Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, February 28, 2018.  A change in Iraq's May 12 elections, BURNPIT 360 has a message for veterans, Kevin de Leon is running for change, and much more.

Starting with BURNPIT 360 which has an important announcement for veterans:

21 Days Left to Comment on VA's Proposed Pulmonary Health Study 

The VA Cooperative Studies Program, which is part of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), is in the process of seeking approval for a new Burn Pit-related health study – “Pulmonary Health and Deployment to Southwest Asia and Afghanistan.” As part of this process, VHA is required to publish details about the kinds of information it will collect from study participants and to accept public comments on the proposal. There are still 40 days left to submit public comments on the proposed study via the Federal Register website.

What exactly will VHA study?

The aim of the 3-year study, according to VHA, is to characterize the impact of “deployment-related pollution exposures” on the respiratory health of Post-9/11 Gulf War Era veterans. Specifically, the researchers hope to conduct in-person pulmonary function assessments and informational interviews with 6,200 veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Djibouti. Using the (limited) data collected by the Department of Defense, they intend to create an “exposure grid” that identifies average PM2.5 levels in different areas of bases and over different periods of time. Then, by studying the health of veterans stationed in different areas of the grid, they will analyze the link between exposure levels and respiratory health.

Only 3 minutes to discuss health symptoms

The proposal open for public comment only relates to the type of information VA will collect from veterans and how much time they expect to spend collecting each type. The current proposal allocates a significant proportion of time to investigating non-deployment-related exposures such as veterans’ Health, Smoking, and Demographics (15 minutes) or their Civilian Occupation and Hobby exposure (5 minutes); while the proposal only sets aside 4 minutes for assessing the veteran’s Functional Health and a mere 3 minutes for discussing their Health Symptoms.

To see the full list of time estimates, you can visit the Federal Registry site where the proposal is posted.

The problem with spirometry testing

The only measure of lung function to be performed at the in-person assessment is spirometry, a pulmonary function test (PFT). Unfortunately, PFTs do not detect constrictive bronchiolitis, a life-threatening disease reported by a growing number of veterans exposed to burn pits. In one study, 38 out of 49 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who underwent a lung biopsy were found to have constrictive bronchiolitis, while the results of pulmonary-function (PFT) and cardiopulmonary-exercise testing for those same veterans generally fell within normal population limitations.

How to submit a comment

You can submit a comment on the proposed VHA study by visiting the Federal Register online and clicking the green box that says “SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT.” If you prefer to submit a written comment, mail it to:

Brian McCarthy
Office of Regulatory and Administrative Affairs (10B4)
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

You can also e-mail documents or photos to or upload the documents with your comment on the Federal Register site.

The comments will be visible to the public while comments are being accepted. They will be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to determine whether VHA should receive funding for the study in its current form. The comment period ends on March 20, 2018.

What was burned in the Burn Pits? 

From 2002 until 2009, there was no regulation of what could or could not be thrown into the military burn pits operating across Iraq and Afghanistan. And no data was collected on which kinds of materials were burned in the pits. But veterans have reported tossing in everything from lithium ion batteries to plastic chemical drums, and the more than 1,000 toxins and known carcinogens detected in the air on Joint Base Balad show just how toxic such materials can be. 

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Weigh in while you have the chance.

Meanwhile there's a chance for change in California.

I'm running for the U.S. Senate because you deserve a seat at the table. Please join my campaign:

Turning to Iraq's elections . . . May 12th was supposed to be the day for national (parliamentary) elections and for provincial elections.  Supposed to be.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, "There are claims floating around Arabic social media that provincial elections are being sidelined (until December) but that the parliamentary elections will take place May 12th."


XINHUA reports:

The Iraqi government on Tuesday decided to postpone the provincial elections to Dec. 22, 2018, months after the parliament elections.
The provincial elections were initially set to be held simultaneously with the parliament elections slated for May 12.

Saad al-Hadithi, spokesman of the Iraqi government, said the postponed date was decided at a regular meeting of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the state-run Iraqiya channel reported.

And the government of Iraq explained it this way:

The Cabinet holds its weekly meeting in Baghdad, sets date for provincial elections, and discusses several draft laws

Hayder al-Abadi has stated that parliamentary elections must be held May 12th.  He is firm on that because he is up for election and wants to remain prime minister.

He has no record of accomplishment.  The only claim he has to run on is that he defeated ISIS but each day makes it more and more clear that ISIS remains active in Iraq.  So each day makes it more and more clear how hollow his claims is.

If he could have held the elections January 1st, things would have been a lot easier for him.

But each passing day exposes his lie.

And with the realization that everything done to 'defeat' ISIS -- by Hayder, by the US government, by everyone -- has accomplished very little -- if anything at all -- the cost paid seems more and more outrageous.

There's the physical cost.  All those innocent civilians killed by the US-led bombings, for example.  MIDDLE EAST EYE notes:

Estimates for the number of civilian deaths in the bombing campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq could be more than seven times higher than that given by the US-led anti-IS coalition, according to a monitoring group.
Investigations carried out by Airwars suggest that since August 2014 - when the campaign against IS was launched - until mid-February 2018, the coalition was responsible for between at least 6,137 and 9,444 civilian deaths.
So far, the coalition has admitted to only 841 "unintentional" civilian deaths, a figure Airwars attributes to the group's failure to investigate more than half of 2,400 "events" referenced in relation to civilian casualties.
"One significant reason for the gulf in numbers is that half of all allegations…have yet to be assessed by the coalition," said Chris Woods, the head of Airwars, to Euronews.

Will the increased numbers finally allow Americans to express outrage?  Or will we continue to treat it as something 'over there' and not at all important to our lives 'here'?

The 15 year mark for this never-ending war is next month.

Maybe it's time we tried to care about what our government has done and is doing in Iraq.

Hayder also has to deal with the fact that he's increased tensions.  RUDAW, for example, notes:

The Iraqi government tends to make promises with regard to outstanding issues with the Kurdistan Region, but only to later not honor them — including the “political” Iraqi-imposed ban on international flights, Masrour Barzani told Rudaw.

The head of the Kurdistan Region Security Council is on a visit to Washington, D.C., where he has held meetings with his US counterpart H.R. McMaster, and State Department officials.

Barzani described the relations between Erbil and Washington as "very good" despite their differences over the Kurdish vote on independence held on September 25.

The Iraqi government on Monday extended the ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region until May 31, a decision described as "political" in nature by Barzani.

"It is true that there are talks between the Kurdistan Region — between us and Baghdad. In Munich ... we talked and I can say that we even reached an agreement on how to open the airports, but every day they find another excuse. It is clear now that the motive is political, not technical. There are no remaining excuses to close the airports for any longer," Barzani said.

It wouldn't appear to be a smart campaign strategy for Hayder but he's going with it.

It is difficult to shake the notion that Baghdad is playing with Erbil as the cat tortures a mouse. It is a sad indictment of Iraqi politics that this is seen as a bonus in the current Iraqi elections.

So few fall for Hayder's act:

  1. Replying to   and 
    Abadi is superior in convincing you that Kurds are corrupt yet he and the others in his band wagon are the reason your country have to beg neighbors for loans. Answer yourself as to how that feels. Is he not the reason for Iraq’s mess

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