Friday, October 23, 2009

4 reported dead and 5 wounded in Iraq so far today

THE US military may have to put on indefinite hold its plan to dispatch additional troops to Afghanistan if Iraq's election does not take place on time in January.
[. . .]
On Wednesday, after prolonged debate, the Iraqi parliament admitted failure in its efforts to draft a new election law to govern the coming contest and asked the Political Council for National Security to take on the task.

The above is from Michael Jansen's "US troop deployment to Afghanistan may depend on Iraq poll" (Irish Times)and the elections are finally news. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) spent last week reporting on what was happening and not many other domestic outlets even seemed to notice. Now it's really all they can talk about. (I'm not referring to the Irish Times -- I'm referring to US papers with their own staff in Baghdad.) This would be the elections 'intended' to be held in January. The ones that were earlier shoved back from December 2009 -- their earlier announced date. The ones now in question because Thursday last week was supposed to be the deadline to pass an election law. On Wednesday, the Pentagon's Michele Flournoy appeared before the House Armed Services Committee and stated that Iraq actually had two more weeks to pass it. She also stated they could just pass legislation on what day to hold the election and leave all matters to the 2005 election law -- which, no, would not be 'progress'. She left out the part about Iraq's court system finding that law to be unconstitutional. While Flournoy attempted to downplay, others aren't doing so. From Salah Hemeid "Elections on the way?" (Al-Ahram Weekly):

Iraq's third election since the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein after the 2003 US-led invasion of the country was thrown into doubt this week when the Iraqi parliament failed to agree on a new election law. Iraqi lawmakers have not been able to pass the legislation in part because of differences over the nature of the voting system and ethnic divisions in the disputed oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
The polls are scheduled for 16 January, and Iraq's independent High Electoral Commission has said that the calendar for planning the election is based on that date. The commission, responsible for organising polls in Iraq, has said that it needs 90 days to print and distribute ballots. Iraqi and UN officials fear that the election could be delayed if lawmakers fail to pass a revised election law this week.

Meanwhile, Swine flu has hit Iraq -- with 121 cases confirmed. John Leland (New York Times) reports on the "nearly 2,500 school closings" which have resulted from the fears or concerns:

Dr. Ihsan Jaafar, general director of the Public Health Directorate in the Health Ministry, said the number of cases was insignificant, especially compared with neighboring countries, where infection rates were much higher. He described the school closings outside Baghdad as illegal and blamed "irresponsible announcements" for confusing people and creating a panic.

Violence continues in Iraq today. Reuters reports 1 guard was shot dead in Mosul, 1 traffic police officer was shot dead in Mosul, one Iraqi soldier was injured in a Mosul shooting, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 man and left his wife and their three children injured and a Baaj roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier.

The NPR story you mentioned about a dubious explosive detector understates the problem. This is the latest in a long history of fraudulent explosive detectors that are dowsing rods. 15 years ago, the FBI busted the company, and when they opened the detectors they found they were empty. When they raided the factory, the FBI found the company was photocopying a Polaroid photo of cocaine in order to tell the detector what the molecular signature was. And in a stroke of genius so that competitors or foreign countries could not reverse engineer the "detection signature chip" they printed the photocopies on black paper. The company moved overseas, has changed the name of the product multiple times, but it has never passed a test showing it is more effective than flipping a coin as to finding explosives or drugs.

In the September 4th snapshot, the following appeared:

Meanwhile Quil Lawrence (NPR -- text only) reports that Iraqi security forces are using an instrumbent to detect bombs that probably doesn't do that: "Many U.S. officials say the science is about as sound as searching for groundwater with a stick. [. . .] One American expert in Baghdad compared the machine with a Ouija board but wouldn't comment on the record. A U.S. Navy investigation exposed a similar device made by a company called Sniffex as a sham."

SniffexQuestions comments:

Sniffex was a copycat product by a Bulgarian "inventor" that came out a few years ago. The US distributors were arrested and prosecuted by the Securities and Exchange Commission for using the device as the basis of a stock scam, but the new Sniffex Plus is still for sale to consumers overseas. I have been to the Middle East, and seen these in use outside hotels and other businesses.

TV notes. Tonight on most PBS stations (check local listings), NOW on PBS explores global warming:

Is climate change turning coastal countries into water worlds? NOW travels to Bangladesh to examine some innovative solutions being implemented in a country where entire communities are inundated by water, battered by cyclones, and flooded from their homes.
Imagine you lived in a world of water. Your home is two-feet under. You wade through it, cook on it, and sleep above it. This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of people around the world, coastal populations on the front lines of climate change.
Only weeks before world leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss climate change, NOW senior correspondent Maria Hinojosa travels to Bangladesh to examine some innovative solutions -- from floating schools to rice that can "hold its breath" underwater -- being implemented in a country where entire communities are inundated by water, battered by cyclones, and flooded from their homes.
The Denmark conference can't come soon enough. Scientists project global seas will flood 20 percent of Bangladesh by 2030, stranding some 35 million climate refugees. Some are proposing that industrial nations who contribute to global warming should open their doors to displaced Bangladeshis.
Is a coastal catastrophe approaching, and what should we be doing about it?

Many PBS stations begin airing Washington Week tonight as well (remember there is a web extra to each show if you podcast and you can check out the web extra the following Mondays when it is also posted to the website). Joining Gwen around the table this week is Dan Balz (Washington Post), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times), David Sanger (New York Times) and Deborah Solomon (Wall St. Journal) -- and the show plans to remember journalist and Washington Week panelist Jack Nelson who passed away earlier this week. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Bernadine Healy, Avis Jones-DeWeever and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Medicare/Medicaid Fraud
Medicare and Medicaid fraudsters are beating U.S. taxpayers out of an estimated $90 billion a year using a billing scam that is surprisingly easy to execute. Steve Kroft investigates.

Fighting For The Cure
More Americans are suffering from epilepsy than Parkinson's, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis combined. Katie Couric reports on a disease that may not be getting the attention it deserves. | Watch Video

Tyler Perry
When Hollywood refused to produce his films his way, Tyler Perry started his own studio in Atlanta and now his movies - including the popular "Madea" series - are drawing huge audiences. Byron Pitts profiles the new and unlikely movie mogul. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, this Sunday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Turning to public radio, NPR's The Diane Rehm Show begins broadcasting this morning at 10:00 am EST on most NPR stations and online. For the first hour panel (domestic), Diane's joined by David Corn (Mother Jones), Susan Page (USA Today) and Byron York (Washington Examiner). The second hour (international) finds Diane joined by panelists Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera), Moises Naim (Foreign Policy) and Janine Zacharia (Bloomberg News).

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