Friday, April 2, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, 'election madness' continues in Iraq, The World speaks with soldiers on yet another tour in Iraq, KBR faces a new lawsuit, and more.
In the summer of 2008, I survived an assassination attempt in Iraq. My "crime" was that I am "an enemy of God," a promoter of concepts that "offended" religion. My crime was writing articles calling for the protection of religious minorities and calling for the rights of women, children, and homosexuals in Iraq, urging people to protect innocent people from brutal attacks by armed militias.
My principles forced me to live in harsh humanitarian conditions as I search for a safe haven, and as many of the countries which adopted human rights protection, bloggers from Iraq are not in the ranks of immediate threat, and I am thus forced to stay in search for protection.
We pay a high price in order to convey the reality of death and destruction in Iraq and to defend freedom of expression. While I live the reality of my search for a lifeline away from a death sentence awaiting me in my home country, I receive no means of protection and every day I come closer to face death again because of the programs forcing Iraqis to return, adopted by several European countries through treaties the Iraqi government put fourth.
Somehow the reality never matches up to the word from the White House -- regardless of which party occupies the White House -- does it?
Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane and her guests -- joined by Tom Gjelten (NPR), Moises Naim (Foreign Policy) and Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) -- addressed Iraq.
Diane Rehm: Let's turn now to Iraq and the elections there. Are we any closer to knowing who is going to be the next prime minister, Mary Beth?
Mary Beth Sheridan: You know, I think that we are probably weeks away. And, you know, I think what's really important about this issue -- it's so easy over here I think for your listeners to find the whole thing rather baffling all these parties that are jockeying and so on and one guy won but will he form a coalition? You know, I guess for me -- I've spent some time in Iraq -- the main question is: Can they work this out peacefully? Because Iraq has a history of resolving its political disputes by force and, of course, President Obama wants to end combat operations in August and you're looking at weeks, months of jockeying to form a government so I think there's a real question here about -- and real implications for -- US strategy.
Diane Rehm: And what role is Iran trying to play in this election?
Mary Beth Sheridan: Well that's a very interesting point. A lot of the leaders of the Shi'ite parties have gone to Iran to consult. They are very influential. They have some control over militia groups. There's money that flows in. So they're definitely a big player in this -- uh -- in this political issue.
Diane Rehm: And there's going to be a vetting panel, Tom?
Tom Gjelten: Well, the problem is that the alliance that won, Mr. Ayad Allawi, a secular, sort of largely Sunni group, uhm, is uh just two seats ahead of the alliance led by Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister. Well the government is in the hands of Maliki and therefore --
Diane Rehm: And he says it's fraud.
Tom Gjelten: -- he has a real interest in disqualifying some of these candidates because that would then put him ahead and with just a two seat margin, there's not a lot of leeaway here, in fact, it's interesting, some of the -- some of the -- some of the candidates -- some of the Parliementary candidates in Mr. Allawi's group have basically gone underground to stay out of reach of the law because the government is trying to come after them.
Diane Rehm: Ah-hah. So Mary Beth's concerns are valid. Go ahead, Moses.
Moises Naim: And both Mary Beth and Joe -- Tom, are right, this is not any election. Because you could say, "Well this is democracy at work, you know. It happens all the time that you have to build coalitions and do some horse trading and create a government and so on." But here we are in a different game because, as Mary Beth says, if this ends up with violence or if there is huge fraud then the exit of American troops will also be more difficult.
Diane Rehm has been awarded a Peabody for her work this year (here for the list of winners) and they note of her show, "Now available to National Public Radio listeners after decades on Washington's WAMU-FM, Rehm's talk show is the gold standard for civil, civic discourse." Congratulations to Diane and her team. Earlier this year The Diane Rehm Show won a Shorty Award for their real-time Twitter platform, so she leads the year with traditional media (Peabody Award) and new media (Shorty Award).
Back to the elections, the Washington Post's Leila Fadel (via Sydney Morning Herald) explains, "In a sign of hardening sectarian divisions, the secular, largely Sunni-backed bloc that won the most seats in Iraq's recent parliamentary elections says its victorious candidates are being subjected to a campaign of detention and intimidation by the government of the Shiite Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki." For background on the attempts to target/smear successfully elected candidates as "Ba'athists," CNN notes:
A controversial committee that nearly derailed the Iraqi election in January has resurfaced. Led by Ahmed Chalabi, a former ally of the Pentagon, the committee this week announced that six winning candidates in the March 7 parliamentary election are connected to the former regime of Saddam Hussein and must be disqualified.
Critics say it's no coincidence -- disqualifying them will erase the lead of secular candidate Ayad Allawi and his Iraqiya alliance of Shiites and Sunnis. Allawi's electoral list won 91 seats in parliament and topped the State Of Law coalition of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, which won 89 seats.
Tom Gjelten's point about people going into hiding was reported on by Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) who reported in today's paper on Sheik Qais Jabouri, a memer of Allawi's slate elected to the Parliament, who went into hiding yesterday after Nouri's security forces ransacked his home looking for him and this has led to allegations (I'd say truthful statements) "that Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is carrying out politically motivated arrests to stay in power after his own Shiite Muslim-led slate finished a close second in national elections March 7."
Returning to Iraqi blogger Wamith al-Kassab who shares thoughts on the post-election actions at Mideast Youth:
This attack was a continue to the attack launched by officials from the Justice and Accountability Committee Started before the elections under assuming of preventing candidates connected to Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath party from standing for elected office. As they prevented About 500 candidates were from standing before the election by the commission Another attacks were in changing the constitution translation for paragraphs that say that the top vote-getter should have the first shot at forming a government. to those who got bigger collation from sets holders as the Supreme Court concluded, at Maliki's urging, that the right to form the next government could go to alliances and super-coalitions formed after the election, if they prove to have the most seats. Maliki promptly launched negotiations with other religious Shiite and Kurdish parties. They current leaders of the government concentrate of staying in power than focusing instead on building peace and stability in Iraq. Many of the votes for Allawi were votes for a strong national government in Baghdad and against sectarianism.
As Nouri and his cronies attempt to overturn the will of the people, Moqtada al-Sadr comes off looking like he's committed to giving the people a voice (and he may well be). Xinhua reports that voting has begun to determine whom the Sadr bloc (which won 40 seats in the election) should back for prime minister. Voting takes place today and continues tomorrow. Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) quotes a statement from Moqtada al-Sadr which was "read to his followers before Friday prayers" in which he states, "According to political developments, a mistake might occur in choosing the next prime minister, and for that I think it is in the (national) interest to assign it directly to the people." Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report on the developments and offer an in-depth walk through on the past tensions between al-Sadr and Nouri al-Maliki stemming from Nouri's attack on followers of Moqtada al-Sadr in Basra and Baghdad. They noted, "Sadrists may use the informal referendum, which continues Saturday, as an excuse not to bak Maliki who already endured a blow earlier this week when another Shi'ite party appeared to back former primer minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc." That move that may halt Nouri's attempt to nullify the voice of the people, Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) reports, came via Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Iraqi National Alliance (which al-Sadr's bloc is a part of), who posted online, "We will not participate in a government that does not include Iraqiya." Zaid Thaker and Timothy Williams (New York Times) inform that the voting today and tomorrow is open to all and they describe a scene of voting, "A crowd of about 100 would-be voters excitedly mobbed tables where the official green paper ballots were being distributed. Some people took several ballots and handed them to friends and relatives in the throng behind them. As pushing and shoving intensified, people began to shout at one another."
"The war in Iraq is not over and we as a nation will be dealing with its aftermath for a long time," noted The World (PRI) today in the intro to Ben Gilbert's report on some of those serving in Iraq (US Army's 3rd Infantry Division's 1-64 amor):.
David Shumate: My name is David Shumate. I'm from Palm Bay, Florida and I'm 27-years-old. And I'm from Alpha Company 1-64 Amor. This is my fourth tour in Iraq. I've been in the invasion OIF3, OIF5 and OIF8. I was active army right after September 11th and then deployed to Kuwait and then a few months after a lot of training, we invaded Iraq. So, yeah, we lost two guys and had eighteen wounded. But I mean, really, once we got into Baghdad, basically it was kind of over. It was just once we got there, we did -- It all stopped basically and it was kind of amazing. When I was on my first combat -- my first patrols into Baghdad, it was amazing. I was actually getting flowers from people, bouquets of flowers from women and they were happy and cheering that we were there. So a lot has changed from the first few weeks of Baghdad. It's a couple of weeks after that when the insurgency really started its effect on the people.
Mike Bailey: My name is Mike Bailey. I'm from Belle Chasse, Louisiana and I'm 27-years-old. This is my fourth time to Iraq. The first time I was here, with 1st Marine Division, was down in Babel Province. The second round, I switched over and came as part of 1st Marine Regiment in Feburary 2004. We went to just outside Falluja in Anbar Province and the word of the day was IEDs, they were everywhere I mean people were more worried about what was going on the side of the road than what was going on on the roads and that one definitely started off with a bang with the four Blackwater conrtactors that got killed two or three weeks after we got there. Not too long after the Blackwater contractors were killed we moved into the city of Falluja with several battalions and started, basically, rooting out the guys that were coming out to fight us. And there was a lot of them, a whole lot of them. It seemed like everybody had an RPG or a gun in Falluja back then. You couldn't get very far into the city before you started hearing booms and richochets coming off vehicles and stuff like that. They definitely wanted to fight us head on.
James Ausmann: My name is Staff Sgt James Ausmann. I live at Fort Stewart, with my wife and kids, so that's home. I was with the 1st Batallion, 18th Infantry, first ID. We were based out of Tikrit, just south of here. Saw the end of all the major combat and the beginning of all the IEDs. There was no armor on our vehicles, so that made it for interesting times
Ben Gilbert: This was back before armored humvees, right?
James Ausmann: (Laughs) Yeah, yeah. So we had all the soft skin humvees with all of the Secretary of Defense trying to get us the armor in a rush. And you know, to their credit, nobody knew what the IED threat was until we hit it. So.
Ben Gilbert: Yeah, right. Did you -- did you guys hillbillly armor your vehicles?
James Ausmann: Oh yeah. Plywood, sheet metal, sandbags, everything you could of think of, we put on there. Some of it worked.
David Shumate: David Shumate. I was twenty when we invaded and now I'm fixing to turn, about to turn 28 so a big chunk of the 20s. Wow, it's from OIF3 to today, it's night and day. The Iraqi army is a lot more established. We no longer, really, can go into the cities without Iraqi escorts. We can't go into an Iraqi house without an Iraqi escort and without a warrant or permission. So, um, it's night and day. So basically OIF3 was if we felt something was suspicious or something was going bad in that house, we went into that house and took care of business and so now basically the Iraqis have control of everything and we're just there to support them.
Mike Bailey: Mike Bailey. You get the feeling that it's the last deployment. Basically told that you guys are going to turn the lights off on the way out the door.
Ben Gilbert: How much time have you spent in Iraq?
Mike Bailey: Let's see here. Three years of my twenties have been spent in Iraq. Parts of me are sick of coming here, being away from a toddler -- my daughter was just born, I actually missed her birth the last time I was here -- and being away from my wife of eight years. But this is what I signed up for when I was 18-years-old and this is what I know, and my wife came into and we know it's one of those things that's going to happen we're prepared for it.
James Ausmann: I'm one of those guys, I want to see it all the way through. I'd rather stay here another year or two and get it done right then leave to early. I want us to leave and for this to work out, not for us to leave and the country have issues.
Turning to KBR -- and isn't it a rare week when we don't -- often several times -- February 25th a federal judge dimissed a case against KBR -- not ruling on the merits of the case, just addressing the issue of jurisdiction. Jeffrey Rainzer (Doyle Rainzer LLP) explained, "Today, the federal court dismissed the claims of the Indiana National Guardsmen in 'McManaway et al v. KBR, Inc.' pending in Evansville, Indiana. The Court found that the KBR defendants could not be sued in Indiana. We are disappointed by the ruling, particularly since so many of the veterans we represent are exhibiting symptoms of exposure to toxic sodium dichromate / hexavalent chromium. We will fight to hold KBR accountable for what happened to our Iraq veterans at Qarmat Ali. Doyle Raizner and co-counsel intend to refile the veterans' claims in another federal-court jurisdiction as soon as possible. This development delays but does not deny justice for the Indiana Guardsmen in this case. The truth of what happened at Qarmat Ali will be told, and we believe it will be told in a federal court. The firm and co-counsel represent other veterans in Qarmat Ali-related cases pending in West Virginia and Oregon federal courts." The Indianapolis Star reports that Mike Doyle ("Doyle" of Doyle Raizner LLP) refiled the case in Houston, Texas on Wednesday. Eric Brander (Evansville Courier & Press) notes, "Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., has drafted legislation that would create a registry similar to the one created for soldiers exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. That registry would ensure that those suffering symptoms possibly related to the exposure receive treatment from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doctors, but it has not become law." Because it is buried in committee. October 21st, US Senator Evan Bayh appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and made the following statement:
I am here today to testify about a tragedy that took place in 2003 on the outskirts of Basrah, Iraq.
I'm here on behalf of Lt. Colonel James Gentry and the brave men and women who served under his command in the 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry of the Indiana National Guard.
I spoke with Lt. Col. Gentry by phone last week. He is at his home with his wife, Lou Ann, waging a valiant fight against terminal cancer.
The lieutenant colonel was a healthy man when he left for Iraq. Today, he is fighting for his life.
Tragically, many of his men are facing their own bleak prognoses as a result of their exposure to sodium dichromate -- one of the most lethal carcinogens in existence.
The chemical is used as an anti-corrosive for pipes. It was strewn all over the water treatment facility guarded by the 152nd Infantry. More than 600 soldiers from Indiana, Oregon, West Virginia and South Carolina were exposed.
One Indiana Guardsman has already died from lung disease. The Army has classified it a service-related death. Dozens of others have come forward with a range of serious respiratory symptoms.
The DoD Inspector General just launched an investigation into the breakdowns and gaps in our system that allowed this tragic exposure to happen. Neither the Army nor the private contractor KBR performed an environmental risk assessment of the site, so our soldiers were breathing in this chemical and swallowing it for months.
Our country's reliance on military contractors -- and their responsibility to their bottom line vs. our soldiers' safety -- is a topic for another day and another hearing.
Mr. Chairman, today, I would like to tell this committee about S.1779. It is legislation I have written to ensure we provide full and timely medical care to soldiers exposed to hazardous chemicals during wartime military service.
The Health Care for Veterans Exposed to Chemical Hazards Act of 2009 is bipartisan legislation that has been cosponsored by Senators Lugar, Dorgan, Rockefeller, Byrd, Wyden, Merkley and Specter.
My bill is modeled after similar legislation that Congress approved in 1978 following the Agent Orange exposure in the Vietnam conflict.
The bill ensured lifelong VA care for soldiers unwittingly exposed to the cancer-causing herbicide in the jungles of Vietnam.
Some have called toxic industrial hazards the Agent Orange of the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.
My legislation would make soldiers eligible for medical examinations, laboratory tests, hospital care and nursing services. It would ensure soldiers receive priority health care at VA facilities. It would recognize a veteran's own report of exposure and inclusion on a Department of Defense registry as sufficient proof to receive medical care, barring evidence to the contrary.
My legislation will help ensure that we provide the best possible care for American soldiers exposed to environmental hazards during the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. At a bare minimum, my bill will ensure compassionate care so families are spared the added grief of going from doctor to doctor in their loved ones' final days, searching for a diagnosis.
The 1978 Agent Orange registry only covered one chemical compound. But my bill is broader. It covers all members of the armed forces who have been exposed to any environmental chemical hazard, not just sodium dichromate. It recognizes a new set of risks that soldiers face today throughout the world.
Senate testimony last year identified at least seven serious instances of potential contamination involving different industrial hazards -- sulfur fires, ionizing radiation, sarin gas, and depleted uranium, to name a few.
S.1779 ensures that veterans who were exposed to these chemicals will be eligible for hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care.
It allows the Secretary of Defense to identify the hazards of greatest concern that warrant special attention from the VA.
My bill switches the burden of proof from the soldier to the government. Soldiers exposed to toxic chemicals will receive care presumptively, unless the VA can show their illness is not related to their service.
Exposure to toxic chemicals is a threat no service member should have to face. It is our moral obligation to offer access to prompt, quality care. We should cut the red tape for these heroes.
Mr. Chairman, I promised Lt. Col. Gentry that I would fight for his men here in Congress. I promise I would use my position to get them the care they deserve and to make sure we protect our soldiers from preventable risks like this in the future.
This tragedy will be compounded if we do not take the steps to provide the best medical care this country has to offer.
Thank you for this opportunity to offer testimony today. I urge this committee to adopt S. 1779 to honor the sacrifice of Lt. Colonel Gentry and all of our brave men and women doing the hard, dangerous work of keeping America safe.
December 1st, Lt Col James C. Gentry was buried. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has refused to move on Bayh's legislation. Is someone being paid off? There's no reason in the world to have sat on this legislation. Bayh, who doesn't serve on the Committee, is not seeking re-election and when he spoke about what he believed was conflict from both sides of the aisle and how it was preventing Congress from doing the needed business, maybe some of the smart mouths attacking Evan could have stopped a moment and looked at the bills he was proposing, such as the registry, and how there was no action on them despite overwhelming public support for them. Mike Doyle (Doyle Raizner LLP) notes, "The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, where KBR maintains its corporate headquarters. The case was assigned to United States District Judge Vanessa Gilmore, and the judge ordered a Scheduling Conference on July 9, 2010, to select a trial date for the case. Judge Gilmore at the time of her appointment by President Bill Clinton was the youngest sitting federal judge, and she has presided over a number of important trials (including the Enron Broadband trial) during her tenure on the bench."
At Doyle Raizner, our recent work pursuing claims against military contractors has focused on continuing litigation over our soldiers' exposure to the known cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium -- also known as sodium dichromate -- at facilities and sites operated by the Houston-based engineering and construction company KBR, Inc.
This major, determined effort has further prepared our attorneys to handle other potential negligence and damage claims on behalf of U.S. and U.K. military personnel. We encourage you to contact us if you are:
[. . .]
To discuss your potential military contractor claim with an attorney who will take you seriously and treat you with care and respect, call or e-mail us anytime.
Staying on the legal, Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist notes that donations are down and they are attempting to help with Marc Hall's upcoming court-martial. Marc is the man who rapped, on his own time, a song that became a 'crime.' It's ridiculous. And now they want to court-martial to him -- want to, the military's going to. They've whisked him off to Iraq and did so to deny him a support system as well as access to witnesses to make the strongest case he could. From Jeff Paterson:
As we mustered civilian legal aid and mental health services for Marc in Georgia, the Army kidnapped Marc and took him to Kuwait where he remains under pre-trial confinement awaiting a virtually secret trial. Our federal court appeals failed to stop this "extradition", but we continue to work every day on his behalf.
Marc is now schedule to be court martialed in Iraq on April 27. We are working to make sure that Marc has civilian legal representation and mental health witnesses at trial in Iraq -- but that's dependent on money and resources for travel expenses and more.
Why has the Army gone to such extremes to make an example out of Spc. Marc Hall? Because he is only one of tens of thousands of "walking wounded" trapped in the military, and the military can't afford to provide real treatment or let them go.
"The number of US soldiers who have died in the Afghan war has reached 1,000. A grim milestone in the conflict launched more than eight years ago," began a news story last week. "We must steel ourselves for harder days yet to come," declared Admiral Mike Mullen, in defense of the endless occupation of Afghanistan. In addition to the 100,000 US troops that remain today in Iraq, the surge in US forces to Afghanistan continues. Foreign troop levels are expected to reach 150,000 soon.
Yet the military has a big problem. Even with relatively solid recruiting due to historically high unemployment, they are still unable to convince (bribe) enough troops to reenlist after their first stint. That's where "Stop-loss" and the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) come in to form the "back door draft" that is reviled throughout the ranks.
We have become the place to call for hundreds of IRR members questioning continued service -- thousands if you include those that rely on our extensive web resources alone. For example, google "IRR recall" and you'll see that Courage to Resist is the first resource listed.
Since the last time I asked for your support, we identified significant reductions in our budget and made hard decisions -- including reducing staff hours by 50% and moving our Oakland-based workspace saving 40% on office-related expenses. These actions, along with the continued support of many, have allowed us to move forward in our mission by maintaining an amazingly effective, bare-bones organization.
Unfortunately, the same is not true for a long time ally of war resisters, The Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO). Founded in 1948 to help people escape military enlistment, CCCO played a critical role in supporting objectors during the Vietnam War and on through the 90's. Recently they closed of their office and website "due to the economy." CCCO once played a central role in the GI Rights Network. However, having planned ahead, the new GI Rights Hotline -- a consortium of over 20 groups -- is now taking responsibility for the free 877-447-4487 hotline. Over the last five years, I believe Courage to Resist has also stepped into this void by providing the material, moral, and political support to objectors that CCCO was once known for.
Since we're including that -- over a number of things I was hoping to include in the snapshot -- let's talk CCCO. There's no draft. The entire decade. So when your officials insult war resisters and go on about how it was different during the days of the draft, you're just blowing smoke out your ass, nobody gives a damn. There are wars going on right now and if you're not able to address today's realities, you're not much help to anyone. CCCO helped in filing for objector status. It was of no help -- and made comments disparaging the choices of -- war resisters who decided to self-checkout. CCCO made itself ridiculous and also had a major hard on for Barack Obama. Point, for all organizations whining they don't have enough money, you need to grasp, we're not funding you. We don't give a damn about you. If you can't call out a War Hawk, you're of no use to us. So you better start considering your priorities because I believe MoveOn already corners the market of faux activism. You either learn to stand up to the War Hawk in the White House today -- continuing these illegal wars -- or you accept the fact that those of us who give a damn about ending these wars just don't have time for you and, honestly, don't respect you.
The ACLU has released new evidence on civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan and, note, they are providing it in a multitude of platforms including audio and we don't have room in the snapshot for it. I'll apologize to two friends at the ACLU and we'll include it on Monday. The link will take you there. Speaking of friends, we will make time for this. Remember all the Can't-Do-Much-To-End-The-Iraq-War (other than scream: "Vote Democrat!") loons who attacked The Hurt Locker? In fact, the US military brass launched the attack on The Hurt Locker. That's how Ned was teamed up with those serving in Iraq -- didn't you find that strange? So after they got on the asses they mistook for high horses and after Kathryn Bigelow won the Academy Award for Best Director, might we wonder about Iraqis? We heard a whole lot of pontificating allegedly about Iraqis. Hey, Danny-boy, I'm talking about people like you, talking about your sorry ass here. You trash her and you trash her movie and you've got no grounds to stand on having forgotten the Iraq War for how many years? Yeah, sit your tired and sexist ass down. Dana Bajjali (UNHCR) reports on two Iraqi refugees and their reaction to The Hurt Locker. They fled to Jordan due to the violence in Iraq. They were extras on The Hurt Locker. Bajjali reports:
"I am happy that the film won a prize," said Nader, who had a tiny bit of dialogue that made it into the finished work. Both he and Ala' praised the actors, director and producers for its success -- "The Hurt Locker" won six Oscars and many other prestigious international prizes.
Both Nader and Ala' said it was important for them to take part in the film, because it depicted the danger that civilians and soldiers face from car bombs, suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices in Iraq. "We feel really sad to see how many explosions occur every day," Nader said.
The two Iraqi refugees appeared in crowd scenes shot in urban areas and said it was hard work. "There were lots of sophisticated scenes of explosions," Ala' recalled. He appears in a tense scene early in the film, when the maverick bomb disposal expert played by Jeremy Renner defuses a car bomb. "We had to run . . . we ran away," Ala' recalled.
The extras also welcomed their work on "The Hurt Locker" because it was a useful source of income. The casting agency was keen to hire Iraqis to play Iraqis. "The film is about Iraq and it is important to get Iraqis involved," explained George Naouri, a casting director. "Iraqis went through these difficult times and they can show true emotions," he added.
Priority was given to the neediest Iraqis, but the casting directors were also on the look out for people with some previous acting experience. "We were glad to take part because, for us, it was a much needed source of income to cover our rent and other expenses," Ala' commented.
Kathryn's an artist and she entered the history books. All the rest of you snorting the Hater-Aid have exposed yourself for the sick f**ks you are. And if this wasn't a work safe site, I'd be saying a great deal more. Instead, I'll just note, she's an artist and she don't look back, while all the ones who attacked her stare up from the gutter -- usually begging for more money for what you call your 'careers.' (Hint, a career is not built around begging. Hopefully, your parents aren't around to witness the sad state that you pretend is your adulthood.)
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing on most PBS stations Friday night (check local listings) and this week's program:
The number of inmates in American prisons is outpacing the system's ability to hold them all. In one startling example, California prisons hold well over 50,000 more inmates than they're designed for, even though the state has built a dozen new prisons in the last 15 years. One of the biggest reasons is rampant recidivism.
On Friday, April 2 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW goes inside an Illinois prison that may have the answer to California's problems. With its innovative plan to keep released inmates from coming back, the Sheridan Correctional Center is trying to redefine "tough on crime" by being the largest fully dedicated drug prison in the country. The approach involves aggressive counseling, job training, and following the convicts after they get out. Can their novel approach keep convicts out of jail for good?
Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Dan Balz (Washington Post), Mike Duffy (Time), John Harwood (New York Times, CNBC) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News). Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quicker). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Ruth Conniff, Cari Dominguez, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's it's on breast feeding. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
Should companies be able to own human genes? Morley Safer examines the idea of biotech firms patenting genes for profit, a controversy now being played out in courts of law. | Watch Video
Many Ugandans have been saved by an American program that provides affordable anti-retroviral medicines to fight HIV and AIDS. But as a result, people are now becoming less fearful of the virus and continue to spread it by practicing unsafe sex. Bob Simon reports. | Watch Video
As cigarette sales plunge, tobacco companies are marketing new, smokeless products to skirt smoking bans and keep customers. Lesley Stahl investigates the pros and cons of the new products. | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, April 4, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.