Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Iran charges hikers, Iraq goes after dissidents

In July, US citizens Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd were visiting northern Iraq. They allegedly crossed over into Iran while allegedly hiking. The Chicago Tribune notes this morning that the three are now charged with espionage by the government of Iran. Iran's Press TV notes that Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, has stated the three should be released and dismissed the charges stating, "We believe strongly that there is no evidence to support any charge whatsoever. And we would renew our request on behalf of these three young people and their families that the Iranian government exercise compassion and release them so they can return home. And we will continue to make that case through our Swiss protecting power, who represents the United States in Tehran." The family of the three Americans have set up a website Free The Hikers which is down currently. Chris Carrassi (The Daily Californian) reports:

At a press conference held Monday during an overseas trip to Turkey, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the hikers face a potentially harsh sentence, and will have to prove their innocence in court.
"Hopefully, they will have an appropriate answer in the court and convince the judge that they did not have any intention of crossing the border illegally," he said.
In Iran, espionage is punishable by such measures as death.
Bauer, 27, graduated from UC Berkeley with honors in 2007 with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies and a minor in Arabic. Shourd, 31, graduated with a degree in English in 2003. Fattal, 27, graduated from the College of Natural Resources in 2004.

Meanwhile dissident Iranians in Iraq continue to be at risk. Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports that the MEK, residents of Camp Ashraf who were assaulted in July under Nouri al-Maliki's orders, and Nouri's flunky Ali al-Alak (the new Baghdad Bob?) declares to Williams that they want to force the dissidents out of the country. From the article:

A standoff has been in place since the deaths in July, though both Iraqis and members of Camp Ashraf worry about a new round of violence if a solution is not found soon.
Among other complaints, members of the camp say that the Iraqi Army intermittently blocks fuel and food from reaching them and prevents them from coming and going.
Iraq has prohibited news organizations and most humanitarian groups from entering Camp Ashraf since the July raid, but the government allowed a reporter and photographer inside the camp last week to interview its members and their relatives.
During the visit, the tension between the group and Iraqi security forces was conspicuous. The Iraqi police and army units said they generally stayed in a police station set up after the raid and had little contact with the camp for fear of being attacked.
Large sections of the 14-square-mile camp were patrolled by unarmed camp members. United States soldiers were also seen at the camp.

I'm aware that outlets do trade-offs. They go easy on Nouri, for example, and it gets an interview with ___. And a trade off may have been how an Iraqi military officer is allowed to be quoted as calling the residents a cult; however, that's a trade that shouldn't have been made. It borders on abuse. There are already comments from the Iraqi government and I see no comments from human rights organizations such as Amnesty. You do not interview a people supposedly under assualt (I believe they are under assault) and include their 'jailers' 'wisdoms' without question. That's a misuse of journalism. It should be noted that the US recognized the Geneva Conventions as applying to the residents of Camp Ashraf -- as such, allowing abusers to 'analyze' the abused is really sick.

Meanwhile in the US, Christen Gowan (Albany Times Union) reports that Iraq War veteran James Maher died over the weekend: "Police in Batavia, in Genesee County, provided no details about the circumstances of the death of James Maher, 27, who was at a clinic seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, his obituary in today's Times Union said." The paper's obituary references "a fall" and notes that he suffered from PTSD and that his survivors include Janet and Michael Maher (parents) and brother Michael Maher, sister Stephany Maher and his dog Puggles and the "funeral Mass will be celebrated on Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Assumption-St. Paul North Main St. Church, Mechanicville."

CORRECTION ADDED 11-11-09: James Maher's mother Janet is Amoroso and James is also survived by his step-father Tony Amoroso.

This is a press release from the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health which we'll note in full:

Madison, Wisconsin - Why do some veterans return from war able to move beyond the horrors they experienced while others suffer ongoing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
The answer may lie in differences in how their brains process anxiety and anticipation.
A team of psychiatrists at the University of Wisconsin and the William S. Middleton Veterans' Hospital in Madison has launched a large clinical study aimed at finding better treatments for veterans returning from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"We became aware of how many veterans are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious PTSD, and were interested in finding out the best ways to help," says Jack Nitschke, PhD, a psychiatry professor in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. His collaborators are Eileen Ahearn, MD, PhD, and Tracey Smith, PhD, both UW clinical psychiatry faculty who practice at the Veterans' Hospital.
PTSD is a debilitating condition that often follows a terrifying physical or emotional event causing the person who survived the event to have persistent, frightening thoughts and memories, or flashbacks, of the ordeal. People with PTSD often feel chronically, emotionally numb; the disorder is associated with higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse and suicide.
Nitschke, who treats severely anxious patients (in the psychiatry department at the Wisconsin Psychiatric Institute and Clinics) and studies brain differences in the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, suspects those veterans who suffer the most debilitating PTSD have brain differences that set them up for the disorder.
"A lot of people go to war; some are able to get over the experiences with talk and processing, whereas others are traumatized," Nitschke says. "What is different about the brains of these people that cause the anxiety to become so overwhelming?"
Some of Nitschke's earlier research used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to watch how the brain processes anxiety. He found that people with several common anxiety disorders show stronger activity in the amygdala in some situations. In other words, people with this signature of the anxious brain worry more and can experience debilitating consequences.
Another of Nitschke's recent studies, published in March in the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed that patients who had greater anticipatory activity in a different area, the anterior cingulate, responded better to treatment with venlafaxine (Effexor).
In the newest study, about 120 Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans will be divided into four groups:

A control group of veterans who do not have PTSD despite having experienced combat
A second group of veterans who have symptoms but receive no treatment
A third group that will receive a form of counseling called cognitive processing psychotherapy
A fourth group that will receive a medication similar to venlafaxine known as paroxetine (Paxil)

All groups will receive fMRI scans before and after the eight-week treatment regimen to see which approach works best to normalize the brain after combat.
Nitschke says that PTSD isn't only about what happened during the war, in the past. It also involves anxiety about the future, which leads to numbing activities such as drug and alcohol use, hypervigilance and avoidance behavior. Many with the disorder, he says, avoid social situations and other people because they fear that stress or noise will trigger flashbacks.
"This is what is so debilitating about the disorder," he says. "People worry that they're going to have severe flashbacks or a panic attack while they're at work or on the bus. It's this worry about future events that can keep them in their homes and turn them into recluses."
This research is funded by the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, the Dana Foundation, and the U.S. Defense Department.

Yesterday we noted CORRECTION: Nathan Bodon being discharged from the military for the 'crime' of being gay. [11-10-09 Correction, Nathan Bodon was noted yesterday.] Pelin Sidki (CNN -- link has text and video) reports on Darren Manzella who was discharged for the same crime:

"After returning from my first deployment in Iraq, after seeing death and violence, losing friends and comrades, it really made me look over my life," he said. "I looked at some issues I had always had trouble with. I had debated, 'Am I gay?' "
As he struggled with his sexual identity, Manzella began a relationship with a man. Soon after, while in Texas between tours, Manzella said he began receiving anonymous, harassing e-mails and telephone calls.
"They told me, 'You are stupid, the Army is going to kick you out, but before they do, they are going to take your rank away and all your money away.' "
Manzella describes this time as one of fear and deep insecurity.
"I didn't know if the military police would be coming through the door to take me away because someone had reported me," he said. "This was some of the paranoia I was living with every day."
Manzella says that the e-mails and calls went on for months and that after many sleepless nights, he decided to ask his supervisor for help.

He ends up reassured by his supervisor who turns around and moves to get him drummed out of the service.

The following community sites updated last night:

And Ruth's "Imprisoned by the House," Marcia's "That Girl," Trina's "Kucinich stood up," Elaine's "Brief thoughts on Fort Hood," Ann's "That Girl" and Kat's "Monday grab bag."

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends