A bomb in a sprawling Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Baghdad killed at least 78 people Wednesday and wounded 145, highlighting the danger of Iraq slipping back into violence after the deadline for U.S. combat troops to leave its cities -- now less than a week away.
It was unclear who was responsible for the bomb, which was hidden in a motorcycle with a vegetable cart attached. Some blamed Sunni Muslim insurgents with Al Qaeda in Iraq or remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, but others raised the possibility that the bombing was the result of disputes among Shiite factions.
The above is from Saif Hameed and Ned Parker's "Baghdad bombing kills at least 78, injures 145" (Los Angeles Times). In print, the New York Times proves just how out of step they are as they offer "Bomb Kills at Least 60 in a Shiite Area of Baghdad, Stoking Anger and Fear" by Alissa J. Rubin and Duraid Adnan. Online the headline now says "at least 76." By six-thirty yesterday evening (EST), the death toll had reached 72. You can see that in yesterday's snapshot. Printing of the paper began hours later. There are people paid to update. That headline never should have made it into this morning's paper and someone (in NYC) should have updated Rubin and Adnan's copy for the death toll. That could have been done in the text with no notation or it could have been done via a bracketed note, example: "[The death toll continued to rise and is at 72 as the paper goes to press.]"
To be clear, the problem is not Rubin and Adnan who are in another time zone and reporting on an evening bombing in Baghdad. They're already asleep (or should be) by the time evening rolls around in the US. The reporters note, "A number of political observers here say they now believe that the attacks are intended to discredit Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. He has taken credit for improving security, but the stance carries considerable political risk when violence breaks out."
al-Maliki's set himself up as the new Saddam while few have paid attention (it seems to have sailed over the heads of the New York Times). You can pair the above paragraph with Anthony Shadid's "In Iraq, a Different Struggle for Power" (Washington Post):
At 11 a.m. one day in May, eight Iraqi army Humvees barreled into government headquarters of fractious Diyala province, clouds of dust billowing behind them. They had orders to arrest a council member who belonged to a party that had run afoul of Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's increasingly assertive prime minister.
Shouts rang out as the man's colleagues heckled the captain who served the warrant. The council chairman frantically called lawmakers in Baghdad and pleaded with the provincial security chief to intervene. Desperate, he then ran after the captain as he led the council member, Abdel-Jabbar Ibrahim, to the waiting Humvee.
The captain promised to return Ibrahim in an hour, no more than two. Chosen in the January elections to represent the province, he has remained in custody since May 18.
"This is a message," said Amr al-Taqi, a colleague of Ibrahim's on the council.
Mike Tharp and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) note that the harassment of the press continued yesterday in the wake of the bombings, "An Iraqi journalist, who asked not to be named because he feared reprisal, said that Iraqi officials refused to let him and other reporters into local hospitals to try to interview witnesses, family members and victims."
Turning to the issue of veterans and service members, Steve Vogel's "Groups Urge VA to Reform Disability Claim Procedures" (Washington Post):
The number of unprocessed disability claims has grown by nearly 100,000 since the beginning of the year and totaled 916,625 as of Saturday, a rise driven in part by increasing numbers of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), who last week chaired a House Veterans' Affairs subcommittee meeting titled "Can VA Manage One Million Claims?," said the department needs "a cultural and management sea change."
Veterans "are waiting to have their claims and appeals processed," Hall said at the hearing last Thursday. "They are waiting for compensation. They are waiting for medical assistance and rehabilitation."
That hearing took place Thursday evening and was noted in the June 19th snapshot. Still on the topic of service members, John Fenoglio (Windy City Times) reports:
At a press conference June 22, at the offices of Equality Illinois, 3318 N. Halsted, U.S. Roland Burris, D-Ill., said that he opposes the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ( DADT ) policy and that the federal law should be repealed by Congress.
With veterans and their supporters standing behind him, Senator Burris addressed a press pool of about 20 people. "My main focus today is equal rights in the military," he said. "Many of those in the upcoming parade will be veterans of various wars. They deserve the same honor as anyone who'd put their lives, their careers and their families on the line on our behalf. Many may wish to choose military service in the future. They deserve the opportunity to do so with the respect and generosity of spirit and all the support courted to anyone who makes that honorable decision to serve this country."
On the same topic, Ernest Luning's "Polis, DeGette call on Obama to suspend ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy" (Colorado Independent) reports:
Joining 75 other lawmakers organized by Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings, U.S. Reps. Jared Polis and Diana DeGette signed a letter sent Monday to President Barack Obama urging the president to suspend "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" investigations and discharges, which have led to the ouster of more than 250 gay and lesbian service members from the military since Obama took office.
"Although we are confident that you will remain true to your campaign promise to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell, our LGBT service members and our country's national security will continue to suffer if initial action is delayed until 2010 or 2011," the letter reads. The 77 members of Congress -- all but one Democrats -- ask Obama to order "that no one is asked and that you ignore, as the law requires, third parties who tell."
It's early but certainly in the running for Shame of the Day are Jennifer Bendery and Shira Toeplitz for the headline of their article, "House Leaders Plot Gay Rights Agenda" (Roll Call). Did they write the headline? No, but they should have screamed their heads off. That headline reeks of homophobia. "Plot." "Agenda." It feeds into the kind of homophobia we might have thought had vanished from the press around the time of the men's room scandal during LBJ's administration. Roll Call today makes clear that homophobia thrives and is encouraged. Again, early but a clear runner for Shame of the Day.
Violence continues today in Iraq. Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing which left five injured, a Baghdad bus terminal bombing which claimed at least 2 lives (thirty more injured), 9 US soldiers wounded in two Baghdad roadside bombings and a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed 5 lives.
Independent journalist David Bacon is one of the last labor reporters left in the US. This is the opening to his latest report, "CRIMINALS BECAUSE WE WORKED" (Political Affairs):
VERNON, CA (6/18/09) -- The production lines at Overhill Farms move very quickly. Every day for eighteen years Bohemia Agustiano stood in front of the "banda" for eight or nine hours, putting pieces of frozen chicken, rice and vegetables onto plates as they passed in a blur before her. Making the same motions over and over for such a long time, her feet in one place on the concrete floor, had its price. Pains began shooting through her hands and wrists, up her arms to her shoulders.
Complaining also had a price, however. "I was reluctant to say anything because of my need," she says. "I have four children. So I preferred to stay hurt, and take pills for it, than to go out on disability." Finally, though, it got too much. She couldn't sleep without pain constantly waking her, and she was moving through a haze of exhaustion. So she went to the company doctor.
"He said my nerves were inflamed, and sent me to therapy," she recalls. "I know I have repetitive stress syndrome, but I asked him not to put me on restricted duty, because
there is no easy work in production and I knew the company would just send me home. He put me on restrictions anyway, and that's what happened. It didn't change anything, and eventually I had to go back to my job. It still hurts to work."
It might seem hard to understand that a job like this is worth trying to keep. But being out of work is worse. On May 31 254 people, including Agustiano, were fired. Their crime? According to Overhill Farms, they had bad Social Security numbers. Behind this accusation is the unspoken assumption that the workers' numbers are no good because they have no legal immigration status.
Every day Agustiano and the fired workers are out in front of the company's two plants on East Vernon Avenue, in an industrial enclave in southeast Los Angeles, trying to fight their way back onto those speeding production lines.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press).
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