Saturday, April 24, 2010

If only the war ended as easily as the coverage of it did


Contact: Deborah Forter, 617-983-0710,
Nancy Lessin,


Family Members of Fallen Soldiers and Families of Troops Currently Deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan Available for Interview

Nationwide -- With the war in Iraq entering its 8th year, members of Military Families Speak Out, the largest organization of military families to speak out against a war in this country's history, are calling on Senators and Representatives to take immediate action to cut off funding for the war and bring our troops home now.

"With great sadness my family and I mark the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. It is also now 6 years since we last saw my son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, a Pennsylvania National Guard soldier, alive. On April 26, 2004 he died in an explosion while looking for the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. We are but one of the over 5,000 American families who mourn the loss of their loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan; physical and spiritual casualties affect thousands more - and yet the wars that kill our young and drain our treasure do not create peace. It is long past time to bring our troops home, and find real solutions for Peace." said Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, whose son was the first Pennsylvania guardsman lost in the war in Iraq.

Maggie Pondolfino, a Military Families Speak Out member from Washington, DC, whose son currently serves in the Army, said "Two years ago, I welcomed my son home from an extended tour in Iraq. While I'm profoundly grateful that he survived the surge of 2007, 53 others in his brigade were not so fortunate. Now my son is deployed again - this time to Afghanistan. As we face the beginning of the 8th year of war in Iraq and more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, we need to face our collective duty to demand an end to these wars and to bring our troops home now. There is no military solution to these conflicts and no life worth losing to these wars."

"After witnessing and personally experiencing the loss that war brings and the cost to our nation in terms of the killing and maiming of our next generation of leaders, I'm always amazed that Americans allow open warfare to continu.," said Jane Bright, the mother of Army Sgt. Evan Ashcraft, an infantryman with the 101st Airborne Division who was killed in Iraq on July 24, 2003. "The U.S. is currently engaged in 3 wars, yet the American masses go about their business as if destruction of other countries is part of the American landscape. My question to the American people: when will America step up and bring this warfare to an end, and when will you grow tired of seeing a few grow rich from the suffering of so many?"

Military Families Speak Out members will be participating in events in Washington, D.C. and around the country to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the war in Iraq and call for all troops to be brought home now and given the care they need when they get home.

AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW: In Washington, D.C. on March 20 at 11:15 a.m.: There will be a contingent of members of Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families Speak Out (MFSO's national chapter of families whose loved ones died as a result of the wars), Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace assembling at the Veterans Administration Building at 810 Vermont Avenue, NW - they will go on to be the lead contingent in the march against the wars.

ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY: Members of Military Families Speak Out will also be participating in events around the country. To arrange for an interview contact Deborah Forter at or Military Families Speak Out, 617-983-0710 or Nancy Lessin at 617-320-5301 or

Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) is a national organization of over 4,000 families who are opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and have loved ones in the military. Gold Star Families Speak Out (GSFSO) is a national chapter of Military Families Speak Out, with families whose loved ones died as a result of these wars.

For more information about Military Families Speak Out, please visit:; for more information about Gold Star Families Speak Out, please see

The above is "Seven Years Into The War In Iraq, Military Families Say: 'Bring Them Home Now!'" and that's worth noting at any time, especially in a week that has seen the deaths of 3 service members in Iraq announced. In addition, today CNN reports, "A U.S. Department of Defense employee has died in Iraq of unknown causes, the U.S. military reported Saturday." It's a week that saw Nouri lie and lie and lie and reality provide the correction Nouri's unable to, culminating with Friday's bombings which claimed at least 8 lives in one Anbar Province city and 56 to 69 in Baghdad (depending upon who does the counting). The Iraq War, like the shell game the Democrats and Republicans play in DC, never ends and the only real winner is the con artist. I wonder how many people are even aware how close to the 4,400 mark (for the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War -- not counting those who come home and take their own lives due to the wounds they carry inside) we actually are now?

So many seem to stupidly believe the Iraq War is over. Yesterday, Iraq was in and out of the news cycle. It should have dominated the news cycle. It should have been the big story. Now, the day after, and very few outlets report on it. In fact, I'm not really finding any reports that we didn't highlight in yesterday's snapshot already from the big news outlets. And, of course, 'independent' media has other things to do: Barack can't spit polish it himself, can he? That would just be masturbation and it's so much better when he can be given a hand job, right? Hence the boys and girls at The Nation magazine.

At, Jason Ditz doesn't play the quiet game:

The attacks were the third major spate of bombings in Baghdad this month alone, but also stand as the deadliest yet of 2010. Year over year death tolls have been on the rise over the past several months, and are only getting worse since the disputed March 7 election.

So far no one has claimed credit for the blasts but the government was quick to blame al-Qaeda, speculating that it was revenge for the killings of leaders announced earlier this week.

Yesterday, it was reported that Moqtada al-Sadr was reactiving the Mahdi Army. AFP reports today:

The Iraqi government said on Saturday that an offer by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to help boost security at strategic sites was unnecessary, in the wake of anti-Shiite attacks in Baghdad.
"I don't think we are lacking men in the security forces, what we are lacking is intelligence," the prime minister's spokesman, Ali al-Mussawi, told AFP.

Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports
today that al-Sadr issued a statement today clarifying that they had not been recalled and that they would be only if the government or 'government' out of Baghdad wanted it to be so.

What could get the West interested in Iraq again? Maybe some civilian kidnappings. So if you're stupid enough to travel there for 'pleasure,' don't be surprised if you're kidnapped. With that in mind, this is from Alice Fordham's "Iraq tour promises view of a bejewelled past -- despite razor-wire" (Times of London)

If your criteria for a holiday are sun and sand then why not take your next break in Dhi Qar, southern Iraq? If you overlook the miles of razor-wire, barren rubbish-strewn wastelands and occasional explosions -- usually, though not always, controlled blasts from the nearby Imam Ali airbase -- it is an interesting part of the world.
Terre Entière, a French tour company, has decided that holidaymakers are ready to look beyond the disadvantages of the province’s capital, Nasiriyah, famous mostly for the fighting after the 2003 invasion, and spend ten days at a hotel, touring the sights of ancient Mesopotamia.

In some of today's violence, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed clash in Baghdad today which resulted in on police officer being wounded. Reuters adds 3 Baghdad bombings claimed 3 lives and left nine people wounded, 1 Sahwa member was shot dead in Baquba, 1 man was shot outside his home in Mosul, 1 taxi driver was shot dead in Mosul and, in a third shooting, 1 person was shot dead and a police officer wounded.

And that's going to be it. I'm on wireless and we're dropping in and out with the signal (which seems to be based on the flow of traffic on the street, I kid you not) so as soon as we're reconnected this is going up as is.

The e-mail address for this site is

They were supposed to help the wounded

John Pace stumbled to his car, slipped Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" into the compact disc player and turned the key.
From half a century away, one Air Force veteran crooned to another:
When I was just a baby, my mama told me, 'Son,
Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns.'

Five years as a military police officer, including a stint in South Korea, a tour of duty in Afghanistan and multiple deployments in Iraq, had all come to this: a drunken 23-year-old combat vet behind the wheel, determined to find another bottle to empty onto his pain.
Pace pulled into the dark parking lot of a TGI Friday's restaurant in Riverdale, broke a window and crawled inside. He took one bottle, then
another. Then he decided to empty out the entire bar.
More than 2 million American military members have served in the nation's ongoing conflicts, and many are returning home deeply troubled by their experiences. About a third suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, depression or other mental illness. At least a fifth struggle with drug or alcohol dependency.

The above is from Matthew D. LaPlante's "From Cobat to Lockdown: Vets in trouble" (Salt Lake City Tribune) on issues facing veterans returning to civilian life. Also exploring the issues addressing some veterans are James Dao and Dan Frosch who file a major piece for the New York Times entitled "In Army's Trauma Care Units, Feelings Warehoused" which explores the Warrior Transition Units created in the wake of the Walter Reed scandal. The WTU were supposed to assist. Instead, the reporters find people like Spc Michael Crawford who was put on multiple medications after joining a WTU, tried to take his own life and says of WTU, "It is just a dark place. Being in the W.T.U. is worse than being in Iraq."

That's just one person. That's true. But he reporters speak to others at the Fort Carson WTU and find similar stories: "For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncomissioned officers. Because of their wounds, soldiers in Warrior Transition Units are particularly vulnerable to depression and addiction, but many soldiers from Fort Carson's unit say their treatment there has made their suffering worse."

This calls for Congressional hearings. It will be interesting to see which committees step forward on the issue and how long it takes them to raise the issues.

For those late to the party or confused, yes, I am referring to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. I have stated Daniel Akaka needs to be replaced as Chair. I've stated he is not up to the job. That's my opinion. I can be wrong. Here's the Committee's chance to prove me wrong. And I'd be delighted and thrilled if they would. They can address this very real scandal right now as it is taking place as opposed to seven months from now (that's how long it took them to hold a hearing regarding the problems with the GI Bill's payment deliveries).

So prove me wrong, I'll be thrilled. I'll say you held the hearing and you held it promptly. I've been wrong a million times before and will be wrong a million times more. Prove me wrong. No one would be happier than me to be proven wrong on this point.

The following community sites updated last night and this morning -- plus Military Families Speak Out and

Sherwood Ross has a poem we'll include a lengthy excerpt of. It's called "America, The Imperial" and you can read it in full at OpEdNews among other places:

America, The Imperial

© 2010 by Sherwood Ross

I write to you in my last hour

In the last hour of the night

The hour of fear before the light

The hour of persecution and execution

Of the headsman’s bloody institution

Of prisoners dragged from their cells

Hearts pounding, legs trembling

Piss-soaked with fright.

I write to you from the land of discredited dreams

Of delicate white petals spilled upon the floor

Like semen wasted in the fingers of a whore

Of American dreams twisted into nightmares

Of a president’s lying schemes

For which Christ has no parable, no metaphor.

I write to you when poets are beaten in the streets

When students are shot dead for protesting war

When men earn their bread making killing machines

And never question what their work is for.

I will show you the land of the dying cities

Where the many see little hope to get ahead

Where few among the poor wear caps and gowns

And lines are lengthening for hot soup and for bread.

The gardens of pleasure of my youth are withered

The gray Tudor mansions stand in ruins along the beach

I would not dare to step inside and eat a peach.

High winds off the Atlantic drive the rain

Through the broken shards of windowpane

And the wind slams the unlocked doors


And tidal surges spill over the window sills and rot the floors.

In America, The Imperial,

The generals are solemn, the generals are stiff

Their work requires perpetual attention

To details: “Send this detail here! Send that detail there!”

After all, war is no Saturday sail on a pleasure skiff

War is a guided missile fired from a battleship.

War is the champagne of the Pentagon brass

Intoxicating! Effervescent!

Billion dollar bubbles of planned obsolescence

Step right up and try the latest weapons

We got your wars right here!

Cold wars! Hot wars!

Chocolate and vanilla

Step right up and kill a guerrilla!”

I write to you of Panama and Viet Nam

From the ruins of Iraq and Afghanistan

Of nations where our armies’ flags have flown

And from Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, and Iran

Among the many nations we have overthrown.

I write of plots to shake the planet from its course

Not cheap schemes to fix the action on the Paris bourse

But to move great armies onto foreign soil

To gain control of pipeline routes and precious oil.

I will take you to the dungeon

I will take you to the cell

Let us pay an uninvited visit

To one American white hell.

Hakim was an Afghan artisan

Wrongly thrown in jail

The Americans allowed no lawyers

No Red Cross and no bail

They forced him to go naked

They shaved off his beard and hair

When they put the hood over his head

He thought he’d die for lack of air.

Hakim had nothing to confess to

Still, they knocked him to the floor

Soldiers stomped his back and kicked his legs

Until he could stand no more

They chained his hands to the ceiling

For ten days and ten nights

Longer than Jesus hung on Calvary

So much for human rights.

I am really tired. We've flown home, I've been at a memorial service, blah, blah, blah. Point. I didn't see a word in there that was objectionable but Friday or Thursday (it's all a blur), I hit "publish" and two seconds later realized "s**t" was in an excerpt of something. I immediately went back in and changed it. We're a work safe site. If there's a curse word in there that's objectionable and I missed it, e-mail to let me know, because I'm tired and my vision is blurry. (And "s**t" never stands out big as a curse word because it's a term I use all the time in my own life.) Also "whore"? We can use that term here by our policy. Generally speaking, any term that's in the Bible passes most work-safe tests.

A number of visitors are e-mailing the public e-mail about curse words . . . at community sites. I am not responsible for community sites. I know Ruth used the s-word this week and I know she was very clear why she was using it. Ruth cursing online is practically news. I've never heard her curse in real life. She was calling out crap and she wanted to convey how huge the crap was so she used that term. That's her right. That's anyone's right. Susan at Random Thoughts (linked to by going to "About me" and seeing "Blogs I follow") had to be pulled off the permalinks because she used s-word in the title of a post and the permalinks now show the titles of the post. I do not condemn her for using that word (which, I am sure, I utter in real life more times a day than she ever could). But here, it is work safe. So I couldn't have the s-word displayed like that. She'd used the term (and others) in posts and that didn't effect this site, but now titles are displayed. I've pulled three sites with no worries or second thoughts since. I feel bad about Susan's (who is still linked by going to "About me") but I didn't give a damn about the others including a magazine.

Ruth's site is Ruth's site. She'll do what she wants there and I find it hilarious that someone's up in arms that Ruth intentionally used that term (and wrote in that post about how she was intentionally using it) and a man wants to object when I know that man also follows Mike's site and Mike used the same word -- in full -- about two weeks ago at his site and there was no objection.

Nineteen other men are e-mailing regarding Marcia and Rebecca. I don't see anything in their book posts from last night that's objectionable for language reason. The b-word? We've used it here in various forms. It's actually in the dictionary. "Ass" is a word we use here but we don't use it with "hole" added to it and don't assume that the term -- as one word -- would pass our work safe policy. But that's here. I know for a fact that Rebecca and Marcia repeatedly warned (for two weeks now) that yesterday's posts would contain language some might find objectionable. They warned online at their sites.

They're reviewing a book about an actor who slept with men and slept with women and his sex was combative (to put it mildly). There's not a lot of ways they can talk about that book. I think they did a good job of covering it and I think anyone reading their posts immediately knows whether that book is a book that would interest them or not.

And the word that's being objected to? Mike has it at his site last night and no objections. (Mike notes that it's a pet term I use to mock various men. And refers to a 2009 skit by a friend of mine that elaborates on that theme.) What's the deal here, Mike can write anything because he's a guy? Is that how it works?

I don't find anything objectionable in Mike's writing, I love Mike very much. But I do find it strange that men are e-mailing me that other women in this community are using 'language' but they're not bothered when Mike uses it. I find that strange.

I find it irritating that I'm forced to comment on this. Don't e-mail me to 'tattle' on what someone in this community did at their site. I don't run their sites, I'm not responsible for their sites. They are all grown adults. They do what they want and those are their sites to run as they please. The public e-mail exists for visitors. It's there in case you catch an error or think you do. It's there for you to suggest an article I've missed. It's there for you to rip into me because you disagree with what I've written. It's there for you to sound off or whatever. About what's up here. Not what someone did at their site. Don't come tattling to me, I'm not your mother. I've raised my children, they're adults now. I don't have time to wipe your noses and asses for you. You logged on to a computer, you figured out to send an e-mail, I assume you can take care of yourself. Stop running to me to tattle. I'm not interested.

The e-mail address for this site is

Friday, April 23, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Friday, April 23, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad is slammed by bombings, the US military announces another death, a new ruling knocks out an earlier one from 2007, and more.
Iraq was slammed today by multiple bombings.  In the Iraqi city of Khaldiya, Reuters counts 7 dead and 10 injured in at least seven bombings. BBC News adds, "They were planted among several houses belonging to police officers and a judge." NPR also noted in hourly headlines that police and a judge were targeted.  Khaldiya is part of Al Anbar Province which is Sunni majority.  In the fall of 2006, Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS via reported on how children at the local school were so accustomed to the bombings that one "just outside the school" didn't even cause them pause. Noting anti-occupation sentiment in the fall of 2003, Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) described it as having a population of approximately 15,000.
The attack on the Sunnis has been tossed into the scrap heap because 8 dead in these bombings was no longer big or even moderate news for the cycle once Baghdad was slammed with bombings.  Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) puts the number of car bombs at "at least five" and notes they went off throughout Baghdad, outside mosques. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) counts "at least 64" dead in Baghdad leading Moqtada al-Sadr -- whose supporters were among those targeted -- to call up the Mahdi Army (al-Sadr's militia) with the orders that they protect Sadr City.  The regrouping of the Mahdi Army may have as much to do with the bombing today in Sadr City as it did with the reactions to and from Iraqi forces: "Minutes after the car bomb detonated in Sadr City on Friday -- as worshipers were leaving prayers -- residents began lobbing bricks and stones at Iraqi soldiers who responded to the scene, witnesses said. The soldiers opened fire in response, killing some and injuring several, according to some of the wounded and doctors in Sadr City."  Though some may have found that news reassuring, others did not.  Alice Fordham (Times of London) adds, "Fears that the attacks could heighten sectarian tensions reawakened by the elections were strengthened by a statement from Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist political and religious movement. He called, via a representative, for mosques to be protected by the Mahdi Army, the militant wing of the movement. The Mahdi Army, responsible for massive bloodshed during the worst years of sectarian fighting, has formally been disbanded."  Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna (link has text and video) reports of the bombings:
Mike Hanna: A period of relative calm violently ended. In a series of apparently coordinated attacks bombs explode in six Baghdad neighbourhoods. There's no clear sectarian pattern as citizens are killed in both Shia and Sunni districts. The most serious attack though in the Shia neighborhood of Sadr City. There two car bombs killed well over 30 people shopping at the local market following Friday prayers. And intense anger among residents aquestioning how cars carrying explosives managed to pass through numerous check points to get into the area.
Sadr City Male Resident: The vehicle entered Sadr City without being searched. It is not acceptable when a car bomb goes off near a policeman. I think there must be a plot with the police. Why was Sadr City a target?
Mike Hanna: The escalation of violence follows what the Iraqi government said were major successes in the fight against the insurgency.
Jane Arraf, Sahar Issa and Mohammad al-Dulaimi (Christian Science Monitor teaming up with McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Iraqi security officials took the unusual step of announcing the death toll. In a statement run on Iraqiya television, the spokesman for the Baghdad Operational Command said 54 people had been killed and 180 injured in the attacks in Baghdad. At least another six people were killed and 12 wounded by bombings in Anbar Province, an Al Qaeda in Iraq stronghold." Andy Winter (Sky News -- link has text and video) observes, "The deadly blasts came just days after the reported killings of the top two al Qaeda leaders in Iraq in what was seen as a major blow to the insurgency." Frank James (NPR) has posted the text to one of Quil Lawrence's top of the hour reports on the violence in Iraq today in which Lawrence notes Baghdad was slammed by car bombings and by motorcycle bombings and that "the blasts today may be in response to what Iraqi and American authorities have heralded as a hugely successful campagn to roll up al-Qaida's leadership."  BBC News' Gabriel Gatehouse offers this analysis: "Whoever did carry out the attacks, it is hard not to conclude that they were designed to inflame tensions between Iraq's Sunni and Shia communities at a time of political uncertainty."  Sadr City wasn't the only area struck and Larisa Epatko (PBS' NewsHour) notes, "Other explosions struck the mainly Shiite neighborhood of Zafaraniyah, killing one person and wounding 12; a Shiite mosque in the northern Hurriyah neighborhood, where eight people were killed and 36 wounded; and the eastern neighborhood of Amin al-Thaniyah, killing 14 and injuring 36."  NewsHour?  No, it hasn't aired yet as I dictate this but remember they are increasing their online presence and they offer content throughout the day.  Larisa Epatko's coverage is part of "The Rundown News Blog" for the program.  Rebecca Santana (AP) terms it "the bloodiest day of the year in Iraq" and counts 69 dead.
In other reported violence today, Reuters notes 1 corpse was discvoered in Shirqat. Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – A U.S. Soldier died of non-combat related injuries in Baghdad Thursday. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." This brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War to 4393.
Today on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Diane was joined by  Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera), Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) and Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) and they addressed Iraq multiple times.  We'll note this section at the start of the show (however, calls and e-mails promoted the topic to be revisted throughout the show).
Diane Rehm: This death toll in Iraq, two top al Qaeda leaders were killed.  Tell us about it, Roy?
Roy Gutman: Well today's bombings show that even though the leadership has been decapitated so to speak, al Qaeda Iraq is alive and still has a lot of suicide bombers  trained and ready to go and to attack.  It's still so incredible to me.  People at their Friday prayers in the mosques of Baghdad.  I think it should just induce a certain amount of humility in the Americans and Iraqi officials who somewhat triumphantalist mood this week proclaimed that they had really broken the back of  al Qaeda --
Diane Rehm: You know we've heard that before and now to have this kind of enormously effective retalitory effect, as you say, should bring some humility, Abderrahim.
Abderrahim Foukara: Absolutely, Diane. We've heard this before, we've heard it under President Obama and we certainly had heard it during the Bush administration and every time that they say they've broken the back of al Qaeda, they'll kill one or two top leaders and then they'd be replaced and things go back to business as usual. What's really sinister this time from the point of view of the plan that the Obama administration has to get out of Iraq is that all this mess now is happening in Iraq six weeks after the-the election. And six weeks after the election, the Iraqis --- We don't even know yet who's actually won the election. So if there was trepidation in light of the vacuum that happened post the 2005 election for several months before they actually got a government going, think about it this time.  Six weeks -- we don't even know who the winner is.
Diane Rehm: Trudy, are they still counting ballots?
Trudy Rubin: Yes, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party appealed the count in Baghdad and the votes are being recounted there and, needless to say, this has encouraged other parties to talk about wanting recounts in their areas. This Baghdad recount should be finished in a week but it is important to say that al Qaeda here clearly has a strategy.  You only need a handful of people to have a strategy like this  and suicide bombers who come from outside and come in.  And the strategy is to provoke sectarian warfare. I was in Baghdad just a week ago, and there were warnings that al Qaeda was trying to steal an airplane and fly it into a holy Shi'ite shrine, possibly the shrine of Iman Ali the holiest in Najaf.  And, in fact, there were stories out of the Czech Republic that that might have been where they tried to get a plane and somebody was stopped there -- Iraqis. So there is a clear effort to provoke sectarian war.  I don't think the country wants it, they are sick of it.  But it will take a lot of careful manuevering for this election process to not spin off the rails. Right now the United States is trying to stand back. I think they're going to have to get more involved in mediation. 
Diane Rehm: Now what about the questions of allegations of fraud and what's happening in terms of violence, do you think this could effect US decisions to move out, Abderrahim?
Abderrahim Foukara: Well we've had reassurances from the-the top brass of the US military in Iraq that it will not effect the decision to withdraw US troops. But those decisions were made when things looked promising that there would be elections in Iraq and that some sort of government would emerge -- even if emerges a little late -- that could take care of the security situation. Now we have this thing that's just been mentioned. You have Iraqi -- You have Prime Minister Maliki contesting the results of the election. Because of that, you also have [Aya] Allawi, his competitor, contesting the election now and demanding a recount in the south, you also have some of the Kurdish parties also demanding a recount in some of northern Iraq.  So this whole thing seems to be unraveling and then you get the violence, the thing about al Qaeda and also about the prison that the Prime Minister was accused of running where inmates were alleged to have been tortured.
Diane Rehm: And you also have the case of Navy Seals accused of abusing a prisoner, Trudy?
Trudy Rubin: Let me say that I think that Navy Seal case is peanuts compared to previous cases. I really don't think that Iraqis are going to pay too much attention to the relase because, you know, after much bigger cases like Abu Ghraib and higher ups were not punished or the case where Blackwater shot up 17 people in a major square in Baghdad, you know this is really tiddly winks. I think the torture case has more possibility of upsetting people because there is -- there was -- a secret torture facility at the Muthana Airport Base where I was just nearby last week. And many Sunnis were held there and the key in this election situation is whether Sunnis feel they have sufficient place in the government. Let me add, my driver was tortured in that facility just in January and this is typical now of the problems in Iraq, he is a Shi'ite who protested against the killings of Sunnis in his neighborhood by Jaish al-Mahdi, Shi'ite militia men. He helped US and Iraqi forces to roll up those militia men and when the US pulled out the Jaish al-Mahdi got their revenge and they have contacts in the army and the police.  And this man has been in jail for sixteen months and been tortured because he helped Americans and Iraqis. So I think Prime Minister Maliki, the other political leaders will have a lot to do to prevent sectarian tensions from getting out of hand and, as I said, I think the US is going to have to play a bigger role than they now want to do.

Roy Gutman: I wanted to come back to the elections if I could because -- and the recount because it is often assumed that Iraq being a third world country without a great tradition of
re-elections cannot conduct good elections. But the actual fact is-- and the record is -- that their own independent electoral commission has run very, very solid elections. It's true the politicians want recounts and what politician doesn't if he's on the losing end?  But in fact, in the last -- I think it was the provincial elections -- I was there myself in Iraq some months ago and talked to commission members and they said of the 40,000 polls or polling places around the country in the previous provincial elections, only about, I think, 1% had general problems of -of too many ballots, or something going awry. So I think that part of the process is actually more in tact than most people realize.
Abderrahim Foukara: If the recount, at least in -- If the recount -- at least in Baghdad, which I understand represents about 20% of the vote, the overall vote -- if the recount gives an additional two, three seats to the prime minister Maliki who is, by the current results, is lagging behind his competitor Ayad Allawi by two seats -- If that happens, number one, we don't know how Ayad Allawi is going to react.  Number two, and this has a very important regional dimension, Ayad Allawi is a Shi'ite but because he canvased heavily among the Sunnis in Iraq, he gave hope to the regions of Iraq, the Sunni regions of Iraq, the Saudis among others, that if the government emerges in which he plays a very active role, then they could do business with the Iraqi goverment.  As opposed to al-Maliki who is perceived by the Sunnis as being too close to Iran.
Diane Rehm: Could you end up with something like a mixed government? And if you did, what kind of power would there actually be, Trudy?
Trudy Rubin: I think that is the goal. It is certainly the goal of Prime Minister al-Maliki. I talked to one of his top advisors last week and he told me that their strategy is to try to bring all the blocs in.  There are two major Shia blocs, one major Sunni bloc headed by a Shi'ite, a Mr. Allawi, and a big Kurdish bloc. And Maliki is talking to all of them. The Kurds have not ruled out going with Maliki.  And there are probably Sunnis who might make a deal.  There are all kinds of issues in place such as whether the president of Iraq, instead of being a Kurd as he now is, might be a Sunni, what cabinet posts -- The consequence of parceling everything out by sect and ethnicity; however, is going to be a government of patronage that really doesn't hold together and perform well. On the other hand, such a government might be necessary to prevent sectarian upheaval.  And my guess is this is the direction it's going to go.  The question is: How long will it take them to agree on a prime minister?
Reporting on today's bombings, Steven Lee Myers and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) note, "A member of Parliament from the [Sadr] bloc, Balqis Koli al-Kafaji, put the attacks in the context of several recent vents that she said contribute to the overall chaos here: the still unresolved elections, the controversy surrounding a previously undisclosed prison in Baghdad that held Sunnis from northern Iraq, and the government's claims of recent success in dismantling the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq, also know as Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the main insurgent group here."  The secret prison Trudy Rubin was referring to?  Khalid al-Ansary, Muhanad Mohammed, Aseel Kami, Nick Carey, Michael Christie and Lin Noueihed (Reuters) report, "The unit that operated the detention centre reported directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim, but officials denied any connection to or knowledge of the facility in Maliki's inner circle." And if that doesn't make you roll your eyes, how about this?  They're reporting the prison closed down today. This despite claims that the prison was already closed since Ned Parker's "Secret prison for Sunnis revealed in Baghdad" (Los Angeles Times) broke late Sunday -- including claims by Iraq's Human Rights MinisterJane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) offers this on the process post-election thus far:
Positions in the 325-seat parliament were split between four main political blocs, meaning that at least three of them would probably have to band together to form a comfortable majority. But six weeks after the vote, serious talks still haven't begun.   
"I don't detect serious movement yet on the real decisions regarding government formation," says Ambassador Gary Grappo, political counselor at the US embassy in Baghdad. "I could envision a scenario where it might go relatively quickly and you could have something by early June but it could drag through the summer."            
US and Iraqi officials say the political parties are willing enough to bargain that a coalition government could take almost any kind of form but will have a hard time overcoming their objections to the leaders themselves.
 The Committee to Protect Journalism notes the disappearance of Iraqi journalist Saad al-Aossi who is "editor-in-chief of the critical weekly Al-Shahid." They explain:

Armed men entered al-Aossi's home in central Baghdad on the morning of April 14, seized his computer and took him to an unknown location, according to local and regional news reports. The identity of the armed men remains unclear; various news sources have described them as being a "mixed force" consisting of police and military elements, belonging to the Baghdad Operations Command, or to a special security force attached to the prime minister's office.  

Colonel Qassem Atta, spokesperson for the Baghdad Operations Command, issued a statement today denying government involvement in al-Aossi's kidnapping and stating that he is not in government custody.                   

Al-Aossi's abduction from his home took place on the same day that military and police personnel conducted wide-ranging sweeps in multiple Iraqi cities of upward of 100 Iraqis under the pretext of a preventive anti-terror sweep, according to a report in the Qatar-based newspaper Al-Arab that quotes an unnamed Iraqi police official. The same unnamed source stated that many of the detained individuals are vocal supporters of Ayad Alawi, a political opponent of the prime minister. Al-Aossi has regularly criticized the prime minister's performance in his columns.

"We are deeply concerned about the safety of Saad al-Aoosi," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem . "The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must clarify the circumstances of his seizure by men reportedly belonging to the security forces, and account immediately for his whereabouts."

They are calling for answers. And, if pattern holds, they'll be among the only ones doing so. That's really the biggest problem and why Saad is missing.

Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister in April of 2006. Shortly after the Green Zone was nearly breached in a Friday attack, Nouri announced a number of programs. Many of the programs were already in place and he hadn't created them. I know, it's very difficult to imagine Nouri ever grand standing, right?  But one of his rules was an attack on journalists. And, except for the BBC, no news outlet covered what he was proposing. Other outlets, including the New York Times, covered every plank of Nouri's proposals . . . except the one to do with journalism.

Nouri should have understood there would be a loud and public international rebuke. Instead, the message was sent to him that even the press didn't care if he went after the press. Which is how you get his forces aiming a gun at a New York Times reporter and pulling the trigger -- for a joke, you understand. He set the tone. Things weren't perfect before him. I'm not trying to imply they were. (And the KRG is its own region with its own issues.) But Nouri repeatedly attacked journalists and repeatedly got away with it.

Journalists were harassed. Rules and regulations were repeatedly issued.

He tried to do that with regards to the January 2009 elections and got a push back from the UN and many in the press (including the New York Times) which caused him to drop that list of demands.

But even now, when he's claiming journalists need to be registered for their own safety, there has been very little pushback against him. There should have been a huge push back. Americans should be aware of that. McClatchy Newspapers' Iraqi journalists have won many awards.

In October of 2007, they were awarded the International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award and McClatchy noted:

In introducing the six McClatchy reporters — Shatha al Awsy, Zaineb Obeid, Huda Ahmed, Ban Adil Sarhan, Alaa Majeed and Sahar Issa — ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff said: "These six Iraqi women have reported the war in Baghdad from inside their hearts. They have watched as the war touched the lives of their neighbors and friends, and then they bore witness as it reached into the lives of each and every one of them.             

"All the while, they have been the backbone of the McClatchy bureau, sleeping with bulletproof vests and helmets by their beds at night, taking different routes to work each day, trying to keep their employment by a Western news organization secret," said Woodruff, who himself was grievously wounded while covering the war in Iraq.                         

"All have lost family members or close friends," he continued. "All have had their lives threatened. All have had narrow escapes with death."       

Shyness and modesty didn't make them conceal their identies. It was that they and their families weren't safe. And that's only more true if a registry is put into effect. They can then be targeted by security forces or imprisoned, those in the government not happy with their reports can leak their names to hostile militias ensuring their deaths. In case anyone's not getting it, let's quote Trudy Rubin from today's Diane Rehm Show, "Let me add, my driver was tortured in that facility just in January and this is typical now of the problems in Iraq, he is a Shi'ite who protested against the killings of Sunnis in his neighborhood by Jaish al-Mahdi, Shi'ite militia men. He helped US and Iraqi forces to roll up those militia men and when the US pulled out the Jaish al-Mahdi got their revenge and they have contacts in the army and the police."
This isn't a minor issue. But as long as so many outlets ignore Nouri's attempts to register journalists, expect to see more problems for journalists. And don't be surprised that this week that the Committee to Protect Journalists' "2010 Impunity Index" found that Iraq tops all countries with its number of unsolved murders of journalists (88):             

All 88 journalist murders over the last 10 years are unsolved, putting Iraq at the top of the index for the third year in a row. All but seven cases involve local journalists, the vast majority of whom were targeted by insurgents. The victims include Al-Arabiya television correspondent Atwar Bahjat and crew members Khaled Mahmoud al-Falahi and Adnan Khairallah, who were shot on assignment outside the Golden Mosque in Samarra in 2006. There is a positive trend: For the first time since the U.S.-led invasion, CPJ documented no work-related murders in Iraq in 2009. (Four journalists were killed in crossfire in 2009.) Nevertheless, with an impunity ranking nearly three times as high as any other country, Iraq has posed unparalleled dangers to the press.                

Impunity Index Rating: 2.794 unsolved journalist murders per 1 million inhabitants.
Last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.983

This climate is encouraged when the message is sent to Nouri that attacks on the press are no big deal.
Turning to updates, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes the latest on a 2006 case:
A military appeals court has overturned the murder conviction of a US Marine in the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civilian in the town of Hamdania. Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins had been the only one of seven US servicemembers involved in the killing to receive a murder conviction. On Thursday, the verdicts were overturned on the grounds Hutchins' attorneys were improperly dismissed before his 2007 trial. The victim, Hashim Ibrahim Awad, was dragged from his home, shot, and then planted with a weapon to make it appear he was planning an attack.
For court documents, click here.  Last week, we noted that Binghampton, New York would be getting a financial cost of war counter for Iraq and Afghanistan.  That has changed. Kai Liu (Binghampton University Pipe Dream) reports, "Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan announced Tuesday that he would reevaluate his decision to install a digital sign on Binghamton City Hall that would display the cost of American wars."
 TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Jeanne Cummings (Politico), John Harwood (NYT and CNBC), Janet Hook (LAT) and David Shepardson (Detroit News). And Gwen's column this week is "Remember Dorothy Height" who passed away this week and Gwen and company have dipped into the archives to provide a 2003 video interview Gwen did with Dorothy Height. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Dona Edwards, Nicole Kurokawa and Irene Natividad on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's it's the effects physical discpline can have on children (more likely to bully). For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:

The Narrative
A former member of a Muslim extremist group tells Lesley Stahl the reason for the increase in home-grown jihadists like the U.S. Army major accused of shooting 13 at Ft. Hood is an ideology called "the narrative," which states America is at war with Islam.

Boosting Brain Power
More people, especially college students trying to improve their grades, are illegally boosting their brain power by using prescription "smart drugs" like Ritalin and Aderall, meant for those with attention deficit disorders. Katie Couric reports. | Watch Video

Competing Against Time
Byron Pitts reports from the construction site of the future Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland, Calif., where there's a race to complete the new, earthquake-resistant span alongside the old structure, which authorities fear cannot stand up to the next large earthquake. | Watch Video

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

Iraq slammed with bombings

Multiple bombings today in the Iraqi village to Khaldiya. Reuters counts 7 dead and 10 injured in at least seven bombings. BBC News adds, "They were planted among several houses belonging to police officers and a judge." NPR also noted in hourly headlines that police and a judge were targeted. They also offered Quil Lawrence for a few seconds from Baghdad in what will probably be developed into a larger report and, if so, will show up here later today. In addition, CNN noted two Baghdad bombings aimed at mosques which claimed 3 lives and left seventeen people injured. Before updating the death toll to 8 and adding Baghdad car bombings have claimed 21 lives this morning with forty-five injured. CNN counts 61 dead currently (across Iraq) with one-hundred and twelve injured according to Iraqi police. Reuters states 56 are dead in Baghdad alone -- which would mean at least 64 reported deaths this morning. (56 in Baghdad, 8 in Khaldiya.)

When Nouri brags for no reason, reality tends to slap him upside the head. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) fails to grasp that and types the following: "The deaths of the two leaders and the killings and arrests that followed -- with 12 more suspected insurgents seized in raids in Baghdad and Mosul, in the north, on Thursday -- may be the most significant blow yet to a still deadly movement here that only a few months ago appeared to be regrouping, the officials said." He's first out of the gate this morning and presumably the article will get better as the day goes along. May be the most significant blow?

It doesn't appear anything's been blown -- except several bombs. Doesn't appear anything's been stomped out. Despite all of Nouri's blustering throughout the week. By the way, with all of his statements, shouldn't he have at least once -- at least once -- noted that the Sunday operation resulted in the death of a US service member (Staff Sgt James Patton)?

Meanwhile Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports on a meeting yesterday between the Iraq Army and tribal sheiks (Sahwa) in what was hoped to be a way to reduce violence:

Although tribal leaders and armed groups turned against Sunni Arab insurgents in 2007, friction continued between the community and the army brigade, known locally as the Muthanna brigade. Commanders past and present have a reputation for mass round-ups in their effort to crush a onetime stronghold of the insurgency. Meanwhile, militants have used the farm region to launch attacks; seven soldiers were killed in the area in the last two weeks.

TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Jeanne Cummings (Politico), John Harwood (NYT and CNBC), Janet Hook (LAT) and David Shepardson (Detroit News). And Gwen's column this week is "Remember Dorothy Height" who passed away this week and Gwen and company have dipped into the archives to provide a 2003 video interview Gwen did with Dorothy Height. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Dona Edwards, Nicole Kurokawa and Irene Natividad on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's it's the effects physical discpline can have on children (more likely to bully). For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:

The Narrative
A former member of a Muslim extremist group tells Lesley Stahl the reason for the increase in home-grown jihadists like the U.S. Army major accused of shooting 13 at Ft. Hood is an ideology called "the narrative," which states America is at war with Islam.

Boosting Brain Power
More people, especially college students trying to improve their grades, are illegally boosting their brain power by using prescription "smart drugs" like Ritalin and Aderall, meant for those with attention deficit disorders. Katie Couric reports. | Watch Video

Competing Against Time
Byron Pitts reports from the construction site of the future Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland, Calif., where there's a race to complete the new, earthquake-resistant span alongside the old structure, which authorities fear cannot stand up to the next large earthquake. | Watch Video

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

Radio. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), John Dickerson (Slate and CBS) and Sheryl Gay Stolberg (NYT). For the second hour (international news roundup), Diane is joined by Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera), Roy Gutman (McClatchy) and Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer). That's a strong second panel and hopefully there will be some time for Trudy Rubin to speak of what's happened to her driver in Iraq. Her columns run in the Philadelphia Inquirer and are carried by many other newspapers but there seems to have been particularly strong interest in the one about the driver earlier this week (or today, if you read the Denver Post).

In the US, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues to highlight the economy and finances in a number of videos this week. Click here to be taken to the DPC video page. And this week, they've addressed reforming Wall Street in their videos. Chris Dodd has offered several easy to follow ones throughout the week and again has a new one. Senator Jon Tester also has one worth watching. We're noting Senator Maria Cantwell's video here today.

In addition, the DPC notes:

The Clean Energy and Environmental Accomplishments of Senate Democrats in the 110th and 111th Congresses

As the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day approaches, many people will reflect on the significant steps the nation has taken to improve the environment and protect our natural resources. While real progress has been made since the first Earth Day in 1970, work continues to help provide current and future generations with cleaner air, cleaner water, reductions in pollution, the elimination of hazardous waste sites, and stronger natural resource protections.

Senate Democrats have been honoring those efforts since regaining the majority in 2006 by aggressively promoting a legislative agenda that includes strong clean energy, environmental, and natural resource protection provisions. This Fact Sheet details the many legislative clean energy and environmental accomplishments Senate Democrats have achieved during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

111th Congress

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) enacted a number of important energy and environmental provisions aimed at creating jobs while simultaneously improving the environment. The most significant of these provisions is the historic investment in clean energy. The law provided $66.8 billion (as calculated by the Congressional Research Service) through a combination of tax incentives, federal funding, and loan guarantees providing for a significant expansion of clean energy deployment, job creation, and a better environment.

While the recession and tight credit markets had threatened to derail clean energy growth, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is accelerating - and is projected to continue to advance - the development of clean energy technologies. These positive impacts were recently detailed in reports on the growth of certain renewable energy industries in 2009.

Wind. In 2009, the United States broke all previous records by installing over 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind energy. This one year growth in wind energy generation increased the nation’s total wind energy generating capacity by 40 percent (25,000 MW to 35,000 MW) [AWEA; Last Accessed 4.16.10].

Solar. In 2009, the nation’s total solar energy electrical capacity surpassed 2,100 MW and total thermal capacity reached nearly 24,000 megawatts‐thermal. The 481 MW increase in the nation’s solar electricity generation represents a 37 percent increase from 2008 levels [SEIA; Last Accessed 4.16.10] and [SEIA; Last Accessed 4.16.10].

Geothermal. In 2009, the United States had a total installed geothermal capacity of close to 3,100 MW, an increase of 176 MW from 2008. The 176 MW of geothermal energy installed in 2009 surpassed the combined total of newly installed geothermal from the previous three years (2006, 2007, and 2008). Even more promising, another 161 MW of geothermal were in the final stages of development before coming online and more than 7,000 MW are in earlier phases of development [GEA; Last Accessed 4.16.10].

Going forward, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is projected to continue to spur growth in clean energy deployment. According to a recent Energy Information Administration (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook, the nation is expected to deploy 10,000 more megawatts of electricity from renewable energy resources in 2010 than it would have had the legislation not been passed. Further, the Outlook anticipates that, by 2020, the United States will generate 37,000 more megawatts of electricity from renewable energy resources than it would have had the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act not been enacted [EIA; Last Accessed 4.16.10].

In terms of job creation, many of the nation’s renewable energy industries have also been experiencing strong growth. These trends were recently detailed in reports on the growth of certain renewable energy industries in 2009.

Wind. In 2009, the number of people employed in the wind energy industry reached 85,000, which is an increase from 50,000 two years ago. The number of wind manufacturing facilities also increased by 39 and the United States now has over 200 facilities located across the United States.

Solar. In 2009, the number of people directly employed by the solar industry rose to approximately 25,000, an increase of approximately 25 percent from 2008 levels. Additionally, the Solar Energy Industries Association most recent Annual Report found that in 2009 alone “its employees supported an additional 7,000 induced jobs for a total economic impact of 17,000 new jobs in 2009.” Going forward, because growth in the solar industry is expected to continue with the total number of jobs in the solar industry or supported by its supply chain reaching 60,000 by 2010 [SEIA; Last Accessed 4.15.10].

Geothermal. The Geothermal Energy Association estimates that the 7,000 MW of geothermal energy under development will create 29,750 permanent jobs [GEA; Last Accessed 4.15.10].

In terms of the environment, the EIA has projected that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will avert the energy-related emission of approximately 225 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent between 2011 and 2013.

Omnibus Public Land Management Act

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 represents the most significant piece of natural resource legislation passed by Congress in 15 years. The law designated over two million acres of wilderness; added over 1,000 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, 2,800 miles of National Trails, and 330,000 acres of National Conservation Areas; codified the National Landscape Conservation System; and authorized the Forest Landscape Conservation Service and measures to improve our oceans, coasts, Great Lakes, and water resources. For detailed information on the natural resources accomplishments in the law click here.

FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act

The FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, passed in the Senate in March 2010, included a number of provisions that would help to promote clean energy deployment and reduce harmful emissions. For instance, the legislation requires the FAA to issue guidelines for the construction of wind farms in the proximity of critical FAA facilities, creates a program that would reduce emissions from airport power sources and increase energy efficiency, and authorizes funding for programs to develop alternative fuels, especially renewable fuels, that can be used in existing aircraft engines.

Closing the Black Liquor Alternative Fuel Loophole

In March 2010, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act closed a tax loophole that had allowed paper and pulp industries to claim an alternative fuel tax credit not intended for their industry. This loophole had allowed certain industries to mix a byproduct known as black liquor that is created during their normal operations with diesel fuel, which actually encouraged the use of fossil fuels rather than alternative fuels.

U.S. Capitol - Energy and Environmental Improvements

In May 2009, at the request of Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) announced that, unless backup capacity is needed, the U.S. Capitol Power Plant would use natural gas, instead of coal, as the sole fuel source for steam used at the Capitol complex to heat buildings and water. For more information on this action click here.

Additionally, the AOC, in part through the direction in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, has embarked on a number of sustainability initiatives across the Capitol complex to reduce energy consumption, conserve natural resources, protect the environment and, in the long term, save taxpayer dollars. The AOC has installed more than 15,000 compact fluorescent bulbs, low-flow water fixtures, and daylight-harvesting systems that take advantage of sunlight levels, reducing the need for electric lights, and installed solar panels in a Senate parking lot to power new lights. For more on these actions click here.

Fiscal Year 2010 Interior and Environmental Protection Agency Appropriations

The Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations bill for the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency included numerous provisions that are import to protecting the nation's natural resources and environment. For instance, the legislation allocated $2.1 billion to the clean water state revolving fund to help communities improve their wastewater infrastructure critical to preventing sewer overflows that can cause significant water quality problems. The legislation also provided more than $450 million ($158 million more than the enacted Fiscal Year 2009 level) for the Land and Water Conservation Fund which allows federal land management agencies with the financial resources to acquire lands for the national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and monuments and to help protect other lands through conservation easements.

Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations

The Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations bill for the Department of Energy continued the work by Democrats to encourage greater investments in clean energy research and development by providing $2.24 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. For too long a major deficiency of the nation’s energy policy was that the government and the private sector’s acceptance of stagnant investment in clean energy research and development while the nation’s energy challenges were becoming more acute. For more information about the efforts of Senate Democrats to increase investments in clean energy research and development click here.

110th Congress

And we will close with this from US House Rep John Hall's office, "Congressmen Adler, Ackerman, and Hall Announce New Legislation to Fix Broken VA Benefits Appeals Process:"

Washington DC – Today, Congressmen John Adler (NJ-3), Gary Ackerman (NY-5), and John Hall (NY-19) announced new legislation to fix a broken appeals process that is leaving hundreds of veterans without the benefits they deserve. Recent news reports describe how more than two hundred veterans are being denied the chance to appeal for their benefits after missing a rigid and arbitrary deadline with the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (known as the Veterans Court).
“This claims process is failing our veterans,” said Congressman Adler. “I find it outrageous that the brave men and women who never hesitated to serve our country are cast aside over an arbitrary deadline. Our veterans deserve better and I will work to ensure they receive the benefits they are owed.”
“We need to change the appeals process so that it works for veterans, rather than against them” Congressman Ackerman said. “It is unconscionable that veterans with service connected disabilities are being denied the right to appeal VA decisions because of an arbitrary deadline that many are incapable of meeting due to the very service connected disabilities from which they suffer. We can never thank our veterans enough for the sacrifices they made, and now we must do all we can to help them receive the benefits that they rightly deserve.”
“No veteran should be denied benefits over a bureaucratic technicality,” Congressman Hall said. “I look forward to taking this bill up in the committee I chair, the House Veterans Subcommittee on Disability Affairs and Memorial Assistance. I want to thank Congressman Adler for the leadership he has displayed in bringing this bill forward, and I thank Congressman Ackerman for his support of this measure.”
The Fair Access to Veterans Benefits Act (H.R. 5064) would require the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (Veterans Court) to hear appeals by veterans of administrative decisions denying them benefits when circumstances beyond their control – often the very service-related disabilities that entitle them to benefits – render them unable to meet the deadline for filing an appeal.
A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in Henderson v. Shinseki, ruled against allowing a veteran to pursue his appeal because he missed a deadline. David Henderson, the plaintiff, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia as result of his active-duty service in the Korean War. The government denied his benefits claim in 2004 and dismissed his appeal because he missed a filing deadline – by just 15 days. Mr. Henderson asked the Veterans Court to excuse his late filing because it was caused by his service-related disability, a claim his psychiatrist supported under oath. The Veterans Court refused to do so, and a divided Federal Circuit affirmed its decision.
The legislation introduced by Reps. Adler, Ackerman, and Hall would require the Veterans Court to excuse late filings if the veteran demonstrates “good cause” so that meritorious benefits claims aren’t denied their day in court. Additionally, the Fair Access to Veterans Benefits Act requires the Veterans Court to reinstate untimely appeals already dismissed as a result of that court’s failure to toll the filing period for good cause.

E-mail questions. Why provide World Can't Wait conference transcript if it may have been paraphrases?

The conference is important and should have been reported and covered by independent or 'independent' media. While a word or two may be wrong -- may be -- the gist is there. The greater danger is not that I remembered wrongly but that I heard Dahr Jamail wrongly due to a feed issue. I caught what I caught as we were driving to another group to speak to about the Iraq War and the feed was fading before we pulled up. Had that not happened, I would've included Elaine Brower and Matthis Chiroux final statements. But I thought the video would be up the next day and that I could stream it then.

It's not up this morning. The conference does matter, peace does matter, building (rebuilding) the peace movement does matter. World Can't Wait deserves much credit for always opposing the illegal wars, regardless of who is in the White House.

In terms of yesterday's snapshot, we dropped back to a Tuesday hearing. Why? I thought the hearing was important and I had noted in the Tuesday snapshot that we'd be covering it. There wasn't room on Wednesday. In terms of US House Rep Joe Wilson, he mentioned the organization Hidden Wounds at least twice. We included a link and included that section because it would be great if more members of Congress were part of volunteer organizations. I don't believe -- despite an angry e-mail -- that it's a "partisan" organization. If you do and that bothers you, stay away from it. And if that sounds a little I-don't-care on my part, I'm not in the mood. People need to deal in realities and the realities are that very few are addressing Iraq (groups or media) and very few are addressing the veterans. We deal with what we have hear. There are outlets that we now include that, in better times, we probably wouldn't. But the coverage has dropped off the map.

In terms of how many Congressional hearings we'll cover a month, I didn't make a promise -- and Congress can sometimes be out of session for nearly a month. On a regular month, I would hope to include at least six to eight hearings that I attended but note that I attend some hearings that don't apply here and that I attend some hearings that we don't have room for. I felt Wednesday's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing was so important that it needed to pretty much be the entire snapshot. That's a call I made. And there is very little coverage in newspapers and on TV of hearings so I can justify it (to myself) that way.

Back to Joe Wilson, a drive-by insists that I included his remarks because I was attempting to rehabilitate his reputation. US House Rep Wilson is not someone I agree with politically on many issues but he is also not the caricature the media painted him to be. Though it is not my goal to rehabilitate his reputation (nor do I think it needs that -- his constituents know and like him), if it appeared to do that or even did that for one person, good. He was caricatured by the media and he is a hard working member of Congress who actually cares about many issues. There are people I can't stand in the Congress. Joe Wilson is far from being on that list. He's a Republican, I'm a Democrat, we disagree on many issues. But he's not the caricature the media made him into.

What was the point of Wilson and Chair Susan Davis' exchange being included? US House Rep and Dr. Vic Synder has a good exchange. But I felt that Davis and Wilson's comments laid groundwork for future issues -- meaning, I think the answers provided (or sort of provided in the case of Carr) are ones that should have been heard and that will be touched on again.

Lastly, what about the rest? Most of the time, if I attend a hearing Wally, Ava and Kat do as well. They're under no obligation to write about it. There are times when a hearing is so long and/or has so many issues that Kat will say, "I'll grab some of it." And there are times when it's so long and/or has so many issues that Wally and Ava will as well. That's great but you shouldn't expect it of them. They're doing a hundred things every week as it is. It should also be noted that we do frequently attempt to write up a piece at Third on the hearings. Sometimes it works (and makes it up there), sometimes it doesn't (and doesn't get published) and sometimes we just don't have the time. But the four of us are on the road speakign to various groups about the Iraq War. The idea that they're then going to blog at night in depth about a hearing? That's asking a bit much.

That covers as many e-mails to the public account as I can this morning. The e-mail address for this site is


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