the rover on longer drives, and jettisoning covers that shield both the adaptive caching assembly (part of the rover’s Sample Caching System) and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during landing. The experimental flight test program for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will also take place during the rover’s commissioning.

Through it all, the rover is sending down images from the most advanced suite of cameras ever to travel to Mars. The mission’s cameras have already sent about 7,000 images. On Earth, Perseverance’s imagery flows through the powerful Deep Space Network (DSN), managed by NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program. In space, several Mars orbiters play an equally important role.

“Orbiter support for downlink of data has been a real gamechanger,” said Justin Maki, chief engineer for imaging and the imaging scientist for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission at JPL. “When you see a beautiful image from Jezero, consider that it took a whole team of Martians to get it to you. Every picture from Perseverance is relayed by either the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter, or NASA’s MAVEN, Mars Odyssey, or Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. They are important partners in our explorations and our discoveries.”

The sheer volume of imagery and data already coming down on this mission has been a welcome bounty for Matt Wallace, who recalls waiting anxiously for the first images to trickle in during NASA’s first Mars rover mission, Sojourner, which explored Mars in 1997. On March 3, Wallace became the mission’s new project manager. He replaced John McNamee, who is stepping down as he intended, after helming the project for nearly a decade.

“John has provided unwavering support to me and every member of the project for over a decade,” said Wallace. “He has left his mark on this mission and team, and it has been my privilege to not only call him boss but also my friend.”

Touchdown Site Named

With Perseverance departing from its touchdown site, mission team scientists have memorialized the spot, informally naming it for the late science fiction author Octavia E. Butler. The groundbreaking author and Pasadena, California, native was the first African American woman to win both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award, and she was the first science fiction writer honored with a MacArthur Fellowship. The location where Perseverance began its mission on Mars now bears the name “Octavia E. Butler Landing."

Official scientific names for places and objects throughout the solar system – including asteroids, comets, and locations on planets – are designated by the International Astronomical Union. Scientists working with NASA’s Mars rovers have traditionally given unofficial nicknames to various geological features, which they can use as references in scientific papers.

“Butler’s protagonists embody determination and inventiveness, making her a perfect fit for the Perseverance rover mission and its theme of overcoming challenges,” said Kathryn Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance. “Butler inspired and influenced the planetary science community and many beyond, including those typically under-represented in STEM fields.”

“I can think of no better person to mark this historic landing site than Octavia E. Butler, who not only grew up next door to JPL in Pasadena, but she also inspired millions with her visions of a science-based future,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science. “Her guiding principle, ‘When using science, do so accurately,’ is what the science team at NASA is all about. Her work continues to inspire today’s scientists and engineers across the globe – all in the name of a bolder, more equitable future for all.”

Butler, who died in 2006, authored such notable works as “Kindred,” “Bloodchild,” “Speech Sounds,” “Parable of the Sower,” “Parable of the Talents,” and the “Patternist” series. Her writing explores themes of race, gender, equality, and humanity, and her works are as relevant today as they were when originally written and published.

More About the Mission

A key objective of Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

For more about Perseverance:


For more information about NASA’s Mars missions, go to:

To see images as they come down from the rover and vote on the favorite of the week, go to:


Alana Johnson / Grey Hautaluoma
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-672-4780 / 202-358-0668 /

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.


 I had an e-mail asking if I was going to note Joe Biden with regards to NASA?

Not in a positive way.  I don't see the need to rip other nations or try to claim space for the US.  Accomplishments should be applauded but some of Joe's remarks bordered on xenophobia.

As for when he spoke to the Indian-American NASA engineer?  His comments about immigrants from India taking over the country were probably meant in jest.  However, consider his past remarks.

As noted by THE HINDUSTAN TIMES in 2006:

His remark that "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven (a convenience store) or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent" was only meant to point out that the Indian American community in Delaware now included middle and lower middle class families besides the predominantly engineers and scientists earlier, he said.

On a recent edition of the C-SPAN series "Road to the White House," the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was shown shaking hands with a man and talking about his support among Indian Americans.

"I've had a great relationship. In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking," Biden said.


Had he not made the comments he made, I would've been glad to note Joe's NASA remarks.



"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

 Friday, March 5, 2021.  Pope Francis has arrived in Iraq while, in the US, Joe Biden's bombing of Syria continues to be an issue.

History was made today as Pope Francis arrived in Iraq becoming the first ever pope to visit the country.  A greeting ceremony including music and dance.

NOW - Pope Francis arrives in Iraq

Quite the welcome for Pope Francis in Iraq, the Pope clearly enjoying himself too #PopeInIraq

Of the warm greeting and dancing provided to the Pope, Rasha al-Aqeedi Tweets:

Much respect to whoever organized this intro reflecting all of Iraq instead of one dominant identity. Beautiful to see and reminiscent of older, much better times.

AFP's Ammar Karim Tweets:

I liked the big smile for both Pope and Iraq PM

THE NATIONAL offers a Twitter thread going over the basics of the three day visitDEUTSCHE WELLE provides an online slide show noting historic, Biblical sites in Iraq.  Australia's ABC notes:

An Alitalia plane carrying him, his entourage, a security detail and about 75 journalists, touched down at Baghdad International Airport slightly ahead of schedule just before 2:00pm local time on Friday.

Iraq is deploying thousands of additional security personnel to protect the 84-year-old during his three-day visit, which comes after a spate of rocket and suicide bomb attacks raised fears for his safety.

Linda Bordoni (VATICAN NEWS) offers the following details:

Welcoming Pope Francis on the tarmac was a group of religious and political authorities representing the many different realities of Iraq's diverse make-up, as well as a group of Iraqi citizens and two children with a posy of flowers for the Holy Father.

The welcoming delegation included the Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, as well as representatives of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Baghdad, the Latin Archdiocese of Baghdad, the Syriac Archeparchy of Baghdad, and the Armenian Archeparchy of Baghdad, as well as the country’s Prime Minister, Mustafa Abdellatif Mshatat, the President of the Republic and his wife.

Ines San Martin (CRUX) reports:

On his flight Friday to Baghdad for a March 5-8 historic visit to Iraq, Pope Francis told journalists that this is an “emblematic” trip and that is also a “duty” to visit this “land martyred for so many years.”

His comments came as he greeted the 74 journalists from 13 nations flying with him from Rome to Baghdad, before proceeding to thank each reporter individually, always wearing a facemask and keeping a social distance due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Both the pope and all those traveling with him on  the Alitalia flight AZ4000 were inoculated against the coronavirus ahead of the apostolic visit, the first in 15 months.

[. . .]

The pontiff has a busy schedule ahead: on Friday he’s meeting civil authorities at the presidential and the local religious community in the Syro-Catholic cathedral where 48 Catholics were martyred during Mass in 2010.

On Saturday he’s going to Najaf, a holy city for Shite Islam, where he will meet Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Later that morning, he will lead an interreligious prayer in the ruins of the City of Ur, considered the birthplace of Abraham, father of believers. Lastly, on Saturday, he will become the first pope to celebrate Mass in the Chaldean Catholic rite.

On Sunday, last full day of his visit, he will focus his attention almost exclusively on the embattled Christian community, visiting the Nineveh Plain, including the cities of Qaraqosh and Mosul, decimated by ISIS, and celebrate Mass for 10,000 people in a stadium in Erbil, capital of the northern autonomous region of Kurdistan.

Security has been tightened for the papal visit.  Francesco Bongarra (ARAB NEWS) notes, "Iraq is deploying thousands of additional security personnel to protect Pope Francis during his four-day visit, which comes after a spate of rocket and suicide bomb attacks raised fears for the Catholic leader’s safety.A senior security official who has been briefed on the security plan said that forces involved had been trained to deal with worst-case scenarios, from street battles to bombings and rocket attacks."  Rasha al-Aqeedi reports on one threat made against the Pope:

Source from Baghdad: Unknown assailants leave threats on the walls of the Armenian Club in Karradah saying they will blow up the place and the Pope. Police have secured the area and viewed security cams to identify the mob.

Along with threats, there were announced cease-fires.  RUDAW reports:

The Iraqi militia group that last month fired rockets at Erbil announced a ceasefire during this weekend’s historic visit from Pope Francis. 

Saraya Awlia al-Dam (Guardians of Blood) said in a statement published Thursday on Telegram channels affiliated with Iraq militia groups that they welcome the pope's visit and "will stop all types of military action during the visit of the pope of the Vatican out of respect for [Grand Ayatollah Ali] al-Sistani."

Elise Ann Allen of CRUX speaks with Australia's ABC Yvonne Yong about the visit and its significance. 

Pope Francis' visit comes a week after US President Joe Biden bombed Syria for . . . the belief that Iran was behind some bombings in . . . Iraq.  Gary Leupp (COUNTERPUNCH) observes:

On 2/25 the U.S. under new President Biden launched missile strikes on a site in SYRIA (where the U.S. has troops illegally operating, still attempting to effect regime change) to kill IRAQIS to (as Secretary of “Defense” Lloyd Austin explains it) send a “message to IRAN” that it “can’t act with impunity.” That is: the U.S. will interpret the actions of any Shiites in the world against its own (real or imagined) interests as  “Iranian” acts of impunity against itself. It will continue to stupidly conflate Iraqi Shiites, Syrian Alewites, Yemeni Zaidis and Iranian Twelvers swallowing the (Wahhabist Sunni) Saudi propaganda about a threatening “Shiite crescent” from the Mediterranean to central Afghanistan.

U.S. news anchors and talking heads will continue to carelessly substitute “Iranian militia” for “Iraqi militia” not even noticing nor caring if they err. There is no law in this country of lies, in this season of lies, that prevents someone like CNN’s Richard Engel from constructing a story about Iranian provocation and leaving out all the points made above.

What, you thought the lies were over with Trump gone? You thought Biden was going to be a straight-shooter, and would— while handling the burning issue of structural racism in this country—also end a century and a half of imperialist aggression based on lies? You thought maybe the critic of racism and police murder would become the critic of imperialism, regime change, and the sort of racist essentializing applied the Iran and Arab Shiites?

Consider this: Gen. Austin thanked the Iraqi government for its cooperation in planning the attack to send the message to Iran. Never mind that Iran has actually since the U.S. election discouraged any actions against U.S. troops in Iraq. Never mind that the Iraqi government issued a denial of any consultations with the U.S. in the attack. (Pentagon press secretary Kirby had to acknowledge under questioning 2/26 that the Iraqis did not assist the U.S. with targeting.) Never mind that a force the Iraqis want out of their country killed an anti-ISIL Iraqi warrior helping the neighboring country of Syria rid itself of the hated ISIL. This is meant as a message to IRAN—to make it clear that the U.S. can act with impunity for the near term, anywhere it wants—under Biden just as it did under Trump.

Kelly Vlahos addresses the bombing and what it means with Matt Kibbe.

US Senator Tim Kaine's office issued the following this week:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) reintroduced their bipartisan legislation to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq. The bill would formally end the authorizations for the Gulf and Iraq wars – 30 and 19 years, respectively, after these AUMFs were first passed, reasserting Congress’ vital role in not only declaring wars, but in ending them. The repeal of these authorizations also recognizes the strong partnership the United States now has with a sovereign, democratic Iraq. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Rand Paul (R-KY).

“Last week’s airstrikes in Syria show that the Executive Branch, regardless of party, will continue to stretch its war powers,” Kaine said. “Congress has a responsibility to not only vote to authorize new military action, but to repeal old authorizations that are no longer necessary. The 1991 and 2002 AUMFs that underpinned the war against Iraq need to be taken off the books to prevent their future misuse. They serve no operational purpose, keep us on permanent war footing, and undermine the sovereignty of Iraq, a close partner. I call on Congress to promptly take up this measure and for the Biden Administration to support it to finally show the American people that the Article I and II branches can work together on these issues.”

“It has been thirty years since the first Gulf War began and nineteen years since the United States went back into Iraq. In the years since, Congress has been operating on autopilot when it comes to our essential duties to authorize the use of military force. The fact that authorities for both of these wars are still law today is illustrative of the bipartisan failure of Congress to perform its constitutionally-mandated oversight role,” Young said. “Today, Senator Tim Kaine and I have re-introduced our bipartisan legislation to continue our fight to repeal these outdated war authorities. Congress must not shy away from this debate and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to advance this important legislation.” 

“One of Congress’s most solemn constitutional responsibilities is deciding when and how we choose to send America’s sons and daughters into danger overseas,” Duckworth said. “As a nation, we are long over-due to have a thorough and honest reckoning about responsibly exercising Congressional war powers, which includes repealing outdated authorities like the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs. For decades, administrations of both parties have kept these authorizations on the books to justify military action in the region without returning to Congress to make their best legal case for the need for such action. I’m proud to join this bipartisan resolution that would repeal these outdated war authorities and I hope we can work in a bipartisan way to address war powers.” 

“Congress has a responsibility to not only declare war but also to bring conflicts to a close,” Lee said. “As demonstrated by presidents from both political parties, when authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF) remain on the books long past a conflict’s conclusion they become ripe for abuse, expanding far beyond congressional intent. Closing out U.S. authorizations for war in Iraq is long overdue, and Congress owes it to the men and women who sacrificed blood and treasure to declare victory and come home.”   

“The airstrikes against Iranian-backed forces in Syria last week demonstrate the need to review and revise the way in which our leaders collectively choose whether or not to wage war. An initial yet important part of that process is removing unnecessary war-making resolutions that are still on the books,” Coons said. “I’m proud to join Senator Kaine in this bipartisan effort to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs, and I look forward to working with the Biden Administration and my colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee to ensure Congress plays its rightful role in future decisions about the use of force.” 

This bill is an effort to prevent the future misuse of the expired Gulf and Iraq War authorizations and strengthen Congressional oversight over war powers. For years, Kaine and Young have been leading voices in Congress raising concerns over the use of military force without congressional authorization. 

Repealing these authorities will not impact ongoing U.S. operations to counter ISIS.

You can read the bill text here.

The following sites updated:

UTA under fire

 "TV: Clark Kent reported the truth but then he was fictional " is Ava and C.I.'s latest.  It should have gone up Sunday when they wrote it but it was held and held for THIRD to finish the edition.  Thursday morning, Ava and C.I. said enough and published it all by itself.

It's a great piece of writing.  They note how good SUPERMAN & LOIS is on THE CW and note Joe Biden's bombing of Syria and the news media that doesn't dig deep and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE that won't do jokes about Joe.  They got into Justin Timberlake and his history of objectifying women to dispel the rumors that he was gay.  It's a great piece of writing. 


 New topic, why is a teacher's union racial profiling?  That was my question when I read this by Jonathan Turley

United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is under fire after Maryam Qudrat, a mother of Middle Eastern descent, was asked by the UTLA to identify her race after criticizing the union’s opposition to reopening schools despite overwhelming science that it is safe. The response of the UTLA was evasive to the point of incomprehension. However, the controversy is fueled by recent efforts to portray parents demanding a return to school as racist or examples of white privilege, including recent controversial comments from the UTLA President.

Qudrat was contacted by the UTLA after she spoke out against the opposition to resuming classes in Los Angeles. She has a seventh-grade child and has been calling for the union to follow the science. Instead, they contracted her with an email from a union research who noted that she has been quoted twice by the LA Times in eight months and the union wants to know her race. The email notes that her name sounds Iranian but the researcher does not want to assume her race with a “legitimate method.”

The concern however is why the union is trying to racially classify critics. The fact that Qudrat was quoted twice in the LA Times would not yield any broader demographic information on the range of parents who want their kids back in school. Instead, the email is intimidating when opposition to the closings is being used by some to claim racism.


 I don't see how UTLA has a defense for its actions.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

 Thursday, March 4, 2021.  The day before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq.

Tomorrow, Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq.  This would be the first time that a pope has visited Iraq.   The three day visit is expected to find the Pope traveling approximately 900 miles within Iraq.  The US corporate media has been alarmist and deliberately obtuse.  An Iraqi community member asked that her thoughts be shared.  She sees the coverage as an insult as though the Iraqi people are not, in the minds of the US press, worthy of such a visit and as if they're not capable of welcoming the Pope because they are not 'advanced' like those in the US.  She sees the press coverage as continued xenophobia.  I think her points are well taken.

This Tweet is from Pope Francis' official account:

Tomorrow I will go to #Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. I have long wanted to meet those people who have suffered so much. I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers, so it may unfold in the best possible way and bear hoped-for fruits.

Linda Bordoni (VATICAN NEWS) reports:

Pope Francis addressed the faithful on Wednesday morning asking them to accompany him with prayers as he sets off for an Apostolic Journey to Iraq.

“The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet those people who have suffered so much; to meet that martyred Church in the land of Abraham,” he said, speaking during the weekly General Audience.

Together with other religious leaders in the country, the Pope continued, he hopes another step forward will be taken “in fraternity amongst believers.”

“I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers, so that it may unfold in the best possible way and bear the hoped-for fruits," he said.

At the US Institute for Peace, Dr. Elie Abouaoun writes:

The visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Iraq this week happens in a context of despair felt across Iraq’s ethnic, provincial and sectarian spectrum. Christians in Iraq, victims of decades of oppression, look at this visit as a symbol of hope. They also hope it will help address some of their lingering fears. The pope’s priorities for Iraq’s Christians should be formulated in specific terms. While Christians in Iraq remain hemmed in on how to deal with the past, but optimistic about their future, most feel overwhelmed by the upcoming visit of Pope Francis. As in many other cases, some of the expectations from the visit are indeed too high to meet.

Iraq, known for its diverse population, has failed to protect the human rights and freedoms of its indigenous communities of which the Assyrians—ancestors of today’s Christians—are the oldest and largest. After centuries of Ottoman oppression, they paid the high price of the post-colonial failed state and dictatorship. Estimated at around 1.5 million in the 1980s, today’s numbers range between 250,000 and 400,000 at best. Most are located either in the Kurdistan Region or in Hamdaniya district in the northern province of Nineveh. While Hamdaniya was traditionally populated by Christians, most of those currently living in the Kurdistan Region landed there after fleeing from other parts of Iraq. In Nineveh specifically, the Christian population has plummeted by 80 percent since the Islamic State group’s (ISIS) invasion. Other Christian population centers in Iraq (Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, Tikrit) host only a few families.

Since 2003, religiously motivated bloodshed and the devastation caused by ISIS left many Christians dead or displaced. While some dared to return to their areas of origin, the majority is still weary of returning. Both returnees and displaced families look at their future with extreme anxiety. The massive emigration of Christian families in the last three decades does not help build the confidence of those remaining and who feel outnumbered and vulnerable. Many studies show that the primary concern of Christians—and other constituents in northern Iraq—is safety and dignity. They are afraid from both physical elimination as much as other “identitycidal” measures through induced demographic change, dilution, or exclusion. As these communities fear at least as much—if not more—for their identity than livelihood, the supreme pontiff’s visit is an opportunity to advance some tangible ideas with the hope that decision makers in Iraq and the international community can adopt some of them and put them on track to implementation.

Beyond blessing and boosting the morale of Christians, there is a thirst to see some concrete ideas championed by Pope Francis. Many want to believe that this trip has the potential to change some paradigms and affect the pull and push factors of Christian emigration. As in other post-conflict settings where some communities feel under the threat of physical elimination, internationally tested mitigation measures could be relevant. In the specific case of Iraq, it is worth exploring how to strengthen the existing constitutional guarantees in order to reassure Christians—and other constituents—about their fate and dignity.


Christians in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains have rebuilt a nursery school and other facilities destroyed by the Islamic State thanks to a custom Lamborghini auctioned off by Pope Francis. #PopeFrancisInIraq


Archbishop of Erbil: Papal visit is a gift for all Iraqi peopleBy Thaddeus Jones & Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp  Pope Francis will be visiting the Christian communities throughout Iraq, and especially the large #CatholicNews #Vatican #VaticanNews


Pope Francis says will ask God for peace in Iraq #PopeFrancisInIraq

Last week, US President Joe Biden bombed Syria because . . . he believes bombings in Iraq were carried out by . . . Iran.   Yesterday, Anbar Province's Ain al-Asad airbase  was bombed.  Bill Van Auken (WSWS) reports:

The 10 rockets that fell on the base, which houses US and other NATO troops, claimed no casualties, but one US civilian contractor died of a heart attack while sheltering during the assault. Iraqi security officials said little damage was inflicted on the base, while witnesses told local media they had seen flames and a long plume of black smoke.

Raising the prospect of another round of US military action, President Joe Biden told reporters, “We are following that through right now... we’re identifying who’s responsible and we’ll make judgments.”

The rocket attack follows last week’s US air strikes against facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militias in Syria. Those strikes, the first military action ordered by the new Democratic president, were initially reported to have killed 17 people, while later reports said that just one person died.

While there was widespread speculation that the rockets fired on Ain al-Asad were in retaliation for the US strike in Syria, as of Wednesday evening no group had claimed responsibility. The area surrounding the base is overwhelmingly Sunni and not under the control of the predominantly Shia Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an official arm of Iraq’s military, which the US military attacked last week in Syria.

Alice Fordham (NPR) adds, "The White House says officials are assessing whether further response is warranted after a U.S. civilian contractor died after suffering a "cardiac episode" during a rocket attack on an airbase in Iraq early Wednesday local time, the latest such attack since U.S. airstrikes hit Iran-backed militants last week."  At IN THESE TIMES, Danny Sjursen notes:

The campaign will do little to further the United States’ objectives in the Middle East (in as much as they can even be articulated at this point), but it heralds something more dispiriting still: That nearly two decades into a regional war, Washington (perhaps willfully) does not understand the Syria-Iraq-Iran nexus, and that the Biden administration is following a failed blueprint in the Middle East — a reality that was thrown into even sharper relief when the U.S. elected not to punish Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) after the release of a declassified intelligence report that found he was directly responsible for the murder of the Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi.

Few mainstream outlets have even bothered to ask what these pesky paramilitaries are up to. The U.S. military first intervened in Syria in 2014 following the Islamic State’s takeover of the country’s Eastern territories, along with the Northern and Western areas of Iraq. So did Iraqi Shias, who did a good amount of fighting in the bloody recapture of ISIS-occupied territories after the U.S.-trained Iraqi army all but collapsed. These militias, following the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s call to defend Baghdad, formed under an umbrella organization known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) with the support of the U.S. military. Over the last seven years, American troops have seen their mission in Syria change and change again, from defeating ISIS, to preserving Kurdish autonomy, to containing” Iran and Russia (both of which have fought the Islamic State, albeit in alliance with Syrian strongman Bashar Al-Assad), to securing” the country’s sparse oil wells. But during this time, the mission of Iraq’s militias has evolved as well — from defending the country against ISIS onslaughts to resisting America’s ongoing occupation. And so long as U.S. troops remain in place, significant segments of Iraq’s population will see these paramilitaries — and their rocket attacks — as legitimate.

The United States’ intervention in Syria has looked a lot like its disastrous invasion of Baghdad in 2003, which shattered the Iraqi state, unleashed a brutal civil war and gave rise to a deadly phoenix that would become ISIS. Both have led to the deaths of more than 1,000 militia members, along with countless civilians. And neither is likely to see a full withdrawal of U.S. troops in the immediate future. 

Joe Biden, who believes his own son’s fatal cancer was caused by exposure to toxic burn pits during his tour in Iraq, has repeatedly asked that God bless our troops. But keeping those same soldiers in a war zone like the Baghdad, Balad, and Erbil, Iraq, bases struck by rockets over the last two weeks, with no discernible aim, might be considered a sacrilege. Exacerbating matters, we are inundated with stories about Tehran and Moscow’s nefarious objectives in Syria, even as the story remains more complicated than that. (Tehran, for example, is much less powerful than Washington’s courtiers in the media would have you believe.) 

This passes for leadership.  This is the person who was ready on day one . . . until day one arrived.  At BLACK AGENDA REPORT, Danny Haiphong observes:

Last November, tens of millions voted for Joe Biden to simply replace Donald Trump. The U.S. ruling class gave Biden and his administration free reign to normalize an “expect nothing” approach to politics among the masses of people. However, the first month of Biden’s administration demonstrates the continued relevance of the materialist conception of history and its emphasis on the struggle between opposing forces that shape political and economic realities. The absence of any expectation for Biden to alter the status quo has been coupled with a proven commitment from the Biden administration to strengthen the status quo’s violent imperialist regime. Only when this is understood can a mass debate about the development of politically Left alternatives to Joe Biden and the Democratic Party truly begin to take shape amid a period of intense crisis in all realms of U.S. imperial rule.

At THE GRAYZONE, Danny also has a piece explaining how DEMOCRACY NOW! is fostering animosity against Chine:

The U.S. has claimed a humanitarian “Responsibility to Protect” to justify military operations in the name of saving civilian lives from evil dictators. Most notable have been the brutal U.S.-led wars in Libya and Syria which destabilized entire regions in the name of “civilian protection” and “promoting democracy.” These operations relied heavily on self-described human rights NGO’s and media outlets to cultivate support among liberal sectors of the US intelligentsia. Sadly, Democracy Now has been among the most influential and insidious outlets carrying water for the humanitarian interventionist agenda.  

The flagship program of the left-wing Pacifica radio network, Democracy Now (DN) and its founding host, Amy Goodman, are regarded as standard bearers of grassroots progressivism. However in recent years the show has become a reliable platform for uncritical regime change propaganda, demonizing targets of US empire from Syria to Nicaragua while sending a correspondent to embed with US-backed “rebels” in Libya. Now that China is in the crosshairs of the US, DN is playing host to virtually any piece of humanitarian agitprop that Washington can conjure up, while publishing a regular serving of sharply negative stories about Chinese government and society.

A review by The Grayzone of every China-related report and interview Democracy Now aired in the past year found that 3 out of every 4 painted China in a decidedly negative light, often echoing narratives emanating from the US State Department. Perhaps its most inflammatory and factually questionable report appeared this February amid an escalating wave of anti-China propaganda.

Amy Goodman's resorting to xenophobia and endorsements of war (see Libya) have long been noted here.  It's sad but what's sadder are the people who still don't grasp that Amy long ago walked away from any real "war and peace report."  

On Joe's bombings, Abby Martin offers this analysis.

[Dona with THIRD ESTATE SUNDAY REVIEW adding a note to C.I.'s snapshot -- Martha and Shirley called me about e-mails regarding "TV: Clark Kent reported the truth but then he was fictional" below.  C.I. and Ava made the call to publish their piece this morning.  They wrote it Sunday and it was supposed to have been up with a whole edition.  It's "Sunday" review, not Thursday.  For what should have been posted already, I reviewed a book about Anais Nin.  That will go up Sunday.  As will the interview Ava and C.I. did with Elaine and I about our books we reviewed.  But they were bothered that their TV piece was not up and I don't blame them.  They made the decision to publish it and that's all for 'this week' at THIRD.  There are no hard feelings and I completely understand what they did and why they did it.  I can speak for Ty, Jess and myself but if Jim has any difference of opinion, he can note it in the next edition.]

The following sites updated: