Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, September 8, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, another journalist is killed in Iraq -- one of at least 14 people reported dead today in Iraq with at least 46 reported injured, antiquities are returned to Iraq (and some already returned are now missing), the political stalemate celebrates an anniversary, and more.
Today was a banner day for disgraces in puppet government.  March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 31 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) noted that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted. That's today, September 8th. Six months since Iraqis voted. No government.

As Steven Hussain (UT's Shorthorn) points out, "Since the March elections, the Iraqi parliament has only met once for a total of 18 minutes. As of now, there seems no end in sight for this deadlock, and the furture of Iraq is still hanging in the balance." Duraid Al Baik (Gulf News) reports:

Many Iraqis say they have lost confidence in their country's ability to rise again. Many have left Iraq for neighbouring countries where they are awaiting the approval of western countries to accept them as refugees from what once was called "Liberated Iraq".
"Those, the majority of course, who had no option to leave the country are still struggling with power shortages and saline water and [a] lack of drainage system... the basics that they enjoyed under dictatorship," Baghdad University political science professor Dr Hassan Ali said.
"For them the fight over who is going to form the government is a sort of luxury they can not afford under the pressures of daily life."
He said that parliament, which is required by the constitution to elect the speaker of the House, the president of the country and the new prime minister to run the country for the next four years, had so far failed to perform its duty since it convened in June.

The editorial board of the Khaleej Times calls the stalemate a "padlock on Iraq's politics" and opines, "It is thus imperative that Iraq's politicians get a grip on things and resolve this impasse at the earliest for the sake of the national interest. It may be prudent to rotate the office of the prime minister between the two or nominate a third candidate. Whatever needs to be done should be dealt with urgently lest others take the country over the brink."
Over the brink?  As noted yesterday: "Alsumaria TV reports, 'Religious programs anchor on Al Iraqiya Satellite TV network and head of Al Sheala District Riyad Al Saray was killed by unknown gunmen in central Baghdad'." Today another journalist is killed. BBC News reports that al-Mosulliyah TV's Safah Abdul Hameed was assassinated "in front of his home."  The Committee to Protect Journalism issued a statement today which included the following:
The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Iraqi authorities to thoroughly investigate the murder of Safa al-Din Abdel Hamid, an Al-Mosuliya television presenter who was shot this morning in front of his Mosul home by gunmen firing from a speeding car, according to news accounts.

Abdel Hamid was the second Iraqi television anchor to be slain in as many days. Riad al-Saray, an anchor for Al-Iraqiya was gunned down in Baghdad on Tuesday.

"We extend our deep condolences to the family of Safa al-Din Abdel Hamid," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "That this is the second killing of a television presenter in two days sends a clear message to authorities that urgent action is needed." 

On Riyad Al Saray,  Reporters Without Borders explains:
Riyad Assariyeh, a 35-year-old journalist working for state-run Al Iraqiya TV, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he was leaving his home in Baghdad this morning. This clearly targeted murder brings to 15 the number of Al Iraqiya journalists who have been killed since Saddam Hussein's removal.  
Reporters Without Borders calls for a proper investigation capable of identifying and arresting both the perpetrators and instigators of this murder and bringing them to justice. It would be deplorable it this killing were to go unpunished, which unfortunately has been the case in 99 per cent of the 230 murders of journalists and media workers since the US-led invasion in 2003.  
The Committee to Protect Journalists offered the following on Riad al-Saray:
"We extend our deep condolences to the family and colleagues of Riad al-Saray," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "We call on the Iraqi authorities to end the culture of impunity by investigating this murder and bringing all those responsible to justice."   
Al-Saray, who joined Al-Iraqiya in 2005, hosted programs that sought to reconcile Shiites and Sunnis, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. Amar Hassan, an Al-Iraqiya colleague, said that while al-Saray addressed political issues in his programs, he was not considered controversial. He said al-Saray was on his way to Karbala in southern Iraq when he was gunned down at about 6 a.m. Police said the gunmen used silencers in the attack.  
Al-Iraqiya is part of the state-run Iraqi Media Network and has wide viewership across the nation. At least 14 other Iraqi Media Network staffers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, the highest death toll for any media organization in Iraq during that period.
Reporters Without Borders has just released [PDF format warning] "The Iraq War: A Heavy Death Toll For The Media." The report counts 230 journalists (here we classify all as journalists not "journalists" and "media workers" -- it's a war zone, we're not quibbling, the 230 were journalists) who have been killed in Iraq and finds that 12 were women but 93% of the deaths were men. 87% of those killed were Iraqis. 77 of the deaths took place in Baghdad.
In 2006, Nuri al-Maliki's government regularly threatened to shut down certain newspapers after accusing them of incitement to violence. Television networks were also pointed out as being responsible for stirring up ethnic and religious passions. They were prohibited from broadcasting segments that showed blood or murder scenes. On 5 November 2006, the Minister of the Interior decided to close down the Sunni television networks Al-Zawra and Salah-Eddin for having broadcast footage of demonstrators waving pictures of former dictator Saddam Hussein and protesting against his capital sentence. Both stations are still closed down.   
In 2007, addition restrictions were imposed on the media. In May, the authorities banned journalists from filming bomb-stricken areas. In November of that year, they were also prohibited from going to the Kandil mountains on the Iraqi-Turkish border to meet with PKK rebels. Passage of the bill for the protection of journalists would make it possible to improve media professionals' working conditions. The Iraqi Parliament's delay in initiating a review of the bill -- which has been postponed since September 2009 -- appears to be one reason for the unrelenting attacks on the Iraqi press.   
UPI notes that the report finds the Iraq War to be the deadliest war for journalists since WWII.  Yesterday's snapshot noted Iraqis 'pranks' for television on one another (and called out US military participation in those pranks but has not and will not weigh in on what Iraqis do for TV in their own country).  Kelly McEvers (All Things Considered, NPR) reports today that the segments filmed by Iraqis for TV (US soldiers were filming their 'pranks' and posting them on YouTube) and aired on Al-Baghdadiya TV's  Khali en Buca is under threat from Nouri's government which states if the show is not pulled off Al-Baghdadiya, the network will be closed down.  McEvers explains that the network aired a soap opera today in Khali en Buca's timeslot.
Yesterday, two US soldiers were shot dead in northern Iraq with nine more injured. Leila Fadel and Marwan Anie (Washington Post) report, "Details were murky Tuesday afternoon while the U.S. military investigated the incident. U.S. troops had escorted their commander to an afternoon meeting at an Iraqi army base in Tuz Khurmatu, 55 miles south of Kirkuk. During the meeting, a man in an Iraqi army uniform opened fire, the U.S. military said, adding that the assailant was shot dead at the scene. It was unclear Tuesday whether the young shooter, whom Iraqi security officials identified as Soran Rahman Taleh Wali, a Kurdish member of one of the Iraqi army's special forces units, had planned the attack or acted spontaneously." Some reports note that the shooter was engaged in a volleyball game with US troops.  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports that the claim of the volleyball game made by a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense has been withdrawn.  Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) adds, "Niazi Uklo, a member of the provincial council in Salahuddin, said in a telephone interview that the soldier, a Kurd, opened fire after a dispute broke out during the meeting on the base." Arwa Damon and CNN report:

In a second attack in Salaheddin province, a U.S. soldier and a number of Iraqis were wounded when a convoy in central Tikrit was hit by grenades early Tuesday afternoon, a U.S. military spokesman said. Soldiers who were in the vehicle that was attacked killed the grenade thrower, he said.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry official and police in Tikrit said that the man threw two grenades at the convoy, damaging a vehicle, and that U.S. forces then opened fire "randomly," killing a civilian and wounding four others.

Reuters reports that today's violence included a Garma sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and the police officer's son, a Baghdad suicide car bombing which claimed the life of the bomber and 3 other people, a Baquba home invasion in which 1 police officer was killed, a Mosul mortar attack which injured three people, a Mosul grenade attack which injured three people, two Al-Zab bombings which claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left nine more injured, a Baghdad car bombing and roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives and left at least twenty-four more people wounded, two Baghdad bombings which claimed 1 life and left five more people injured, and a Baghdda roadside bombing which injured two people.
The violence includes the destruction of Iraq's history.  Writing for Museum News in 2007, Susan Breitkopf explained:
The only real comparison is to the surface of the moon. Craters as deep as 16 feet cover multi-acre sites that are remnants of what is widely considered the cradle of civilization. The craggy, arid earth, all but barren of vegetation, lies in mounds alongside the deep pits where thousands of Iraqi antiquities -- cuneiform tablets, ancient scrolls and kings commemorated in stone that might give clues to how civilization began -- have been ripped from their resting places and sold to nefarious (or unsuspecting) dealers and collectors. Some sites have been so ravaged that the top 10 feet of earth and all of the irreplaceable artifacts buried there for centuries are gone. 

Amid the catastrophe of the war in Iraq -- the violence, bloodshed and loss of human life --is the loss of the world's cultural heritage in the form of hoards of antiquities. It is an ongoing, silent tragedy for which there seems to be no viable solution.

Sources say this is not the work of renegades with shovels. It is planned and executed by organized bands -- 200 to 300 per site -- with heavy machinery at many of the 12,000 sites. And the payout is big. The average Iraqi makes the equivalent of $1,000 per year, yet a cache of looted antiquities can sell for $20,000. And looters can sell two or three such caches every week.

The country was plundered and then-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld thought it was funny to make jokes about it (in 2003, he mocked the looting as just being the same video of a vase being shown over and over).  In defining "the other," it is important to rob them of any cultural history and that's what Rumsfeld with his sarcastic remarks did.  On the issue of cultural history and who it belongs to, Kris Boyd interviewed Craig Childs (Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaelogical Plunder and Obsession) on yesterday's Think (KERA) here for audio files.  I haven't heard the broadcast yet -- and am noting it at the request of a friend -- but Joyce Wadler of the New York Times should make a point to listen since she's discussed but not named. Discussed?  She's mocked.  On the looting, David Gardner (Financial Times of London) notes, "The just announced return to Iraq of the headless statue of a Sumerian king – looted in the lawless aftermath of the US-led invasion in 2003 – seems an apposite footnote to the recent departure of US combat troops. Iraq remains lawless and headless. And combat has far from ceased."  Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) reported yesterday on the efforts to find the stolen statue of King Entemena, "stolen from Iraq's national museum in 2003" and how Massachusetts College of Art and Design's John Russell worked with the US State Dept in a 2006 sting to recover the statue which is finally being transferred from the Iraq Embassy in DC to Iraq.  For audio, Melissa Blockman (All Things Considered, NPR) interviewed Farah Stockman about the statue and other artifcats yesterday.  Today Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports  that "hundreds of looted antiquities" are being returned to Iraq where "632 pieces repatriated last year and turned over to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki were now unaccounted for" and that this unknown "fate of those previously returned raised questions about the country's readiness to preserve and protect its own treasures."  (I would argue this item listed as returned by SLM raises questions as well: ". . . and 362 cuneiform clay tablets smuggled out of Iraq that were seized by the American authorities in 2001 and were being stored in the World Trade Center when it was destroyed" -- how did the tablets survive?) On the issue of the now missing returned (to Nouri) artificats, Professor Larry Rothfield (The Punching Bag) hails it as, "Yet one more piece of evidence, if that were required, that the State Department dropped the ball completely by focusing its efforts on restoring the museum rather than on helping the Iraqis get their cultural policy infrastructure set up properly".  Derek Fincham (Illicit Cultural Property) wonders, "Are Iraq's Antiquities in a Revolving Door?"   Stephen Farrell (New York Times' At War Blog -- link has text and video) reports that the returned items include a "chrome-plated Kalashnikov Ak-47 assault rifle, with a peral hand grip and reciever, [which] was manufactured by an Iraqi weapons factory which produced personalized assault rifles for Saddam Hussein's family and friends."
Farah Stockman: He's rather short, he's about three feet tall. Dark. He's wearing a skirt. He has inscriptions on his arm and on his back.  And he has no head.
Melissa Block: He's headless.
Farah Stockman: He's headless. Yes.
Melissa Block: And what happened to the head?
Farah Stockman: Archaeologists think it was actually lopped off 4,000 years ago when his city was conquered and they think it might be a symbol of the emancipation of the city of Ur which was where the statue was actually discovered.
Melissa Block: What about the real King Entemena? What do we know about his significance to Iraqi ancient civilization?
Farah Stockman: I think he's known as a powerful king. This was the cradle of civilization. This was one of the earliest known civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, and I think the kings after him were much weaker than he was.
As the continued violence indicates, the Iraq War is not over.  Appearing on the latest episode of CounterSpin (began broadcasting Friday), IPS' Phyllis Bennis spoke with FAIR's Steve Rendall about Iraq War realities:  Excerpt:
Steve Rendall:  As we survey news reports, we find that Obama's proclaimation that he is ended combat operations in Iraq have met with little skepticism from journalists.  What's actually going to happen with US policy in Iraq?
Phyllis Bennis: The policy has not changed. It is true that the number of troops are significantly lower than they were at their heaight of 165,000. It's now down to about 50,000. That is a good thing. Reduction in troops is a good thing.  But the notion that this troop reduction somehow means that all combat brigades, let alone combat troops are out of Iraq, is  ust specious. The 50,000 troops that are in Iraq now are combat troops.  The Pentagon has, in their own words, remissioned them -- they have given combat troops a new mission which is for training and assistance of the Iraqi military but they remain combat troops ready to re-engage in combat at any given moment. We heard from President Obama about the 4th Stryker Brigade which, as he described it, is the last combat brigade leaving Iraq.  We didn't hear about the 3,000 new combat troops -- more combat troops --  from Fort Hood in Texas who were just deployed to Iraq ten days ago.  We also didn't hear about the 4,500 special forces which have the job, one, of continuing its counter-terrorism opeartion -- meaning using its 'capture or kill' list to run around the country to capture or kill people.  The other is to train their Iraqi counterparts, the Iraqi special operations force, which is shaping up to be something that looks suspiciously like an El Salvador death squad.  This is not the end of comabt. 
Steve Rendall:  John Pilger reports in The New Statesman on September 2nd that US policy with regards to airstrikes and bombings will not be effected by the president's announcement.  It looks like there's also -- and I think you've mentioned this -- going to be an increase in the number of contractors, military contractors in country.
Phyllis Bennis: Absolutely. The number of contractors is both disturbing in its own right and because its the beginning of a process under way of militarizing US diplomacy. There will be 7,000 new armed contractors coming into Iraq solely to work under the auspices of the State Dept, not the Pentagon, when the State Dept becomes the primary agency in Iraq.  What we really didn't hear from President Obama is that the transition under way is not so much from US control to Iraqi control, as much as it is from Pentagon control to State Dept control. The agreement [SOFA] that was signed between the US and Iraq that requires -- if it doesn't get changed, which is, I think, a likely possibility --  requires all US troops and armed contractors under Pentagon control to be out of the country by the end of next year does not apply to contractors -- armed or not --  under the auspices of the State Dept.  So with this giant new embassy that holds 5,000 diplomats -- it's the size of Vatican City -- there will be at least 7,000 armed contractors.  The State Dept is bringing in armored cars, surveillance drones, planes and their own rapid response forces.  So what we're seeing is the Pentagon leaving largely but the State Dept taking on military tasks.
Not really, Phyllis.  The ones in charge are Samantha Power and other national security types from outside the State Dept.  They will be working with the new US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey -- who was chosen because of his national security background and not his State Dept background.  It's difficult to talk about this -- and I'm not slamming Phyllis for that -- because the public is being kept in the dark.  If Congress wanted to, they could shine a light and demand to know who is in charge.
Who's in charge of the State Dept?  The top person at the State Dept -- who then reports to Barack -- is Hillary Clinton who is Secretary of State.  Where's Hillary been in the last month?  Did she give an Iraq speech?  No, she didn't.  Did she speak to the press about Iraq?  No, she hasn't.  The State Dept is not leading this.  A little shell games being played on the Congress and on the American people.  The adminstration is attempting to continue the war and the hide the costs via the State Dept.  Congress hasn't gone along so far.  And did you see Hillary go down to the Hill and sell the money requested -- so far denied by Congress?  No, you didn't.
What you've heard is Robert Gates, Barack, Joe Biden and assorted others make speeches for international audiences about Iraq.  You haven't heard that from Hillary. She's not in charge of Iraq.  And the idea that the administration wants to run this operation and wants to hide it behind the pretense that the State Dept's in charge?  Sounds a lot like the dirty tricks Ronald Reagan (Barack's hero) pulled in Iran-Contra.,
It's a difficult subject to talk about because Americans are being intentionally left in the dark and deceived by the administration.  Again, I'm not slamming Phyllis for her discussion, it's very difficult to discuss what's going on in the shadows.  There are Democrats in the Senate who are outraged by what the administration is attempting and have stated that they will get to the bottom of it.  Whether or not that is the case, there's also the fact that the mid-terms are coming up and if Republicans gain control of either house of Congress, investigations into any number of things could ensue.  Considering the huge amount the administration is requesting for continued operations in Iraq, Republicans with control of one house might launch an investigation into what is really going on in Iraq and how such a plan was determined and devised without the knowledge of the American people or the consent and input of Congress.
Jonathan Tasini is running for the Democratic Party nomination against incumbent Charlie Rangel (disclosure, I know and like Charlie) and Tasini's campaign has sent a mailing which we'll note a portion of:
Enough is enough: The American people have been robbed -- by Wall Street buccaneers, greedy bankers, corporate CEOs and an elite that does not care whether the people can achieve the American Dream. They've bought our political leaders. They gambled away our jobs and retirement. They ravaged the planet. We must unite to sweep them from power so we can save our communities and our planet. 

My opponent, Charles Rangel, has been in Congress for 40 years. He is part of the corrupt system. He is the #4 recipient of lobbyist money in the House. Bowing down to his corporate contributors, he has voted for half a dozen "free trade" agreements that have destroyed millions of good-paying jobs and forced wages down. 

I am the only candidate in this race who has pledged not to vote for a single dime for the war in Afghanistan. Enough is enough.  

I am the only candidate in this race to campaign for an INCREASE in Social Security, not cuts that even some Democrats are promoting. Enough is enough. 

I am the only candidate in this race to campaign for a hike in the minimum wage to $10 an hour so the people can try to make a livable wage. Enough is Enough. 

I need your help today.
We're being kind and including his fundraising link.  I am not endorsing Tasini, I'm not endorsing anyone in any race that I cannot vote in.  But it's really interesting that Tasini is promising not a dime to Afghanistan -- as if what?  The Iraq War was over?  The Iraq War is not over and currently Congress is refusing to grant the administration's request for Iraq War funds hidden behind 'the State Dept.'  Would Tasini continue that refusal?  It's a pertinent question.
Back to who's running things, if you're not getting the point that it's not the State Dept, Hillary gave a major speech today. Appearing before the Council on Foreign Relations today (link goes to State Dept and has text and a video option), she addressed Israel, Palestine, Russia, China, Egypt and others at length.  Iraq?  It was treated as an aside and received two casual mentions in the speech:
* In Iraq, where our combat mission has ended, we are transferring and transitioning to an unprecedented civilian-led partnership.
* When our troops come home, as they are from Iraq and eventually from Afghanistan, we'll still be involved in diplomatic and development efforts, trying to rid the world of nuclear dangers and turn back climate change, end poverty, quell the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, tackle hunger and disease.
During questions and answers, Hillary alluded to Iraq at one point:
Because what we know, especially from the threats that we have faced in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, is you have to be more integrated. So let's start thinking from a budget perspective about how to be more integrated.
Does it sound like Hillary's in charge of Iraq?  She's not and, as we noted some time ago at Third, if she were, Barack's primary voters should be outraged since a number of them flocked to him due to the illusion that he was against the Iraq War.  Long before Hillary was nominated as Secretary of State, Barack had already put Iraq under the "national security" control of Samantha Power who is currently meeting with Joe Biden's national security advisor regularly.  Or are we not ever supposed to notice the man behind the curtain isn't the great and mighty Oz?
On the SOFA, Jason Ditz ( via World Can't Wait) notes the talk of the US military presence in Iraq being extended past 2011, "Not so, apparently, as a growing number of US officials are privately acknowledging that the US will 'almost certainly' keep a significant number of troops in Iraq past the deadline, which was negotiated in the Status of Forces Agreement. The subject hasn't so much been broached with the American public, where the official story that the war ended at some point in the past couple of weeks is still playing remarkably well, but it seems there is a growing resignation to this, at least privately." So much doesn't get broached with the American public.
In justice news, War Hawk Tony Blair has another cancellation.  Saturday in Dublin, Blair had a book signing which resulted in his being pelted with shoes and eggs.  As a result of that 'welcoming,' he canceled one London appearance on Monday.  Now the BBC reports that he's canceled his remaining London book event.  No real excuse is provided for this second cancellation; however, there are rumors that he's very upset by a Labour proposal the UK Parliament might take up which would require him and other foreign ministers to pay for their own security costs when participating in for-profit engagements. His London appearance would have reported cost the US equivalent of $250,000 to provide protection for Blair. UK's Stop The War notes:
Tony Blair's decision to cancel his party at Tate Modern gallery today, following him pulling out of a book-signing at Waterstone's, is another victory for the anti war movement and for the overwhelming majority in Britain who oppose his wars.  

With Blair running scared of peaceful, democratic protests, Stop the War has cancelled the demonstration against Tate Modern being used to celebrate the publication of a war criminal's book.  

The number of prominent artists who supported the Tate protest is yet another indication of how widespread is the determination that Blair will one day be held to account for his war crimes in Iraq.  
The ignominy of war criminal Blair scuttling away from any contact with the general public is bound to be discussed at tonight's Stop the War public meeting in the House of Commons (see below).  
Q: Who said: "You've got to put in prison those who deserve to be there"? A: Tony Blair, 6 September 2010 
BBC quotes Stop The War's Lindsey German stating, "It shows he is running scared. The people who say we should not protest are denying us the right to persist in asking questions about the war and denying the rights of Iraqis who are still suffering because of Blair's policies." Kitty Donaldson (Bloomberg News) quotes Blair whining, "It's sad in a way because you should have the right to sign books or see your friends if you want to."  Tell it to the Iraqi people, Tony. Instead of the bombs you ordered dropped, the house raids and so much more, don't you think they would have liked to have seen their friends or signed books?  What an idiot and a criminal Tony Blair is.  Carolyn Kellogg (Los Angeles Times) observes, "Antiwar protesters aren't the only ones questioning the contents of the book. On Wednesday, Peter Morgan, the screenwriter behind the movie The Queen, told the Telegraph that Blair's memoir includes a scene that he invented for the movie, complete with strikingly similar dialog. Will the attention hurt Blair's book sales? Will the protests continue? Will he ever be able to go on book tour, or will he have to content himself with other affairs of former world leaders -- encouraging youth, making statements about Africa and weighing in on the Mideast peace talks?"
This weekend there's an event in NYC which will feature many people including Media Channel's Danny Schechter and Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan.  Mark Crispin Miller notes:
This weekend there will be a great symposium on 9/11, hosted by the International News Net here in Lower Manhattan. The line-up is staggering: Don Siegelman, Coleen Rowley, Ray McGovern, Hank Albarelli, Danny Schechter, Cynthia McKinney, Cindy Sheehan and many others-including, on a panel with yours truly, Peter Dale Scott and Michael Parenti. 
The full schedule is accessible below, along with all the info that you'll need to get there, if you can.  
How the World Changed After 9/11  
Presented by the International News Net. A made for television event in lower Manhattan on September 11th and 12th, 2010  
WHERE: Walker Stage – 56 Walker Street, New York, NY (1 block below Canal St., betw. Broadway & 6th Avenue – 6, R, or N train to Canal St. station) 
WHEN: 12 noon on Sat. Sept. 11th through 6pm Sun. Sept. 12th 
ADMISSION: $20 suggested donation per session, each session includes 2 panels, seating limited to 175 
TICKETS: See Paypal links or call (206)-338-0319 
NOTE: Can't come to New York? Stream all the events live including the Press Conference from NY City Hall and workshops Thursday the 9th, the rally at All Souls Church Friday night the 10th, street actions from Ground Zero Saturday morning the 11th , and the entire conference "How The World Changed after 9-11″ Saturday the 11th and Sunday the 12th. $10 for all of it. A portion of all proceeds goes to help 9/11 First Responders. You'll receive the web address and access code on Thursday the 9th.  
For more on the symposium, you can listen to the Tuesday broadcast of the WBAI Evening News (click here for audio archives and you have 88 days to hear it before it vanishes from the archives) which opened with Lenny Charles discussing the event with WBAI's Jose Santiago.