Thursday, September 13, 2012

The response is largely silence

Iraqi LGBT's Ali Hilli writes about the persecution of the LGBT community in Iraq for the BBC:

Members of our organisation and the gay men and women we interviewed have said consistently that, under arrest, they have been forced to give names and addresses of other homosexuals or suspected homosexuals.Taken together, this is why we believe the Ministry of the Interior tracks sexual minorities with the aim of eliminating them.
Iraq LGBT is based in London, and it has become increasingly dangerous for us to operate inside Iraq. But we have been trying.
Since its founding in London in September 2005, Iraqi LGBT has operated in total secrecy, providing gays inside the country with contacts, psychological counselling, financial aid, shelter and accommodation, and assistance escaping Iraq.
We have watched as the situation in the country has deteriorated, as lists of targets began to appear in the streets first in Baghdad, then in Najaf, Basra, Kufa and other towns across Iraq.

This is part of the ongoing coverage the BBC kicked off this week with Natalia Antelava, Peter Murtaugh, Bill McKenna and Daniel Nasaw have done an investigative report on the continued persecution of LGBTs in Iraq.

Among those noting the BBC reports are Pink News UK, Think Progress, Truth Dig, Bob Felton and Global Equality Today.  Good for those five outlets. But where's the amplification from others?  For example, if your father was known as homophobic -- you think unfairly -- and when he was in charge of a paper he refused to take the AIDs crisis seriously, don't you think you should have an editorial on what's happening to Iraqi refugees?  That's not a mythical person.  Most people will know who I'm referring to.  But we get silence.  And silence from the broadcast networks in the US as well.

It really is something when you think of how gung-hu and excited they were in March and April 2003, how they had little slogans and breathlessly showed you missiles taking off and maybe, from a huge distance, a fire ball.  They wanted that illegal war, the media did.  They just didn't want to stick around and cover what the war did.

What it did was destroy Iraqi lives.  Except for a small group of Shi'ites (largely former exiles), the war didn't improve a damn thing.  The youth of Iraq continues to be in need of jobs and basic goods.  Religious minorities either suffer or leave the country.  Iraqi women have to fight daily for the most basic of rights -- rights, please note, that they had before the start of the US-led war.  And the LGBT community suffers witchunts and murders.

It seems like the broadcast networks and especially the cable ones -- CNN, Fox and MNSBC -- that were so breathless in their early coverage,, wall-to-wall panting, 24 hours, seven days a week -- should have to report the reality of what living in Iraq is like now.

But that's something that people would rather avoid.  Probably because it's a 'downer' (depressing news) and because it doesn't help spawn future wars.  If the realities of the Iraq War are widely discussed and noted, there might be a little hesitation the next time the US government and media join arms to force others off into war.

Life is not easy for anyone in Iraq.  Imagine you were a gay Iraqi and you made it out of Iraq. A new play being staged at London's Theatre503 uses that premise to explore the homophobic assaults and murders taking place in Iraq.  Elegy is performed by Sam Phillips.  Matthew Jenkin (Gay Star News) notes a spokesperson explaining the play, "Told from the viewpoint of one who got away, Elegy is a moving and extraordinary story of love, loss and exile; a journey through a no-man’s land of empty train stations, border crossings and bomb-blasted towns. "

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, IVAW, Pacifica Evening News, The Diane Rehm Show and -- updated last night and this morning:

This week the Senator Patty Murray took to the floor of the Senate to advocate for the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012 which passed with 95 senators voting for it.  Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office notes:

Murray Amendment to Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012 (S. 3457)
Section-By-Section Summary
Sec. 2. Veterans jobs corps.
§ Authorizes the establishment of a veterans jobs corps to employ veterans in conservation, recreation, and resource management projects on public lands, and as firefighters and police officers.
§ Directs the Secretaries of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior and the Commanding General of the United States Army Corps of Engineers to employ veterans for conservation and resource management projects or to awards grants to, or enter into contracts with, State, local governments or nongovernmental entities for such employment.
§ Each such Secretary or General is responsible for the oversight of any project, grant, or contract for or through which veterans are employed as part of the jobs corps.
§ Requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to coordinate the activities of relevant federal agencies in support of the jobs corps.
§ Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to award grants under the Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974 to hire veterans as firefighters.
§ Directs the Attorney General to award grants under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to hire veterans as law enforcement officers.
§ Authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide certain monetary assistance to the relevant federal agencies to carry out the jobs corps, and sets forth a process for the Secretary’s consideration of requests for such assistance.
§ Authorizes an appropriation of $1 billion for fiscal years 2012 through 2017, and directs that not more than five (5) percent of such amount be spent to administer the jobs corps and not more than ten (10) percent be used to employ veterans as first responders.
§ Priority under this section is given to the hiring of veterans who served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001.
Sec. 3. Employment of veterans with the federal government. Burr provision
§ Requires the head of each agency, in consultation with the Office of Personal Management, to develop a plan for exercising certain hiring authorities under current law during the five-year period following the enactment of this Act.
§ Requires OPM to ensure that under the plans developed under this section that agencies appoint to existing agencies not fewer than 10,000 qualified veterans during the five-year period following the enactment of this Act.
Sec. 4. Requirement that states recognize military experience of veterans when issuing licenses and credentials to veterans. Burr provision
§ Conditions any State’s receipt of a grant or contract under current law the state must establish a program under which the State administers an examination to each veteran seeking a license or credential issued by the State.
§ Requires that the State issue such license or credential to the veteran without requiring the veteran to undergo any training or apprenticeship if the veteran receives a satisfactory score on the examination and has no less than 10 years of experience in the military occupation specialty that is similar to a civilian occupation for which the license or credential is required by the State.
Sec. 5. Support for job searches of veterans through one-stop centers. Toomey/Burr provision
§ Requires that the Secretary of Labor furnish each one-stop center with a list of all Internet websites and applications that the Secretary has identified as being beneficial for veterans in pursuit of employment.
§ Directs the Secretary of Labor to coordinate with public and private sector entities to identify Internet websites and applications not already covered in the list sent to one-stops that match veterans seeking employment with available jobs based on the skills veterans acquired while in the military and allow employers to post information about available jobs.
Sec. 6. State consideration of military training in granting certain state certifications and licenses as a condition on the receipt of funds for veterans employment and training. Pryor/Johanns provision
§ Conditions any State’s receipt of a grant or contract under current law on its consideration of a veteran’s training or experience gained while serving on active duty when approving or denying certain certifications or licenses for that veteran.
§ Provides that applicable certifications and licenses are: a license to be a State tested nursing assistant or a certified nursing assistant; a commercial driver’s license; an emergency medical technician license EMT-B or EMT-I; and an emergency medical technician-paramedic license.
§ Requires a State’s written disclosure to the Secretary of Labor of criteria applicants must satisfy to receive such certification or license and of the State’s standard practices for evaluating a veteran’s relevant training or experience gained while on active duty.
§ Directs the Secretary to share the information provided by the States to the Secretary of Defense to help the Secretary improve training for military occupational specialties so that such training satisfies State certification and license requirements.
Sec. 7. Study on value and utility of a skill credential registry. Based on Hagan/Heller legislation
§ Requires the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, to jointly conduct a study to determine the value and utility of a registry of recognized post-secondary credentials valued by employers, individuals, providers of education and training, economic development professionals, State and local officials, and other relevant stakeholders.
Sec. 8. Minimum funding levels for disabled veterans’ outreach program specialists and local veterans’ employment representatives.
§ Amends current law by requiring the Secretary of Labor to establish minimum funding levels and authorizes the Secretary to establish hold-harmless criteria for States.
§ Requires that such minimum funding levels ensure that each State receives sufficient funding to support at least one disabled veterans’ outreach program specialist and one local veterans’ employment representative per 5,000 square miles of service delivery area within the State, but authorizes the Secretary to exclude those counties with a population density of less than one person per square mile.
§ Directs the Secretary to submit a report to the Congress not later than one year after the enactment of this Act assessing the effect of this section on veterans who reside in highly rural areas and setting forth recommendations for legislative or administrative action, as appropriate.
§ Defines “highly rural” as an area consisting of a county or counties having a population of less than seven persons per square mile.
Sec. 9. Off-base transition training. Boozman/Burr provision
§ Directs the Secretary of Labor to provide the Transition Assistance Program to eligible individuals at locations other than military installations to assess the feasibility and advisability of providing such program at alternate locations.
§ Provides that eligible individuals are veterans and their spouses and that such training be carried out in not less than three (3) but not more than five (5) States, with at least two (2) of the States having high rates of unemployment among veterans.
§ Authorizes the Secretary to determine the number of training locations in each state and to select such locations.
§ Requires that the training generally follow the content of the Transition Assistance Program and for each year in which training is provided, the Secretary submit a report to the Congress.
§ Further requires, not later than 180 days after the termination of the program, the Comptroller General of the United States to submit a report to the Congress on the feasibility and advisability of implementing such training nationwide.
Sec. 10. Expansion of contracting goals and preferences of Department of Veterans Affairs to include small business concerns 100 percent but conditionally owned by veterans. Burr provision
§ Amends the term “small business concern owned and controlled by veterans” to mean any small business that is unconditionally owned and controlled by veterans.
§ Unconditionally ownership includes conditional ownership of a small business concern if that concern is 100 percent owned by one or more veterans.
Sec. 11. Modification of treatment under contracting goals and preferences of Department of Veterans Affairs for small businesses owned by veterans of small businesses after death of disabled veteran owners. Burr provision
§ Expands existing law that permits the surviving spouse of a service-disabled veteran who acquires ownership rights in a service-disabled veteran owned small business concern to be treated as the service-disabled veteran for purposes of eligibility for VA small business contracting preferences.
§ The section extends eligibility to the surviving spouse of a veteran who was not 100 percent service-disabled or did not die from a service-connected disability for a period of three years following the veteran’s death.
Sec. 12. Treatment of businesses after deaths of servicemember owners for purposes of Department of Veterans Affairs contracting goals and preferences. Burr provision
§ If the surviving spouse or dependent of an active duty member of the Armed Forces, who owned at least 51 percent of a small business concern and was killed in the line of duty, acquires ownership rights in such small business concern, the section permits that spouse or dependent to be treated as if s/he is a service-disabled veteran for the purposes of determining the status of the concern as a small business owned and controlled by veterans for the purposes of VA contracting goals and preferences.
§ The section conditions the period of eligibility for this status on certain criterion.
Sec. 13. Special rule for treatment under contracting goals and preferences of Department of Veterans Affairs of small business concerns licensed in community property States. Burr provision
§ Requires VA to treat a veteran owned small business licensed in a community property state as if that business were licensed in a non-community property state for the purposes of determining the status and eligibility of such business for VA contracting goals and preferences.
Sec. 14. 100 percent continuous levy on payments to Medicare providers and suppliers. Cleared the Senate 74-22(22 Senate Republicans supported) on March 14, 2012 as part of the Senate Transportation bill.
§ Under current law, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may impose a levy of up to 15 percent of a Medicare payment against Medicare service providers with tax delinquencies. This proposal will permanently permit the IRS to impose a levy of up to 100 percent on tax delinquent Medicare service.
Sec. 15. Extension of modified pension for certain veterans covered by medicaid plans for services furnished by nursing facilities.
§ Extends current law from September 30, 2016, to March 31, 2017. This provision has been used as a pay-for before – most recently in the VOW to Hire Heroes Act.
Sec. 16. Revocation or denial of passport in case of certain unpaid taxes. Cleared the Senate 74-22(22 Senate Republicans supported) on March 14, 2012 as part of the Senate Transportation bill.
§ Authorizes the government to deny the application for a new passport or renewal of an existing passport when the individual has $50,000 or more (indexed for inflation) of unpaid federal taxes which the IRS is collecting through enforcement action. Permits the Federal government to revoke a passport upon reentry into the United States for such individuals.
§ Provides the State Department authority to deny issuance of a passport application submitted without a Social Security number and allow IRS the ability to match passports to individuals with unpaid federal taxes. The proposal also includes a hold harmless provision designed to prevent delinquent taxpayers from further delaying collection by filing suit against State Department officials who act pursuant to this authority.
Sec. 17. Time for payment of corporate estimated taxes. Cleared the Senate 83-15 on October 12, 2011 as part of the Korea Free Trade Agreement (Sec. 505), 77-22 as part of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (Sec. 502), and 66-33 as part of the Panama Free Trade Agreement (Sec. 603).
§ Under current law, companies are generally required to pay corporate estimated income taxes according to a regular schedule. This provision would shift the timing for payment of certain such installments.

Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct

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