Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Other Items

Ichiro Suzuki tops the list for athletes. Iraq war resister U.S. Army Lt. Ehren Watada appears, as does Olympic Sculpture Park shepherd Chris Rogers (who the magazine selected as the 2007 Person of the Year). Early learning advocate and the state's former first lady Mona Locke is on the list, and so is former U.S. Attorney John McKay and Google's Narayanan "Shiva" Shivakumar.

The above is from Steve Gardner's "Bremerton's Mayor on Seattle Magazine's Power List" (Kitsap Sun) on the just published "The Most Influential People of 2007" in Seattle Magazine. Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. After months of working with the military (in good faith), Watada went public in June of 2006 after it became obvious that the military was stringing him along with false assurance. Watada (rightly) judges the Iraq War as illegal. In February of this year he was court-martialed in a kangaroo hearing presided over by Judge Toilet (aka John Head) who called a mistrial over defense objection and after the prosecution had presented their case which means double-jeopardy should prevent Watada from standing before a court-martial again. (Watada's service contract has already expired. He has been kept in the US military for months due to the issue of a potential court-martial.) US District Judge Benjamin Settle Friday is reviewing that and other issues and has extended the stay on Watada's case through November 9th.

Meanwhile the documentary Soldiers of Conscience is being seen at various film festivals across the country. From John Brummett's "Annual Trek Opens Mind: Hot Springs Festival Spotlights Documentaries" (Springdale Morning News):

You can do documentaries a couple of ways. One is the way Michael Moore does his, as partisan, combative polemics, designed to elate those who agree and anger those who don't. The other and better way is simply to tell the story and let the story move the viewer if it can. That's how "Soldiers of Conscience" is done. We follow four young men who sought conscientious objector status after getting to Iraq. Two of their stories moved me, two didn't.

Considering Brummett, that two moved him at all is in itself amazing. Among other upcoming showings are the Starz Denver Film Festival (November 8th through 18th), and on November 16th, at 6:30 pm it plays in Olympia, Washington at The Capitol Theater. More information is available at the Soldiers of Conscience website.

In this morning's New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin's "Suicide Bomber on Bike Kills 29 Iraqi Policemen" runs on A12 and covers the bombing that claimed 29 lives in Baquba and the wounding of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Dorko (see yesterday's snapshot for more on both). From Rubin's article:

Taken together, the attacks highlighted the continuing instability in the vicinity of Iraq's capital and were a reminder of how easily security in the city could disintegrate.
The blast in Baquba, the capital of Diyala Province, also wounded 19 people, including 7 policemen who were in critical condition and a woman and her baby, provincial authorities said. Most of the police officers killed and wounded were members of the recently formed emergency police brigade in Diyala.
Wisam Wahid al-Majmaie, a policeman who lives in the Ghatoon neighborhood of Baquba, said that a few minutes before the blast he had been relaxing with his colleagues. "I lost 12 friends who were with me having tea 30 minutes ago," he said.
The attack was one of the deadliest on Iraqi security forces in several weeks. No group took immediate responsibility, but the episode suggested that Sunni Arab guerrillas, who as recently as last spring controlled Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, continue to be able to carry out devastating attacks.
American military officials said they had largely cleared Baquba of militants during operations this summer, when a large force of soldiers swept through the city. But it appears that despite those efforts the city remains unstable, as does much of the rest of the province, where sectarian killings, bombs and kidnappings occur daily.

Meanwhile Reuters reports, "Turkish Cobra helicopters pounded Kurdish rebel positions on Tuesday in the mountains of Sirnak province near the Iraqi border, security forces said." While, on the topic of Blackwater, Mariam Karouny (Reuters) reports that Ali al-Dabbagh, Iraqi governmental spokesperson, has announced that a law has been approved today "to remove private security firms' immunity from prosecution in Iraq." The law is needed because Paul Bremer provided that immunity while having placing a tag sale on Iraqi state property. In other news of corruption, Martha notes Amit R. Paley's "Iraqi Dam Seen In Danger of Deadly Collapse" (Washington Post):

The largest dam in Iraq is in serious danger of an imminent collapse that could unleash a trillion-gallon wave of water, possibly killing thousands of people and flooding two of the largest cities in the country, according to new assessments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other U.S. officials.
Even in a country gripped by daily bloodshed, the possibility of a catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam has alarmed American officials, who have concluded that it could lead to as many as 500,000 civilian deaths by drowning Mosul under 65 feet of water and parts of Baghdad under 15 feet, said Abdulkhalik Thanoon Ayoub, the dam manager. "The Mosul dam is judged to have an unacceptable annual failure probability," in the dry wording of an Army Corps of Engineers draft report.
At the same time, a U.S. reconstruction project to help shore up the dam in northern Iraq has been marred by incompetence and mismanagement, according to Iraqi officials and a report by a U.S. oversight agency to be released Tuesday. The reconstruction project, worth at least $27 million, was not intended to be a permanent solution to the dam's deficiencies.

Reminder: Giuliana Sgrena tells her story today on Democracy Now! -- responding to the uninformed Dumb Ass who thinks he can blame the press for his own actions. (See yesterday's snapshot for D.A.'s attack on the freedom of the press.)

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