Monday, May 05, 2008

Other Items

Mohammed Hafidh Abdul-Razzaq had been summoned by U.S. Embassy officials who wanted to make amends for the killing of his 10-year-old son. The boy died during a shooting involving employees of Blackwater Worldwide, the U.S. security firm.
Deputy Chief of Mission Patricia A. Butenis told him that she was sorry for what had happened, Abdul-Razzaq recalled. She gave him a sealed envelope. It had his name written on it. Abdul-Razzaq pushed it away.
"I told her I refuse to receive any amount," the auto parts dealer said. "My father is a tribal sheik, and we're not used to taking any amount unless the concerned will come and confess and apologize. Then we will talk about compensation."
In September, Blackwater contractors protecting an embassy mission killed 17 Iraqis, including Abdul-Razzaq's boy, and injured at least two dozen in a widely publicized incident in west Baghdad's Nisoor Square. Blackwater officials have said their workers feared they were under attack; Iraqi officials and witnesses called it a massacre.
U.S. officials say the investigation of the shooting continues, though they have been tight-lipped about details. An FBI report is due this year. In April, the State Department renewed Blackwater's contract for another year, a move that enraged many Iraqis affected by the killings.

That's from Borzou Daragahi and Raheem Salman's "Blackwater shooting highlights a U.S., Iraq culture clash" (Los Angeles Times) and ran in Sunday's paper. Turning to today, Gillian Wong (AP) reports: "Oil prices rose Monday, supported by weekend news of an attack on a Nigerian oil installation, but with gains limited by the strengthening of the U.S. dollar." No dough's raking in for those stationed at Fort Riley. Kirsten Scharnberg visits and pens "'The human psyche can only take so much: Longer deployments taking toll on soldiers as combat stress, suicides, depression and family pressures soar" (Chicago Tribune):

On this historic Army post where more than 7,000 soldiers have been deployed to Iraq on extended tours of duty, virtually everyone has a story about how the long absences have affected those back home.
The young wives who decide the lifestyle is too hard and pen "Dear John" letters before packing up.
The families that begin to unravel when a soldier comes home mentally or physically damaged from more than a year in combat.
The chaplains who work round-the-clock to staff new family intervention programs: for war-strained marriages, for suicide prevention, for kids missing their parents.
"The human psyche can only take so much," said Capt. Jeff Van Ness, a chaplain who returned from duty in Iraq just two weeks ago. "And a 15-month deployment seems to be where we really began to see some breaking points."

Yesterday, journalist Sarwa Abdul Wahab was assassinated in *Mosul* [C.I. note: Corrected to "Mosul." 5-5-08.]. CBS and AP report the following details:

Sarwa Abdul-Wahab, 36, worked as a lawyer defending journalists' rights and freelanced Kurdistan Reporters News Agency.
Police said Abdul-Wahab was walking from her home to a market with her mother when two gunmen pulled up in a car and tried to kidnap her. The gunmen shot her twice in the head when she resisted, her mother said.
Her mother, who identified herself as Umm Mohammed, told The Associated Press that she asked the gunmen to take her instead of her daughter.
"I begged the gunmen to kill me instead, they pushed me away and told me that they wanted her not me," she said by telephone.
Abdul-Wahab was reporting from Mosul for a news agency affiliated to Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, said police Brig. Gen. Khalid Abdul-Sattar, the security spokesman for Nineveh province.
She was also a member of an association to defending journalists' rights which was formed in 2003, according to Yasir al-Hamadani, the director of the Mosul branch.
"She was a member of our association which is based in Baghdad but has a branch in Mosul," he said, adding that Abdul-Wahab worked at the Salaheddin satellite TV channel and at many local newspapers before working for that agency.
"Besides her work as a journalist, she was activist working with non-governmental organizations as well as being a lawyer," al-Hamadani said. "We are very sorry to lose her. She was very active and very passionate about her work."

At Inside Iraq, one of McClatchy Newspapers Iraqi reporters commented Saturday on a recent press study in "World press freedom day:"

Iraq is the most dangerous area for journalists. We are considered wanted targets for the enemies of freedom of speech.
According to the Journalistic Freedom Observatory in Iraq, or the JFO, between March 3, 2007 and March 3, 2008 violations against journalists marked a 60% increase over the last year. This means one violation every 43 hours. It is an indicator to the reality of the freedom of journalists in Iraq and the risk for the future of independent media organizations. It will pave the way to widen the governmental policies that prevent journalists from reporting and repress their work.
[. . .]
Some journalists feel that this report neglected the threats and violations against independent media organizations, according to local reports in the newspapers, also the report didn't mention to the provoking attempt against some media institution by religious pulpits and mosques that air the agendas of their political parties which may represent a threat against Iraqi independent media, that one well known Iraqi cleric and MP used his Friday speech to urge worshipers against certain Iraqi media TV channels or newspapers that oppose the government's agendas. So perhaps even this observatory is not quite free and neutral in its observations and therefore needs another observatory to monitor its output. As the ancient saying goes "Who watches the watchers???"

Saturday was World Press Freedom Day and Reporters Without Borders noted it by issuing a report on Europe. Today they issue "The New Predators Of Press Freedom." They also note Sarwa Abdel Wahab's murder. (Note, they spell it one way here, another here and neither the way other outlets have.)

Reminder (which Bonnie notes in her e-mail this morning), Kat's review of Carly Simon's This Kind Of Love went up this morning as did Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "Sunset Campaign."

On the campaigns, Howard Kurtz (Washington Post) examined the media coverage of Barack Obama in "Why the Press Turned on Obama:"

When the Illinois senator denounced his former pastor last week, it followed days of saturation coverage of Wright's inflammatory, sometimes eccentric remarks. The press, which was slow to recognize the importance of the Wright controversy -- videotapes of his sermons could have been purchased months earlier -- was no longer willing to dismiss the reverend as a sideshow.
Still, says David Greenberg, a Rutgers University professor of journalism and history, the coverage could be far worse. For journalists, he says, "there has been a real infatuation with Obama that has served as almost an unconscious restraint" as many became "taken with the idea of demonstrating their tolerance and America's tolerance by electing a black candidate."
What loosened those restraints, says Greenberg, was the media's conclusion that Obama had virtually wrapped up his nomination fight against Hillary Clinton. "It's backwards -- the toughest scrutiny should come while it's still a real fight," he says.
Obama's image has undergone something of a transformation. In March, feeding the curiosity about his background, a Newsweek cover story focused on "When Barry Became Barack" in college, while a Time cover profiled the candidate's mother. By last week, Newsweek's cover piece was exploring why he seems "strange," "exotic" and, to some, "haughty" and "a bit of an egghead." How did Obama, cast by some journalists as the new JFK, come to be depicted as what the New Republic's John Judis says may be "The Next McGovern"?

And Alessandra Stanley reviews the performances on ABC's This Week and NBC's Meet The Press yesterday in "Clinton Steals One Show, While Obama Endures Another" (New York Times):

Senator Barack Obama sat hunched on Sunday across the desk from Tim Russert on "Meet The Press" on NBC and wearily endured question after question about his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton stood up from her armchair on Sunday to tower over George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" on ABC and merrily took on all critics, even the king of the Clinton-bashers, the talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh.
"He's always had a crush on me," Mrs. Clinton said with a sly smile.

Ava and I offered a quick take
on the performances yesterday. If you missed, both links (to the shows) will take you to homepages where video is offered. If you're going with text, transcripts are up at Meet The Press (or will be later this morning). If you need a quick read, check out Stanley who really does capture the differences in the candidates yesterday as well as the formats the two programs utilized.

Portland notes "Obama on Oregon Debates—The Sound of Silence: Oregon's Largest Paper Endorses Debates Hillary Would Accept Debate Offers From Across Oregon" (

The Clinton campaign today announced it would accept any of the seven debates being offered by prominent media, academic and governmental sponsors throughout the state, and challenged Sen. Obama to show Oregonians he's taking their votes seriously. This offer came on the heels of an editorial in today's Oregonian echoing the Clinton call for debates.

"Hillary told Oregon voters last week that she looked forward to debating the issues important to our state. Every other person running for office in Oregon agrees to debate, but so far we have been met by stonewalling and silence by the Obama campaign," said Josh Kardon, Chair of the Oregon Steering Committee. "The overwhelming majority of Oregonians haven't seen a single presidential debate this year, and we know that hundreds of thousands of Oregon voters would be glued to their sets for the first presidential debate in Oregon history."

The Oregonian editorial agrees: "An Oregon debate between Obama and Clinton would be good for democracy here and the country generally. As a general principle, voters should be given the chance to compare the candidates, face to face, in at least one televised event."

Click here to read more.

The Oregonian is the second major daily paper in the state to endorse debates, following a piece earlier this week in the Eugene Register Guard. ["Bring On Oregon Debates; Clinton Wants Them, Obama Doesn't," 4/29/08]

Click here to read more.

The Clinton campaign is offering to participate in debates hosted by the following prominent sponsors who have stepped forward to host debates on the issues facing Oregon and our nation.

Willamette University in Salem;
KGW-TV (NBC) in Portland;
KATU-TV (ABC) in Portland;
KOBI-TV (NBC) in Medford;
the City Club of Portland;
PBS/NOVA and the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and
Association of Oregon Counties and Oregon State University Extension Service.

"I understand Senator Obama is reluctant to answer tough questions in a debate, so if it would make him more comfortable, Hillary is also prepared to debate in a forum hosted by either the Oregonian or the Eugene Register Guard -- both of which support debates and have already endorsed Senator Obama," said Kardon. "The two Democratic Senate candidates have held seven debates this primary season; anyone who wants Oregon's vote for President should be willing to debate here."

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