Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Other Items

President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq has inflamed passions among the restive Sunni Arab minority, bringing new recruits to insurgent cells and outpourings of popular anger toward the U.S., the spokesman for the country's most hard-line Sunni clerical group declared Sunday.
"Iraq is like a fire," said Mohammed Bashar Faidi, spokesman for the Muslim Scholars Assn. "Instead of putting water on the fire, Bush is pouring gasoline."
The association, which says it represents thousands of clerics throughout Iraq, shares the aims of the Sunni Arab insurgency. But it also reflects the views of a significant segment of the Sunni Arab population, which has largely turned to Islamic political ideologies since the downfall of the secular Arab nationalism represented by Saddam Hussein's regime.
During a 90-minute interview in his Amman office, Faidi voiced views that illustrated the seemingly unbridgeable gulfs between Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government, the Sunni guerrilla movement fighting it and the U.S., which in the long term hopes to draw down its troops without permitting Iraq to slip further into sectarian civil war.

Zach noted the above from Borzou Daragahi's "Bush's plan to add troops fueling Iraq insurgency, Sunni scholar says" (Los Angeles Times). And whether it gets covered by the New York Times or not, violence continues in Iraq. Reuters notes: "A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed two policemen and two civilians and wounded 10, including three policemen, in Karrada in central Baghdad, police said." That's today. Kim Gamel (AP) reports:

The United Nations said Tuesday that more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in sectarian violence last year, nearly three times the number reported dead by the Iraqi government.
The Iraqi Health Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment, but the government has disputed previous figures released by the U.N. as "inaccurate and exaggerated."

The same day the figure was released, two back-to-back explosions struck a used motorcycle marketplace in central Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding 74.
The first bomb was attached to a motorcycle in the market. As the curious gathered to look at the aftermath, a suicide car bomber drove into the crowd and blew up his vehicle. Authorities said at least three policemen were among the dead.
The blast appeared to target the mainly Shiite neighborhood near the market but also was near the Sheik al-Gailani shrine, one of the holiest Sunni locations in the capital.

A visitor e-mailed a suggested link. He noted that he doubted it would get linked because it doesn't "Fawn Over the media reform conference." ("Media Reform" hadn't gone up yet yesterday when he mailed, judging by the time stamp.) He self describes as independent and notes he found this at Common Dreams. I've already e-mailed him to tell him the author, Danny Schechter is the News Dissector and his writing can be found at MediaChannel.org (and other places as well). We note Danny quite often here. Here is his "What Next for Media Reform?" (Common Dreams):

Our media reform movement is not coping with these types of extreme pressures--perhaps because we have yet to really threaten power--- but there are flaws and fissure that weren’t really addressed at any of the somewhat clicky Conference sessions I attended,
Aside from personal frustrations at being excluded from participating on all panels, and with no acknowledgement or support for Mediachannel anywhere, I felt that Media Reform has a concept has been narrowed in scope and focused on legislative lobbying by lawyers and professionals inside the beltway, narrowed to a series of buzzwords like "net neutrality," turned into a support group for two good but potentially co-optable FCC Commissioners and "pragmatic" members of Congress, "big names" in show biz and politics but with only a handful of grass roots leaders. Here was Dennis Kucinich, for example, asking activists to tell him what to do about media as if he had no ideas of his own.
Shouldn’t we debate what we are or are not accomplishing? Was the recent net neutrality compromise acceptable---a guarantee on the part of AT&T’s least used platform and, then, only for two years? Was that really the big victory it was hyped as? One activist engaged in that fight says scholars have documented a long history of Telecom companies making promises to win rate hikes and then never fulfilling them. Is this more of the same? Are we being deluded in hopes that a Democratic Congress will somehow save us?
And if we are talking about technologies, why no discussion of the implications of a changing web—the so-called WEB 2.O? Or of social networking? Or the new mobile technologies? Most of the discussion of the internet had a dated quality to it. I would have liked to hear from the folks at Buzzflash, ZNET and Common Dreams et.al. to learn what their experience has been, and of course a panel of all the competing media sites. What about channels like Link, Free Speech and International World Television?
There were many panelists attacking the media coverage of the war. "Press Scolded on Iraq War Coverage" was how the Memphis Commercial Appeal headlined their report. But were we there just to scold--something I have been doing with books and my film WMD for years? Where was the action--a march? a confrontation?--any plan for a activist campaign to try to change the disgraceful media coverage? That was, in military parlance, AWOL--Absent Without Leave.
How do we get other issues more attention in the news--especially Election reform? It was not discussed.
Are we building a movement or an email list? Are we still trying to build bridges between media makers and media activists? Where were the criticisms of funders like the MacArthur Foundation which announced last week it was cutting off support for documentaries, pending one those interminable internal "reviews?" (They used to be the biggest funder for filmmakers.) Where were the demands on other funders to invest in progressive media the way the rightwing foundations have with generous long-term commitments? Why aren't we lobbying them and not just to promote one institution? There seems to be no shortage of funding for holding conferences but sustaining Indy media is not really on the agenda. (We at Mediachannel,org are urgently trying to cope with that!)
Where were the U-Tube Kids, or My Space addicts or the leaders of citizen journalism initiatives? Where were the journalist organizations, and media freedom groups or were only radicals allowed? Where were the panels debating what's really happening in the media--how to assess the appeal of Jon Stewart and Comedy News and the failure of Air America and even concepts like media justice?
And what about the global media movement?
Why no presence from the Al Jazeera English Channel that can’t get on the air in the US? I was glad to see a rep from Britain’s Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom but there were so few activists from abroad.
What about publishing--I was told that Publisher’s Group West, a major distributor of independent books closed just this past week. Any response? Public Access may be on its last leg. Where was the announcement of a national campaign on that front?
How can we have 3000 people assemble in one place and leave with no clear focused plan of what we do next, how we work together, what’s the next step? I felt the same way when I left earlier conferences in Madison and St. Louis. They were cool events--and heady networking opportunities, but now what?
Enough shmooze--its time to make some news

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