Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Limbo for U.S. Women Reporting Iraq Assaults" (NYT)

Mary Beth Kineston, an Ohio resident who went to Iraq to drive trucks, thought she had endured the worst when her supply convoy was ambushed in April 2004. After car bombs exploded and insurgents began firing on the road between Baghdad and Balad, she and other military contractors were saved only when Army Black Hawk helicopters arrived.
But not long after the ambush, Ms. Kineston said, she was sexually assaulted by another driver, who remained on the job, at least temporarily, even after she reported the episode to KBR, the military contractor that employed the drivers. Later, she said she was groped by a second KBR worker. After complaining to the company about the threats and harassments endured by female employees in Iraq, she was fired.
"I felt safer on the convoys with the Army than I ever did working for KBR," said Ms. Kineston, who won a modest arbitration award against KBR. "At least if you got in trouble on a convoy, you could radio the Army and they would come and help you out. But when I complained to KBR, they didn't do anything. I still have nightmares. They changed my life forever, and they got away with it."

The above is from James Risen's "Limbo for U.S. Women Reporting Iraq Assaults" in this morning's New York Times. And before anyone gets bummed up -- the bulk of those churning out Little Media since none of them seem able to address this topic, it must really bum them out -- Risen's a sly boots, prone to sharing ha-has, such as this: "The issue gained national attention when Jamie Leigh Jones, a 23-year-old former employee of KBR, testified at a Congressional hearing in December that she had been gang-raped by co-workers in Iraq in 2005." Jamie Leigh Jones got "national attention"? That's hilarious coming from the paper of record that's only mentioning her today for the first time. Who knew Risen would go for the class cut-up?

Mother Jones may be the only independent magazine to address Jamie Leigh Jones (the new issue of In These Times examines this topic, but I'm not sure whether it's on sale yet). If you're wondering about broadcast independent media, no, they didn't give a damn either.

Jones testified on December 21st and, no, a single sentence from Amy Goodman in headlines the day after doesn't qualify as 'coverage.'

In news from Iraq, Damien McElroy's "Kidnapped British photographer to be released" (Telegraph of London) offers:

A spokesman for the Mahdi Army, a militant Shia Muslim militia, announced negotiations with members of a faction of the group that seized the men from a hotel on Sunday had een successful.
The team were on assignment in the southern Iraqi city for the American television network CBS News when they were seized from their hotel on Sunday.
The channel did not name the pair but the photo-journalist is known to be a highly experienced British veteran of war zones on several continents.

Meanwhile Reuters is reporting that Iraq's Parliament has finally passed the 2008 budget. Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) explains yesterday's event (prior to reports on the passage this morning):

Iraqi lawmakers have been arguing for weeks about the national budget, an amnesty bill and legislation governing the distribution of power between the central government and provincial authorities.In a bid to break the deadlock, the main blocs representing the country's majority Shiite groups, their Kurdish allies and the Sunni Arab minority agreed to approve the three pieces of legislation as a package in a rare night session Tuesday. But squabbling broke out over the order in which the bills should be voted on.
Mahmoud Mashhadani, the outspoken Sunni speaker of parliament, wanted to begin with the amnesty bill, which could allow for the release of thousands of mostly Sunni detainees. The measure aims to mollify the main Sunni alliance, which pulled its six ministers out of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Cabinet last year.
But Kurdish lawmakers, fearing that many parliament members would leave the meeting once they had the bill they wanted, demanded that the budget be considered first. Some Sunni and Shiite politicians have opposed the allocation of 17% of the budget to the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north, arguing that it no longer represented that much of the population. Many walked out Tuesday after the Kurds made their demands, and no vote took place.
In frustration, Mashhadani talked of his disbanding parliament if its members could not reach agreement. But lawmakers said it was a toothless threat because Iraq's constitution stipulates that the speaker can only dissolve the legislature if a majority of the body votes to do so.

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