Saturday, June 19, 2010

The rain never comes

Oh, the rain never comes
Count my blessings on my thumbs
And the dogs just want to sleep in the sun
All day
-- "'J' for Jules," written by Aimee Mann, first appears on 'Til Tuesday's Everything's Different Now.

Aziz Alwan and Leila Fadel (Washington Post) report, "At least one person was killed and three others were injured Saturday in the southern port city of Basra when police fired into a crowd of unruly protesters who were demanding electricity and potable water to help cope with the blistering summer heat, officials and witnesses said." Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) states "hundreds" were demonstrating, throwing bricks and stones at buildings and Iraq's 'security' forces and Karadsheh notes, "More than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq still suffers from a lack of basic services including water and electricity. The lack of power is especially unnerving during Iraq's searing summers. Temperatures in Basra, one of the hottest places in the country, soared above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday." In a 24 hour period, Basra receives -- on a good day -- six hours of electricity. Karim Jamil (AFP) adds, "Thousands had gathered to demand the dismissal of Electricity Minister Karim Wahid and provincial officials over the rationing, which sees residents receive power for just one hour in five in temperatures that hit 54 degrees Celsius (130 Fahrenheit) on Saturday, an AFP correspondent said." Jamil reports signs reading "We don't want oil or medicine, we want water and electricity" and "The people of Basra ask the authorities to provide services for citizens." Aref Mohammed (Reuters) notes, "Demonstrators said the Basra protest was spontaneous. But provincial council officials from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law bloc said the rally had been exploited by Shi'ite political rivals, who want Maliki to give up his bid for a second term in talks on forming a coalition government."

In other, ongoing violence today, Turkish military planes again bombed northern Iraq as the struggle between the Turkish military and the PKK continues. The PKK has bases in the mountains of northern Iraq. They advocate for a Kurdish homeland (and a bit more but that's their overall goal). They are seen as terrorists by a number of governments including Turkey, the US, the UK and by the European Union. Sebnem Arsu (New York Times) reports that the PKK launched an attack today which reaulted in 8 Turkish soldiers being killed and fourteen more injured leading to the Turkish bombings. The call-and-response of the activities may cover Saturday, but this back-and-forth has been going on for years. BBC News traces this week's exchanges between the two groups and also goes back a bit further.

In other reported violence Reuters notes 3 Baghdda roadside bombings have claimed 2 lives and left fourteen people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing injured two police officers, a Mosul grenade attack injured two people, 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk and, dropping back to Friday, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured three people and 2 Baghdad roadside bombings (one after the other) injured two people and five police officers.

International law and human rights expert Professor Frances A. Boyle is calling for a War Crimes Tribunal into Israel's attack on the floatilla. Caro (MakeThemAccountable) deconstructs one of 2008's more insane arguments advocating for Barack.

Wednesday the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing which is covered in Wednesday's snapshot and Friday's snapshot. Alaska's Democratic Party Senator Mark Begich did the bulk of the questioning in the first panel and chaired the second panel. His office notes:

Contact: Julie Hasquet, Press Secretary
(907) 258-9304 office
(907) 350-4846 cell
June 16, 2010

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, chairing a hearing of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, today secured a commitment from the Veterans Administration (VA) to a high level meeting in the next three months with officials from the Indian Health Services (IHS) to focus on ways to improve care for rural veterans.

The topic of the hearing was VA Health Care in Rural Areas and included testimony from three Alaska witnesses directly involved in health care delivery to Alaska's veterans.

"I am pleased the VA recognizes the challenges faced by Alaska's veterans, particularly in rural areas, in accessing affordable and easily available health care services," Begich said. "The more we can coordinate and find ways to improve the system, the better off Alaska's veterans will be."

The committee heard testimony from Dan Winkelman, Vice President and General Counsel at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation; Brigadier General Deborah McManus, Assistant Adjutant General and Commander, Alaska National Guard; and Verdie Bowen, Director, Office of Veterans Affairs, Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

All of the Alaska witnesses testified about the difficulty in providing efficient services for veterans in rural parts of the state.

Winkelman testified that high energy, food and personnel costs add to the enormous disparity rural veterans have in accessing health care, a problem compounded by the fact there are few veterans health facilities in rural areas.

"To lack access upon their return from duty to culturally appropriate and quality health care services by the VA is a shame," Winkelman said.

Witnesses talked about the possibility and need for allowing rural veterans to access care at IHS funded facilities and have the VA reimburse the provider later, in many cases saving money and time by not forcing veterans to travel to Alaska's larger cities where VA facilities are located.

In response to the testimony and under questioning from Sen. Begich, VA Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management, William Schoenhard agreed to organize a high level meeting between VA and IHS officials in the next few months.

"We should collaborate. I would certainly welcome how we can better serve and get veterans engaged with IHS," Schoenhard testified.

Schoenhard admitted the VA doesn't have a thorough understanding of some of the obstacles faced by rural veterans and is looking at ways to revitalize the Rural Pilot Project, an outreach program designed to enroll more rural Alaska veterans in the VA health system.

Space permitting, we'll include that in the snapshot on Monday. The e-mail address for this site is