Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bully Boy & Lieberman

From August 13, 2006, this is "Bully Boy & Lieberman" which begs the question which one is Joe Lieberman?

Honestly, have I drawn a worse picture before?

Is that Joe Lieberman or John Kerry?

That's among my worst drawings and surprisingly I did another Lieberman that looked like him; however, this was a profile and that's a bit different.

So it is what it is, community motto, and I went with it but it's probably the drawing that even I ask "WTF" about. I will probably never ever attempt to draw Joe Lieberman from the side again. Ever.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a new report on the state of religious freedom is released, Nouri says "NO!" to interum government, a US Congressional Subcommittee does their job, and more.

March 7th, Iraq held elections. When the votes were tallied, the political slate receiving the most seats in Parliament was Ayad Allawi's bloc. Yesterday, Allawi issued a call.
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports on Allawi's call for an interim government to ensure no election theft takes place, "Former prime minister Ayad Allawi, the leader of Iraqiya, also proposed extending the mandate of the outgoing parliament until a new one is in place, "for the purpose of monitoring the executive branch." Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) adds, "Allawi, a secular Shiite, urged the United Nations and other international organizations to back him in his demand for a caretaker government and a new vote, if matters continue on the current path." Asia News quotes Allawi stating, "Certainly what is going on is a theft of the Iraqi will and democracy, jeopardising the safety of the country." Zahraa Alkhalisi and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report Nouri's spokesperson has rejected the proposal. Ali al-Dabbagh declared, "It is an illegal and unconstitutional request." AINA reports al-Iraqiah issued the following statement earlier this week:1. To send a letter to the Head of the Supreme Judicial Council stressing the urgency of his intervention to protect the Judiciary from political influence, as this may have serious ramifications on the stability of the country. 2. To hold to account those responsible of distorting the election results by the appropriation of the electorates' votes through malicious disqualifications and arrests affecting the candidates and supporters of Al-Iraqiah Bloc. 3. Al-Iraqiah Bloc will reject any tampering with the election results, and therefore proposes the following: 1. That since Iraq is governed under Chapter VII, Al-Iraqiah has examined the option of resorting to the international community, including the members of the Security Council, European Union, Organisation of the Islamic conference, the states of the Arab League, to exercise their moral and legal right over the protection of the political process from any injustices, and to form a caretaker government and repeat the elections in an environment free of any political manipulation. 2. To send a request to the Presidential council, as the protector of the Constitution, to call upon the House of the Representatives to continue their duties until the certification of the election results, and to form a new House of Representatives for the purpose of monitoring the executive branch, that operates without authority, as to prevent any violations of the political process and the Constitution.

Meanwhile, optimistic timelines have said six to eight days to do the Baghdad recount. That would be the recount that was to start Monday but was put on hold. In Iraq, all but the violence gets put on hold.
Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports that the recount is now expected to take between two and three weeks and quotes the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission head Faraj al-Haidari stating, "The electoral commission decided to start the recont for the ballots of Baghdad province next Monday." However, Rachel Scneller offers Bernard Gwertzman (the Council on Foreign Relations) a different timeline today, "We had the Shiite coalition seeking a recount of votes in Baghdad, which, if undertaken, will take up to two months." Speaking Tuesday to John Hockenberry on The Takeaway, BBC News' Gabriel Gatehouse also felt that the counting would take longer than some estimates, "That could take several weeks. Then the votes have to be certified." In addition to noting that lengthy process, Gatehouse is apparently the only reporter aware of wh General Odierno is the overall in charge of US forces here, has promised to make an assessment -- another assessment of that withdrawal time table two months after the election so we're looking at about a week from now. So I think we'll wait to see what he says in about a week's time."

Today the US Commission on International Religious Freedom issued their [PDF format warning] "Eleventh Annual Report on Religious Freedom in the World" which is 356 pages of text. The report examines religious freedoms in 28 countries and the timeline for the report is April 2009 to March 2010. Iraq falls under the category of "Countries of Particular Concern." From page 76:

FINDINGS: Systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations continue in Iraq. Members of the country's smallest religious minorities still suffer from targeted violence, threats, and intimidation, against which they receive insufficient government protection. Perpetrators of such attacks are rarely identified, investigated, or punished, creating a climate of impunity. The small communities also experience a pattern of official discrimination, marginalization, and neglect. In addition, there continue to be sectarian attacks, often with impunity, and tense relations between Shi'a and Sunni Iraiqs, and other egregious, religiously-motivated violence also continues.
Based on these concerns, USCIRF again recommends in 2010 that Iraq be designated as a "country of particular concern," or CPC.* The Commission recommended that Iraq be designated as a CPC in 2008 and 2009, and placed Iraq on its Watch List in 2007.
The religious freedom situation in Iraq remains grave, particularly for the country's smallest, most vulnerable religious minorities. The violence, forced displacement, discrimination, marginalization, and neglect suffered by members of these groups threaten these ancient communities' very existence in Iraq. These minorities, which include Chaldo-Assyrians and other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis, continue to experience targeted violence, receive inadequate official protection or justice, and suffer discrimination. Since 2003, many have fled to neighboring countries, where they represent a disproportionately high percentage of registered Iraqi refugees. The diminished numbers remaining in the country are now concentrated in areas in the highly dangerous Nineveh governorate over which the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is seeking to extend its control, and they suffer abuses and discrimination as a result. Although the Iraqi government has publicly condemned violence against these groups, it continues to fall short in investigating the continuing attacks and bringing perpetrators to justice, and its efforts to increase security to minority areas are not adequate. In addition, though greatly reduced from 2006-07 levels, violence between Shi'a and Sunni Iraqis continues. Significant tensions between these groups remain, including tensions due to the ongoing government formation process. Finally, other religiously-motivated violence and abuse continues.

PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS: For Iraq to become a secure, diverse, and stable democracy, the United States must pay greater attention to helping ensure that the human rights of all Iraqis are guaranteed and enforced both in law and practice. With U.S. forces drawing down and a new Iraqi government being formed in the wake of the March 7 elections, the United States should emphasize, with both the new Iraqi government and the KRG, the urgent need to protect vulnerable religious minority communities and ensure them justice. USCIRF also recommends that the U.S. government appoint a special envoy for human rights in Iraq, create an inter-agency task force on Iraqi minority issues, and prioritize funding for projects that foster religious tolerance. [. . .]

Recommendations continue on pages 77 through 79. We'll zoom in on the external refugees and the internally displaced aspect.

The U.S. goverment should:

* increase assistance, and encourage the Iraqi government and U.S. allies to do likewise, to the UN, humanitarian organizations, host nations, and host communities providing necessary aid to vulnerable Iraqi displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, including funding programs to provide medical care, psychological care, educational opportunities, direct financial assistance, basic needs packages, and information campaigns;

* fund capacity-building programs for the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration to ensure that it can adequately provide assistance and protection to IDPs;

* clearly state that the U.S. government does not encourage the return of Iraqi refugees to Iraq until necessary conditions are met, including security, assistance, legal frameworks, and integration programs;

* encourage and fund information campaigns, including "go and see visits" by religious and/or community leaders selected by the refugees/IDPs themselves, to ensure that displaced Iraqis considering return have the information needed to make informed decisions;

* work with the government of Iraq and international organizations to help the Iraqi government develop a cohesive plan to assist voluntarily returning refugees and IDPs, including addressing property disputes, assistance upon return, livelihood opportunities, and lingering security problems;

* continue to process a significant number of Iraqi refugees for resettlement to the United States, taking into account the continued targeted violence against members of Iraq's smallest, most vulnerable religious minorities and the P2 designation in the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007; and

* ensure that members of Iraq's smallest, most vulnerable religious minorities scheduled to be resettled to the United States are not delayed unnecessarily by providing adequate personnel to conduct background screening procedures and by enforcing proper application of the existing waiver of the material support bar to those forced to provide support to terrorists under duress.

Although the above are all important, one of the strongest things the US could do -- and it would cost not one cent -- would be to follow the recommendation that they "clearly state that the U.S. government does not encourage the return of Iraqi refugees to Iraq until necessary conditions are met, including security, assistance, legal frameworks, and integration programs". It shouldn't be left to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent to be the only ones making that statement but, sometimes, they are the only ones. Many who did return to Iraq were slain. That's less the case for Iraq's Christians because they're less apt to return if they leave.

Staying with this topic,
Ekklesia reports on an open letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates from religious leaders calling on the US government to protect Iraq's religious minorities. The letter from the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA to Hillary reads: We are writing to express the concern of the National Council of Churches, and our partners in Iraq and throughout the world, about the on-going situation of violent attacks on minority groups in Iraq, including the Christian community. We strongly request that you raise this concern with the Government of Iraq, provincial authorities, and the leadership of the Coalition Forces, urging them to take all possible steps to prevent further incidents of this type. Christians in Iraq have suffered more than a dozen violent deaths so far this year, including a three-year old child in Mosul who died on March 27 after a bomb, placed next to his family's home, exploded. As you know, thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes because of their fear of violence. Our concern is now particularly acute because it is possible that tensions will increase as various political forces continue to vie for power following the recent elections. We fear that a growing climate of mistrust and animosity will further threaten the fragile Christian community. With this is mind, we appeal to you to work directly and with Iraqis to * protect minority groups, including Christians in Mosul and other parts of Iraq; * extend necessary humanitarian aid to displaced families and * encourage the preservation of religious and ethnic diversity in Iraq. Thank you for your attention to this most urgent concern. Among those signing the letter are Rev Michael Kinnamon, Rev Canon Peg Chmberlin, Bishop John F. White, Rev Paula Clayton, Rev Roy Medley, Bishop Charles Leigh, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Rev Robert Welsh, Stan Noffsinger, Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori, Rev Mark S. Hanson and Rev Michael E. Livingston. Nathan Black (Christian Post) adds:The letter comes days after Christians in northern Iraq erected a statue of Jesus, modeled after Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, amid mounting attacks by extremists.Bashar Jarjees Habash, coordinator of Christian affairs in the city of Hamdaniya, said the statue of Jesus opening his arms was built to "send a message of peace to everyone to say that we want to live in peace with all," as reported by Agence France-Presse.Pakistan Christian TV explains, "Iraqi Christians used to make up about 3 percent of Iraq's population, but now make up for more than half of its refugees, the Telegraph has reported.Iraqi church leaders who have visited the National Council of Churches offices in New York have implored U.S. Christians to take closer notice of their fellow Christians in Iraq." And thus far nothing has been able to stem the decreased presence in Iraq. Michael Swan (Catholic News Service) reported last week that Iraqi Christians who fled to Syria for safety are not planning any return and that the secular political party of Ayad Allawi's victory in the March 7th election (a victory now in dispute) has not convinced them of changes. Toma Georgees tells Swan, "It's very, very difficult to turn back to Iraq, impossible to turn back. Our problem is not with the Iraqi government. Our problem is with Iraqi people, ignorant people who want to kill us, who want to kill all the Christians. . . . Those people are ignorant, and they just want to drink our blood as Christians." Despite repeated, false claims, Iraqi Christians who fled the country aren't planning to return. That has been the case over and over. But some in the press continue to attempt to spin. Why would they want to return? If you were threatened and attacked and people you knew were killed forcing you to flee, would you be eager to return? The spin never had the numbers to back it up but there was never any psychological truth in it either. This has been a consistent attitude on the part of Iraqi Christians. NPR's Deborah Amos is the author of this year's Eclipse Of The Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. On page 199 of her book, she notes the UNHCR's deputy representative in Amman, Jordan Arafat Jamal, "As for the Christian minorities in Amman, Jamal was convinced they would never return. By 2009, the European Union had stepped up re-settlement quotas, promising places for as many as ten thousand Iraqis, mostly threatened Christians, despite appeals from Iraq that doing so would diminish the remaining Christian community and raise questions about its continued viability."
Earlier this week, Amnesty International issued a 28-page report entitled "Iraq: Civilians under fire," [PDF format warning]
click here. News notes of the report "thousands of Christians, as well as many members of the Sabean Mandaean religion, Yazidis and women and girls, being targeted for un-Islamic behavior. Amnesty International said that many of these people are at risk of being killed." Spero News reports that a recent Babel College (Erbil) seminar was entitled "The Role and Identity of the Priest in Iraq Today" and:The key issue - a priest present at the seminar told Fides - was that of the ministerial priesthood, examined in a human, spiritual, theological, and biblical sense, and all lived within the reality of Iraq today, which has among its most pressing challenges to face: violence, forced emigration of Christians, and the critical security conditions of Christian communities. The conference also stressed the importance for the Church as a whole to accompany the priests during their journey of formation and during their pastoral life, as every priest needs to feel the community's support in the form of concrete aid and prayer.Rudi Stettner (Indyposted) observes, "Even if the physical survival of Iraq's religious minorities can be assured, their endurance as distinct religious groups is endangered by the displacement they have endured in the aftermath of the war in Iraq. It is important that the world show its support for Christians, Mandaeans and Yazidis in Iraq, whether they choose to remain there or not. Concerns for their safety should be made clear to the Iraqi government. A desire to welcome them should be made clear to the American government as well." And Kathleen McManus, OP of the University of Portland writes the Catholic Sentinel:As a Dominican Sister, I know from our own Iraqi Sisters about the persecution Christians are experiencing. Our Sisters in Baghdad and Mosul have chosen to stay and minister to Christians and Muslims alike. A tragic effect of the war and our U.S. presence has been a persecution of Christians never experienced during the admittedly brutal and unjust reign of Saddam Hussein.In recent weeks assassins entered the home of a Christian family in Mosul, killing an elderly father and his two sons. Panicked by the realization that they are no longer safe in their own homes, more than 100 families fled Mosul. Rapes and murders have been reported. The elderly sisters in the Dominican motherhouse in Mosul have chosen to stay in the convent, lest terrorists seize it.The U.S. Dominican Iraq Coordinating Committee has written to Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to urge the bishops to exhort Washington to pressure the Iraqi government to attend to the violence. Swift and definitive intervention is necessary to ensure the protection of all, and, through them, the democratic process for which so many have already suffered and died.Today's report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom never sees the problem as one person or one group's problem to address. Like the illegal war that created the Iraq refugee crisis, fixing the problem would require a global effort.

Silver tongues
Digest the truth
What have we done
And where was any proof
In the heat of the sun
Nothing can be done
And the blood lies on the hands of everyone
-- "Blood Lies," written and performed by
David Saw whose most recent album is Broken Down Figure (Kat reviewed it here).

Turning to some of today's violence . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 8 lives and Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured six people and a Kirkuk sticky bombing which claimed 1 life.

Following a brief mark up meeting, Chair Michael Michaud called to order the Health Subcommittee (of the House Veterans Affaris Committee) to order. The Subcommmittee was receiving an update on a pilot program. Michaud noted, "I recognize and appreciate the VA's efforts in addressing the health care needs of our rural veterans who are more likely to be in poorer health than their urban counterparts. However, more work remains in this area as our rural veterans face unique challenges that are both extensive and complex. The enhanced contract care pilot program is a potential tool for expanding access to health care for our rural veterans in areas where the VA is unable to provide care." VA's Patricia Vandenberg appeared before the Subcommittee accompanied by Gita Uppal. VA is, of course, Veterans Administration. "VISN" is Veterans Integrated Service Network.

A problem that arises repeatedly is that Congress writes a bill, passes it, it's signed into law and then it's not followed. Sometimes there's accidental confusion, sometimes there's intenational confusion. Many times the confusion is not even noticed until well after the project is underway. Today the Subcommitee heard about the status on a pilot program that they passed the legislation for and that is in the process of being implemented. Because the Subcommittee members paid attention and asked important questions, a problem dealing with confusion on the part of the VA quickly became evident.

US House Rep Jerry Moran: You're testimony raises a significant concern for me, however. This started out as legislation that would effect the entire country and, if you lived a certain number of miles from a provider, you would then be eligible for VA care provided with a local provider. It was narrowed to be a certain number of VISNs as a pilot or demonstartion project but your testimony suggests to me that you're now narrowing it even further and that you're going to do a particular community within that vison and that's troublesome for me because we've gone from a broad scope taking care of a large number of veterans to -- I was convinced that we should see how this works. But the CBO score, as we talk about its costs, to me, it was never suggested that we were not going to provide the same opportunity for community based service for every veteran that lived that number of miles -- now that number of minutes from a provider, from a VA provider. Is --Am I understanding the testimony correctly that now we're just going to select certain communities within the VISN? And make that the pilot program?

Patricia Vandenberg: We have asked the visons to identify multiple sites as focal points within their vison for potentially standing up this pilot project. At this point and time that is the direction that we're moving in. We understood the wording in the law when it said the Secretary will select areas, sites -- that that was permissable, that that was feasible in the pilot structure. So we are here obviously today to gain further insight from the committee as to your expectations.

US House Rep Jerry Moran: Well that certainly would be different than my expectations then Mr. Michaud and others may have an opinion but I would -- I'd be very critical of the concept that we're going to narrow the opportunities for veterans even further so if you're a veteran that lives a number of minutes from the provider you may or may not qualify depending upon whether the VISN director decided that your community is one that now qualifies. What I envision and what I hope that the VA would pursue is that if you meet the definition of highly rural and you're in that pilot demonstration VISN, you qualify. In fact, the VA has the obligation for providing a provider, finding a provider for you to meet your health care needs. So I welcome additional dialogue. Maybe other Committee members have an opinion regarding the intention but as I recall the CBO budget information did not narrow it one more step as it suggests that you suggest may occur. So my red flag is up.

Patricia Vandenberg: Thank you for the clarification, sir.

US House Rep Jerry Moran: You're very welcome. The legislation that the president's now expected to sign, do you have a sense, which defines miles to minutes, and the definition of . . . Help me?

Patricia Vandenberg: Hardship.

US House Rep Jerry Moran: Thank you! Hardship. Will it speed up the implementation date? Do you have a sense that now we're moving ahead six months more quickly?

Patricia Vandenberg: It certainly will facilitate us not being impeded by the regulatory process and so we believe that we are on a, uh, path at this point having issued the guidance to the field and asking them to identify sites. We may have to amend that per the conversation we are having. But we don't see any firm impediment except for the fact that I referenced earlier, we have no way of knowing when this goes out to the provider community what the level of receptivity would be. So I would say that the rate of progress going forward will be a function of the contracting mechanism and the receptivity in the provider community to work with us.

US House Rep Jerry Moran: I think that receptivity will in part depend upon the reimbursement rate that you conclude is appropriate and my understanding is that the VA's current fee base is fee base and you cover the entire cost of care. You provide health care for veterans with local providers today.

Patricia Vandenberg: Yes, sir.

US House Rep Jerry Moran: And I think you cover the entire cost of doing so. That I assume would be the most desirable model for the veteran and for the health care provider in getting this implemented and wide spread use. So I'm hoping that you follow the same practices that you've been following in the past of how you reimburse hometown providers today. Mr. Chairman, my time is expired, but I would welcome your input or the staff input on this issue of a pilot within a pilot. I'm fearful that we're narrowing the scope and the number of veterans that we wanted to take care of across the country was already narrowed to a certain number of veterans -- to a certain number of VISNs. And we need to make sure, in my opinion, that it's not narrowed further, that you have to live in a particular area within that community to access this health care. I thank the Chairman.

Subcommittee Chair Michael Michaud: Thank you very much, Mr. Moran. You're absolutely correct, the whole intent was to have the VISN -- the whole VISN. Not a pilot within that VISN. And I believe we actually got a CBO score predicated on the full VISN, not on pilots within that VISN. And you're 100% correct, the intent of the legislation was for the full VISN. And that is a concern. This is not the first time we've seen this thing. We actually saw it back in legislation that was passed in 2006 relating to state veterans' nursing homes which required the VA to provide full cost of veterans and, through the rule making process, the VA narrowed that down to what full cost meant for the VA and we're trying to correct that issue currently. So but you're 100% correct, Mr. Moran, it was for the full VISN.

US House Rep Jerry Moran: Mr. Chairman, excuse me, and I would point that to my knowledge this is -- at least this is the first time I've heard as we've had briefings from the VA on this topic, this is the first time I've seen the narrowing of the narrowing. And so -- I appreiciate the Chairman's comments.

Patricia Vandenberg: Mr. Chairman, may I make a further comment?

Subcommittee Chair Michael Michaud: Yes.

Patricia Vandenberg: We obviously will respond to the feedback that we're receiving today but just to go back to the question of what further challenge or impediment might we experience I would just like to observe that when attempting to put a provider in place for highly rural veterans who will, no doubt, be dispersed in a VISN, we will likely experience a situation of multiple contracting relationships so that could potentially extend the timely implementation for coverage in an entire VISN. So I'm-I'm just wanting to acknowledge that I hear you, I-I further appreciate the intent and, just practically speaking, obviously going to honor the intent and just realize that we may be dealing -- In a number of instances, it would be ideal if there were a provider network established that had outlets if you will in those multiple venues. Having had some experience in my prior life in Idaho where the organization I was associated with attempted to set up those multiple venues in rural communities, it made it very easy if someone wanted to serve those communities, they just came to my organization and we helped them get that done. In our experience thus far in rural contracting, that hasn't always been the case. So I hear what the Committee is telling us today. We will proceed to respond to this and just work with due diligence to work through the contracting as timely as possible.

Jerry Moran: Mr. Chairman, I think what Ms. Vandenberg is telling me is my two desires of having broad scope and quick implementation may be mutually exclusive. And putting the reminder back to us that this may slow the process down if they've got to contract in a multiple number of ways. But, at least from my perspective, I would put the priority on doing it right, which is to take care of every veteran regardless of where they live, not within a particular communisty as compared to the speed of its accomplishment. We want both but, again, I think we'd make a terrible mistake if we go through this pilot program and we only, in a sense, take the easy areas within a rural VISN in which it's easier to find a provider or there's a multiple number of providers or there's a larger number of veterans. We're still isolating that veteran who lives a long distance from a VA hospital. And so my priority would be back to being sure that we implement this in a way that we can demonstrate that it can be done VISN wide. Thank you.

Subcommittee Chair Michael Michaud: Thank you. Ms. Halvorson?

US House Rep Debbie Halvorson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And while we've been discussing all this, there's probably many veterans who haven't been able to find a way to get taken care of. So while we're trying to figure out how to do this, our veterans still need help. So instead of reinventing the wheel or trying to figure out what's "rural," what's "hardship," why aren't we just taking care of our veterans and letting them go where ever it is that they need to be taken care of? Now I may be naive and I am new, this is my first term, but while we're trying to figure out the intent of a law or how to do it the right way, no matter if it takes long, what are we doing right now for our rural veterans? Where are they going and how are they getting taken care of?

Patricia Vandenberg: Thank you for the question. I'm glad you asked it because I can speak very directly to it. We are already providing a significant amount of fee care to rural and highly rural veterans. And under the aegis of the Office of Rural Health in Fiscal Year '10, we have just put out $200 million to the VISNs to afford them the extra resources to provide fee care to rural and highly rural veterans. So I think it's important to note that is a mechanism that is already in place and what I understood the intent of this law to do was to give VA additional incentive and capacity to further contract out care to extend that access even more. But, to answer your question, we are already meeting the needs of rural and highly rural veterans through the fee care mechanism

US House Rep Debbie Halvorson: So then and not to interrupt but so then what's the estimate of how many extra veterans are we gong to take care of and the cost? So we're already spending money, we're already taking care of people, so this program -- what are we assessing the pilot program's cost, the quality and how many veterans are going to be eligible for the pilot program?

Patricia Vandenberg: Let me take the assessment of costs. First, in our initial analysis of the implementation of the pilot as we previously understood it, we estimated up to $100 million. However, we knew that that was putting significant empahsis on primary care service delivery. And as you add in the multi-speciality dimensions of a patient's care, that that cost could rise. So our current working assumption is that the pilot project as we previously conceived it would cost at least $100 million. Now you're second question about quality? That's part of the analysis and the process of contracting and we're using all of the resources of VHA that we currently employ in the contract process. Pulling those in to look at the specifics of assessing the quality of the care and the patient's satisfaction with the care.

US House Rep Deborah Halvorson: So for a hundred million dollars, w'ere going to help more people?

Patricia Vandenberg: Yes, ma'am.

US House Rep Debbie Halvorson: And better?

Patricia Vandenberg: I-I think, uhm, I would just observe that we believe that the standard of care, the quality of care, that is evident in our current fee relationships is of a high quality nature so when we say beter, that could connote that there is something lacking in our current approach. . .

US House Rep Debbie Halvorson: Right and it's not a good word. "Better" is not a good word.

Patricia Vandenberg: I just want to be precise. We definiately are trying to enhance access. And by spreading the network of contract relationships further into highly rural communities and attempting to structure those relationships -- in some instances, they don't exist today -- that will definitely enahnce the quality of veterans care because of the --

US House Rep Debbie Halvorson: Okay, I just hope that we're not reinventing the wheel. It looks like you've taken all this time to discuss "hardship" and "rural" when we should be taking this time to help our veterans with their health care. And now, with 1963 I believe, we take hardship out altogether. We should have no problem now implementing this bill. So I know my time is about up, but I'm concerned about the care of my veterans. Not debating whether they're rural or if they have a hardship. We are talking about people that we just want to take care of. Thank you.

I included Halvorson because I think she did a good job and I think a lot of people are getting very tired and very annoyed by the constant need to refer to study. When you're given a directive, the study process should not be a hold up. Now we saw the government just waste money on a PSTD 'study' which issued their report a few weeks ago and the 'answer' was 'more research and study required.' Nothing to do with really helping those who deal with PTSD. And there is a growing frustration on the part of veterans. Halvorson has worked very hard to be very connected to the veterans in her district and her comments represent what she and other House Reps in contact with veterans are hearing.

And the confusion as to what VA was supposed to be implementing? Chair Michael Michaud noted "this legislation passed in October of 2008. We did not hear back from the VA until March of 2009 of why they can't implement it. And the concern being that when we went through the hearing process, the mark up process, that was the time the VA should have been before us saying, 'Well we need these changes'." Maybe there'd be less confusion, if they'd been present for those hearings. Not just to speak, but to listen.

In other news, US Rep Henry Brown is a Republican who serves on the Subcommittee (in fact, he's the Subcomittee's Ranking Member). His online office, his Congressional website, just won an award from the
Congressional Management Foundation "for having one of the best Web sites in Congress." You can click here to visit and evaluate for yourselves. And here's the press release noting the award. His was one of offices receiving an award. The top honor, Platinum Mouse Award went to the online offices of US House Rep Steve Israel (Democrat), US House Republican Conference, Mike Pence (Republican) is the Chair, the House Committee on Science and Techonology which Bart Gordon (Democrat) chairs and the online office of US Senator Lisa Murkowski (Republican). CMF notes:

"These four stood out from the rest and serve as examples for others to follow. Overall, we found the good sites are getting better and the bad are getting worse," said Beverly Bell, executive director of CMF, a nonpartisan nonprofit founded 33 years ago to promote a more effective Congress. "It looks like half of the Congress is racing to the top while the other half race to the bottom. The outstanding sites follow best practices, leverage the power of social media, and serve their constituents well. Those offices falling behind are losing a great opportunity to interact with their constituents in ways the public has grown to expect."

And on the topic of online Congressional offices, we'll close with Michael Applegate's "
Stop Outsourcing Security Act HR 4650" (Iraq Veterans Against the War):

Rep Jan Schakowsky and 24 cosponsors are introducing a bill to phase out private military contractors. A similar bill is being introduced to the Senate by Sen Bernie Sanders I(VT) S 3023
Contact your reps to urge them to support this bill. Latest Major Action: 2/23/2010 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Armed Services, and Intelligence (Permanent Select),
Currently there are 24 cosponsors: Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2] - 2/23/2010 Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14] - 2/25/2010 Rep DeFazio, Peter A. [OR-4] - 3/10/2010 Rep Doggett, Lloyd [TX-25] - 4/21/2010 Rep Ellison, Keith [MN-5] - 2/23/2010 Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] - 2/23/2010 Rep Frank, Barney [MA-4] - 4/21/2010 Rep Gonzalez, Charles A. [TX-20] - 2/23/2010 Rep Grayson, Alan [FL-8] - 3/10/2010 Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] - 2/23/2010 Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [IL-4] - 2/23/2010Rep Hall, John J. [NY-19] - 2/23/2010 Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22] - 2/23/2010 Rep Holt, Rush D. [NJ-12] - 2/23/2010 Rep Kaptur, Marcy [OH-9] - 4/21/2010 Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9] - 2/23/2010 Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14] - 2/23/2010 Rep McGovern, James P. [MA-3] - 2/23/2010 Rep Moore, Gwen [WI-4] - 2/23/2010 Rep Polis, Jared [CO-2] - 2/23/2010 Rep Shea-Porter, Carol [NH-1] - 2/23/2010 Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13] - 2/23/2010 Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6] - 2/23/2010 Rep Wu, David [OR-1] - 4/21/2010
Please become a citizen cosponsor by going to:

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bully On The Run

August 6, 2006, "Bully Boy On The Run." Did I like this one?

Yeah. I did and I do.

First of all, it perfectly captures Bully Boy, the fleer-er. Second of all, it's political. Third of all it brought attention (hopefully) to Cindy Sheehan. I'd seen her on TV but wasn't sure how she looked drawing wise.

As I've revealed in interviews with Third, I started drawing early and probably the biggest influence on me was Mad magazine. And I really need to see a photo of someone to draw them or feel comfortable drawing them. So I wanted to do a Cindy comic because she was camping out in Crawford, asking for Bush to meet with her and tell her what "noble cause" her son Casey Sheehan died for.

And he was too much of a coward to do it.

But she was brave and took on the Texas heat which must have been a breeze after taking on Bush.

So I like this comic. Can't say that about all of them.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 22, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri offers more pleasing claims in public, the WikiLeaks tape showed what happened but what happened after (key detail left out of the narrative), World Can't Wait holds a conference on the assault video, Congress discusses PTSD and TBI, and more.
Monday April5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists. In real time, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported, "The two Reuters staff members, both of them Iraqis, were killed when troops on an American helicopter shot into the area where the two had just gotten out of their car, said witnesses who spoke to an Agence France-Press photographer who arrived at the scene shortly after their bodies were taken away. The Reuters employees were Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, a photographer, and Saeed Chmagh, 40, a driver." Rubin quoted AFP's Ahmad Sahib stating, "They had arrived, got out of the car and started taking pictures, and people gathered. It looked like the American helicopters were firing against any gathering in the area, because when I got out of my car and started taking pictures, people gathered an American helicopter fired a few rounds, but they hit the houses nearby and we ran for cover." That detail really didn't make it into the story recently, did it? We could have Diane Rehm smear the two journalists on her show (as she did when she read a piece of crap e-mail asserting the two were embedded with terrorists and got whatever they deserved and then declared that would be "the last word" on the issue). We could have a host of gas baggery.
But who bothered to tell you that after the event, it happened again. The footage captures what took place in real time. The footage ends before the second wave starts. The footage captures the realization that there were children present. And none of that prevented a second round being fired from US helicopters?
Last night, World Can't Wait held a conference on the WikiLeaks video with Debra Sweet moderating and Dahr Jamail, Elaine Brower and Matthis Chiroux participating. All but Dahr were in New York City. The conference was streamed live online last night. Dahr is an independent journalist. He reported in Iraq as a non-embed. He could have just as easily been killed/targeted as the two Reuters reporters. Elaine Brower is a peace activist and the mother of a service member who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has long been active in the peace movement and has not allowed the changing of the White House to silence her speaking out against the continued wars. Matthis Chiroux served in Afghanistan. He is an Iraq War resister. Like Elaine, he is a very strong member of the peace movement and the two of them were arrested, along with Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan and at least five others, for using their Constitutional rights of free speech to protest the continued wars while they were in DC last month. Early on, Dahr spoke about how Iraqis are still caught in the conflict and how that hasn't ended. The Iraq War continues. That's based on hearing about every third or fourth word. For me, his feed was garbled. Debra did review some of his points. And all excerpts should be considered "really rush transcript" and not just "rush transcript" because I wasn't aware that my notes (which weren't that in depth, most of what follows is from memory -- keep that in mind) is what I would rely on today. I thought the video was going up at World Can't Wait but that hasn't happened yet.
Debra Sweet: I don't know if everybody caught Dahr's reference to General David Petreaus. He is the general that is now in charge of the Central Command which is all of Europe and Asia basically. Like three years ago, when the incident we're talking about happened, he was in charge of Iraq and where is he right now? [Debra then noted their action to protest Petreaus.] I just wonder if people heard what Dhar said? That in Iraq so far, 1.5 have been killed. And I think he said 4.8 million Iraqis are displaced from their homes. And this is a war that is supposed to be ending. So Dahr, could you give us just sixty seconds of what to say to people who say "But wait a minute, Obama has ended the war in Iraq, it's over, the troops are coming home?"
Still garbeled, he twice mentioned the National Security Strategy. The feed cleared up shortly after and he was asked about the WikiLeaks video of the assault.
Dahr Jamail: That is a very disgusting vile situation and that is exactly what psychiatrist Robert J. Lipton has said early on in the occupation that when you send soldiers into an unwinnable occupation and who have been, for the most part, very effectively brain washed by the propaganda and by ideology and they thoroughly dehumanize the Iraqi people, this is what is called an atrocity producing situation and that is exactly what this video shows us -- that we can see with our own eyes. And I think why it has caused such a stir is for finally, one of the few times that the American public can see with their own eyes an atrocity producing situation being carried out right in front of their eyes. There's no denying it. There's no denying watching them kill unarmed civilians and there's no denying the callous disregard with which they carried it out.
Matthis Chiroux: Well it's, it's really interesting actually. All of us sitting at this table right now -- me, Elaine and Debra, and even folks in this room who've been doing demonstrations or have done demonstrations at the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia where they actually allow young people they are trying to recruit into the military to pilot helicopter simulators and it -- even through these simulations -- it is clear that the US kills civilians and that when children simulate killing civilians in this video game, the military recruiters explain it to them as not simulated murder but as a rules of engagement violation. So simplyl including this in the simulation points that -- I wonder how they would react to having this simulated so that young people could-could see what it's really like to experience a so-called rules of engagement.
Dahr Jamal: That's another really good point, Mathis, because, again, it's all part of the dehumanizing where you don't even talk about the Iraqis as human beings. You know, they're "targets," they're "suspected insurgents," etc. etc. And you don't talk -- you talk about things like the rules of engagement. You kind of really steralize the whole situation by using this type of terminology. And, of course, they're not going to show this video to the kids. Of course, they're going to let them play things that are kind of like video gamesque situations to really basically start getting them thinking along these lines, which I would have to think that folks who fly drones -- who sit in Nevada or California and pilot drones -- and the people who fly the helicopter in the video, that they were probably raised playing similar types of video games and again getting the brain washing backed up by the media where these are not human beings, these are prssible insurgents, they're terrorists, they're al Qaeda, etc etc. And it makes it possible to where these people can basically become simply trained murderers and go out and do just that. And, you, Matthis, from the military know all too well that which I discovered through interviewing dozens and dozens of veterans I've interviewed for news stories and my latest book and that is that they come into the military and they're basically trained to be murderers, you don't ask questions, you just follow orders, you don't think about "the other" as a human being, you think about them as an enemy. This is drilled into you in basic training and then reinforced throughout your entire contact with the military. And so that, again, is what puts soldiers in this position in Iraq and Afghanistan -- where when you put this kind of trained soldier out into the field, have them afraid, have them completely brain washed so basically everyone they're looking at is a potential threat, then this is only going to go one direction and that's the direction that we see in this video.
Elaine Brower: This is Elaine Brower, Dahr. How are you?
Dahr Jamail: Hi, Elaine, thanks, good.
Elaine Brower: Thanks for doing this this evening but I have a question for you regarding how you feel about these soldiers and marines that perform these types of operations and are so callous about it. Should we feel disgust? Should we feel that they should be held accountable personally for this? Or do we look to the government for training them that way? The military? Isn't it up to the individual person to, uh, seek their own humanity and reality especially when they've been on several tours of combat deployment? Don't they realize after awhile that they are killing innocent people? Or is this just they become robots?
Dahr Jamail: Well, Elaine, I-I agree with you and that's why earlier I said that, for example, that the soldiers do carry out atrocities and do commit war crimes absolutely have to be held to account, they absolutely have to be brought to justice. You know, the whole thing, again, in the Nurember Trials, when Hilter's henchmen were put on the stand and then tried to use the excuse of "I was just following orders," that doesn't apply for exactly what you said and that is that you, as a human being, are morally responsible for the actions you take. And, for example, another thing is that the US was ever a member of the International Criminal Court and we started to see some justice and some people actually going to trial, I think one thing a lot of international lawyers would focus on and a lot of domestic lawyers is that the oath that soldiers swear, for example, is to support and defend the Constitution by following lawful orders. There it is right there. You can only follow lawful orders. So whenever your commander, whoever he is, tells you as a soldier, you know, "Go fly this helicopter and just shoot whatever," even if they're just suspected or whatever, that is not a lawful order by the Geneva Convention. [. . .] They are both legally and morally bound to use their heads and make correct decisions even if that means not following an order. Okay?
Laurie Arbiter: Dahr, this is Laurie Arbiter. I have two questions. One is if you could speak about the corporate interests in Iraq -- US corporate interests -- that are in Iraq right now and have been and the gains that they may have made over these years during the occupation. Because I have a theory that it was an investment of both blood and US money but there was also a return to a certain sector of this country. So I just wondered if you could speak about that. And the second thing is speak to us about the-the civilian population here in the US who are witnessing crimes against humanity, who have enough evidence to not be able to say that we didn't know and have not mounted a resistance commiserate with those crimes. And if you could speak to what you think -- do you think that that's going to happen or how should that be organized?
Elaine had to repeat the question for Dahr who had trouble hearing that. Dahr declared those the primary questions and noted that it was "the right thing to do" (protesting) and that people just have to keep working "to basically wake people up and go, 'Look, this is where your tax money is going, this is what your government is doing'." He was also asked about Iran and he talked about how there was no proof that Iran had nuclear weapons but there was proof that Israel did and Israel is not the object of war talk from the White House.
Debra Sweet noted, "We need a national movement, we can't do this city by city. All across this nation, we have to take responsibility. And I want to do two things before Matthis or Elaine speaks. World Can't Wait is not an organization that has money or any big backers. We're just us and we decided we have to do this, we have to stop these illegitimate wars, the torture and the whole direction this society is going in." World Can't Wait is publishing an advertisement in The New York Review of Books entitled "Crimes Are Crimes No Matter Who Does Them."
Matthis and Elaine were supposed to speak after but my feed dropped out last night. And I was hoping World Can't Wait would have the video up today but they don't. That may be due to being very busy -- the conference last night was followed by a demonstration -- or possibly due to the feed dropping out with Dahr at the start. And repeating, a large portion of the above transcript is from memory, I wasn't taking in depth notes. So consider it "rush, rush" and more of a guidepost than an actual transcript.
The assassination of Sheikh Ghazi Jabouri, a prominent Sunni Imam in the Al- Adhamiya district of Baghdad, has raised fears of renewed sectarian violence in the wake of the Mar. 7 elections.
Tensions have been reported in the area following the assassination Wednesday last week. At least two gunmen killed Sheikh Jabouri, 42, as he walked home after completing morning prayers at the Rahman Mosque.
His brother Sarmad Faisal Jabouri, like many Iraqis in Adhamiya district, blames the government. "We hold the government fully responsibility for the killing of my brother, because they are supposed to be in control of security at the entrances and exits to the area," Jabouri said.
The attack came on a morning when a high-ranking officer in Iraq's anti- terrorism police was killed by a bomb planted in his car. The attack also killed two nearby policemen.
The violence comes amidst a wave of increasing attacks across the capital, and amidst political instability in the wake of last month's elections, that have yet to yield a clear winner.
And if you doubt the reality of the above, look to the editorial boards of the papers that sold the Iraq War to begin with and note how they're either downplaying the violence or keeping their mouths completely shut. (And, point of fact, always worry more about a journalist when s/he's not talking then when they are.)
An Iraqi security force under Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's direct command held hundreds of detainees from northern Iraq in an undisclosed prison in Baghdad, torturing dozens of them, until the country's human rights minister and the United States intervened late last month, Iraqi and American officials said. Mr. Maliki ordered the prison closed and said he had been unaware it existed, according to the officials. His move brought the release of 71 detainees and the transfer of others to established prisons, but more than 200 remain in the place, on the grounds of the Old Muthanna military airfield, in northern Baghdad. All of the detainees were apparently Sunni Muslims.
American diplomats visited the prison on Wednesday, the officials said, and pressed Mr. Maliki's government to investigate the circumstances of its creation and the treatment of detainees there, originally 431 in all.
This follows up on Ned Parker's "Secret prison for Sunnis revealed in Baghdad" (Monday's Los Angeles Times print, posted at the paper's website late Sunday). Steven Lee Myers quotes the ridiculous Wijdan Mikhail Salim in his article who not only offers Nouri praise for closing the prison he oversaw but huffs, "He's doing the best he can." Really? That's his best?
In the wake of Nouri al-Maliki's claims that two big al Qaeda leaders were killed on Sunday, he continued to be chatty. Tuesday, we noted, "BBC News notes that today Nouri claimed they'd killed Ahmed al-Obedi. That's generally the thing that trips up Nouri when he's making false claims -- they're bought and he just keeps upping the claims. Time will tell if that was the case again this time." So that was Tuesday, Nouri was claiming a third scalp on his belt. Today Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that Nouri and company are claiming they are holding Manaf Abdul Raheem al-Rawi and have been dong so since March 11th who is the al Qaeda leader in Baghdad. So many leaders in Iraq? Were it true, you'd picture them in an intra-mural squabble every other week. They also claim he was responsible for some bombings last year. Londono observes, "The operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq have come at an opportune time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is fighting to keep his job after March 7's disputed parliamentary elections." See, this is the sort of thing that trips Nouri up. He lies a little and gets away with it, then he lies a little bigger, then he continues and continues and continues. So from "We have killed two terrorist on my safety watch!" on Sunday, we've gotten another alleged high profile terrorist killed on Tuesday and today the news that they arrested another high profile terrorist. It's wonderful spin. And some people really believed Tom Cruise was saving all those lives too, right? That was laughable and Tom was then steered by Pat Kingsley. Nouri's on his own and just gets more and more creative. Marcia addressed Nouri's alleged streak of good luck last night in "He's got good karma? Him?"
Hassan Hafidh (Dow Jones) reports that Iraq managed to bring in $4.351 billion last month as it exported approximately "1.841 million barrels of oil a day" which may not see the same this month. Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) report a bombing on the pipeline carrying oil to Turkey: "Plumes of black smoke could be seen. The last time an explosion struck the pipeline in the north was two months ago, when it took four days to repair and resume pumping." Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) reports that the police and North Oil Company both state it was a bombing attack. In addition, Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured "the head of security for the power grid in western Iraq" and a passenger and a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people.
Now we're going to do what we should have done in yesterday's snapshot (but no room), drop back to Tuesday to note an evening hearing of the Military Personnel Subcommittee (of the US House Armed Services Committee) which addressed PTSD and TBI. Chair Susan Davis explained at the top of the hearing that some members of the military were being separated from the military (discharged) due to behavious related to PTSD or TBI and and, noting US House Rep Walter Jones' work on this issue, she declared, "I agree with the gentleman that it is unacceptable that the military departments were separating service members because of misconduct that was caused by a PTSD or TBI injury that occured during his or her combat tour. Now that we know so much more about the extent of those injuries in the force, we owe every returning service member the assurance that we will not punish them for an injury that resulted from combat service. The unfortunate truth is that we have very likely already separated a number of service members where the commanders did not consider that the member was experiencing the consequences of PTSD or TBI." Appearing before the Subcommittee were Dr. Charles Rice of the Defense Dept and Bill Carr also of DoD. We'll excerpt the following exchanges.
Chair Susan Davis: We're going to want to talk about the needs, the capacity of the health community within the services and the general population as well and being able to meet these requirements as well as having the numbers, really, to review a number of these cases. But I wanted to focus initially on the commanders in the field. And talk about how we're educating them and the role that they're actually playing in trying to assess the severity or the possibility that someone could be suffering with PTSD or TBI. One of the things we know is how difficult it is to diagnose and certainly in a subjective fashion to be able to get that information and yet the commander plays a pretty significant role. What are we doing and what's the status of that? How do you think we are doing in trying to move that area forward?
Bill Carr: The first is for the commanders to say "We use the term PTSD. What does it mean? How do you spot it, what does it mean in concrete terms?" If you can express it in a way that they comprehend than the likelihood of their uniting that circumstance with medical help is that much greater. The Army, the Marine Corps have active programs and training where they instruct the field in the terms. For example, up PTSD --
Chair Susan Davis: Excuse me, could you pull your mike just a little bit closer.
Bill Carr: I'm sorry. For example, with PTSD, my point before this was that commanders have guides that allow them to take a situation that presents and make some more informed and rational judgment as to whether or not the symptoms they're seeing represent PTSD and, for example, some of the instruction presents to them that if-if the person reports a disturbing memories and disturbing dreams reliving so forth, those are things we would all say, "Yes, I recognize that now as PTSD." But unless we actively say it to the chain of command, then they'll hear it and they won't understand the emotional significance of what they've just heard. So the education programs of the Army and Marine Coprs in making sure commanders know that --
Chair Susan Davis: Could you just be more specific in helping us understand? I think in the testimony there was some notion of how much time is spent but what does that look like in terms of that training?
Bill Carr: It would take the form of about one hour training. And I'm going to have to -- I'm sorry -- I will have to confer back to you -- exactly how it would play out at a unit at, let's say, Fort Bragg, what specifically did they experience? And I would be glad to provide that back. There are a number of resources on the web that are available to those who go look for them and they're easily found but I think the question from the Chair is "What do we present so that it's deliberately placed before the chain of command?" So that these terms that I've described. And I'm sorry I can't provide that now but I'll come back to it.
Chair Susan Davis: Dr. Rice? Did you want --
Dr. Charles Rice: Uh. Yes, ma'am. Madame Chair, I think it's important to emphasize that the emphasis on this comes from the very top. General [Peter] Chiarelli, the Vice Chief of Staff os the US Army, General [James] Amos, the Assisting Commandant of the Marine Corps have talked about this over and over with their commanders. [Clears throat.] Excuse me. Once a month, for example, General Chiarelli has a conference with all of his commanders where a suicide has occured and the general officer at that particular post or station is there to report on what were the specific cirucmstances that led up to the suicide. Obviously, we don't want to be tumbling to this problem after a suicide has been completed. But I think it does bring to bear the fact that the emphasis from the Vice Chief and from the Assisting Commandant is continuous. It's important. They are very emphatic about making sure that it gets desseminated won the chain of command. I think the other -- in addition to the point that Mr. Carr made -- the other place that it's real important is the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer level because those are the people who are really in day to day contact with the troops and education in this area has been encorporated into sergeants' major course, for example. All of the Senior NCO leaders are taught about how to recognize various aspects. The details -- contents of those courses is something that, like Mr. Carr, I woud have to get back to you.
Chair Susan Davis: Okay, thank you very much. Because I think we all know how long it takes the medical professionals to be able to describe and understand and I think there's a great deal for our commanders to be doing and certainly the officers and it's difficult to even find some of the time for that. But I think that while we had a great deal of emphasis early in the last few years and we've had to focus a great deal on suicides in the unit, I think we want to be sure that we're spending enough time doing that because, in many ways, they really are the critical actor, I think, in this.
Dr. Charles Rice: Yes, ma'am, I think that's exactly right. I think that the most important thing that the commander, the Senior NCO does is to convey to a member of his unit: It's okay to go ask for help. It takes a strong person to do that.
Chair Susan Davis: Thank you. Mr. Wilson?
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: Thank you again, for both of you being here. And Mr. Carr how has DoD reached out to former military members who are administratively discharged, separated to inform them of the opportunity to request a review of their separation through the discharge review board? To date, how many members have requested such a review?
Bill Carr: The outreach was through media -- principally to ensure that it reached cities and towns -- and, uh, to date, the number's relatively low 129 Army have applied for -- to the Discharge Review Board.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And --

Bill Carr: So it was a media effort.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: A media effort. And also, I'm sure if a person is discharged, you'll send periodic -- I've seen them -- periodic newsletters to the discharged personnel and it would have been in that publication too, wouldn't it?
Bill Carr: I'm almost sure it was in those -- it was in those publications as well.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And inadvertently, one of my sons [Alan] -- who served a year in Iraq -- I kept, kept getting his mail and it was really very enlightening and very encouraging to me, how helpful the information that was provided and, of course, I would get it to him right away.
Bill Carr: Yes, sir.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And then they've got him at a correct address.
Bill Carr: Yes, sir.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: What is your plan for providing additional mental health assets required for the pre-separation exams and the discharge review boards? How many additional personnel do you anticipate needing? Additionally, I'm very grateful, I work with a volunteer organization called Hidden Wounds of Columbia, South Carolina which is serving as a back up for discharged personnel, they are actively promoting mental health assistance. And so it's DoD, VA and then volunteer organizations. But how many more personnel do we need?
Bill Carr: For the discharge review board function, as long as the criteria are kept broad for example, we don't stipulate a grade on whether they're active or reserve and are not overly restricted in the academic disciplines, my understanding is that the manning requirements will be met for the DRBs, that that wouldn't impose any constraint on the flow of applications.
Ranking Member Joe Wilson: And it's encouraging for me, I went to a pancake breakfast to raise money for Hidden Wounds and the VA had a table set up there with personnel from the VA hospital and it was a -- I could see that it was a really positive interaction between the volunteer organizations and DoD personnel and VA personnel.
US House Rep Dave Loebsack noted that he shared Wilson's concern that members of the Reserves and their families -- "especially those living in rural areas" -- and he wanted to know about the Tele-health program, how service members were made aware of it and how those whom the Tele-health determined needed face-to-face treatment were getting it?
Dr. Rice stated that the Tele-health was created with rural members in mind. The media was used to get the word out. Self-referral is available if someone requires more than is available through Tele-health or the website. But how clear is that to someone? Probably not that clear. This was a weak section and the answers weren't impressive nor were they reassuring. Loebsack stated (warned?) he would be staying on this issue and thinks it will be "a huge issue" especially for the National Guard in Iowa. He wanted to know about Guard members diagnosed with PTSD after separation? Dr. Rice stated they would be referred to VA. Carr stated that, if it were him, for the Reserve, that "I'm probably going to proceed with my physician on my own medical program". Or, they could go onto the VA and Carr trusted (so very trusting or so cleverly spinning?) that he would trust that the VA would "in short order . . . administratively determine it to be a consequence of combat" -- apparently Carr has paid little attention to either the news or the subcommittee hearings of the House Veterans Committee that US House Rep John Hall has chaired?

An army sergeant who had received 22 honors including a Combat Action Badge prior to being wounded in Iraq by a mortar shell was told he was faking his medical symptoms and subjected to abusive treatment until he agreed to a "personality disorder"(PD) discharge.
After a doctor with the First Cavalry division wrote he was out for "secondary gain," Chuck Luther was imprisoned in a six- by eight-foot isolation chamber, ridiculed by the guards, denied regular meals and showers and kept awake by perpetual lights and blasting heavy metal music---abuses similar to the punishments inflicted on terrorist suspects by the CIA.
"They told me I wasn't a real soldier, that I was a piece of crap. All I wanted was to be treated for my injuries," 12-year veteran Luther told reporter Joshua Kors of "The Nation" magazine (April 26th). "Now suddenly I'm not a soldier. I'm a prisoner, by my own people. I felt like a caged animal in that room. That's when I started to lose it." The article is called "Disposable Soldiers: How the Pentagon is Cheating Wounded Vets."
Luther had been seven months into his deployment at Camp Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad, when a mortal shell exploded at the base of his guard tower that knocked him down, slamming his head into the concrete. "I remember laying there in a daze, looking around, trying to figure out where I was at," he said. Luther suffered permanent hearing loss in his right ear, tinnitus, agonizing headaches behind his right eye, severe nosebleeds, and shoulder pain.
Yesterday's snapshot addressed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, Wally covered it in "Scott Brown," Ava in "Burris asks, Wilson sometimes answers" and Kat in "Marco Reininger testifes to Congress."

Read on ...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Condi Takes Time Out To Perform Again!

That's from July 30, 2006, "Condi Takes Time Out To Perform Again!" and the point there was that the nation was engaged in two wars and a big deal was made of Condi Rice -- then Secretary of State -- yet again entertaining a room by playing the piano.

It was like during Katrina, how in the aftermath she was shopping for shoes and playing tennis.
She never really seemed to grasp what was what but some of that is the press fault. They built her up in a way that wasn't fair. The same as with Michelle Obama today. Because both women are Black and firsts, they were treated patronizingly by the press in a "Oh, look, It talks! It walks!" I don't believe in giving blanket respect, respect is earned. And I made fun of Condi and I make fun of Michelle in the comics I do today.

But I don't think I've been patronizing. My jokes may be insulting but they are as insulting as my jokes to any man or any White man.

Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts: "Condi Takes Time Out To Perform Again!" Good thing the nations not at war all is peaceful, right?

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 15, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, rumors swirl about alliances in building Iraq's next government, a Congressional hearing demonstrates how institutionally screwed up (by all means, use a stronger word) the US government is, and more.

This morning the US House Armed Services Committee held a hearing. They were taking testimony from an "independent" panel on the Quadrennial Defense Review. Chair Ike Skelton called the hearing to order and moved to welcome members of the 'independent' panel who were present but would not be giving testimony. He declared, "Congress created the independent panel in the Fiscal Year 2007 National Defense Authorization Act. It was charged with conducting an assessment of the QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review] and presenting its findings to Congress. Last year, we expanded the panel by adding eight additional members appointed by the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee."

And behind the curtain, waiting to provide testimony were William J. Perry and -- drum roll and possibly serial killer theme from a slasher movie -- Stephen J. Hadley.

Can someone explain that? Nancy Pelosi, you took impeachment "off the table." The country, the world didn't get the needed impeachment of Bully Boy Bush. You were a coward and put your own personal interests ahead of what the country and the Constitution needed -- what the Constitution demanded. But did you have to allow the criminals to be appointed by Congress to 'independent' panels?

Hadley's not the only one. In fact, the gossip girl Hadley's partner in crime in outing CIA agent Valerie Plame's on the panel. Explain HOW THE HELL THAT HAPPENS?

It happens because we have an INEFFECTIVE and INEPT Congress. They created this panel in 2007. If you're mind's functioning, you grasp that Democrats controlled both houses of Congress then (and now). There are 20 members on the panel. Congress only appoitns 8. They forked over 12 to the Secretary of Defense. With him/her selecting the majority of the members, it will never be independent and Congress needs to stop insulting the American people.

Nancy can at least take comfort in the fact that Stephen Hadley and his roll dog weren't appointed by Congress. Robert Gates appointed Hadley. He's also the one who appointed Richard Armitage. (
Click here for DoD press release.)

Richard Armitage. The Hedda Hopper of the DC set stepped forward, for those who don't remember or never knew, after an investigation was opened into the outing of CIA undercover agent
Valerie Plame. Dick revealed he was a real Chatty Cathy and, WOOPSIE!, he's the one who told journalist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame was CIA. After that, you really should be off the government payroll, after that you really are done. You shouldn't be trusted with any information at all. It's as though Dick burned down the White House while playing with matches and, shortly afterward, the US government decided to make him a ranger in charge of Sequoia National Forest.
Why does the country have so many problems? Your answer is found in that 'independen't panel. Be a government employee who outs a CIA agent and you get to continue doing government work, being paid for by the government? Congress creates an 'independent' panel but gives the Secretary of Defense the power to select the bulk of the committee members. It's nonsense and it's why DC runs in circles chasing its own tail. There is no accountability and you can do the most vile and disgusting thing and continue to receive the US tax payer money instead of having to get a real job. And that's Dick Armitage and Stephen Hadley both. Throughout 2005, at this site and at Third, we were noting Hadley's role in the outing (
click here for a July 2005 piece at Third). From SourceWatch:

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley was "the senior administration official" who told Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor
Bob Woodward that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA officer, attorneys close to the investigation and intelligence officials" told Raw Story reporters Larisa Alexandrovna and Jason Leopold November 16, 2005.
Identified by the Washington Post as Rice's "top lieutenant", Hadley, "along with
CIA Director George J. Tenet -- took responsibility for allowing into Bush's State of the Union 2003 address a dubious and ultimately inaccurate claim about Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain nuclear materials." [2]

Hadley not only outed Valerie Plame, he also couldn't properly vet a speech? And he's chairing a panel today -- with his salary paid for by the US tax payers?

There's no accountability and Congress rushes to turn over their own powers to flunkies in the executive branch. And it's there in the fact that Robert Gates remains Secretary of Defense when he should have been replaced long ago. How many scandals do you get to have on your watch before you are asked to step down? At the end of January,
Kevin Baron (Stars & Stripes' Stripes Central blog) called out the 'independent' panel:

Independent? In this town? You can't throw a lobbyist into DC without hitting a former government official somewhere. Last week the president of the left-leaning Center for a New American Security trumpeted his own selection to the panel. By the way, the Pentagon's policy chief in charge of the QDR, Michele Flournoy, was the last president of CNAS.
Maybe "bipartisan revolving door panel" is a better term.

"Prevailing in today's wars will also help our military prepare to defeat adversaries and succeed in a wide range of contingencies," Hadley prattled on after noting that losing "today's wars" would create further conflict. Could it? If so, maybe Hadley doesn't need to be on the panel?

If you sold the Iraq War, should you really be advising anything at this point? Hadley served on the White House Iraq Group.
From SourceWatch:

The White House Iraq Group (aka, White House Information Group or WHIG) was the marketing arm of the White House whose purpose was to sell the 2003
invasion of Iraq to the public.
[. . .]
Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus, in the
August 10, 2003 Washington Post, seem to have broken the story of the White House Iraq Group, [. . .]:
The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud" into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to "educate the public" about the
threat from Saddam Hussein, as a participant put it.
Systematic coordination began in August 2002, when Chief of Staff
Andrew H. Card, Jr. formed the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, to set strategy for each stage of the confrontation with Baghdad. A senior official who participated in its work called it "an internal working group, like many formed for priority issues, to make sure each part of the White House was fulfilling its responsibilities."
"In September 2002, the White House was beginning a major press offensive designed to prove that Iraq had a robust
nuclear weapons program. That campaign was meant to culminate in the president's Oct. 7 speech in Cincinnati." [1]

Why are we allowing anyone with these issues to advise -- on the tax payer dime -- what's needed and not needed?

I know Ike Skelton and like him, but he made a real fool of himself today patting himself and the Committee on the back as he claimed that they worked really hard to be not just bi-partisan but non-partisan. While appointing criminals to a panel? You want to brag about that? In fairness, repeating, Congress itself did not appoint Hadley and Armitage; however, when it surrendered the right to appoint all the members, they invited it, when they surrendered their own powers, they courted it. It's on them.

And Hadley couldn't stop mentioning Iran and he was far from the only one bringing it up in the hearing. That too is on the Democratically controlled Congress.

Hannah Allam (McClatchy's Miami Herald) reports that the last five months have seen at least $4 million counterfeit US dollars circulating in Iraq: "In recent weeks, the officers said, Iraqi and U.S. forces have launched an anti-counterfeiting push that involves educating merchants and bankers, as well as gathering intelligence on whether the money is linked to Iran's attempt to influence Iraq's March 7 parliamentary elections and to launder money for militia activity in Iraq's southern Shiite heartland." It is thought (or spun) by unnamed US officials that the fake money entered as a way to influence the March 7th elections and that Iran was in some way involved. (Thought, not sourced, not backed up.) Today Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported on her interview with Ayad Allawi who declared he is warning other Iraqi political groups:

I told them, 'Don't embark on this course. It's going to be very dangerous, it's going to be counterproductive, and the backlash will be severe. The whole foundation of whatever infant democracy we've built will be ruined.

Allawi's political slate came out with 91 seats in the Parliament. The second biggest seat winner was Nouri al-Maliki's slate. Nouri continues to insist that there was voter fraud. Fadel reports that Allawi (rightly) points out that none of the benchmarks have been met. Those benchmarks were set by the White House with the US Congress and Nouri al-Maliki signing off. Bully Boy Bush's gone. Those benchmarks are still the Congress' duty and they're Barack's now as well. For those who've forgotten, 'tough talking' Nance Pelosi and others were going to pull war funding if Iraq didn't show 'progress' by meeting 'benchmarks.' Never met and the illegal war is still fully funded. I guess Nancy took benchmarks "off the table." Fadel offers that Allawi could be shut out if the National Alliance teams with State Of Law. Yeah, if that happens. If. But that's not the big rumor coming out of Iraq these days regarding the next prime minister. Yesterday, the biggest was that Irbrahim al-Jaafari has secured some sort of guarantee from a number of groups including the Kurds. That's a rumor. And it's one the US State Dept has heard. If true, it'll be known soon enough since the Kurdish delegation goes into Baghdad next week to start official talks.
Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports:

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said the Kurdistan list consisting of his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdish President Masoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, stood ready to back a tie-up between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law bloc and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA).
Talabani made his comments after a meeting on Wednesday night with former Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose faction is part of the INA.

Rahmat al-Salaam (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports that the alliance is just waiting for the big announcement and:

As to choosing the next prime minister, the SLC spokesman said "the method will be within the framework of a mechanism that the two sides agree on and this allows all the parties inside this alliance to present their candidates. The person who will lead the next government will be chosen under this mechanism." Regarding the INA's conditions for having an alliance with the SLC, Al-Husni said "no conditions were imposed. The talk is about the government program, the mechanism for forming it, and making the decisions through it", adding that "there are no conditions and no concessions between the parties that will forge an alliance to form the largest parliamentary bloc."

Alsumaria TV reports, "Al Iraqiya LIst spokeman Haidar Al Mulla affirmed that the alliance between the State of Law Coalition and Iraq's National alliance is not clear yet. Al Iraqiya List has many chances to ally with other parties, Al Mulla noted. The Federal Court stipulates that to form a new government, both coalitions should be merged not allied, he argued. Al Iraqiya List will withdraw from the political process if the State of Law Coalition and Iraqi National Alliance merges." If the alliance takes place and if all members of both blocs are in the reported alliance, that would bring Nouri, et al 2 seats short of the needed 163. As noted some time ago, Iraq's religious minorities could end up being "king makers." Should they announce their merger and have no additional seats (or have a few from their two blocs bail), Allawi's slate could still be a winner. There are 325 people who were elected to Parliament. 161 (or less) going to the new alliance would still leave 164 seats.

82 of those seats,
Quil Lawrence (NPR's Morning Edition) reported today, are held by women.

Quil Lawrence: Afaf Abdel-Razzak would only be interviewed by phone. She's effectively gone into hiding since she won. Groups like al-Qaida still operate in Anbar and might target a female politician. She's been moving between Anbar and Baghdad, until the new parliament opens and she gets her official guard detail. Afaf is a teacher, and as a lawmaker, she's hoping to promote education along with women's rights. At the beginning, it wasn't conceivable that a woman could run, she says. But now, even in Anbar province, people will get used to the idea of having women be their voice in parliament.

online poll at Aswat Al Iraq asks: "How far did the Independent High Electoral Commision (IHEC) succeed in organizing and guaranteeing the integrity of the legislative elections?" The biggest vote getter is "No success" with 61% (1,220 votes), followed by (29%, 584 votes) "Great success," then "Medium Success" (7%, 149 votes) and "Limited succes" (3%, 52 votes). That is a non-scientific poll and is 'limited' to anyone who visits their website.

"Iraqi politicians insist they're forming a coalition government through a truly Iraqi process of consulation. It may seem strange then that the most substanitive meetings should happen in neighboring countries,"
declared NPR's Quil Lawrence (All Things Considered). Lawrence noted Nouri's strong criticism of 'outsiders' and states it was clear that Nouri was referring to Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, he reports that Nouri wasn't invited to visit Riyadh and that this was seen by some as a "snub" to Nouri. Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that Rafea al-Isaawi represented Iraqiya in Tehran yesterday while meeting with Ali Larijani, Speaker of Iran's Parliament, and with Saeed Jalili, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and they note that he was "expected as well to meet with Sayyed Moqtada Al Sadr over government formation talks and the possibility of new alliances" according to Iranian television.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes a Baghdad drive by in which 1 Iraqi soldier was wounded and 3 suspected assailants were killed, 1 person was shot dead in a Mosul drive-by and a Mosul home invasion left 4 people shot dead (three were women).

Reuters notes 14 corpses were discovered in Samarra. Aswat Al Iraq reports that 1 corpse was discovered in Kut, a "decaying body, belongs to a 20-year-old man, bore signs of torture".

Salah Hemeid offers a think piece at Al-Ahram Weekly which includes the following:

US president Barack Obama, who swept into office on an anti-Iraq war ticket and has since claimed that the war is winding down, has signaled his determination to pull all US forces out of the country by the end of 2011. Commentators are nevertheless sceptical that Obama's pledge to remove "combat troops" by 1 September, leaving about 50,000 troops in "non-combat" roles, will bring about a real end to the war. If the violence in the country continues to soar, as has been threatened by last week's bombings, and goes on to spark another sectarian chain reaction, then, they argue, the United States will be forced to keep its troops in the country longer than has been promised.
In recent weeks there has been much speculation in the US media that the military might indeed try to slow down the withdrawal. Head of the US Central Command, General David Petraeus, had said the US may leave stronger-than-expected forces in northern Iraq if the situation requires it, even as it acts to reduce troops elsewhere in the country to targeted levels. Testifying before a Senate panel, Petraeus confirmed plans to meet Obama's target of 50,000 US troops in the country by the end of August, down from about 97,000 today. He also noted that the situation in Iraq remains fragile, despite declining levels of violence and the high turnout in the recent national elections, and said that the US military was still tinkering with plans on how best to administer the drawdown.
Last month General Ray Odierno, the top US general in Iraq, made international headlines when his request to keep a military combat unit in the contentious northern city of Kirkuk after next September was leaked to the media. Pentagon officials have made clear that US troops remaining in Iraq after 1 September, although technically on an "advise and assist" mission, will still be capable of conducting military operations.
And even as regular forces are withdrawn, many observers expect that the level of Special Operations forces will remain constant. Some have also argued that the designation of non-combat status is "a false dichotomy," since it implies that "everyone in the military is a combat soldier."
No matter what detailed conclusions one might draw, it remains clear that the US is in a serious situation that might force the Obama administration into rethinking its plans in Iraq. Is it time to start bringing the troops home, or is more time needed to complete US goals in the country?

Though vague while playing the rainmaker in those tent revivals throughout 2007 and 2008, Barack was very clear to the press that if things got 'worse' in Iraq, he wasn't opposed to halting a withdrawal schedule (which was then 1 brigade a month -- a broken promise) or sending in MORE troops.

yesterday's snapshot, this appeared: Earlier this week, Nouri al-Maliki was throwing public fits over the fact that Iraq's neighbors were expressing interest. Thankfully few listen to him. (We're not noting his "I stopped a major bombing!" spin.) At the time 'terrorism plot foiled!' was the story being pushed hard. Many gladly embraced it and made fools of themselves. Nouri the hero! Preventing terrorist attacks! Foiling plots to attack with planes! 9-11 style! Prima facie, it was laughable. But, again, some ran with it. 'Najaf! And maybe Baghdad! Almost the targets of planes!' CNN reports today: "Sheikh Fayyad al-Shimari, head of the Najaf provincial council, and other officials downplayed reports of a security threat. 'There were talks concerning some security threats in Najaf,' he said. 'Those threats are not new to the province'." Reuters notes, "A Defence Ministry spokesman today denied reports a plot to crash a passenger jet into the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, in southern Iraq, had been foiled while local Iraqi officials said reports like that had circulated for up to a year." It then goes on to cite a US official insisting it is true. And like most 'truth tellers,' the US official goes . . . unnamed.

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. Lamar W. Hankins (San Marcos Mercury) weighs in: As a longtime member of Military Families Speak Out, I don't write about war atrocities easily. But I believe that the American people as a whole have an unrealistic view about war and an unwillingness to accept that committing atrocities during war is inevitable. My conclusion is that engaging in war is morally justified only in self-defense or defense of another. Neither the Iraq nor Afghan war qualifies as justified under that standard. The US military (like virtually all other militaries in the world) train our troops using propaganda and psychological techniques from the ancient to the modern. We use these techniques to manipulate our troops into becoming a part of an operation whose primary purpose is to kill other human beings for purposes fancied by our political leaders. We tell our soldiers that they are serving their country, that they are protecting it, but too often they are merely carrying out some politically inspired or economically desired purpose that has nothing to do with serving and protecting the American people. Teba Mohammad (Independent Florida Alligator) also weighs in: I was outraged by the video -- not necessarily shocked -- because the U.S. Army has a history of slaying innocents and has always labeled it as "collateral damage." Since the war started in Iraq, civilians -- including journalists, farmers, doctors and children, to name a few -- have been ambushed and caught in the line of fire by military forces. Among the 12 Iraqis killed on that tragic day was Namir Noor-Eldeen, a prominent photojournalist who worked for Reuters. Though he was only 22 when he was killed, friends and coworkers describe him as a well-respected, brave human being who left behind an incredible body of work that documents the reality of war in Iraq. Another victim was Saeed Chmagh, a Reuters driver and assistant. He was 40 years old and left behind a wife and four children. Along with the dozen deceased Iraqis, two children were wounded.I could not help but think about these two human beings who had nothing to do with insurgency and did not even have weapons. They were normal, hardworking men with families, values and passion for their profession. How come these acts of murder are not covered by the U.S. media? Why do so many Iraqi victims get killed this way and their stories go untold?

In the US, Binghamton, New York may be getting a counter/cost ticker at City Hall which would detail the financial costs of the wars in real time. WBNG reports that the counter is scheduled to go up next week and that the city's mayor, Matt Ryan, "says it's needed so people realize the toll federal spending is taking on local budgets."
George Basler (Press & Sun-Bulletin) adds, "Ryan emphasized not one penny of taxpayer money is going to pay for the electronic sign, which will go up next week. The cost, set at about $6,000, is being funded entirely by private contributions from the Broome County Cost of War (COW) Project, a local peace action group that has been demonstrating against the two wars. The group also will pay for the sign's upkeep." USMC Combat veteran Nicholas Legos writes the Press & Sun-Bulletin to remind that the cost of war includes the dead and wounded as well as the financial cost. IPA issued the following press release yesterday: The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote Tuesday: "A group called the National Priorities Project has a popular web site that keeps a running tally of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It even breaks down the cost per city and suggests what could have been purchased in a year with that tax money. ... "Matt Ryan, the mayor of Binghamton, N.Y., population 47,000, was so impressed with the numbers for his town that he plans to attach a digital cost-of-war counter to the facade of City Hall. By September, Binghamton taxpayers will have contributed $138 million to fund the wars." SUE McANANAMAA member of the Broome County Cost of War Project, McAnanama is speaking at a news conference Wednesday with Mayor Ryan. McAnanama said today: "People need to be aware of the simple facts about where our money is going. This year our Pentagon budget is $700 billion while our community and so many others around the nation are facing cutbacks and crises. ... "Binghamton taxpayers have spent $140 million for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001, which is more than enough to cover ALL local property tax bills for the next FOUR years. ... New York taxpayers have already spent $67 billion for the seven years of war in Iraq. Compare that to New York State's 2009 High Speed Rail Plan, announced in March of 2009, which aims to spend $10.7 billion to 'transform' and upgrade our transportation systems -- over the next 20 years. ... Private sources paid for the sign and even the electricity for it; no taxpayer funds were used for this project." For further information, see the Binghamton Bridge web site. JO COMERFORD CHRIS HELLMAN Comerford is executive director and Hellman is communications liaison for the National Priorities Project. This year their web site has a tax calculator where taxpayers can put in the amount of federal taxes they paid in 2009 (or 2008) and take stock of how the federal government spent each of their income tax dollars. It also provides localized information that community groups are using to create flyers that some are passing out in front of post offices as many people mail their tax forms tomorrow. Comerford wrote the piece "Tax Day and America's Wars: What the Mayor of One Community Hard Hit by War Spending Is Doing," which states: "A construction crew will soon arrive to install Binghamton's 'cost of war' counter which will overlook the city's busiest intersection and spur conversation around tax day. During the three minutes local motorists wait at the nearby traffic light, they can join Mayor Ryan in waving good-bye to $100. And Binghamton as a whole can grapple with spending $49,650 in war costs every day of 2010." For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Time and space won't permit more than a link to
Zeina Khodr (Al Jaezeera) on Iraqi security (link has text and video) but hopefully we can pick it up tomorrow and we may cover another hearing from today in tomorrow's snapshot.

mcclatchy newspapershannah allam
the washington postleila fadel
the san marcos mercurylamar w. hankinsthe independent florida alligatorteba mohammad
nprmorning editionquil lawrence
alsumaria tv
wbngipapress and sun bulletingeorge basler
all things considered

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