Tuesday, November 20, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, tensions boil between Baghdad and Erbil, rumors fly about a withdrawal of confidence in Nouri, today is Universal Child's Day, Susan Rice fights to maintain the death penalty, and more.
Sean McLachlan is visiting Iraq for AOL News and his reports can be found at "Destination: Iraq," In his latest, he visits the National Museum in Baghdad. Excerpt:
The National Museum of Iraq is as battered and defiant as the country it represents. Battered because it has suffered looting and neglect, defiant because its staff fought to protect it. Now they're rebuilding and the museum will soon reopen. I got a sneak peak while visiting Iraq and was overawed. I knew I would be. Here is the treasure house of the dawn of civilization. Giant statues of Assyrian guardian demons stand next to cases filled with wide-eyed Sumerian statues pleading with their gods. Detailed bas-reliefs from excavated palaces show scenes of war and hunting. Cases full of cylinder seals show scenes of Babylonian life in miniature. My favorite was the writing. The first scribes developed a simple system around 3300 B.C. or even earlier. Clay tokens represented objects such as sheep or jugs of beer. These were often sealed in clay envelopes with an impression of the tokens on the outside, thus creating the first contracts. Soon tablets were used with a system of writing that was mostly pictorial – a bull's head represented a bull, etc. As the needs of the developing civilization grew more complex, so did the system of writing. The pictures morphed into almost unrecognizable collections of lines, and words for abstract ideas appeared. The writing was done with a stylus on soft clay to make a series of wedge-shaped impressions called cuneiform.
Looking at these ancient texts was hypnotic. The same process we're engaged in right now, with me writing and you reading, was going on 5,000 years ago in a vastly different culture. We don't have to know each other or even be in the same country to communicate. It was an incredible innovation that opened up countless possibilities for the human race.
He has strong photos that accompany his text reports so make an effort to visit "Destination Iraq." And if you're thinking, "I thought it was already open . . ." That's because it's forever getting press coverage for 'opening.'
The most infamous opening was February 23, 2009 and it got a lot of press. At the time the Minister of Culture Jabir al-Jabari was stating that no, the museum was not opening while the Minster for Tourism and Antiquities (Baha al-Mayahi). What happened? Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reported it was resolved by "a compromise: The museum will reopen Monday for the first time in six years. But only eight of the museum's 26 galleries will be accessible, and for only a few hours". It wasn't a real re-opening. It was just for show. And a few noted that in real time. The Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond blog pointed out, "As for when the rest of Iraq will be able to see the museum, that's unclear. Iraqi guards Monday afternoon told journalists it would be a couple of months." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) also underscored that key point, "When Iraqis may actually see for themselves a collection of relics and art that spans millenniums was a question even the museum's deputy director, Muhsin Hassan Ali, dared not answer, even when pressed."
But it's supposed to open -- in two months -- so maybe this will finally be the real opening? No one should hold their breath.
In November of 1979 at the UN, the International Year of the Child Secretariat Representative Dr. E. Aldaba-Lim presented Fleetwood Mac with a citation for their donation of the royalties from "Beautiful Child" (written by Stevie Nicks). UNICEF continues today as do children in need and today is Universal Children's Day. UNICEF explains:
On Universal Children's Day, UNICEF issued a new research paper highlighting global demographic shifts forecast for the coming generation of children that present major challenges to policy makers and planners.
The paper for instance says that by 2050 one in every three births will be African – as will also be almost one in every three children under the age of 18. One hundred years earlier, sub-Saharan Africa's share of births was just one in 10.
"What is important is whether the world as it prepares for the post-2015 agenda takes account of this fundamental and unprecedented shift," said co-author UNICEF's David Anthony. "We must do everything possible so these children get an equal chance to survive, develop and reach their full potential."
In October 2011, the world's population reached 7 billion and on current projections it will hit 8 billion by 2025. The paper says that next billion of global inhabitants will still be children by 2025 and 90 per cent of them will have been born in less developed regions.
The paper projects only a modest four per cent increase in the global population of children by 2025, but the population growth shifts significantly to countries in the South.
According to projections, the 49 countries classified as the world's least developed nations will account for around 455 million of the 2 billion global births between 2010 and 2025. Five populous middle income countries – China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria – will account for about 859 million births between 2010 and 2025.
The only high-income country projected to have an increasing proportion of children by 2025 is the United States – among the top five countries for births in the next 15 years.
Though China and India will continue to have a major share of the world's population, in absolute terms Nigeria will see the highest increase in its under-18 population of any country, adding 31 million children, a rise of 41 per cent, between 2010 and 2025. At the same time, Nigeria will account for one in every eight deaths among under-18s.
The paper says policy implications of the shift of child population and child deaths to the world's poorest and most populous countries are key. For least developed countries, serious consideration must be given to how to meet the needs of children, especially in health and education.
The study, derived from projections by the United Nations Population Division, says the ageing population globally will increase pressure to shift resources away from children.
"Children do not vote, and their voices are often not heard when governments make decisions about funding," said paper co-author Danzhen You from UNICEF. "So it will be more important than ever to safeguard children so their rights are respected and upheld."
The paper's recommendations include: targeting investments to the areas where children will be born; an emphasis on neglected groups, especially in high population, middle income countries; reaching the poorest and most isolated households, and urgently tackling the issue of old age dependency.
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About UNICEF UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
In the International Year of the Child 1979, UNICEF staged a concert with hosts Gilda Rander, Henry Winkler and David Frost, a declaration read by Henry Fonda and musical acts: Donna Summer, Olivia Newton-John, Rita Coolidge, Earth, Wind & Fire, Rod Stewart, Kris Kristofferson, Andy Gibb, Abba and the Bee Gees. That took place in NYC. In England in 1979, Paul McCartney organized four nights of concerts to benefit UNICEF and the people of Kampuchea with Paul and Wings performing each night and other participants included the Pretenders, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Queen, the Who, the Specials and the Clash. But neither the NYC or London events were the first UNICEF benefit concert: "UNICEF has started many trends over the years. One of the most influential -- the rock-and-roll benefit concert -- began in 1971, when George Harrison and Ravi Shankar teamed up with UNICEF to raise money for children and families fleeing the war in what was then East Pakistan." The Concert for Bangladesh.
BAGHDAD, 20 November 2012 -- On Universal Children's Day, UNICEF calls for urgent action for Iraq's most vulnerable children. "Every third child in Iraq, or about 5.3 million children, is still currently deprived of many of their fundamental rights," said UNICEF's Representative to Iraq, Dr. Marzio Babille. "UNICEF calls on all stakeholders - in government, civil society, the private sector and the international community - to urgently invest in these children to respect their dignity and give them an equal chance to become healthy, productive young citizens of the new Iraq," Dr. Babille stated. Child rights violations across Iraq that need to be addressed include: inadequate access to and promotion of health services; lack of access to quality education; violence against children in schools and families; psychological trauma from years of extreme violence; discrimination; prolonged detention in juvenile facilities; insufficient attention to the special needs of children with disabilities and who are not in their family environment; and lack of access to information and participation in cultural life.
While the majority of children in Iraq experience at least one violation of their fundamental rights, around 1.7 million children, or 10 per cent of all Iraqi children, have most of their rights fulfilled. "There are extreme disparities amongst Iraq's 16.6 million children," noted Dr. Babille. "Our collective challenge now is to narrow these gaps between those children who are marginalized, having very limited opportunities to improve their well-being, and the children who have every opportunity to fully progress in their lives." "Iraq's National Development Plan, which is currently being revised, is the ideal place to start robustly planning the expanded delivery of essential services across Iraq that will narrow this gap." UNICEF is working with the Government of Iraq and partners to ensure children's rights and best interests are included in policies and that equitable approaches that prioritize the most marginalized children are adopted.
"UNICEF remains unwavering in its commitment to support the Government protect all children's rights and build an Iraq that is fit for all children," stated Dr. Babille. Today is the 23rd anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which lays the foundational principles from which all children's rights must be achieved, and calls for the provision of specific resources, skills and contributions necessary to ensure the survival and development of children to their maximum capability. Iraq ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994.
Staying with the United Nations, the 67th General Assembly's Third Committee noted Monday, "The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved a draft resolution that would have the General Assembly express its deep concern about the continued application of the death penalty and call on States to establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the practice. The draft text, approved by a record vote of 11 in favour to 39 against, with 36 abstaining, would have the Assembly call on States to respect international standards that provided safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of persons facing the death penalty, as set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 (1984)." Today the Press Trust of India reports that 39 countries voted against the resolution, declaring their right to kill, and among the countries voting no? The United States and Iraq. What a proud moment for the US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice who heads the mission. The US voted no and gave a little speech on the topic, on the right to kill. And that little speech took place yesterday but all those Susie Rice supporters 'forgot' to tell you about that. Probably because they guessed, correctly, that a lot of her left support would crater if they were aware she was over arguing that using the death penalty is a decision for individual countries to make.
And what of Iraq? The Iraqi government can't stop executing these days. It's got a lust to satisfy. From the November 12th snapshot:
Staying with violence, as noted in the October 15th snapshot, Iraq had already executed 119 people in 2012. Time to add more to that total. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported last night that 10 more people were executed on Sunday ("nine Iraqis and one Egyptian"). Tawfeeq notes the Ministry of Justice's statement on the executions includes, "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council." And, not noted in the report, that number's only going to climb. A number of Saudi prisoners have been moved into Baghdad over the last weeks in anticipation of the prisoners being executed. Hou Qiang (Xinhua) observes, "Increasing executions in Iraq sparked calls by the UN mission in the country, the European Union and human rights groups on Baghdad to abolish the capital punishment, criticizing the lack of transparency in the proceedings of the country's courts."
At least 129 executions so far this year. And if you're not getting how death penalty crazy Nouri's Iraq is, sitting Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has been sentenced to death in recent weeks . . . not once, but four times. It's an addicition.
Alsumaria reports 1 police officer was shot dead inside his Mosul home. Dropping back to yesterday, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reported 1 police officer was shot dead in a Mosul armed clash and another was left injured, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul, a Ramadi roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer (another was injured) and 2 Tikrit bombings left five police officers injured.
Tensions have been rising in northern Iraq with Nouri al-Maliki sending troops in. The World Tribune notes today, "The greatest friction between Baghdad and KRG has focused on the Kirkuk area, claimed by the Kurds. The Iraqi military has established the Tigris Operations Command, led by Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Al Zaidi and responsible for the provinces of Diyala, Kirkuk and Salah Eddin." Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that, as a result of Nouri sending "tanks and armored vehicles toward" the city of Kirkuk (actually, towards Tuz Khurmatu) the Peshmerga are ready to attack at a minute's notice according to Commander Mahmoud Sankawi. Al Mada notes that there are 35 Tigris forces tanks at the edge of Tuz Khurmatu currently. Alsumaria notes that Iraqi Minister of Trade Khairallah Babker has stated that if Nouri does not stop the movements of the Tigris forces into disputed territories, the Kurds made clear to Nouri yesterday evening, that violence would ensue. Al Mada adds that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc has declared they do not support war on the KRG, that Nouri's actions are his alone and that Iraq needs someone to step forward and create a peaceful, civil state. Kitabat notes that Ahmed Chalabi has declared Nouri's actions will cause violence and are harmful to all Iraqis.
Late yesterday, AFP reported that Col Dhia al-Wakil, of Nouri's Tigris forces, was stating Nouri was warning the Kurdish forces not to approach his troops. Dar Addustour quotes the Secretary General of the Ministry of Peshmerga, Jabbar Yawar, stating that Nouri knows fully well what are and what not disputed territories in Iraq.
Hevidar Ahmed (Rudaw) notes that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (a Kurd) "repeatedly asked Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to halt the activities of the military command. Maliki ignored his calls and broadened the activities of the DOC instead." The Tigris forces are also known as Dijla Operations Command. As we noted some time ago, these forces were seen as Nouri's attempt to take over disputed territories. He has been prime minister since 2006. The Constitution mandated that he implement Article 140 and he was supposed to do it by the end of 2007. He never has. Article 140 provides for resolving disputed territories like oil-rich Kirkuk which both the Baghdad-based government and the KRG insists is rightly their land. Per Article 140, a census and referendum will be held. The last time Nouri acknowledged this was when he was desperate for a second term and promised a census would take place at the start of December 2010. But the Erbil Agreement in November 2010 meant he could go back on his promise and he immediately cancelled the census.
Ahmed notes that Talabani initially took Nouri at his words despite rumors and reports from the Kurdish Asayish forces. Events have forced Jalal to open his eyes and he has now called out the Tigris forces. Ahmed reports:
Spokesperson and member of the KDP political bureau, Jaafar Ibrahim, told Rudaw, "Talabani was never alone and has always been supported by Barzani and the KDP. Sometimes we might have had our differences, but in fateful matters such as Article 140 and the Kirkuk issue, KDP members support Talabani and the PUK." After Talabani prevented the effort to withdraw confidence from Maliki – brought forward by the KDP, Iraqiya List, Sadr Movement, Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) -- it was said that the KDP would not support Talabani in this case in Baghdad. But Ibrahim said, "The KDP will not leave Talabani alone in Baghdad as we have openly told Maliki that the DOC is a provocation and playing with fire."
Reports yesterday noted that Jalal was in Erbil to meet with KRG President Massoud Barzani. All Iraq News reports the two political rivals (the KRG has two dominant political parties, the KDP and the PUK, each heads one) met today. All Iraq News notes that Nouri's Cabinet also met to discuss the issue today. Many people were getting involved in the tense situation and it may have been kicked to a new level when, Alsumaria reports, the PKK announced that any attack on the Kurdistan Region would see a response from them. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."
An offer was made -- an offer only an idiot would accept. Hou Qiang (Xinhua) reports: The Iraqi government suggested Tuesday to jointly control the security with the Kurdish regional forces in the disputed areas in northern Iraq, in a bid to ease the tension between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region, an official Kurdish website said. "The ministerial council proposed in its meeting Tuesday to jointly run the security file of the disputed areas between the federal government and Kurdistan region," said the official website of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a major Kurdish party.
Enter the idiot Jalal Talabani. Alsumaria reports Jalal has announced he's grabbing the offer. He really is that stupid. When your opponent is struggling, you don't let the define how the battle ends. And Nouri's certainly struggling these days.
Amani Aziz (Al Mada) reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is ready to oust Nouri al-Maliki over the arms deal which has led to confessions from State of Law that there was huge corruption in the Russian arms deal. MP Jawad al-Hasnawi states it is a logical step to remove him after Nouri signed the deal while refusing to provide details including who were the go-betweens. This was the deal -- that's now supposedly broken -- that found Nouri signing a contract worth $4.2 billion. Alsumaria reports the Kudistan Alliance today announced that an investigative committee was being formed in Parliament to review the Russian arms deal. Omar Sattar (Al-Ayyam via Al-Monitor) adds, "The Iraqi parliament's Security and Defense Committee collected the names of more than 50 MPs demanding the formation of a committee to investigate the caneled Russian arms deal. The committee has confirmed its intention to interrogate all the officials whose names were linked to this case." Dar Addustour reported yesterday on Nouri's plan to isolate Jalal and that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barzani are in conversations with people assuming it is over withdrawing confidence in Nouri.
Nouri is a failure. Back in May, the World Bank released [PDF format warning] "Doing Business in the Arab World." We're dealing with it today because a friend (professor of economics) found a post elsewhere online to be outrageous. (I've learned to expect something less than precision from that writer.) Iraq didn't do well in the report, in fact it did awful. I wasn't surprised by that. Months before, we were walking you through how awful Iraq's image had become in the business world. But the post in question, the one that went up today and outraged a friend concludes of Iraq's lousy business status today "That's largely because the country has had a state-run economy since the 1960s." The economics professor called me and asked (a) is that what the writer's asserting or (b) did the report argue that and the writer forgot to include something like "The report maintains, that's largely because . . ." That's the writer's conclusion and those conclusions are ignorant and uninformed.
In the Arab World, Iraq ranks 19 out of 20 countries for ease of doing business (164th out of 183 countries worldwide). The report states:
In the past 6 years policy makers in 163 economies globally (including 17 of the 18 Arab economies in the sample) made dmoestic regulations more business-friendly. They lowered barries to entry, operation and exit and strengthened protections of property and investor rights. Only a few economies moved in the opposite direction. Among the Arab economies, Iraq is the only one that did so."
Everyone in the Arab world's been moving in the World Bank's right direction . . . except Iraq. Iraq is called out for offering no reforms in the last six years to ease doing business in the country. Instead, "In Iraq starting a business became more expensive because of an increase in the cost to obtain a name reservation certificate and in the cost for lawyers to draft articles of association." In Saudi Arabia, the World Bank maintains, someone can start a business in 5 days while it will take 77 in Iraq.
In a bit of good news in the report for Iraq, those wanting construction permits had to go through 13 procedures which allowed Iraq to be fourth on the list of fewest procedures; however, though they're only 13 procedures, in Iraq they tend to take forever (187 days) and are very expensive. Exporting and importing is a nightmare and you're looking at over a month from when you start either process.
The report is concerned largely with events of the last six years. Iraq having a state-run economy since the 1960s doesn't factor in. The report doesn't go back that far, Iraq's actually gotten worse in the last six years and the term "state-run economy" never appears in the report -- it's not concerned with that.
Iraq has many barriers and the blogger who enraged my friend may feel that these stem from having a state-run economy. If that's his argument, he needs to make it. He didn't just fail to back it up, he didn't even make the argument. The World Bank does not make that argument in "Doing Business in the Arab World 2012." Having a "state-run economy" shouldn't cause Iraq to drop over the last year. That is what happened. It's gone from really bad to really, really bad in the latest report.
Having a state-run economy should, in theory, allow Iraq to move quickly to address the issues raised in the report. But they haven't and they won't because Nouri al-Maliki is a failure. He has been a failure in nearly everything he's attempted (in fairness, he did excell at torture and the running of secret prisons).
Closing with music. One of the many women who paved the way for so many others and went on to become one of the great American songwriters is singer-songwriter Carly Simon. She's won the Grammy (twice), she's won the Golden Globe, she's been honored with The ASCAP Founders Award, she's even won an Academy Award. This Wednesday night, she's doing a web concert with her children Sally Taylor and Ben Taylor. It kicks off at 8:00 PM EST, 7:00 PM Central and 5:00 PM Pacific. It is a forty minute concert. Tickets are $20 with a portion going to the Red Cross for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Carly is notoriously stage shy. She could make a ton of money today if she did a national tour. She's one of the few acts that could make a ton of money. And one reason she could haul in that money (I'm not talking a ten date tour, I'm talking across the country) is because she has toured so rarely and so many of her fans across the country haven't had the pleasure of seeing her live (though they've wanted to). The tours have been very rare and tended to be short ones. This is a chance -- first-come-first-serve, there are about 90 tickets left -- for you to see her regardless of your location. The concert is Wednesday. And Sally and Ben are their own artists. You can hear strains of their parents in them but they are their own artists with their own unique talents so the concert should really be something. And Ben is also the guest on NPR's Mountain Stage -- the program may have already aired today in your area but you can check it out here -- 41 minutes of audio and also a video of him performing "It Really Doesn't Matter To You." I haven't had time to stream the concert but I do know "It Really Doesn't Matter To Me" and I think it's among his best, right up there with "Wicked Ways."
And while I'm plugging music, Janis Ian is an amazing artist, real, genuine, able to touch the heart. A very gifted artist and a sweet woman. A music producer friend asked me awhile back to note that Janis -- who is always on the road -- was performing in Dallas, Texas at a very intimate venue. This was going to be the first time Janis was in Dallas in some time and, again, it was a club where every seat was supposed to be a great seat. So we were more than happy to include it. The same friend called to ask that we note that Janis hits Texas next month and will perform at One World Theatre in Austin on Monday, December 10th; Dosey Doe in The Woodlands on December 9th; and Saturday, December 8th, Janis will be back in Dallas at Hamon Hall. As Ann and Nancy Wilson can tell you, if you can get Texas behind you, you can always tour. As a state, its history hasn't been to be trendy and, if you give a good show, concert goers will show up for the career highs as well as the more mellow periods. Janis is one of the premiere concert artists. She is not going through the motions, she is creating a show. She's a legend on the road and, if you're able to check her out, please do so. Click here for her full touring schedule. But, I'm not joking, it's known in the music industry that if you can get into the Texas circuit and give a strong show, concert goers will show up for years to come. They really value music -- and not trends -- in Texas. (That's also the reputation Louisiana has and why smart stage performers like Stevie Nicks always include those regions when planning a tour.)
And the friend I'm dictating this to asked if I was going to mention Ann? I didn't know Ann Wilson had something this week. Ann and her sister Nancy are the trail blazing rockers behind Heart which has a new album Fanatic (Katraved over it here) -- on sale for only $6.99 as an Amazon download right now, a tour and also a wonderful book Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll (Ava and I loved it). But Thursday, November 22nd, (that's Thanksgiving Day), Ann will be performing the National Anthem, broadcast on Fox TV, at the Dallas Cowboys versus the Washington Redskins football game. The game's scheduled to start at 2:15 PM EST, 3:15 Central, 1:15 Pacifica. Along with being on Fox TV (that's the entertainment channel that airs The Simpsons, Fringe, etc. -- I know Fox has a ton of channels), it will also be broadcast on Sirius Radio (channel 93). So Ann sings the National Anthem. And she's someone who can. Many don't have the range for that song, it's a hard one to sing. Ann's got the range and, goodness knows, the power so it should be something to see and hear.