Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 20, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq tops a list and comes in first!, Little Nouri's recount does not go over well as voices are raised in opposition, Amnesty International wants to know more about the secret prison, the refugee crisis continues, and more.
Though you better believe the New York Times won't blog it and pimp it in print the way they did with Iraq's soccer team, Iraq has come in first.
However, their 'gold' comes on the Committee to Protect Journalists' "2010 Impunity Index" which finds Iraq tops all countries with its number of unsolved murders of journalists: "Iraq is at number one with 88 unsolved journalist murders, while Somalia is second, reflecting insurgents' routine use of violence to control the news media." They note:

All 88 journalist murders over the last 10 years are unsolved, putting Iraq at the top of the index for the third year in a row. All but seven cases involve local journalists, the vast majority of whom were targeted by insurgents. The victims include Al-Arabiya television correspondent Atwar Bahjat and crew members Khaled Mahmoud al-Falahi and Adnan Khairallah, who were shot on assignment outside the Golden Mosque in Samarra in 2006. There is a positive trend: For the first time since the U.S.-led invasion, CPJ documented no work-related murders in Iraq in 2009. (Four journalists were killed in crossfire in 2009.) Nevertheless, with an impunity ranking nearly three times as high as any other country, Iraq has posed unparalleled dangers to the press.         

Impunity Index Rating: 2.794 unsolved journalist murders per 1 million inhabitants.
Last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.983

Iraq didn't just come in first, it remained number one.  Something Nouri al-Maliki should consider campaigning on. But it's not just the Baghdad-controlled portion of Iraq, CPJ issued an alert today regarding the Kurdistan Region:

New York , April 20, 2010 -- Anti-riot police assaulted journalists covering two different protests in Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan on Saturday and Tuesday. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attacks and calls on authorities to stop harassing journalists reporting in the field. 

Several journalists told CPJ today that police prevented them on Saturday from covering clashes between security forces and students who had taken to the streets to protest the Ministry of Education's decision to change the grading system in high schools. Among those obstructed were Soran Ahmed, reporter for the independent biweekly Hawlati, Shikar Mu'tasim, a reporter for the independent weekly Rozhnama, Aso Khalil, a reporter for Zhyar magazine, and Talan Kosrat, a cameraman for Zahmatkeshan television channel.

Ahmed told CPJ that security forces insulted and hit journalists, confiscated their cameras and ordered them to leave the scene. "They beat me, seized my camera and my phone, handcuffed me and forced me into a police van," Ahmed told CPJ. He added that he sustained bruises on his chest and arms before being released within a half hour.

"Assaults on journalists seeking to cover public events are becoming increasingly commonplace," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Mohamed Abdel Dayem . "We call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to make it clear to security personnel that it will not tolerate attacks on journalists. The government must ensure that journalists are not attacked or threatened in an effort to censor coverage."       

On Tuesday, more journalists were assaulted while covering a protest in front of the building of the General Directorate of Education in Sulaimaniya. Hawzheen Gharib, a reporter for the independent daily Chatir told CPJ that authorities confiscated his camera but that they later returned it with a broken memory card. He added that at least three other photographers had their cameras damaged by the police during the same protest.

Late Sunday, Ned Parker's "Secret prison for Sunnis revealed in Baghdad" was published online by the Los Angeles Times detailing Nouri al-Maliki's off-the-books prison where he was holding and torturing Sunnis. Michael Roston (True/Slant) reports:

This story was probably set to lead off foreign coverage this morning, especially with the results of Maliki's re-election fight against former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi still up for grabs... .until Prime Minister Maliki appeared on the scene to announce in a press conference that Iraqi commandos in a joint raid with US forces had killed two senior al Qaida in Iraq or 'Islamic State of Iraq' leaders. And then suddenly, it was as though the the secret torture site had never been uncovered!
You won't find reference to it in Tim Arango's coverage in the New York Times. Ernesto Londono elides mention of the Muthanna in his report for the Washington Post as well. And Yochi J. Dreazen steers clear of it in the Wall Street Journal, too. And of course it wasn't on Vice President Biden's mind when he touted the mission in a press conference today -- of course, hours after Maliki got to tee off the announcement.
But these reports do reveal a couple of crucial facts. For instance, the Post notes that the two leading Al Qaida in Iraq figures -- Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi -- were killed in an operation late on Saturday night/very early Sunday morning, i.e. less than 24 hours prior to the LA Times's newsbreak on Old Muthanna. And the Journal reports that DNA testing on the corpses of the two killed leaders by the American military had not yet been completed to confirm their identities. Is it possible that they weren't certain of who they had killed, or whether this was the opportune moment to announce it?

From yesterday's snapshot:

Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports that a huge number of people are stepping forward to sing praises of the operation including Gen Ray Odierno (his comments are actually in the previous military press release we linked to above) and Nouri al-Maliki (we'll come back to the singers, the Three Tenors, if you will, in a moment) and she notes that the US and Iraq spokespersons are claiming that Abu Hamza Muhajr and Abu Omar Baghdadi were the two killed on Sunday in the US forces-led operation. US forces-led operation? That's me, not Sly. But let's be clear that if air power was supplied, it was a US-led operation. Baghdad's air force is non-existant and expected to be that way until late 2013 by the most positive estimates. So while the US makes those claims, Sly points out, "The Iraqi government has on numerous occasions claimed to have captured Baghdadi, and last year televised the confession of a man who claimed to be Baghdadi, to widespread skepticism. U.S. officials said privately they did not believe the man was Baghdadi, and some Iraqi officials said then the real Baghdadi was a man with the same name as that given by the U.S. military." Sly leaves out the fact that the press ran with that claim -- that false claim -- with very few exceptions. It was embarrassing (and we called it out in real time). But let's underscore that today we have confirmation that it was false and we know that the confession was false. Remember that the next time the Iraqi government parades a confession or makes an assertion. But he's not the only one they've claimed to have caught in the past. As Laura Rozen (Politico) reminds, "Al-Masri, an Egyptian also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, had previously erroneously been reported killed in late 2006 as well as in 2007." In other words, this heavily panted over 'operation' which netted 'two' 'evil doers'? Don't be surprised if six months to a year from now we're again being told that al-Baghdadi and al-Masri have either been killed or captured.

As Liz Sly and Laura Rozen explained, both men have been trumpeted as 'dead' and 'caught' before. On today's Morning Edition (NPR), Quil Lawrence noted of al-Baghdadi, "And he's a very interesting one because in the past, the U.S. officials, off the record, had even suggested that he might be a fictional character that had been created to put a name to all of these bombings. And the Iraqi government had claimed several times in the past to have captured or killed him, so there was some skepticism." Michael Scherer (Time magazine) observes, "The killings may hold more symbolic value for the Iraqi government, and the White House, than strategic value. Al Qaeda in Iraq has long been a weakened body, far less concerning to U.S. intelligence leaders than other Al Qaeda groups in Yemen and Pakistan." If the death claims are accurate, it may still mean nothing -- as The Economist points out "Decapaitation is not yet victory:"

Mr Maliki, displaying gruesome pictures of two corpses, told reporters that the attack had taken place in the early hours of April 18th, after his security forces had shared intelligence with the American army, which was asked to help target the men. An American soldier was killed as a helicopter attacked the house where the two men where hiding, south-west of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's home town, in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad. At least two other men in the house were killed in the raid. 
The deaths of Iraqi insurgent leaders, including Mr Baghdadi, have been reported before and later found not to have occurred, so DNA testing of the bodies will have to be done before the Iraqi government's claim can be verified. The two men, also known as Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir and Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi, have been shadowy figures. Mr Masri was apparently born in Egypt and has led AQI since the death of its Jordanian founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in 2006. Mr Baghdadi's history is so murky that he was at one time thought to be fictional.
BBC News notes that today Nouri claimed they'd killed Ahmed al-Obedi. That's generally the thing that trips up Nouri when he's making false claims -- they're bought and he just keeps upping the claims.  Time will tell if that was the case again this time.
Now, as Michael Roston noted, Ned Parker's scoop has not received the attention it warrants.  It was discussed today by Quil Lawrence and Renee Montagne on Morning Edition (NPR).
Reneee Montagne: And, Quil, just a last question - I'd like to ask you about a story that ran in the L.A. Times this week. It documented a secret prison system run by the Shiite-led government, in which Sunnis have been tortured. Is this story an indication or a sign of a return to Iraq's sectarian dirty war?
Quil Lawrence: It certainly stokes those sort of fears. The story written by Ned Parker in the L.A. Times is about hundreds of men, Sunnis, arrested around the city of Mosul, some of them without warrants. They were held for months, and apparently they were subjected to torture routinely in a secret prison in Baghdad. Now, Iraqi government officials claim that they have to bring prisoners to Baghdad sometimes, because otherwise they'll just be released by judges, courts that are sympathetic, perhaps, to the insurgents in places like Mosul. But the tales of torture and rape as torture in the prison are really horrific. The prime minister told the L.A. Times that when he discovered that this was going on, he shut it down. But certainly, Sunni families of these men are not accepting that the prime minister himself wasn't involved. And it really raises questions about whether the sectarian violence is over or just dormant here in Iraq.
Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to investigate allegations that security forces tortured hundreds of Sunni detainees at a secret prison in Baghdad.  

Iraqi Human Rights Ministry inspectors said on Sunday that more than 100 of the facility's 431 prisoners were tortured using electric shocks, suffocation with plastic bags and beatings. Prisoners reportedly revealed that one man had died in January as a result of torture.          

Amnesty International expressed concerns at Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's claim that he was unaware of abuses at the prison, which he has vowed to shut down.  

"The existence of secret jails indicates that military units in Iraq are allowed to commit human rights abuses unchecked," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.                   

"Prime Minister al-Maliki's claim that he was unaware of abuses cannot exonerate the authorities from their responsibilities and their duty to ensure the safety of detainees."         

The prisoners were detained by Iraqi forces in Nineveh province in October as part of an operation targeting alleged Sunni fighters. 

Iraqi Security forces reportedly obtained a warrant to transfer the men to Baghdad, where they were held in isolation in a secret detention facility at the old al-Muthanna airport, which is run by the Baghdad Brigade - a special force under the direct control of the Prime Minister's office             

Their whereabouts came to light in March after concerns were raised by relatives of the missing men.       

"Al-Maliki's government has repeatedly pledged to investigate incidents of torture and other serious human rights abuses by the Iraqi security forces, but no outcome of such investigations has ever been made public," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.          

"This has encouraged a widespread culture of impunity but this time, Iraq must investigate the torture allegations thoroughly and bring to justice those responsible for carrying out any abuses."           

Iraqi officials have said that 75 prisoners have already been released from the secret jail, while 275 have been transferred to normal prisons.                        

In 2005, 168 detainees were found in appalling conditions at an Iraqi secret detention facility in the al-Jadiriya district of Baghdad. The findings of an investigation into the incident launched shortly afterwards were never made public and no one has been prosecuted in connection with the abuses that took place at the prison.
Yesterday Little Nouri's foot stomping and sulking paid off and he got a Baghdad recount (which should take between eight to ten days). Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The legal decision raised Maliki's hopes that his Shiite-dominated coalition would be awarded more parliamentary seats than his rival Iyad Allawi's secular bloc, which had stunned the nation by winning a slim plurality in the Mrach 7 vote. But it also raised fears that if the results are overturned" violence could return in stronger form to Iraq."  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "As political maneuvering continues over the election results, US and Iraqi officials say the key political parties have yet to begin serious negotiations on forming a coalition government. Before the election, Maliki broke away from his traditional Shiite partners, leaving both his coalition and Allawi's a broad range of potential political partners."  CNN reports that Allawi says the Baghdad recount is okay but feels other areas need recounts as well: "We believe very strongly in the manual recount, but the issue is why no other areas have been included in the recount where there are accusations of problems that have occurred in Basrah, Najaf and Diwaniya. We are worried about where the ballot boxes have been kept, since the election until today. Over a month-and-a-half have elapsed. We really don't know where those boxes have been, we don't know who [had] access to them, and we don't know whether they have been tampered with." Timothy Williams (New York Times) adds that Allawi's provided "evidence to the court detailing instances of fraud that occurred in the days after the Mrach 7 parliamentary elections in several provinces in southern Iraq, a region where Mr. Allawi faired poorly."
While Allawi accepts it, Iraq's Sunni vice president does not.   Today's Zaman reports that Tariq al-Hashemi has termed the recount "unacceptable" and quotes him stating, "This ruling is a very dangerous development. And we will not accept this ruling because it is unnecessary." By the way, now that the recount appears to be happening, any in the press going to revist Chris Hill's DC press conference right after the elections when he flat out lied to them.  Are they all still so chicken s**t that they're afraid to call Mr. Bi-Polar out?
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, a Mahmudiya roadside bombing injured five people, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured the police chief's driver, a Baghdad roadside bombing (near a movie theater) injured two people, a Mahmudiya roadside bombing injured six people and a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured.
Reuters notes 1 police officer was wounded in a Kirkuk attack, that a possible 'smuggler' (Iranian) was wounded by Iranian artillery in Sulaimaniya and, dropping back to Monday, a Tarmiya home invasion targeting a Sahwa leader in which his wife and their 4 children were killed.

The violence has, of course, created the largest refugee crisis in the world.  There's a report that's being spun by some outlets -- including Voice of America -- that an International Organization for Migration report is maintaining refugees are returning to Iraq and that the migration out of Iraq has stopped.  IOM is part of the United Nations.  In Syria, the UN is still registering (as of this week, I just got off the phone) Iraqi refugees who are just arriving.  The IOM report (click here for IOM's summary) is not about external refugees.  It's about Iraqis who stayed in Iraq but fled their own homes.  The internal refugees. 
On the subject of refugees, War News Radio latest weekly broadcast features a report on the Mandaeans -- ninety percent of whom have now left Iraq.
Caitlin Jennings: A few months after the US invasion, Basil al-Majidi began working for the coalition forces in Baghdad. He was appointed general manager of a tracking company responsible for making contracts to support US operations in Iraq As a member of the Iraqi minority group, the Sabian Mandaeans, al-Majidi says that he felt like a second class citizen under Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime.  With Hussein no longer in power, al-Majidi and his parents were optimistic about the future but in the months that followed sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. Pacificsts by doctrine the Mandaeans are one of the most peaceful religious groups in Iraq; however, al-Majidi felt forced to keep his religious identity a secret.
Basil al-Majidi: I worked from 2004 'till 2007 and no one -- absolutely no one -- in my company knew that I was Manaean. They knew that I was a Muslim. When they used to ask me, "Are you Sunni or Shi'ite," I refused to tell them. I told them I was just a Muslim. I don't discriminate.  
Caitlin Jennings: Mandaeans are followers of John the Baptist and their religious practice centers on the rites of Baptism.  But for Majidi and many Mandaeans public religious practice was out of the question.
Basil al-Majidi: We couldn't do funeral ceremonies for dead people. It was a problem. Many people were buried in their own backyards to avoid going to the cemetary which was in the Abu Ghraib area. So, like for practicing rituals, for maintaining and preserving your own faith inside yourself?  No.  We just forgot about that.  We just left it behind.
Caitlin Jennings: He started to receive death threats from Islamic militias both at his work and at his house. By 2006, the situation had reached what he refers to as unbearable limits.
Basil al-Majidi: You just feel that you are, that you are being rejected from all of the community, from all of your surroundings, from all of your surroundings. So I had to escape.
Caitlin Jennings: al-Majidi and his parents fled to Syria where they joined 1.3 million other Iraqi refugees already there. After two and a half years of waiting, al-Majidi was accepted for re-settlement in the United States. Although al-Majidi is now safe in the US, he is still unable to practice his religion. He no longer fears religious persecution but without priests and other Mandaeans, he cannot practice or perform rituals. Dr. Suhaib Nashi, Secretary General of the Mandaeans Associations Union -- an umbrella organization that encompasses all Mandaean Associations outside of Iraq and Iran argues that the resettlement of Iraqi Mandaeans around the globe while saving individuals is destroying the community as a whole.
Dr. Suhaib Nashi:  Dispersing them all over the place is sweet poison for us. It kills the religion  It finishes what the insurgency are doing. With all of our benevolence, with our feeling of doing good for them, we are destroying them without us knowing. We really, really need understanding and being sensitive to that part of the salvage of Mandaeans.  That's not salvage of a family, it's salvage of a culture -- salvation of a whole community and a whole group of people and a language and religion.
Caitlin Jennings: Originally from Iraq, Nashi, who is Mandaean, fled in 1991 after the Iraq War. He currently lives with his family in New Jersey. He says the only way for the group to survive in the longterm is to have a sustainable community in one place.
Yesterday's snapshot noted the first panel -- DoD -- of the Commission on Wartime Contracting's hearing.  Some e-mails came in about the second panel.  The first panel was of more interest.  We'll note the second panel which lasted about a third of the time the first panel took up. Today we'll note panel two which was composed of contractors: AECOM Government Services CEO Jay Ward and CACI International's senior vice president Terry Raney.  The Co-Chairs are Christopher Shays and Michael J. Thibault. Aegis Defense Services president Kristi Clemens was scheduled to testify but did not show.  Thibault swore the two men before they gave any testimony. We'll note two sections. 
First, AECOM has been in Iraq and in Afghanistan since 2005. Questioning Ward, Thibault noted that in Afghanistan "life support and security" is provided for Ward's employees by the US Army and he
Co-Chair Michael J. Thibault: Does the company in any case or for other purposes or other have to employ your own security?
Jay Ward: Yes, in Iraq, we've had security subcontractors provide transportation primarily from Bagram or the Green Zone or out to the different locations. And then because we work on Iraqi military installations as opposed to inside the wire at Taji, we'll have uh a security service provide parameter security at the gate into our living compounds.  
Co-Chair Michael J. Thibault: And that is -- those are contractors that are awarded by the site security -- are those JCCIA contracts or are they your own?
Jay Ward: They're subcontracts to us.
Co-Chair Michael J. Thibault: That are your own?
Jay Ward: Yes, sir.
Especially due to the Afghanistan conversation, it appeared that Thibault was concerned regarding the oversight of the subcontractees in Iraq. The other moment that appeared to be going somewhere addressed disbelief on the part on the part of one commissioner.
Commissioner Grant S. Green: You have about how many people providing support to JCAA? About fifty people?
Terry Raney: We have 40 in Iraq and 12 in Afghanistan.
Commissioner Grant S. Green: And these people are providing aquisition management services, they're providing program management advice, aquisition advice to officers and managers, true?
Terry Raney: Yes, sir.
Commissioner Grant S. Green: You had mentioned in a response to Commissioner [Dov] Zakheim's question, 'Has anyone ever called, oop, I got a problem, my boss is asking me something and it crosses the line?' And you said, 'No, they never had."
Terry Raney: Not that I've received that call or I believe --
Commissioner Grant S. Green: I just -- I just find it hard to believe, human nature being what it is -- and you acknowledged this initially, that your people were probably more experienced in the workings of JCCAI/A contracting than is the new civilian or military contracting officer walking through the door to a new assignment. It's just hard for me to believe since 2004, there has not been any discussion that crosses this line. So I guess my question to you is what is your level of confidence in percentages that nothing like this has ever happened?
Terry Raney: I'll come at your question from two ways. The first is, we've been -- The requirement we have from the JCCI from day one has been to bring very experienced people. That means people familiar with the authorization processes and systems and recognize these things. And we talk about that before they go over, alright? So I guess I would say I am sure, likely, that there have been conversations between some of our people  that are very experienced with somebody who's not relative to 'This is the way that I see this but it's your -- it's your -- I'm providing advice, that's what we're required to do. You have your responsibilities as well to do and that's in awarding the contract, making those decisions.' So I would suspect and I would guess that we've had some of our more experienced people  handle it on a personal basis and that's the way we would look to -- look to handle it because that's what we expect of people with that kind of experience and expertise.
Again, the most interesting panel was the first one (which was covered in yesterday's snapshot).  Tomorrow we may cover a hearing from late to date but it was bumped to cover the above.  Meanwhile Barack went to California and it was not pretty.  Though he was attempting to drive up support for Barbara Boxer, he only succeeded in antagonizing the crowd.  Lin Zhi (Xinhua) reports he "was repeatedly interrupted by a number of listeners who attacked him on his policies barring gays from openly and equality serving in the military when he was delivering a speech . . . .  The protesters come from GetEQUAL, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group that has also organized similar protests recently.  A coalition of groups called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan." It left some acid rain dripping on Barack's attempt to fundraise for Senator Barbara Boxer's increasingly challenging run for the US Senate. In an effort to appease the protesters, Barack made the ridiculous claim that he and Barbara were leaders on Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal. That kind of crap would fly in NYC -- where Panhandle Media would lap it up because it sounds good to them. But in California, we know Boxer's done nothing. We know that Senators Roland Burris and Kirsten Gillibrand have been doing more and doing more in public and that both were just appointed to the Senate in 2009. Boxer's a senator from California who's been elected to her seat repeatedly. She bragged in 2004, in fact, that she won a greater percentage of the vote than did Bully Boy Bush. She should have been leading on this issue. Instead, allegedly due to the Prop 8 vote and the video of her that's supposed to portray her as disrespectful of the military, she's hung in the background. 

Well . . . hung in the background and promoted her poorly written (co-written) latest attempt at Harold Robbins. Bad books, after all, rarely sell themselves. And picture that -- 2004, she got a higher percentage of votes than any other senator (or Bush, for that matter) and joked about having a "mandate" but today, her first re-election run since then, she's in the fight of her life just to hold on to her seat.

How out of it, how non-leadership is Barack on this issue? In the middle of the protest, he had to ask Boxer if she voted for Don't Ask, Don't Tell originally and she said she didn't at which point he informed the audience "I just checked with Barbara, so if anybody else is thinking about starting a chant, Barbara didn't even vote for 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the first place." Thanks for that 'breaking' news, Barack. If she had voted for it, you better believe she would have been a one term senator. For just a moment grasp what took place.

Barack claims he wants to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And he claims he is in Los Angeles standing by his friend Barbara Boxer . . . and he doesn't even know how she voted? That tells you exactly how distant Barack actually is from this issue. Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) reports of one protester, "'I am protesting because while I volunteered for, voted for, and still believe in Obama, I also believe is time to repeal don't ask don't tell,' an apparent protester wrote on tumblr.com."

When not spinning Boxer's professional lethargy, the two were confronted by people such as Iraq War veteran Mike Prysner, of March Forward!, who the AP quotes telling Barack, "As an Iraq War veteran, I understand the importance of stopping these unjust wars. Too many civilians and soldiers are dying, too much money is going to fund death and destruction, while so many of us are hurting here at home."

We are in the Great Recession and it probably doesn't help Barack look 'of the people' when the Los Angeles Independent reports, "A ticket to the dinner was $17,600 per person, a figure arrived at by combining half the maximum $30,400 contribution to a national party committee combined with the maximum $2,400 donation to a candidate. All the events sold out." They also report Barack whined about the issues he faces as president. Oh, I'm sorry, did he think it was all pageant waving and super market openings? Cover shoots and Jay Leno interviews? Andrew Malcolm (Los Angeles Times) also notes the price:

As The Ticket reported here earlier Monday, Obama flew across the country for no public events but just two fundraisers for the embattled liberal Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer seeking a four Senate term where tickets ranged up to $17,600 to sip wine and hear the president.

Obama's batting average campaigning for fellow Democrats is a pathetic 0-7 in recent months,. But Boxer needs help (especially in the money department in this expensive state) even in liberal California where she's been unable to reach the key 50% approval rating this year against a trio of potential Republican opponents.

Cedric's "He Loves LA, LA Remains Lukewarm" and Wally's "He Loves LA, LA Remains Lukewarm" (joint-post) covered the less-than-warm welcome Barack received, Ann covered the silence on Iraq "Diane Rehm has time for sleep none for Iraq," and Ruth ("Out-FM disgraces itself") and Mike ("Queer Voices, Goldman Sachs, Third") covered LGBT issues.