Saturday, July 31, 2010

Over 535 people killed in Iraq in the month of July

Salam Faraj (AFP) reports, "July was the deadliest month in Iraq since May 2008 with a total of 535 people killed across the country as a result of violence, according to government figures released on Saturday. The figures show a sharp upswing in the level of violence nearly five months after parliamentary elections which have yet to result in the formation of a new government and as the United States continues a major withdrawal of its forces." Yeah, violence has been increasing -- as we've repeatedly noted here -- but for some stupid reason (following US government orders or just their lead?), the press has repeatedly decided to use 2007 as the benchmark. Is 2007 when the war started? No. In the last two years, violence has increased. But as long as we all hide behind the period of ethnic cleansing (popularly known as the "civil war"), we can pretend that violence in Iraq today doesn't matter. That would mean 5,35 people don't matter because that's the official number killed in this past month. (In addition, 4 US service members died in Iraq in July -- or at least four are so far known to have died.) In today's reports of violence . . . *Figure dead corrected to 535.


Reuters notes
2 Yusufiya roadside bombings which left eight people injured (seven are Iraqi soldiers), a Mosul roadside bombing injured seven people (five are police officers), a Mosul bombing claimed 1 life, and, dropping back to Friday for the rest, a Tarmiya roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives and left eight people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people, a Baghdad mortar attack injured one person. CNN notes 4 Iraqi soldiers were killed today in a Baghdad bombing. Xinhua adds, "In Iraq's western province of Anbar, a fuel tanker was detonated near a police checkpoint in the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, killing a policeman and wounding another, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."


Reuters notes 1 police officer wounded in a Kirkuk attack.


Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul, 1 in Qaiyara (the latter had been an Iraqi soldier).

As the violence increases, the political stalemate continues. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 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. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 24 days. Today Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports:

In the coming weeks, Washington will install a new ambassador and a new top general in Baghdad. American officials had hoped the next Iraqi administration would have been in place well before their change of guard to help ensure a smooth transition at a delicate time. U.S. officials have long feared that Iraq's first transfer of power as a sovereign nation could be marred by unrest and violence.
Former prime minister Ayad Allawi, one of the contenders for his former post, said in an interview Saturday that months of negotiations among blocs have not led to a resolution on who is entitled to the country's premiership or how other powerful jobs will be allocated. He said a breakthrough is unlikely before September or October because little official business is conducted during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-August.

Meanwhile Sherwood Ross' "BOOK BY AN INNOCENT VICTIM SUGGESTS TORTURE BY U.S. WAS WIDESPREAD" (Veterans Today) reports on torture:

Although U.S. officials have attributed the torture of Muslim prisoners in their custody to a handful of maverick guards, in fact such criminal acts were widely perpetrated and systemic, likely involving large numbers of military personnel, a book by a survivor suggests. Additionally, guards were responsible for countless acts of murder, including death by crucifixion, lynching, poisoning, snakebite, withholding of medicines, starvation, and bludgeoning of innocent victims. And the murders committed by U.S. troops numbered at least in the hundreds, according to reliable sources.
As well, Pentagon architects designed prisons that were sadistic torture chambers in themselves, barely six feet high and seven feet wide, in which human beings were kept for months or years at a time---spaces which, one prisoner noted, are smaller than the legal requirements in Germany for doghouses. Architects who knowingly designed these hellholes may have also committed crimes against humanity.
After the photographs of sadism at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib in May, 2004, shocked the world, President Bush called the revelations “a stain on our country’s honor and our country’s reputation.” He told visiting King Abdullah of Jordan in the Oval Office that “I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the humiliation suffered by their families.” Bush told The Washington Post, “I told him (Abdullah) I was equally sorry that people who have been seeing those pictures didn’t understand the true nature and heart of America.” A year later, Lynddie England and 10 others from the 372nd Military Police Company were convicted of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq, yet the events of that prison were likely duplicated everywhere across the spectrum of Pentagon and CIA detention camps acting on orders from the Bush White House.
Although President Bush made the Abu Ghraib revelations sound like nothing worse than “humiliation” in fact, the Abu Ghraib photos gave the world a glimpse into far greater crimes of every sordid type---and reports compiled from other sources indicated that to be captured by the Americans was a veritable descent into hell.

The following community sites updated last night:

We'll go out with the Senate Democratic Policy Committee:

This week marks the 45th anniversary of the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, together these two programs provide health coverage for nearly 107 million elderly, disabled, or low-income Americans who would otherwise likely be uninsured. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 4/10; 6/10] Democrats fought Republican opposition to create Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 and have spent the last 45 years fighting Republican efforts to undermine these vital sources of health coverage for millions of Americans. Democrats’ most recent effort, the Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152), strengthens and improves both programs, making Medicare a stronger, more sustainable program and increasing coverage under Medicaid to provide needed health care to millions of vulnerable Americans.

Medicare and Medicaid Improve Americans’ Health and Wellbeing

Medicare improves seniors’ health and helps them get the health care they need

This year, Medicare will provide health insurance coverage to 47 million elderly or permanently disabled Americans. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 4/10] In 1965, the year Medicare was established, only about one half of the nation’s seniors had health insurance, which generally covered only inpatient hospital costs. [Congressional Research Service, 3/10/09] Today, virtually all seniors have health insurance through Medicare, which covers far more than just hospital costs. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 4/10] Increased health coverage has improved life expectancy for America ’s seniors, which in 1960, was 14.3 years for Americans at age 65; in 2006, life expectancy at age 65 had risen to 18.5 years. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1/10] Together, Medicare and Social Security benefits have dramatically reduced the number of American seniors living in poverty. In 1966, 28.5 percent of Americans aged 65 and older lived in poverty; in 2008, 9.7 percent of elderly Americans lived in poverty. [U.S. Census Bureau, Table 3, accessed 7/27/10]

Medicaid ensures health coverage for the poorest and sickest Americans

In 2007, Medicaid provided health and long-term care services for nearly 60 million Americans, including more than one in four children and some of the poorest and sickest in our country. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 6/10] Medicaid fills gaps in our current health insurance system, providing coverage for millions of low-income families, individuals with chronic disease or disabilities, and low-income seniors who are dually-eligible for Medicare and Medicaid – Americans who would likely be uninsured without the critical coverage Medicaid provides. Because eligibility is generally tied to income level, Medicaid is designed to expand during economic recessions like the current one, helping to offset the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage due to higher levels of unemployment. In fact, it is estimated that every one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate is associated with a Medicaid enrollment increase of one million people. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 6/10] Between June 2008 and June 2009, Medicaid enrollment increased by nearly 3.3 million, about 7.5 percent.

Republicans Were Wrong on Medicare from the Beginning

Despite the clear benefits of the Medicare and Medicaid programs for the American people, when the legislation creating Medicare and Medicaid passed in July 1965, the majority of Republican Senators voted against both Senate passage of Medicare and the final conference report. [Congressional Record, 7/9/1965; Social Security Administration, accessed 9/16/2009] One of those Senators, Robert Dole, later bragged about his vote against the two programs. In a 1995 speech to the American Conservative Union while campaigning for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, after Medicare had successfully lifted millions of seniors out of poverty and assured them access to affordable health care, then-Senate Majority Leader Dole continued his party’s opposition to Medicare. Dole boasted, “I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare…because we knew it wouldn't work in 1965.” [ Washington Post, 10/26/1995]

Republican opposition to Medicare continued through the mid-1990s. Then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, in remarks to a Blue Cross Blue Shield conference on October 24, 1995, said of Medicare, “Now, we don't get rid of it in round one because we don't think that that's politically smart, and we don't think that's the right way to go through a transition. But we believe it's going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it -- voluntarily.” [New York Times, 7/20/1996] In a 1995 meeting with reporters, then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey said, “We need to wean our old people away from Medicare.” [Newsday, 12/09/2006]

Even as recently as last year, Republicans continued their assault on Medicare. Last July, former House Minority Whip and Senate candidate Representative Roy Blunt said in a radio interview, “You could certainly argue that government should have never gotten into the health care business.” [Radio interview with The Eagle 93.9, accessed 9/20/2009] The following month, RNC Chairman Steele said, “The reality of it is that, you know, this single payer program known as Medicare is a very good example of what we should not have happen with all of our health care.” [Newsweek, 8/25/2009] House Republicans put this philosophy into practice last year, offering a budget that “would eventually end the Medicare programs as it is presently known.” [AP, 4/1/2009]

Democrats Continue to Strengthen and Improve Medicare and Medicaid

Despite Republican opposition, Democrats know that Medicare is a sacred trust with the American people and Medicaid provides vital health coverage to millions of vulnerable Americans. For years, Democrats have fought for these programs and the Americans who rely upon them. Most recently, through the Affordable Care Act, Democrats strengthened and improved both Medicare and Medicaid, making them stronger, more sustainable programs.

Medicare Improvements in the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act increases benefits and strengthens the program to ensure Medicare’s sustainability for years to come, extending Medicare solvency by twelve years. [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 4/22/10] The new health reform law preserves all guaranteed Medicare benefits and improves the quality of care Medicare patients receive by:

  • Making premiums more affordable, eliminating unnecessary federal spending like substantial overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans;

  • Filling in the Medicare Part Ddonut hole,” providing a $250 rebate check to seniors who do not receive Medicare Extra Help and hit the “donut hole” this year, and a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and biologics purchased in the “donut hole” starting next year, until the “donut hole” is filled in by 2020;

  • Providing seniors with free annual wellness visits, to help seniors and their doctors develop personalized prevention plans;

  • Eliminating out-of-pocket costs for recommended preventive care and screenings;

  • Encouraging doctors and other health care providers to work together to better serve a patient’s needs, coordinate care across health care settings, and create “health homes” to better care for seniors with chronic illnesses;

  • Supporting seniors in rural and frontier areas, by protecting access to care; and

  • Establishing an Innovation Center to develop and expand patient-centered payment models to encourage evidence-based, coordinated care.

Medicaid Improvements in the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act increases coverage under Medicaid and improves health care benefits for Medicaid enrollees by:

  • Increasing Medicaid eligibility to people with income up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level;

  • Continuing the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), that provides health care to 7 million American children;

  • Simplifying the enrollment process and streamlining income standards to facilitate the use of a single application for Medicaid, CHIP, or private insurance tax credits;

  • Establishing the Community First Choice option to provide community-based supports and services to individuals with disabilities;

  • Creating a new office for vulnerable Americans who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, to coordinate their coverage and services;

  • Improving coverage of and access to recommended preventive services by encouraging states to improve coverage and increasing federal funding to states that provide these services without cost-sharing;

  • Offering incentives to Medicaid beneficiaries who successfully complete certain healthy lifestyle programs targeting chronic disease risk factors; and

  • Modernizing and improving Medicaid through delivery system reforms, such as the development and expansion of quality measures, testing a bundled payment program for acute and post-acute care, establishing a demonstration project for accountable care organizations for children, and creating a medical home state option for chronically ill beneficiaries.

Despite Republican opposition, Senate Democrats remain committed to strengthening and improving Medicare and Medicaid, two critical health care programs on which millions of Americans rely for vital health care services.

Senate Democrats Are On Your Side: Committed to Strengthening and Improving Medicare and Medicaid

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends

Lawsuits, hostages, executions

Today the Tehran Times reports that US District Judge Peter Messitte has allowed a law suit against US-based L-3 (war contractors) to go forward as 72 Iraqis who were held at Abu Ghraib assert "they were beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and underwent electric shocks, mock executions and hanging from their feet, all condcuted by L-3 Service members." Susan Burke is representing the Iraqis, as previously noted, I know Burke (and like her, she's a strong attorney). The Times of Tehran also reports that Hassan Danaei-Far is Iran's new Ambassador to Iraq and that he arrived in Baghdad yesterday. Staying on the topic of Iran, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton observed Friday:

Tomorrow marks the year-long detention of three U.S. citizens, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Joshua Fattal, for allegedly crossing into Iran during a hiking vacation in Iraqi Kurdistan. Their release by Iran is long overdue and their continued detention is unjustifiable.
Iran has long espoused to the world its commitment to justice, security and peace for all. We urge Iran to take action in the case of the three hikers – detained for a year in Evin Prison without charge – to match its stated commitments. We call on Iran to do the right thing and allow these three Americans to return home to their families.

AP notes that Iran is currently ranked second (right behind China) for the most executions in 2009 with Iraq coming in third and that it hasn't been in the top five since the start of the US-invasion. No doubt, this is part of the 'success' that the five Democratic governors saw on their recent stop-over in Iraq.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Modest Explanation for that huge intelligence buildup" (Veterans Today):

The Washington Post’s revelations re the amazing growth of the U.S. intelligence community since 2001---so that we now have 1,271 agencies employing more than 854,000 payrollers---makes no sense, until one recognizes that this vast development must be for offensive, not defensive, purposes. The explosion in the spy budget from $30 billion to $75 billion since 9/11 is perplexing until you realize it only parallels what is happening across the broad spectrum of the military-industrial complex. Everywhere you turn, everywhere you look, American militarism is on the march like a thousand Sousa bands blaring at once. According to a report of the Stockholm Internatonal Peace Research Institute, U.S. military spending for 2009 accounted for 43% of the world total, followed by China, with 6.6%; France, 4.2%; and U.K. with 3.8%
Where the U.S. allocated “only” $272-billion for “defense” in fiscal year 2000, today’s “defense” budget is $711 billion. The U.S. Navy, for example, is larger than the next 11 navies of the world combined. At the same time, spending on research involving biological warfare has zoomed steadily since 9/11 to a cumulative total exceeding $50 billion even though no nation poses such a threat to the U.S., and even though the deadly anthrax attacks of October, 2001, emanated not from the Middle East but from Ft. Detrick, Md., a base whose operations are run by the Pentagon, not Osama bin Laden. Again, illustrating USA’s aggressive priorities, the National Institutes of Health of Bethesda, Md., is now spending more money on biological warfare----which killed a total of five Americans in the last decade---than it spends on research to prevent ordinary flu, which does kill 36,000 Americans every year. To its credit, Moscow shuttered its germ warfare ops years ago. Recall, too, that when the Pentagon’s snoops got to Iraq, they found Saddam Hussein but they couldn’t find a single germ. So what’s the big buildup for?
At any given time, the Pentagon has about $1 trillion or more in ongoing research to refine existing, (example: nuclear bombs) and to create new, (example: robots) killing machines to dominate the planet militarily. The vast intelligence apparatus The Post uncovered (The National Security Agency alone is sifting through more than 1.7 billion telephone calls and e-mails daily), makes no sense when the only enemies are a handful of shoe bombers. It makes perfect sense, though, when the Pentagon is intimidating the world by ringing it with 800 bases in 130 countries (plus 1,000 at home), and when the intelligence build-up is companion to the military build-up. Thus it was the U.S. eavesdropped on the private telephone conversations of high United Nations officials then debating whether to support the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq. That’s not using intelligence for defense.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Friday, July 30, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Nancy A. Youssef continues to LIE about Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange tells US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "We will not be suppressed. We will continue to expose abuses of this administration and others," the Army releases a report on the increased number of suicides, and more.
Starting in the US, Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) reports, "At a time of record-high military suicides, commanders are ignoring the mental health problems of American soldiers and not winnowing out enough of those with records of substance abuse and crime, a United States Army report has concluded."  The report is 234 pages of text entitled [PDF format warning] "ARMY: Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention REPORT 2010." The report opens with a note from Gen Peter W. Chiarelli which explains Fiscal Year 2009 saw 160 suicides among active duty soldiers and 239 suicides in the Army Reserves.  Page i conveys that the Army wants to appear alarmed: "This is tragic!" It's very rare you encounter an exclamation point in a government report. So what has the Army been doing -- and the report covers only that branch of the military, the Army and Army reserves -- to address the problem?
Concrete steps taken by the Army may included the following (list is from page 126 of the report):
* June 2009, accessions waivers were reduced for adult felony (major misconduct) convictions; and drug/alcohol positive tests; misconduct (misdemeanor)/major misconduct for drug ues; possession; or drug paraphernalia, to include marijuana.  This means over 4,000 recruits were not accepted into the Army compared to 2008.
* Revised legacy protocols for investigating and reporting suicide.
* Standardized a council at every post, camp and station to integrate all aspects of health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention into the community.
May?  The list continues on subsequent pages and also insists that they have "Reduced the stigma associated with counseling services and maintained continuity of care by requiring all Soldiers to be in- and out-process through Behavior Health (BH), Social Work Services and ASAP."  No, they haven't reduced the stigma.
And it's so stupid for them to continue to claim that.  There are officers -- high-ranking ones -- who have sought counseling.  They need to be encouraged to step forward and put a face on the issue.  The stigma doesn't vanish from saying "There's nothing wrong with it."
over and over.  The stigma vanishes when General Joe or Joanne Martin steps forward and says, "I went through a period where I was feeling really low.  I couldn't understand that period or my mood, so I sought help. It made me a better soldier, it made me a better commander."  That's what ends the stigma.  When the enlisted can see that it helped someone high ranking and can see that there's no punishment or fall out for them seeking help.  When a general stands up and makes such a statement, the thoughts no longer are a sign of 'weakness' but are natural thoughts that anyone could have and seeking help for them becomes a duty a soldier has to those he/she serves with and to his/her self.  Until those in leadership start speaking out, serving as the Army's own personal PSA, nothing's going to change.  And it's going to require men and women speaking out in the officers ranks because there are men and women serving.  But it's especially going to require men coming forward because the stigma is there and 15 women generals, majors and lieutenants can come forward and it will not make a difference for a number of male soldiers because they will dismiss it with something like, "Well women are better in touch with their feelings." 
The report does have objections and criticisms.  Gen Peter Chiarelli shared with NPR last night that he feels that there are a number of factors at play including repeat deployments. He's probably correct on about the factors because the three he gave are interelated. Finances and family life and, if you're doing repeat deployments, you are limited in how far you can get ahead in a job that i not the US military due to the fact that you're constantly deployed. Constant deployments also affect your family. So the three are interrelated.  And all three can wear on anyone and cause grief, shock, sadness, any number of emotions in the normal -- perfectly normal -- human range.  The report focused on the Army.  Today on Morning Edition (NPR -- link has text and audio), Wade Goodwyn reported on Mary Gallagher who has had to survive and live with her husband James Gallagher's decision to take his own life.  James Gallagher was an Iraq War veterna, a Marine.
Mary Gallagher: Most Marines were not ones to really talk at all. Jim always said he'd placed it right in his heart and he said I'll carry it forward because that's what I have to do and that's how I'll get through it. I'm sure he saw a lot of ugly things, but I just don't know, you know, all the ugly he did see.  [. . .] To me, he just seemed sad. You know, he was, you know, not quite himself but, you know, again -- I just had no idea that he was really struggling as bad as he was. And obviously he was struggling a lot. And that's the hardest part for me, you know? It's something I carry with myself every day -- that I didn't notice, that I didn't realize how much he was hurting. 
Mary Gallagher is a member of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) -- an organization for the loved ones of service members who have taken their own lives and which explains at their web site, "We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether it is just to talk, or meet others with shared experiences and understanding, or to find support and information from our professional network of resources."
From service members to veterans, we noted in yesterday's snapshot there was a press release from a Republican member of Congress but we didn't have room for it.  Steve Buyer is from Indiana and serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee where he is Ranking Member.  His office released the following:
Continuing in his efforts to improve the lives of veterans and the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Congressman Steve Buyer (IN-04), Ranking Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, offered three amendments during the House consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (MILCON VA) on Wednesday.  Congressman Buyer offered five amendments to the House Committee on Rules, though only three of the amendments were accepted by the committee.  Of the Congressman's accepted amendments, the House passed all three by a voice vote.
The first amendment offered by Congressman Buyer would require that $10 million of the $2.6 billion appropriated for VA General Operating Expenses be used to increase the number of VA employees available to provided vocational training and rehabilitation to veterans with service-connected disabilities.   The goal of VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program is to put disabled veterans back to work, or for the most severely disabled, to live as independently as possible.           
The Congressman explained that the VA's counselors currently have an average caseload of over 130 disabled veterans.  Because of the heavy workload which includes a significant amount of case management and regular interaction with their clients, the wait time for a disabled veteran to actually enter vocational training is nearly six months.  That is on top of the average of the 6 months it takes to receive a disability rating needed to even become eligible for this benefit.           
"The $10 million included in my amendment would fund one hundred additional professional level staff and reduce the caseload to a more manageable average of one hundred cases per counselor thereby shortening the time it takes for a veteran to begin their training.  For many veterans and servicemembers VR&E training is the bridge to meaningful and productive employment," stated the Congressman.           
The second amendment offered by the Congressman would require $162 million of the $508 million appropriated for VA construction of minor projects be used for renewable energy projects at the VA's medical facility campuses.  Congressman Buyer for the past three years has worked with the Department to increase the VA's use of renewable energy.  In 2009, the Congressman was responsible for securing funding to allow VA's renewable energy projects to continue in fiscal year 2010 -- and the amendment would continue this work.                 
"As the second largest Federal department operating the largest health care system in the nation, the VA is uniquely positioned to advance the use of alternative sources of energy," noted Buyer.  "Savings accrued from an increased reliance on alternative energy, would allow additional resources to be devoted to improving the care and services offered to our veterans and reducing the rising budget deficit."             
The last amendment offered by Congressman Buyer requires that $8 million of the $2.6 billion appropriated for VA General Operating Expenses be used to fund the adaptive sports grant program and that an additional $2 million be used to provide supplementary funding for the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events.  The Congressman notes the $10 million would be used to fund the second year of the VA/U.S. Paralympics Adaptive Sports Program for disabled veterans.               
"Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Olympic training center in San Diego.  I was inspired by the attitude and positive example of our Olympians that train there, which they continue to set for all Americans.  It truly was a remarkable place, and as I have said before, I learned that there is never a 'bad' day at the Olympic training center," expressed Buyer.          
The Congressman went on to explain the amendment's purpose, "The US Paralympic program establishes partnerships with local adaptive sports programs.  US Paralympics currently has over 100 of these partnerships in place across the nation.  These local programs submit a proposal describing how they intend to attract disabled veterans to their adaptive sports programs.  The types of programs run the gamut of sports from track and field to marksmanship, water sports, volleyball, and wheelchair team games like basketball, soccer and rugby.  In short, there is a sport for any disabled veteran.  The US Paralympics then chooses the best proposals and submits a funding proposal to VA. My amendment would provide $10 million to fund the second year of a 4-year program."
That's the US Congress.  Iraq really has no Congress currently.  It's met once, for less than twenty minutes in that last four months with no plans to meet again anytime soon.  What's going on?  The political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 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. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 23 days.  Today Andrew England and Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) report that a US diplomatic mission is planned for August -- by which point, the current nominee for US Ambassador to Baghdad, James Jeffrey, may have been confirmed.  
In today's violence, Reuters reports a Baaj roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier last night and left three more injured while a Buhriz roadside bombing today targeted Sahwa and killed 4 family members. Asia News reports Yonan Daniel Mammo, a Chalean Christian, was kidnapped in Kirkuk as he left work: "After he was abducted, he called his wife by phone, saying that he had been taken. Since then, there have been no news from him. Many believe he was kidnapped for ransom."
Moving to the US, we'll note this exchange from the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) with guest host Susan Page of USA Today.
Susan Page: You had Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, on the Today Show this morning, on NBC, saying -- imploring WikiLeaks not to post more of those documents from the Afghan War.  What is the White House concern here, Nancy?
Nancy A. Youssef: Well WikiLeaks has said that it has an additional 50,000 documents that have yet to be published. These documents are believed to be State Dept cables and to be a little bit more detailed -- some would argue damaging -- than the 75,000 that have already come out.  And I think the real concern is  in the 75,000 that have been released so far  there are names of Afghan informants and families who have come forward, who have done things as innocuous as handing over weapons to providing useful tips to American soldiers. The Taliban has said, through their spokesman, that they're going through those documents now and there's a real worry that those Afghans will be killed for-for working with the allies. And the reality is the US doesn't have the resources to protect these Afghans who are living in remote villages and parts where we might not have the right resources to give them the kind of protection that they need?
Before we deal with Nancy, let's deal with some facts. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported he had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements.
Back to Nance. I thought Nancy Youssef was a member of the press.  She's a member of the military now?  What is that "we"?  It certainly explains that piece of garbage explanation.  A war is going on.  WikiLeaks isn't enlisted.  It's not its job to take sides.  How stupid of Nancy to feel that "we" have a right to ask an independent body to do what is best for, presumably, "us."  WikiLeaks exists to release information.  There's nothing puzzling about it unless you're so simple-minded that you confuse yourself with the US military when you are allegedly a reporter.  "We"? 
Nancy went on to spread rumors about Bradley Manning again.  We'll get to who he is in a moment.  Nancy, the rumors from Iraq in 2006 were about you.  Do we need to go into those?  We can.  We can treat them as fact if you like.  There is  a list.  We can treat it as fact, if you like.  I assumed it was jealousy on the part of your male colleagues but maybe it wasn't?  Maybe we should WikiLeak your ass?  What do you think, Nance?
Nancy A. Youssef:  One of the key suspects of the leak is a Private by the name of Bradley Manning who has said that he leaked 287 documents to WikiLeaks, that he did it while humming to Lady Gaga's "Telephone."
Nancy, Bradley Manning has not said a damn thing.  You need to quit lying.  If you can't, you better believe that list floating around -- made by your male colleagues when you were in Iraq -- will be widely circulated.  Repeating, I believed it was a lie by men jealous of your scoops.  But if you're going to lie about Bradley Manning, if you're going to present rumors as truth, well we can turn the spotlight on your glass house, Nancy.  Later in the program, Nancy Youssef won't "want to conjecture" about the military but she's more than happy to try and convict Bradley Manning despite the fact that he has thus far never spoken in public and has admitted to nothing that anyone's aware of. 
Nancy's basing her 'Bradley said' on claims put forward by Felon and Drama Queen Adrian Lamo.  Felon Lamo has trashed Bradley in public and launched a behind the scenes whisper campaign which the press should have walked the hell away from after the repeated press embarrassments of the 90s. But they're just as eager to convict as they were when they 'just knew' Richard Jewel was guilty. (He wasn't.) Ashley Fantz (CNN) is the latest to participate in backdoor gossip that is not passed on to the news consumer but which is influencing the way this story plays -- and check out the Joan Crawford-style portrait Lamo supplies CNN with.

In a regular court of law, convicted felon Lamo would make for a questionable witness at best. Somehow the press has embraced him fully and you have to wonder if that isn't part of selling the prosecution's case? Making the case for the prosecution? Well Julian E. Barnes really couldn't hack it at the Los Angeles Times so now he pairs with Miguel Bustillo and Christopher Rhoads to 'report' for the Wall St. Journal. What does the prosecution offer? They try their case in public via the apparent legal aid provided by the press. Oh look, here's CBS News trying the case for the prosecution. Why is the press reporting on what the prosecution claims -- outside of court -- to have?

While Manning is kept from the press -- and has just been transferred out of Kuwait to Virginia -- the government continues to attempt to sway public opinion and the press just goes along with it. Does no one remember innocent until proven guilty? Does no one remember that the press is supposed to be objective.

On the word of a deranged felon -- Adrian Lamo -- Bradley's been drug through the mud and the press has never stopped to question that nor has it bothered to point out to its audience that the government is trying the case in public while maintaining a lockdown on Bradley. They say whatever they want -- and the press runs with it as fact -- while Bradley Manning is not allowed to make any statement. This is justice? It's not reporting, that's damn sure, but it's also not justice.

Is the WikiLeaks whistle blowing like the Pentagon Papers? Daniel Ellsberg tells BBC World Service, "Oh very much so. There's a fundamental, very strong comparison here." So, in other words, David Sanger's an idiot.  The New York Times reporter or 'reporter' was on The Diane Rehm Show today and blathering on about how the WikiLeaks papers were not the Pentagon Papers. Scott Horton interviewed Julian Assange of WikiLeaks Wednesday (link has audio and transcript) on Antiwar Radio:

Horton: Is it true that -- I guess there was a CNN report that said that WikiLeaks has received, I guess especially since the "Collateral Murder" video was published, a deluge of new high-level leaks from people inside the U.S. government?


Assange: Yes, that is true. And we are, as an organization, suffering, if you like, under this enormous backlog of material we're trying to get through. It will cause substantial reform when that material is released. Bar a catastrophe, that's going to go ahead, not just from the U.S. -- we have a six months' backlog to go through because we were busy fundraising and reengineering for this period of intense public interest. So it'll be interesting days ahead.


Horton: Yeah, it sounds like it. So I'm interested -- one of the things we like to cover on the show a lot here is American involvement in the war in Somalia since Christmastime 2006, and --


Assange: Well, that's good, that's good. That's very underreported. The first leak that we ever did was about Somalia.


Horton: Well, I'd read that, and I wonder whether you have any information about the renditions going on there, CIA, JSOC intervention inside Somalia on behalf of the Ethiopians and African Union forces there?      


Assange: We have a little, although nothing -- I don't know in the queue, how much material there is there relates [sic]. But certainly there are some classified orders and policy material related to that. We also released a rendition log from Kenya -- where most of the Somalis end up passing through -- for about 103 people were -- I have to be careful on this number actually -- but somewhere between 50 and 150 people were renditioned through Kenya, most of them from Somalia, and we have the flight logs, which we put up about a year ago.

We are disappointed in what was left out of Secretary Gates' comments. Secretary Gates spoke about hypothetical blood but the grounds of Iraq and Afghanistan are covered in real blood. Secretary Gates has overseen the killings of thousands of children and adults in these two countries. Secretary Gates could have used his time, as other nations have done, to announce a broad inquiry into these killings.  He could have announced specific criminal investigations into the deaths we have exposed. He could have announced a panel to hear the heartfelt dissent of US soliders who know this war from the ground.  He could have apologized to the Afghani people. But he did none of these things. He decided to treat these issues and the countries effected by them with contempt. Instead of explaining how he would address these issues, he decided to announce how he would suppress them.  This behavior is unacceptable. We will not be suppressed. We will continue to expose abuses of this administration and others.  
"But it wasn't the Iraq War that did the Labour Party in, since the British people, like their American counterparts, are keen to forget that fiasco," scribbled eternal dumb ass Amitabh Pal at The Progressive in May. (Rebecca called him out here.) And that bag gas baggery just keeps on giving. Gas baggery, for the uninitatied, is what takes place on the Sunday chat & chews where woefully underinformed 'journalists' weigh in on every topic under the sun despite being immensely unqualified to offer anything even adjacent to an informed opinion. We're really not supposed to get gas baggery from so-called independent media; however, it's cheap to produce so it swams 'independent' media the same way it does the yack-fests. And Amitabh Pal's gas baggery is worth calling out so frequently because -- as Labour polls ahead and following the election demonstrated -- the Iraq War did have a huge impact on the elections and the Iraq War continues to be a significant topic in England.
Ed Balls: I was in Parliament at the time. I took a decision. It was the most agonizing process I have ever been through in my life. I have been over it and over it ever since. The reason I voted for the war was because the leader of the Iraqi Kurds pleaded with backbench Labour MPs to vote for the war because he said his people had no chance ever of being free from Saddam. The weapons inspectors, if they'd done their job and then eventually come to the conclusion that there were no weapons, that probably would have been a very bloody civil war in Iraq. With hindsight we look back. You know I look back at the lack of post-war planning and it horrifies me. But when I go back to that vote, did I do the right thing for the right reasons? And I believe I did and I'm not going to change that position just because I'm standing for the leadership position.
Victoria Derbyshire: Okay, would you --
Ed Miliband: First of all, first of all, I did tell people at the time that I was against the war -- you asked me. But secondly --
Ed Balls: Well you didn't tell me.
Ed Miliband: -- it's a really, it's a really fundamental --

Victoria Derbyshire: Sorry, what was that Ed Balls?
Ed Balls: Well I, you know I have to say, in 2005, the Times [of London] newspaper asked us whether we would have voted for the war? I said in 2005, I would have voted for the war. Ed didn't answer the question of the Times' newspaper --
Ed Miliband: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I --
Ed Miliband: -- when I was standing for selection, my constitencuency party asked me if I was against the war and I said I was. But look, but look, the real issue here is not some great claim of moral superiority in 2003, the real issue is do you recognize the mistakes that were made and do you recognize the fact that we hitched our wagon to the United States on foreign policy in a way that was a profound mistake. And-and it's not just about the loss of trust that there weren't WMD, it is a profound issue about our foreign policy and about whether we're willing to say that actually there are times when we can't just go along with what the US says.
Victoria Derbyshire: So if you were to become leader, you would apologize, would you?
Ed Miliband: Yes, I would.
As disclosed many times before, I know and like both Miliband brothers.The Press Trust of India reports on the latest polling which has David Miliband in the lead with 37% of respondents, followed by his brother Ed Miliband with 29%, Diane Abbot with 12% and Ed Balls with 11%. In the May election, Labour suffered huge losses and a power-sharing coalition between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats is now in charge. The latest poll leads Mehdi Hasan to declare, "The next Labour leader will be called Miliband" (New Statesman). And click here for an analysis of the race by Hasan that was written before the latest polling.
Staying in England where the Iraq Inquiry heard testimony today from Deputy Prime Minister (May 2, 1997 to June 27, 2007) John Prescott (link goes to text and transcript options). Taking time away from his very busy days of non-stop tweeting via his BlackBerry, Prescott mourned the loss of those who died in Iraq -- except for the Iraqis.  He then whined about the Middle East process (he wanted 9-11 to mean Palestinians received "social justice" -- a term he didn't define). He blathered away about the intelligence.  He felt it was spotty and incomplete.  Did he vote for the Iraq War? Yes, he did. Which makes his judgment of the evidence today and his actions puzzling.
Committee Memeber Roderic Lyne: Did it [intel] convince you that Iraq posed a serious and growing threat to the region and to UK and western interests? YOU way it wasn't very substantial. 
John Prescott: I think you are right, there was a threat to the region anyway by its actions whether it was an invasion of Kuwait or whether it was primarily this war between Iran and Iraq. It was obviously not a very stable situation there. I didn't need JIC to tell me that. Where we were concerned with the intelligence on JIC was to whether he was coopearting with the resolutions from UN in giving information as to whether he was actively involved in weapons of mass destruction. So to be fair to the intelligence agency, when they said in our report which led, in fact, to the information produced on the document, that there might be something happening in 45 minutes, they have this ability, they have these missiles, you do tend to accept that's the judgment and there must be something in it.  I didn't totally dismiss it. I didn't have any evidence to feel that they were wrong, but I just felt a little bit nervous about the conclusions on what I thought seemed to be pretty limited intelligence.
And yet still he went along with the war.  Okay.  With this round closing, John Chilcot, who chairs the Inquiry, made some closing remarks which included:
Chair John Chilcot: Ove the coming months we will be analysing and integrating all this evidence and information as we begin to write our report. as we do his, we may find conflicts or gaps within the evidence. If we do this, we will need to consider how best to get to the bottom of what actually happened. This may be through seeking additional written evidence or, where we wish to probe more deeply, through holding further hearings, possible recalling witnesses from whom we have heard before. If, and I stress the word "if," we decid to do this, these hearings will probably take place in the late autumn. The Inquriy also hopes to visit Iraq. We want to see for ourselves the consequences of UK involvement, to hear Iraqi perspectives and to understand the prospects for Iraq today. For security both of the Inquiry team and those we wish to meet, we shall not publish any further details in advance of a visit. If we are able to visit Iraq, we shall provide a summary afterwards, as with all our other oveseas visits.
But Chilcot doesn't get the last word.  It goes instead to Michigan's Green Party:
 **  News Advisory  **
**  -------------  **
    July 30, 2010

For more information . . .
About the meeting:
Lynn Meadows -- Meeting Manager <>
   (734) 476-7101

About the agenda:
Fred Vitale -- Co-Chair <>
   (313) 580-4905

About the candidates:
John Anthony La Pietra -- Elections Coordinator <>
   (269) 781-9478

Michigan Greens Hold Convention This Weekend
Nominating at All Levels for November 2 Ballot;
Will File Papers Monday to Make Candidates Official

Who:    GPMI members from all over the state.

What:   GPMI state nominating convention

When:   Saturday, July 31 -- 9am to 5pm;
        Sunday, August 1 --- 9am to 4pm

Where:  Meeting Room, Great Wall Chinese Restaurant
4832 West Saginaw Highway, #1
        Lansing, MI  48917

          (Saginaw Highway is M-43 and Business I-69;
           the restaurant is about 2-1/2 miles east
           of Exit 93 off I-69/I-96)

Why:    To nominate Green candidates for Federal,
        state, and local office to appear on the
        November 2, 2010 general-election ballot.
        GPMI will file the appropriate nomination
        paperwork with the Bureau of Elections
        (and county clerks as necessary) on Monday,
        August 2 to certify the convention results.

For information on the issues, values, and candidates of the Green Party of Michigan, please visit the party's homepage: