Thursday, March 31, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Human Rights Watch notes the closing of one Iraqi secret prison doesn't end the problems, the US military was on the ground in Tikrit Tuesday storming into a government building despite US military command claims otherwise, Iraqis call for the United Nation to intervene and protect them, more political parties in Iraq express displeasure with Nouri's leadership, NPR airs a factually incorrect and apparently biased (against the Kurds) 'report' that implies they no longer bother to check facts before airing anything, a new study finds burn pits put US service members and contractors at risk, and more.
Human Rights Watch declared today that the announced (March 14th) plan to close the secret Iraqi prison Camp Honor is "only a first step" and that Iraq needs to do much more. As January wound down, Ned Parker. reported on the secret prisons for the Los Angeles Times and Human Rights Watch issued their report on it. Parker's January report on the secret prisons and how they were run by Nouri's security forces, the Baghdad Brigade followed up on his earlier report on how the Brigade was behind the prison that he and the paper exposed in April 2010. All the whilte Nouri insisted that there were no secret prisons in Iraq. Such as February 6th when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "The Iraqi government on Sunday denied a human rights organization's allegation that it has a secret detention center in Baghdad, run by Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki's security forces." The report then quoted Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi stating, "We don't know how such a respectable organization like Human Rights Watch is able to report such lies." Camp Honor is a prison that's under Nouri's control, staffed by people working for him. Amnesty International would also call the use of secret prisons out while Nouri continued to deny them. In the middle of this month, the world was supposed to forget all the denials and rejoice that (yet again) Nouri had been caught operating a secret prison and that he was saying (yet again) he would close one and saying that (yet again) secret prisons did not belong in the 'new' Iraq and would not be part of it. The lie would continue until March 15th.
Iraqi officials should establish an independent body with authority to impartially investigate the torture that occurred at Camp Honor and other sites run by the 56th Brigade, also known as the "Baghdad Brigade," and the Counterterrorism Service - the elite security forces attached to the military office of the prime minister. The investigating body should recommend disciplinary steps or criminal prosecution of everyone of any rank implicated in the abuse, Human Rights Watch said.
"Shutting down Camp Honor will mean little if detainees are shuffled to other facilities to face torture again," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "There needs to be a genuine, independent investigation and criminal prosecution of everyone, regardless of rank, responsible for the horrific abuses there."
The Justice Ministry announced on March 14 that it would close Camp Honor after members of a parliamentary investigative committee, consisting largely of parliament's Human Rights Committee members, found evidence of torture during a spot inspection of the facility five days earlier. Investigative committee members told Human Rights Watch that they had observed 175 prisoners in "horrible conditions" at the prison, in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. They said they saw physical "signs of recent abuse, including electric shocks" and marks on detainees' bodies, including long scars across their backs.
Detainees described to committee members the torture they endured there and said that more than 40 other detainees had been hastily moved from the facility less than an hour before members of the committee arrived.
Iraq's Minister of Justice Hussein al-Shammari told Human Rights Watch on March 29 that all of Camp Honor's detainees - between 150 and 160 - had been moved to three other facilities under the control of his ministry. According to the parliamentary committee, however, the number of detainees held at Camp Honor was higher. The committee, established by parliament on February 8 after a Human Rights Watch report and a Los Angeles Times article documented the abuse of detainees at Camp Honor, said it had officially requested from prison authorities a list of all the detainees' names, but had received no information as of March 29.
In response to repeated allegations of serious abuse at Iraqi detention facilities, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki issued a statement on March 19 reiterating that "there are no secret detention centers, and all prisons and detention centers are open to regulatory authorities and judicial authorities, which must report any violations found, if any, and notify judicial authorities to take legal action against the perpetrators."
However, the February 1 report by Human Rights Watch described a new secret prison within Camp Justice, a sprawling military base in northwest Baghdad, run by the same forces in charge at Camp Honor - the 56th Brigade and the Counterterrorism Service - both of which report directly to the prime minister's military office. The Counterterrorism Service works closely with US Special Forces.
The issue of prisons and prisoners in Iraq is huge and a major motivator in the protest movement taking place there -- especially the ones featuring attorneys in three cities (Baghdad, Basra and Mosul). However, the shotgun marriage of xenophobia and lazy meant that the protests would be protrayed differently to the outside world which ran with the nonsense that Iraqis were just sitting around, unaware and uninformed until one day, sitting in front of their satellite TVs, they saw what was taking place in Egypt and said, "Hey, that looks fun, let's try that!" Iraqi protests were going on, unreported by the western media, in 2010. The same western media then flocking to Egypt had no interest in the protests taking place in Iraq -- possibly due to the fact that western reporters rarely go anywhere in Iraq other than Baghdad and the KRG. Basra and Mosul aren't spots they frequent let alone other hotbed areas. But the first Iraq protests in 2011 took place far from Baghdad and the issues were the prisons, the families being unable to see their loved ones, the denial of trials, the denial of rights. The calls against corruption and for reform include the prison and justice (or 'justice') system in Iraq. All one ever had to do was listen to the protesters but a narrative got imposed by the press and what was at stake to the Iraqi people mattered far less to the press than its own narrative.
Friday, in Baghdad's Liberation Square, protests again took place but were largely ignored by the western media. Among the groups protesting were the wives, mothers and sisters of prisoners. (See Sunday's "And the war drags on . . ." for some screen snaps of the women from videos which can be found at The Great Iraqi Revolution Facebook page). For those women to be present, they had to overcome physical hurdles such as closed bridges, barbed wire, a ban on traffic and a light rain. They joined with other women protesting to account for the largest female presence at a Baghdad protest so far this year. They carried photos of their imprisoned loved ones and cried out for justice.
Urgent Appeal to the United Nations, represented by the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon because of the suffering of the IRaqi people and the demonstrators were killed, tortured and displaced by the government-proclaimed by the US occupation in 2003, and all participants in this campaign, asking for immediate intervention in the Iraqi situation now.
Among those joining the call is Nabeel Alnabeel who writes, "We are with you all, the heart, soul and body are one for Iraq and for support for the rights of Iraq." Sarah Adeeb adds her support to the campaign and wonders over the the assault in Salah al-Din Province Tuesday (Tikrit's provinical government offices), "Why parliament or provincial councils has not suspended its meetings, even for one day??? Why did not stand a minute of silence for the souls of all those that lost their martyrs in the provinces of Salah al-Din??? Is sectarianism?? Who died or are not Bhranyen??? [. . . .] [Ahmed] Chalabi, who collects donations for Baharain."
Politicians from Iraq's Shia majority, including a former prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, castigated the Saudi intervention. Some Sunni, Kurdish and Christian members of Iraq's parliament also condemned the Saudis, but the speaker, Osama el-Nujaifi, who hails from a leading Sunni family in Mosul, Iraq's strongly Sunni city in the north, decided to close parliament down for ten days. Some Iraqi politicians, including Iyad Allawi, a Shia who leads the main Sunni block in parliament, said that a hiatus was required to stop sectarian tension boiling over in parliament.
But it is still bubbling. Politicians and religious leaders have continued to respond to events in Bahrain along sectarian lines. Muqtada al-Sadr, a populist Iraqi Shia cleric with a big following who leads his movement from a temporary home in Iran, has castigated the intervention too. Members of his political party have called for Bahrain's embassy in Baghdad to be closed, whereas Haider al-Mulla, a Sunni MP, blames the uprising in Bahrain on Iranian interference and says that Iran's embassy in Baghdad should be shut.
No similar outcry from politicians followed the assault in Tikrit (this despite the fact that the assault can be seen as an assault on government itself). Alsumaria TV reports that AP released film of the Tirkit attack: "A soldier on the building's roof shows as pointing to the place of hostages while employees were seen going down the stairs to escape the building". Xinhua has posted video from CNTV of the assault and they note, "Iraqi security force surrounded the building and engaged in heavy fighting with the gunmen. Hours later, US and Iraqi SWAT teams stormed the building and killed the attackers."
Earlier this week, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, "The American military did not participate in the retaking of the building but observed from nearby, according to a military spokesman." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) quoted US military spokesperson Col Barry Johnson stating, "Our assistance has been limited to providing aerial surveillance of the scene and keeping our soldiers on site to receive further requests for assistance if needed."
Xinhua reports, "Iraqi security force surrounded the building and engaged in heavy fighting with the gunmen. Hours later, US and Iraqi SWAT teams stormed the building and killed the attackers." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Witnesses said U.S. troops responded to the attack and entered the building with Iraqi forces trying to rescue the hostages. No U.S. casualties were reported, however, and it wasn't clear how many of the dead were hostages, gunmen or members of the Iraqi security forces. At least three of the gunmen were wearing explosive suicide belts, Iraq's Interior Ministry said."
So which is it? It's Hammoudi and Xinhua's version. The US military command has lied and a functioning press would be all over this story and how US forces -- well after Barack Obama's laughable claim that "combat operations" ended August 31st -- were rushing into a hostage situation with no knowledge of how many assailants were present in the building but knowing that the assailants had guns and bombs and had already demonstrated their willingness to use both. Combat didn't end, the Iraq War didn't end. If it ended, there'd be no need today for Hugh Fisher (Salisbury Post) to report, "Soldiers from Salisbury's National Guard aviation unit are preparing to deploy to Iraq in the coming weeks. About 80 members of C Company, 1-131st Aviation Regiment, will go to Fort Hood, Texas, where they will receive additional training before going overseas."
The Iraqi forces and the US military failed to save any hostage.
Nouri al-Maliki's been forced into promising an investigation -- most of his promised investigations never reveal anything. In fact, you could probably change that to "all of his promised investigations never reveal anything." Dar Addustour reveals the Ministry of the Defense is blaming the assault on the building's security guards. If true, that really doesn't explain the five hour standoff, now does it? And the investigation is not supposed to end with 'how it started' but, most importantly, why Iraqi forces were unable to save a single hostage. Online yesterday, The NewsHour (PBS) spoke with Jane Arraf of Al Jazeera TV and the Christian Science Monitor to get her take on the assault's meaning. (Starting with CNN before the Iraq War, Arraf has a long track record of covering Iraq and is not an insta-expert but someone who can speak with real authority on the topic.)
What's the security situation like in Iraq?
ARRAF: Since the protests started (in February), there actually has been a lull of attacks in Baghdad. Baghdad has traditionally been one of the more violent places -- it's a very target-rich environment with a lot of government ministries and basically all the symbols of not just the Iraqi government, but of the U.S.
One of the things we've seen evolve over the past year or so is a change in tactics. Al-Qaida and other groups seem to have moved away from things like bombings in marketplaces, where they indiscriminately kill civilians, because there's been a huge backlash against that. They're still specifically targeting Shias, because one of their aims appears to be to reignite the sectarian violence that led the country into civil war, and they're still targeting security forces: police, the army and government officials. Government officials are harder to get to in Baghdad because they're in the Green Zone for the most part, and it's very well-protected.
But certainly security officials are out there, and we've seen a lot of targeted assassinations -- things like gunmen using silencers and a lot of sticky bombs, or bombs placed under the carriage of a person's car that explodes when they get in.
The biggest one like (Tuesday's siege in Tikrit) that we've seen is the church attack in October. That was a similar incident -- a coordinated attack involving layers of attacks and then a response by Iraqi forces that led to further deaths. Al-Qaida in Iraq took credit for that one and said it would continue to attack Christians.
Returning to The Economist piece on the ten-day vacation Parliament took to show solidarity with people of another country and its effects within Iraq:
Iraq's parliament has now reopened but the row has weakened a coalition government that is in any case built on a fragile ethno-sectarian power-sharing agreement. More than a year after elections, no defence or interior minister has been appointed. Iran, it is said, has been promoting its own candidate for the interior ministry, whereas the defence ministry was promised to Mr Allawi's Sunni-backed block. But Mr Maliki has rejected several of Mr Allawi's nominees. Although the prime minister has a firm grip on the security services and has been trying to expand his own executive powers, he is looking more isolated as erstwhile allies complain that he has broken the promises he made when he was putting his ruling coalition together.
Today Al Mada reports that the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) has declared, via a MP yesterday, that they feel they are being marginalized in the Iraqi government. Leaving Al Mada, to provide background. ISCI is headed by Ammar al-Hakim who took over when his father Abdul Aiz al-Hakim died in August of 2009. (Ammar al-Hakim assumed leadership after ISCI voted to make him the leader.) During the long stalemate, they sent conflicting messages before finally agreeing to back Nouri al-Maliki. They are a Shi'ite group and one that is frequently at odds with Moqtada al-Sadr and his backers as well as with Nouri al-Maliki. During the stalemate, although the White House had already decided to back Nouri, the administration was regularly lobbied by Americans (including the CIA) who felt ISCI would be a better bet and that al-Hakim would better represent America's interests in the region. Al Rafidayn carries the same story and notes that Iraqiya has also floated a trial balloon about withdrawing support from Nouri's government. Al Rafidayn reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujafi has noted the gulf between the people and the people's representatives in Iraq. He was speaking at a conference attended by the provincial council heads and governors and declared that the errors and doubts were "eating away at the body of this young nation."
Nouri al-Maliki and his Dawa Party (not to be confused with his State Of Law slate) are behind the shutting down of many nightclubs, wedding lounges and alcohol stores,Al Raifdayn notes, and yesterday Nouri was forced into publicly insisting that Iraq was a civil state, not denominational or sectarian but "a civil society and people have the freedome to embrace demnomiations and religions of their choice." Dar Addustour explains the word is that today the Parliament will vote on Nouri's latest Cabinet nominees and that Ali al-Lami, in reference to the nomination of Khaled al-Obeidi, is insisting that Nouri doesn't have the legal power to grant exceptions to "Ba'athists" the Justice and Accountability Commission is investigating or lodging harges against. Ali al-Lami is the Miss Hathaway to Ahmed Chalabi's Mr. Drysdale. The two used the Justice Accountability Commission in 2009 and 2010 to weed out serious rivals with false charges of "Ba'athist!" Nouri didn't complain at the time because he benefitted from the actions.
In other Parliamentary news, Al Mada reports the legislative body is questioning the claim that Iraq has the ability to produce 12 million barrels a day of crude oil. The infrastructure of Iraq's oil industry is only one of the questions being raised. It's also noted that the International Monetary Fund is skeptical of the claim. Tuesday AFP reported that the IMF, citing "infrastructure constraints," expressed grave hesitation over the claim that Iraq could be producing as much as 13 million barrels of oil per day by the year 2017. Reaching 12.2 million barrels per day would be "the very best case scenario" and "huge investments" were needed "in port facilities, pieplines, desalination plants (for water to be injected into oil fields) and storage facilities." Jaafar al-Wannan (Zawya) reminds, "The Oil Ministry announced at the end of last year a five year plan to raise the country's oil production to 12 million bpd from the 2.7 million bpd currently produced."
Moving from Baghdad to the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, the region is claimed by Kurds and by Baghdad. The dispute is not new and, in 2005, Iraqis came up with a solution to resolving the conflict: a census would be taken of the region and a referendum held in the region to determine Kirkuk's fate. They were so comfortable with this decision that they didn't just endorse it publicly, they wrote it into the country's Constitution (Article 140). Approximately a half-year after the Constitution was ratified, Nouri al-Maliki became Prime Minister for the first time (May 2006 he moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister). Despite Article 140 clearly stating that the census and referendum must take place by December 31, 2007 and despite agreeing to the US White House benchmarks which included the resolution of the rights to Kirkuk, Nouri did nothing. He pushed it back and pushed it back and suddenly, during the long stalemate following the March 7, 2010 elections, when he wanted to remain prime minister, he brought out the issue of Kirkuk again in an attempt to sway the Kurds to support him in his bid for prime minister. He even (again) scheduled a start to the census. It would take place in December 2010! But in November, he became prime minister-designate and, no longer feeling he needed Kurdish support, he quickly announced that the December census was (once again) off.
Tuesday's snapshot dealt with the Kirkuk issue and noted International Crisis Group new report entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq and the Kurds: Confronting Withdrawal Fears" which quoted an adviser to Nouri stating, "Some of the prime minister's promises will be delivered in two to three weeks, some in two to three years, and some will take ten years. There are lots of [unimplemented] promises left over from 2006 [when the first Maliki government was formed]. We still didn't finish Article 140, and this will take perhaps ten more years." Wednesday Mike Shuster (NPR's Morning Edition) reported on the issue and, possibly due to time constraints, he didn't do a very good job. He noted that, in February, the peshmerga (elite Kurdish security force) surrounded Kirkuk when they took positions in the east and south -- as well as their positions already in the north and west. It probably would have been a good idea to give the background on why they were already in the north and west because that would have made the report come off less one-sided. They have been there for some time and been there because Baghdad was unable (or unwilling some argued in the early years of the war) to provide security to the region. Does that mean the peshmerga are angels and the Kurdistan Regional Government salvation? No. But it does allow the basic facts to be noted. Shuster notes Arab leaders in the region (the region is ethnically mixed with one of the largest minority groups, the Turkmen, frequently voicing their displeasure at both Kurds and Arabs) felt there was no real compelling danger at the time which forced the peshmerga to take up positions in the east and south. Shuster notes:
Parts of Kirkuk are bristling with weapons. One of the most heavily armed spots in the city is the Kirkuk Provincial Council. The council building and surrounding neighborhoods are crawling with police carrying AK-47s. Each of the 40 members of the council has several bodyguards, and they are all carrying pistols prominently displayed. No demilitarization here. Not surprising, given the political maneuvering that dominated the news in Kirkuk last week. The second move in the latest Kurdish gambit. Kirkuk has not held an election for governor and other positions since 2005. So a back room deal was struck between the Kurds and the Turkmen to divide up key positions. This gave more power to the Turkmen parties, with one of their own, Hassan Toran, promised the chairmanship of the provincial council.
That's more than a little confusing and it's because Shuster can't or won't call out Nouri al-Maliki who has been the obstacle in provincial elections since he became prime minister in 2006. But it's not accurate that no governors have been elected in Kirkuk and I'm really surprised that no one at NPR caught that. (Well, it's not like they have a functioning ombudsperson. But I meant the actual journalistic staff -- not a supposed watchdog who's forever napping under the front porch.)
Earlier this month, the provincial council chief and governor announced their resignations. Shuster's report aired Wednesday. Tuesday, the day before, Alsmaria TV reported, "Kirkuk Provincial Council elected on Tuesday a new governor from Kurdistan Alliance and appointed head of the council from the Turkman Front. Kirkuk Provincial Council voted by unanimity on Kurdistan Alliance member Najmddin Karim as the new governor and named Hassan Toran from the Turkman Front as head of the council, a source from Kirkuk Provincial Council told Alsumaria News."Reuters reported, "A new Kurdish governor and a Turkmen provincial council chief were elected on Tuesday in Iraq's northern Kirkuk, enraging Arab politicians in the disputed city who said they would boycott the council. [. . .] The provincial council elected Najimeldin Kareem, a Kurd, as the city's new governor and Hassan Toran, a member of the Turkmen ethnic minority, as provincial council head on Tuesday. The Arab bloc in the council boycotted the vote."
Again, someone needs to ask how and why NPR allowed Mike Shuster to report "Kirkuk has not held an election for governor and other positions since 2005. So a back room deal was struck between the Kurds and the Turkmen to divide up key positions."? Because that's not accurate. And they need to wonder why the report was filed one day after Kirkuk, in fact, elected a governor. Kirkuk is not California and if Mike Shuster can't understand the difference, NPR might need to send him back to California. I desperately want English-language reporting on Iraq but not so desperately that I'm thrilled with innaccurate and increasingly biased reporting. We've complained about Shuster before, I'd love to stop. But his reports are factually inaccurate before you even get to the slant that he's puts on them. That's nothing for NPR to brag about. A day after multiple outlets are reporting on Kirkuk electing a governor, Shuster takes to NPR airwaves to proclaim that Kirkuk's never elected a governor. Someone want to explain that? Someone want to poke (NPR ombudsperson) Alicia Shepherd in the ribs and tell her to wake up already?
We've covered Kirkuk here from the beginning and back then -- maybe Shuster has the same ignorance I suffered from -- I didn't realize its huge importance to so many or how easily some could assume you were taking a side. The only side I have ever taken is that Constitution needs to be followed or the Constitution needs to be amended. I have repeatedly stated that the US does not need to be involved in this situation which will be, once decided, like the issue of the "lost homeland" elsewhere in the Middle East and causing tensions for decades to come. The US does not need to make this decision both because it is not the US's decision to make and because the US doesn't need more animosity breeding over the coming years. Listening to Shuster's report, it's hard not to detect an anti-Kurdish bias. That goes beyond the fact that Shuster may truly be ignorant that governors in Iraq are not elected in the same manner that they are in California. That goes to this section of the report about the peshmerga moving to the south and east and, therby, encircling all of Kirkuk:
Mike Shuster: Kurdish officials claimed the move was necessary because of threats from Arab insurgent and nationalist groups, who intended to hold protests in Hawijah to the west of Kirkuk. Those protests, on February 25th, resulted in the torching of a government building and the deaths of three people.
But was there any connection in "those protests" -- outside of the city of Kirkuk but still inside the province of Kirkuk (does Shuster understand that) -- and Kirkuk itself? If so, Shuster should report it, right? Because, as it stands, his report makes the Kurds look like liars. They well may be, they well may not be. But Shuster failed to do the work required (and why do I feel that's been on every one of his report cards?). Reporting March 30th on Kirkuk's election of a governor, Hiwa Husamaddin (Zawya) explained:
Rizgar Ali stepped down from the chairmanship of the provincial council March 15, following a wave of public protests that swept through Iraq including Kirkuk. During the protests in the province, protesters in the predominantly Arab-populated town of Hawija set government buildings on fire. Protesters chanted slogans that called for the abolition of article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. Article 140 sets a roadmap to resolve territorial disputes between Kurds and other ethnic groups in the country over Kirkuk and other disputed areas.
During the protests in the [Kirkuk] province, protesters in the predominantly Arab-populated town of Hawija set government buildings on fire. Protesters chanted slogans that called for the abolition of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution." That would appear to back up, at the very least, concern on the part of the Kurds. al Qaeda in Iraq is a blanket every official (US and Iraqi) appears to grab for security whenever anything goes wrong in Iraq. If the group is truly responsible for everything its credited with, then nothing's ever stopped it, let alone slowed it down. I don't know. My opinion is that it's an easy out, an easy source of blame, when things go wrong. My opinion. But if you're reporting on Kirkuk and especially on Hawijah, you might need to note the bragging at the start of February when Iraqi military -- not Kurdish peshmerga -- were bragging that they had arrested two al Qaeda in Iraq militants in -- where? -- Hawijah. Not doing so allows you to portray the Kurds as big fat liars and maybe that's why Shuster couldn't include that fact -- among many others -- in his report.
Turning to reported violence . . .
Wednesday Reuters reported a Mosul grenade attack which injured thirteen people, a Mosul bombing which claimed the life of 1 person and a Tuesday evening Baghdad roadside bombing which left five people injured. Today Reuters notes a Kalar clash in which five people were injured, 1 corpse discovered in Mosul (gunshot wounds), a Baghdad mortar attack which claimed 1 life and left three more people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured a college student, and, dropping back to Wednesday for both of the following a Baghdad home invasion in which an Iraqi officer was injured and 2 of his brothers were killed and a beheaded corpse (small boy) discovered in Baaj. Reuters also notes today a Tuesday home invasionin Baghdad in which a police officer was killed and three of his family members left wounded. This is not the incident from Tuesday's snapshot in which another police officer's home was invaded -- that one took place in Falluja: " Aswat al-Iraq reports a Falluja home invasion resulted in the death of 1 police officer and his wife and three children left injured."
I forgot to include violence in yesterday's snapshot, my apologies. Today, I had hoped to note . Kelly McEvers' All Things Considered (NPR) report. Didn't happen. We don't have room. And she's already got another report. We'll try to pick them both up in tomorrow's snapshot.
The American Chemical Society is concluding their National Meeting & Exposition in Anaheim, California today. At the conference, a presentation was made on a research study which found that Iraq War service members and contractors have been exposed to air pollution which "could pose immediate and long-term health threats." The multi-year study was explained by the research team's Jennifer M. Bell, "Our preliminary results show that the fine particulate matter concentrations frequently exceed military exposure guidelines and those individual constituents, such as lead, exceed U.S. ambient air quality standards designed to protect human health. [. . .] Coarse particles are large enough to get trapped in the hair-like fibers that line the nasal passages and the trachea preventing them from entering the lungs. Fine and ultra fine particles are so small that they bypass the body's natural defenses. When we take a breath, they travel into the deepest part of the lung where oxygen exchange takse place." She also stressed, "We are especially concerned about fine airborne particles that originate from motor vehicles, factories, open burning of trash in pits, and other sources." Karen Kaplan (Los Angeles Times) adds, "The study is being funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. A summary of the findings is available here. "
There's a summit planned for this issue later this month:
The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.