Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, October 8, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, attempts to lure back Iraqi refugees fail, tensions continue to escalate between Turkey and northern Iraq, a widow sues the VA, and more.
Starting with the refugee crisis.  The UNHCR estimates Iraq has 4.7 million refugees (internal and external).  On the heels of Jordan getting the oil gifts from Iraq and deciding to bus and fly some Iraqi refugees out (who did not want to leave), attempts took place in Syria to 'ease out' the Iraqi refugees.  AP reports that they were offered "free journeys" by Iraq's Embassy in Damascus but "there have been no takers" and "Adnan al-Shourifi, the commercial secretary at the Iraqi Embassy, said that free convoys and plane tickets would be provided for the returnees, along with about $1,300 in cash to each family from the Iraqi government and $500 from the United Nations."  Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) notes that "[o]nly a small fraction [of refugees] have returned," cites the Baghdad neighborhood of Hurriyah where only 325 "of the more than 7,000 Sunni families who fled in late 2006" have returned and notes that "U.N. officials and human rights groups are concerned that a speedy resettlement could touch off new strife, in part because sectarian segregation has helped to reduce violence".
AFP reports that Abdel-Karim Khalaf, Iraq's Interior Ministry spokesperson, stated today, "We have the ability to take over the internal security responsibility in Baghdad if American forces pull out of the city.  The Interior Ministry is able to take responsibility for protecitng Baghdad."  Erica Goode (New York Times) reports on yesterday's Green Zone press conference staged by the US Deputy Sec of State John Negroponte and Iraq Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zerbair where the two claimed that a SOFA (really a treaty) was coming any time soon."  Today at the State Dept, spokesperson Sean McCormack pointed out that he had not said the SOFA would be singed by the end of July ("If you look back in the transcripts, you will find that I did not put a timeframe on it" -- no, he refused to do so; however, the White House put a deadline of July on it).  McCormack acknowledged that "others did.  Look the discussions are ongoing.  And I guess the state of play is that nothing is done until everything is done and not everything is done.  Secretary -- Deputy Secretary Negroponte offered some public comments when he held a press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zerbari, so the discussions continue.  And I think that the fact they are taking this long and that the discussions are as intense as they have been over this period of months is an indication of how seriously the Iraqi government takes this, as well as how seriously we take this issue. It's a negotiation between two sovereign states.  And our negotiators continue their efforts -- our negotiators as well as the Iraqi negotiatiors." Asked if expected the treaty to be worked by year's end, he replied, "We're still working to get this thing done as soon as possible."  December 31st the UN authorization for the occupation expires.  This as Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) report an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate (which may or may not be released prior to the US elections in November)  sounds alarms, "The draft NIE, however, warns that the improvements in security and political progress, like the recent passage of a provincial election law, are threatened by lingering disputes between the majority Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, Kurds and other minorities, the U.S. officials said.  Sources of tension identified by the NIE, they said, include a struggle between Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen for control of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk; and the Shiite-led central government's unfulfilled vows to hire former Sunni insurgents who joined Awakening groups."
Meanwhile tensions between Turkey and northern Iraq are not going through.  The PKK (considered a terrorist organization by many governments including the US) is the source of the conflict.  Hurriyet reports Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, has stated that "a buffer zone in the north of Iraq could be created as a counter measure against terror attacks from this territory."  Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) notes, "Turkey's parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to extend by one year its authorization of military operations against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq, keeping the door open to future strikes in the region.  The approval, by a vote of 497 to 18, had been largely expected, and occurred amid a flurry of attacks in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast."  China's Xinhau explains, "The anger of the Turkish people is mounting after last Friday's deadliest attack that killed 15 Turkish soldiers in Hakkari province, while the Edrogan government and the powerful military have pledged to intensify a campaign to crush the outlawed PKK."  Meanwhile Arwa Damon (CNN) visits a PKK camp in the Kurdistan region of Iraq (Qandil Mountains) and speaks with Rengin ("head of a female battallion of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK") who states, "We want a natural life, a society that revolves around women -- one where women and men are equal, a society without pressure, without inequality, where all differences between people are eliminated."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded two people, a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left six more injured and, in Diyala Province, "a female suicide bomber blew herself up near the Diyala governorate building" claiming the lives of 3 civilians, 1 police officer and 5 Iraqi soldiers. Ernesto London (Washington Post) notes that the death toll has risen to "at least 10 people"  and explains, "Since 2003, more than 50 women carried out suicide bombings or were detained before detonating vests packed with explosives in Iraq, according to the U.S. military."  CNN adds, "The official said the woman, covered in a traditional black garment known as an abaya, blew herself up near a security checkpoint outside the courthouse."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 "Christian man" shot dead today in Mosul and 2 shot dead in Mosul yesterday.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
ICCC reports 4180 US service members have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war with 4 for the month thus far.  That count includes Col Michael R. Stahlman whom the Defense Department announced died October 5th "from injuries sustained in a July 31 non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. . . . The incident is currently under investigation."
Meanwhile a widow brings a lawsuit against the VA.  John Latimer (Lebanon Daily News) reports that the wife of Donald Woodward, Tiera Woodward, has brought a $2 million law suit against the Lebanon VA Medical Center for "wronful death and medical malpractice" in the death of her husband who shot himself to death in March of 2006. Donald Woodward was an Iraq War veteran and beginning in July of 2005, the family was attempting to get help for him following a suicide attempt. Latimer notes, "Although he screened positive for depression and PTSD, it was determined that Woodward did not meet the criteria for a 'major depressive order'." Also covering the story, Carrie Cassidy (The Patriot-News) explains, "The lawsuit states that Donald Woodward has also tried to commit suicide three times before he succeeded, though he tried to get help before that . . .  The Lenbaon VA staff failed to diagnose him with a 'major depressive disorder' earlier.  A psychiatrist eventually diagnosed him with the disorder on Feb. 2, 2006, about a month before he died".  The family is united on this, Larry Alexander (Lancaster Online) quotes Donald Woodward's mother, Lori Woodward, stating, "It's in her (his widow's) name, but I'm the one behind it.  And we're not going to comment on it until it's settled."
"When I was 9 years-old the Weather Underground, the terrorist group founded by Barack Obama's friend William Ayers, firebombed my house. Barack Obama has dismissed concerns about his relationship with Ayers by noting that he was only a child when Ayers was planting bombs at the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. But Ayers has never apologized for his crimes, he has reveled in them, expressing regret only for the fact that he didn't do more.  
"While Barack Obama once downplayed his relationship with Ayers, today his campaign took that deceit one step further. Barack Obama now denies he was even aware of his friend's violent past when, in 1995, Ayers hosted a party launching Obama's political career. Given Ayers' celebrity status among the left, it's difficult to believe. The question remains: what did Obama know, and when did he know it? When did Obama learn the truth about his friend? Barack Obama helped Ayers promote his book in 1997, served on charitable boards with him through 2002, and regularly exchanged emails and phone calls with him through 2005. At what point did Barack Obama discover that his friend was an unrepentant terrorist? And if he is so repulsed by the acts of terror committed by William Ayers, why did the relationship continue? Any honest accounting by Barack Obama will necessarily cast further doubt on his judgment and his fitness to serve as commander in chief.  
"Barack Obama may have been a child when William Ayers was plotting attacks against U.S. targets -- but I was one of those targets. Barack Obama's friend tried to kill my family."
Deliah Boyd (A Scriverner's Lament) calls out Obama mouthpiece David Axelrod's claim that Barack was just too wet behind the ears to have ever known anything about the Weather Underground: "But Dear Axelrod, I'm suggeting, nay, stating a damned fact -- that Obama's undergrad Poli Sci classes (at freakin' Columbia University, fer cryin' out loud) surely didn't skip the 1960's."  Drew Griffin and Kathleen Jonston (CNN) reported last night that "the relationship between Obama and Ayers went deeper, ran longer and was more political than Obama -- and his surrogates -- have revealed, documents and interviews show."  Ruth observes, "At this point, the relationship with Mr. Ayers is not even the issue. The issue is how Barack Obama has lied about it repeatedly. Just like he lied about his relationship with Antoin Rezco, he has lied about his relationship with Mr. Ayers."
 Cynthia McKinney  is the Green Party presidential candidate and, in a new column at Black Agenda Report, she takes on the bailout:
At the precise moment when we couldn't imagine it getting worse, it does.  After all, the Democrats, since they acquired majority status in the Congress, delivered funding for George Bush's wars several times.  They authorized retroactive immunity for telecoms that helped Bush's Administration illegally spy on us.  And they never really considered any alternatives to the basic bailout wish list given to them by Bush and his Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson.   
Sadly, I must say that this failure on the part of the Democratic leadership is by far the greatest perfidy of the Democrats yet.  I shudder to think what betrayal of the Constitution and the people of this country yet awaits us.  I am forced to ask, "What do they stand for?"   
I think they have shown us time and time again what they stand for, what their values are, and that they are willing to leave the people behind in their quest to acquiesce to what Bush's base asks for.  And remember, Bush told us that his base were the haves and the have mores!  So, if the Democratic leadership is more loyal to them than they are to the working people in this country, then a new political alignment of historical proportions is taking effect that the working people of this country must recognize.
Reporter Chris Hedges (via Information Clearing House) examines the bailout and notes, "The passing of the $850-billion bailout pulled the plug on the New Deal.  The Great Society is now gasping for air, mortally wounded, coughing up blood.  It will not recover.  It was murdered by the Democratic Party.  We are on our own.  And don't expect any help from Barack Obama and Joe Biden, who lobbied hard for the bill and voted for it.  Ignore their rhetoric.  Look coldly at the ballots they cast against us.  We, as citizens, have only a handful of representatives left in Washington, most of whom were left sputtering in rage and frustration on the House floor.  The sad irony is that some of them were Republican."  Hedges goes on to explore the vote and the bailout and to quote US House Rep Dennis Kuccinich explaining of the vote, "It is a direct attack on the American people's ability to be able to stabilize their homes and their neighborhoods.  This single vote will define the careers of everyone.  We are back to taxation without representation to markets that are openly rigged.  We buried the New Deal.  Instead of Democrats going back to classic New Deal economics where we prime the pump of the economy and start money circulating among the population through saving homes, creating jobs and building a new infrastructure, our leaders chose to accelerate the wealth of the nation upwards."  Hedges juxtaposes Barack's support for the bailout with Barack's voting record and it's a must read articleLast week, Kucinich declared on Democracy Now!, "You know, I'll tell you something that we were told in our caucus.  We were told that our presidential candidate, when the negotiations started at the White House, said that he didn't want this in the bill.  Now that's what we're told. . . . That he didn't want the bankruptcy provisions in the bill.  Now, you know, that's what we were told.  And I don't understand why he would say that, if he did say that.  And I think that there is a -- the fact that we didn't put bankrptcy provisions in, that actually we removed any hopes for judges to do any loan modifications or any forbearance.  There's no moratorium on mortgage foreclosures in here.  So, who's getting -- who's really getting helped by this bill?  This is a bailout, pure and simple, of Wall Street interests who have been involved in speculation."
You need to remember for that for a number of reasons.  The most current has to do with last night's Democratic and Republican presidential candidate debate during which John McCain declared, "As president of the United States, Alan, I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes -- at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those -- be able to make those payments and stay in their homes.  Is it expensive? Yes. But we all know, my friends, until we stabilize home values in America, we're never going to start turning around and creating jobs and fixing our economy. And we've got to give some trust and confidence back to America."  Katharine Q. Seelye (New York Times) live blogged the debate and noted McCain's proposal was "not somethng that had been proposed. Nor is it clear without further detail how or whether this would work" citing the paper's Jackie Calmes (citing Barack's campaign)?  Robert G. Kaiser (Washington Post) doing a post-debate critique noted, "I was taken aback by McCain's opening proposal, which if I understand it correctly would have a huge impact on the housing market, the banks, the holders of securitized mortgages, etc."  The proposal was a proposal.  Michael Abramowitz (Washington Post) reports that Doug Holtz-Eakin, the campaign's policy advisor, on a morning press conference call, "offered a few more details of the so-called American Homeownership Resurgence Plan, unveiled at the Tuesday night debate, in which a homeowner having difficulty making payments or facing foreclosure would be eligible for an FHA-insured mortgage.  He said that some of the money for the new program, which could cost $300 billion, could come from the new $700 billion authority granted the Treasury Secretary to buy distressed assets; he also said some of the funds could also come from existing authority in the Federal Housing Administration."  Abramowitz also notes that the Obama campaign is attempting to downplay the proposal by stating Barack was floating something like that publicly back in September.  A shame he didn't fight to have it put in the bill -- especially considering he is the party's 'leader' and the Democrats control both houses of Congress.  But can't tick off his biggest donors on Wall St. apparently.  Alison Fitzgerald and Sharon L. Lynch (Bloomberg News) report Barack's whining the bailout that passed allows this to take place already and quote Holtz-Eakin stating, "It could help literally millions of people.  We don't have a precise estimate."  The McCain-Palin campaign has posted the text (and audio option) of Doug Hotlz-Eakin's comments:
"Senator McCain last night announced his initiative, the McCain Resurgence Plan, that has four very straightforward goals. Goal number one is to provide direct help to struggling homeowners making sure they can stay in their homes with a manageable mortgage, avoid foreclosures and the damaging impact that has on neighborhoods and property values in that area. It would also, in the process of refinancing, help them with their financial situation and, as a result, give some stability to the household spending in the overall economy.  
"Second thing is it would provide, to the mortgage market, lower interest rates. If history was a guide, we'd see a spread of about 160 basis points above government interest rates to the mortgage market. That would put interest rates in the low five percent. Mortgage rates are above that right now. Providing this kind of financing would stabilize housing values and obviously take some stress off the pressures downward in the economy. Having a stabilized housing market would, in turn, combine with the purchase of these mortgages to stabilize the values that are underneath mortgage-backed securities and all the housing-related derivatives that have been plaguing the valuation of balance sheets in the financial sector. And so by starting with the homeowner and working up you accomplish some of the objectives of the financial stabilization plans that we've seen come out of Congress and proposed by the administration in recent weeks. Senator McCain beli eves this is exactly the right kind of policy: provide direct help to homeowners and, at the same time, support the financial markets and keep them from further damaging the availability of credit to Main Street America, one of the real threats to the economy at this point it time.   
"The initiative would rely on authorities that have been provided in recent months by the Congress. There's $300 billion worth of refinance capacity at the FHA at this point. That can be combined with the statutory capacity at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now owned by the federal government for all practical purposes, to purchase mortgages. If Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac bought 80% of the mortgage, you could leverage that $300 billion in financing tremendously. And there's also the $700 billion that was provided to the Treasury by the Congress. There's direct purchase authority in there that would allow to augment these as well, although, it may be useful to reserve that for other purposes.
"Mechanically the initiative is very simple. A homeowner would initiate the process by calling a mortgage broker or other originator and basically saying 'I'd like to refinance my home.' They would start the underwriting process, verify incomes, this is an opportunity as well to make sure the program has in it appropriate checks to make sure that government money is not being given to folks who are not primary homeowners, who don't have adequate income, or otherwise, in the initial purchase of their home didn't provide valid information. These authorities could then be used to retire the existing loan. The FHA would issue a guaranteed thirty year fixed-rate mortgage at a manageable interest rate. The homeowner would stay in the home, their financial burden would be relieved, the valuation of the existing loan would be resolved, there would no longer be a threat of default or diminished capacity to repay. That would stabilize financial markets, and t he taxpayers' contribution would be, in some cases the difference between the values of those two loans, something which would be the necessity for taxpayer contribution.  
"Senator McCain thinks this is the best way to go forward. He's obviously been personally very concerned about the problems facing the economy. He has participated, as I think everyone on this call knows, extensively in the process of taking the initial proposal by the administration to directly purchase Wall Street securities shaping it in a way that it was both possible to get it through Congress in a bi-partisan fashion, and also had it augmented with the adequate taxpayer protections, some oversight and transparency. This would take the authorities that have now come through and further target them in a way that he thinks would accomplish the purposes of financial stabilization but also to provide some relief to homeowners, near-term stimulus to the overall economy, and lay out a path where he can then turn to his initiatives in taxes, in energy, healthcare, trade to provide job creation in the American economy and a path forward out of this ter rible crisis."  
Tomorrow, Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin will hold a town hall at noon in Waukesha, Wisconsin (Center Court Sports Complex, 815 Northview Boulevard) and the proposal will be addressed thereFoon Rhee (Boston Globe, link has text and video) reports that he raised the issue at a campaign stop in Bethlem, Pennsylvania.  Jonathan Newman, Matthew Jaffe and Stu Chamberlain (ABC News' Political Radar, text and video) report Democratic vice-presidential nominee, US Senator Joe Biden, was introduced  at a Tampa campaign event today by Jim Pacillo who stated, "Please help me today in welcoming the next vice president of the United States, John McCain!"  Also McCain-Palin announce the endorsement of 100 US ambassadors from a group co-chaired by Mark W. Erwin who was supporting Hillary in the primaries (and, disclosue, I know and like Mark and that's probably why I'm putting it in the snapshot).  Other endorsements today include the majority of board members on the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with Jerry Natividad explaining, "I am supporting John McCain because he understands that small businesses are the job engine of America, and he has a real plan for the issues that Hispanic-owned small businesses confront, such as health care.  John McCain's plan puts families first, provides them with more choices, and while it cut costs for my business, it allows my company to afford the best medical coverage for my employees." Maria G. Taxman is quoted explaining, "I am very confident John McCain will continue to break down foreign trade barriers, giving Hispanic-American-owned small businesses the opportunity to compete in the global markets.  John McCain will promote a strong and growing economy that creates new jobs and increases wages."
News Advisory 
Contact: Ryan Mehta, 408-348-0681, (National HQ); Josh Starcher, 718-909-6343 (Local)  


WHO: Ralph Nader 

WHAT: Major Campaign Address

WHEN: Thursday, October 16 at 12:00pm

WHERE: Federal Hall, 26 Wall St. NYC

On Thursday, October 16 at 12:00pm, Ralph will take to the street in front of the NYSE to protest the bailout at Federal Hall, 26 Wall St. NYC. 

Ralph is the only Presidential candidate who supports jail time, not bail time for Wall Street fat cats, so come hear him speak in the historic Cooper Union after watching the game show debates on TV.  

He will also comment on the Presidential debates from which he was excluded.  In another part of the city, after Ralph speaks in Cooper Union, the two corporate candidates will be debating each other without even mentioning the issues that Ralph will talk about and that matter to the American people.  Since 1988, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has sponsored every presidential debate and kept the discussion empty.  Since its inception, the CPD has always been headed by two former chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties.  In 1987, the League of Women Voters refused to sponsor any more presidential debates, ìbecause the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.
Back to the debate.  Susan (Random Thoughts) analyzes the debate and will note this section on Barack, "Obama was absolutely incoherent. He would start strong, but then he would wander off on some tangent and constantly ran overtime with his answers. This is going to kill him when people realize he doesn't really know what he is talking about. It was the same problem John Kerry had, but Kerry learned to keep his answers short in the debates with our dictator in 2004."
Rebecca noted that Barack declared war on Social Security, Elaine noted Barack's rush for more war, Mike found the debate a waste of time, Cedric & Wally (joint-post) noted how Barack got his way, Marcia skipped it and noted the crony ways of Barack in Chicago, and Kat explored the liars and cover-up artists in the press
Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney's running mate is Rosa Clemente who has a series of campaign stops coming up including the following:
Rosa Clemente in New York October 9-11
Tuesday, 07 October 2008 23:01

from Rosa Clemente

Peace and Hello to all my New York City People:

As the billionaires on wall street get bailed out, and more and more people are tired of a two party stranglehold, join me, as I celebrate my electoral independence, I am in town, for three exciting days of campaign activities, attending a press conference for assistance and solidarity for Haiti, marching for the freedom of Politcal Prisoners and Prisoner of War, as well as these media appearances, hope to see you! "The Green Party is not the alternative, it is the imperative!" Rosa A. Clemente, Green Party Vice-Presidential Candidate

GritTV, with Laura Flanders, to air Wednesday October 8th, 2008, at 8:00pm & 1:00am ET, on Free Speech TV(DISH Network ch. 9415)
Where we Live, with Sally O'Brien Thursday October 9th, 2008 at 8:00pm on WBAI 99.5FM,
The Truth, with Jeff Johnson on to air on BET Friday October 10th, 2008 at 10:00pm (EST)

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 9th, 2008 @ 7pm-10pm


You are invited to the home of Gloria Mattera & Sean Sweeney and host M1 of dead prez
for light fare, drinks and lively discussion with special guest:

Rosa Clemente is a nationally known hip-hop activist, independent journalist, community organizer and Green Party vice presidential candidate. She helped organize the National Hip-Hop Political Convention in 2003, to create a national political agenda for the hip-hop generation.

Let's help Rosa and Cynthia raise the funds needed to get their message of peace and justice out to voters throughout the country!
Campaign Merchandise will be on hand!

Location: 437 2 Street between 6/7 Avenues in Park Slope Brooklyn
F train to 7 Ave; Q/B to 7 Ave (at Flatbush); R train to Union St
RSVP: gmattera@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 718 369-2998

THURSDAY OCTOBER 9th, 2008 @ 3:30pm

Open Community Forum with Green Party Vice Presidential Nominee ROSA CLEMENTE,
to be televised on Manhattan Public Access

@ MNN Television Studios
Manhattan Neighborhood Network
537 West 59th Street,
New York, NY 10019
(between 10th and 11th Avenues)

Green Party VP Candidate -
Discusses the Economy, Foreign Policy, Education, Gender Equity, Racism, Social Justice, & the Environment

Featuring Community Organizations:
-Grassroots Artists MovEment (G.A.ME)
-UHURU Movement
-Brenda Stokely from NY Solidarity Coalition With Katrina / Rita Survivors
- La Peña del Bronx

-Hasan Salaam
-Video Screening of Final Outlaw's"HIP HOP 4Ever"


Please Contact: (917) 940-8961 or (917) 239-8992 with Questions or to RSVP for this event

ABOUT G.A.ME - The Grassroots Artists Movement (G.A.ME) is a membership organization dedicated to addressing sociopolitical and economic realities facing low-income Black and Latino communities. Galvanizing the influence of hip-hop artists and culture, G.A.ME unites artists and community members to work side-by-side for social justice. G.A.ME runs youth leadership and community development programs that provide tools for positive change.
Ralph Nader is on TV tonight!
Ralph will be on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blizter at about 5 p.m. EST this afternoon.
And he'll be on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor with Bill O'Reilly at about 8:25 p.m. EST tonight.
Hope you get a chance to watch.
And remember, this week we're offering a limited number of Ralph's most recent book -- The Seventeen Traditions. (HarperCollins, 2007).
It's a 150-page hard cover classic -- detailing the traditions Ralph grew up with in his home town of Winsted, Connecticut.
For a donation of $100 or more, we'll ship you this Nader classic -- signed by the man himself -- Ralph Nader.
(This offer ends Sunday October 12, 2008 at 11:59 p.m.)
By the way, the Nader/Gonzalez video team was with Ralph in Winsted, Connecticut last week.
Take a look.
Pass it around.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Onward to November