Saturday, February 05, 2022

More violence in Iraq as the political stalemate continues

Violence continues in Iraq.  ABNA notes, "Iraqi news sources reported that two US military logistics convoys were targeted in the Samawah and al-Diwaniyah districts. Sabereen News reported early Sunday that an American logistics convoy had been attacked in Samawah. According to the Iraqi media, the attack was carried out using roadside bombs. The second US logistics convoy was targeted on the Samawah-al-Diwaniyah International Road, Sabreenews reported."  In other violence, a judge was shot dead today in southern Iraq.  AFP reports

Judge Ahmed Faisal was headed home in his car in the city of Amara, the capital of Maysan province, when unknown assailants blocked his route and opened fire, a police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

A forensic source said the judge died of gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

Meanwhile, still no goverment in Iraq despite the October 10th elections.  Is the western media losing patience with their idol Moqtada al-Sadr?  Will they stop pretending he knows what he's doing and is on the verge of building a government?  AFP reports:

The largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, led by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, said it will boycott the session called to elect the country's president.

Hassan Al Izari, the 73-member bloc's parliamentary chief, told a news conference on Saturday that they would not attend the session on Monday, making a vote by the 329-member house unlikely although technically a quorum could be reached.

The vote for president, a largely ceremonial role traditionally reserved for Iraq's Kurds in post-Saddam Iraq, primarily pits the incumbent Barham Salih against his top challenger, former minister Hoshyar Zebari, a candidate of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

For those who need to believe Moqtada's a genius and a major politician?  Maybe you can tell yourself that Moqtada sees no changes being made in the government and wants to avoid being connected to this?  Maybe.  But if that's the case, he's going to have bench hmself a great deal in the near future.


Iraqi leaders on Saturday called on the country’s political blocs to overcome their differences on the formation of a new government.

The call was made on state television by President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi, shortly after Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc said it will boycott a planned session on Monday to elect the country's new president.

"Today, we stand before the aspirations of our people who have long suffered from crises and disasters, wars, tyranny and terrorism, and the time has come to overcome them through good governance," Saleh said.

The Iraqi leader warned that the “continuation of the status quo is no longer acceptable” and called for “the formation of a new capable government” in a “peaceful” and “democratic” manner.

And so you can see how stupid some outlets are -- what liars they can be -- here's TRT:

er's candidacy has stirred controversy due to years-old corruption accusations against him in court that led to his 2016 dismissal from the post of finance minister.

After having served for a decade as foreign minister followed by two years as finance minister, parliament fired Zebari in September 2016, notably over charges that $1.8 million of public funds were diverted to pay for airline tickets for his personal security detail.

Zebari has always denied any corruption accusations.

The Sadrist MP said Zebari was "not a consensus (candidate)".

Al Sadr’s Sairoon alliance emerged the biggest winner in the October 10 elections, with 73 seats in the 329-memb

Incumbent President Barham Salih, of the PUK, and the candidate of the KDP, Hoshyar Zebari, are the frontrunners for the post.

The latter parliament, followed by Mohammed al Halbousi’s Taqaddum (progress) bloc with 37 seats.

Where it noted that the KDP outperformed the PUK in the recent elections?  How do you leave that detail out?

Oh, right.  Because we're the only English-language site covering Iraq that's bothered to point that out and to point out that PUK has no rightful claim on the presidency. 

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The Black Commentator Issue #897 - Cover Story: Black History Month - Black History Real and Imagined


The Black Commentator Issue #896 is now Online

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Unfinished Liberation: Honoring Contemporary Struggles for Racial Justice


Bioneers Pulse – updates from the Bioneers Community
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The long trajectory of movements for racial justice in America, born of incredible oppression, has seen periods of breakthroughs and progress and periods of reaction and regression. Recent decades have been no different, and the last two years have offered an extreme example of that pattern. The extraordinary size and breadth of the demonstrations following the George Floyd murder led to tremendous hope that a watershed moment was upon us, but the tenacious forces of racism are in the midst of mounting a massive, vicious reaction. We must not lose hope, however. These struggles for the soul of our civilization are long-term affairs, and we must be in it for the long haul, investing in the promise that the ark of progress will ultimately “bend toward justice” if only we keep our shoulders to the wheel.

This week, we share perspectives from some of the most important and eloquent figures in the contemporary effort to combat racism and build a far more equitable social order. These include: the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, Patrisse Cullors; the brilliant thinker on race and justice, Heather McGhee; the incredibly influential academic Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality”, among other achievements; and several other major leaders.

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Racial Justice Beyond Trump: Confronting an American Legacy

Racism and White Supremacy comprise the foundation of America’s historical and economic development. Understanding the systems that gave rise to figures like Trump is essential to disentangling the monolithic mythos that leads many to absolve us from facing our legacy as a nation. In this conversation, four powerful activists discuss the history of racial justice struggles, the current context, and paths forward. With Bakari Kitwana, LaTosha Brown, Mutale Nkonde, and Greisa Martínez Rosas.

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Patrisse Cullors on How Black Lives Matter Began

Patrisse Cullors is the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, a movement that has swept our nation into a reckoning with historical and systemic violence. Cullors is a performance artist and award-winning organizer from Los Angeles and is one of the most effective and influential movement builders of our era. Listen as Patrisse Cullors shares the moving story of her work helping in the fight against racism.

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Heather McGhee: A New ‘We the People’ for a Sustainable Future

In our current U.S. political, economic, and social environment, how do we find ways to come together and to believe in a better future? Heather McGhee, an award-winning author, and policy analyst on the national stage has helped shape key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. McGhee led the important nonprofit, Demos, which is also one of the most subtle and profoundly compassionate thinkers on America’s social contradictions and how to work toward a sustainable and equitable future for everyone. 

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Backlash Moment: Converging at the Crossroads of Identity and Justice – Kimberlé Crenshaw

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Controversial New 9/11 Novel!


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When Being the Best Isn’t Good Enough Naomi Osaka: The Athletes Aren’t OK


The newsletter to fuel — and thrill — your mind. Read for deep dives into the unmissable ideas and topics shaping our world.

Feb 04, 2022TODAY

Last May, four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka rocked the sports world by announcing she was pulling out of the French Open, while suffering from “huge waves of anxiety” and “long bouts of depression.” The decision was bound to net controversy, given that 24-year-old Osaka had become the highest-paid female athlete over the prior year. And it leaves professional sport organizers, athletes, fans and media with a critical question: What do athletes owe the public, and when does that become less important than what they owe themselves? Today’s Daily Dose explores that complicated dilemma and the potential solutions while keying in on the other industries where mental health is emerging as a critical challenge.


1 - The Withdrawal

The famously introverted tennis star entered the French Open last year saying she would not take questions from reporters. “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health,” Osaka said. But when she was levied a $15,000 fine for not fulfilling her media responsibilities and warned that she could be removed from the tournament, Osaka decided to withdraw to focus on her health. Several athletes voiced their support, from NBA star Stephen Curry and WNBA hall of famer Lisa Leslie to British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith and fellow tennis star Serena Williams.

2 - Awareness and Acknowledgement

Osaka isn’t alone. Athletes have increasingly spoken up about their health challenges, from Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps revealing his suicidal thoughts to gymnast Ali Raisman coping with depression after being abused by a USA Gymnastics doctor. It’s clear the athletes aren’t OK. “More and more athletes are feeling like, ‘Hey, I should be allowed to be a person. Maybe I don’t have to be silent,’” says New York Presbyterian Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz. “It raises, appropriately so, the expectation that athletes should be a person with feelings, too.” External pressures are also mounted on these elite in other troubling incidents, including a fan spitting on Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young and other fans making racist comments to the family of Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant. Some experts believe such behavior is a symptom of the rise of digital sports gambling and fantasy sports that have some fans viewing athletes as commodities rather than real human beings. When dollars are at stake, “that creates a whole different set of dynamics,” Saltz says.

3 - What About the Media?

It’s easy to scapegoat the media here, and a few unforgiving journalists may partially be to blame. As The Atlantic writer Helen Lewis wrote, the decentralization of media and rise of platforms like Substack has incentivized personal feuds and soap opera-like dramas for some in the media. However, Osaka was quick to say that the tennis press “has always been kind to me” and that her decision was more related to her mental health than to bad behavior from specific media members. Mental disorders often emerge when a person is in their late teens or early 20s, and social anxiety, in which one often feels harshly and repetitively judged, “could be greatly exacerbated by reality playing a role, where you are being commented on all the time,” Saltz says.


1 - Unspoken Rules

It’s long been understood, by organizers and media members, that physically injured players aren’t required to talk to the press. So why is it not the same for mental health? Part of the challenge is stigma: Athletes who suffer from depression, anxiety and other ailments have often been labeled as “weak,” rather than acknowledged as going through an ailment as real as broken bones. According to a 2019 study, stigma was the primary reason pro athletes didn’t seek treatment for mental health issues — and it’s not a small problem, given that 1 in 3 pros suffer from mental illness. “We’re much quicker to grant somebody a pass if they have a physical injury. I think there needs to be more of a recognition that mental injuries are just as serious,” says Bill Eichenberger, executive director of Associated Press Sports Editors, which includes hundreds of journalists among its members.

2 - Lack of Access

Some of the conflict between media and athletes is due to the increasing distances between the two. As Eichenberger points out, access to athletes has become increasingly limited as sports have become billion dollar businesses in recent decades. While previously, it wasn’t uncommon for reporters to have the cellphone numbers of the athletes they covered, or to frequent some of the same bars or restaurants, the rise of professional PR handlers and increased scrutiny has created a divide. The athletes “don’t really get to know you,” Eichenberger tells OZY. That distant relationship can sometimes lead to distrust on both sides, he says, suggesting that maybe the answer shouldn’t be to further reduce interactions. “From a journalism standpoint, this is a dangerous precedent to set: access is so limited already.”

3 - Need for Coverage

While athletes may be able to speak directly to their fans through social platforms such as Twitter or Instagram, sports leagues intuitively understand that media outlets are critical to their broader popularity — especially as cord-cutting and online entertainment have diminished their prospective audiences. That’s partly why the leaders of tennis’ four Grand Slam tournaments initially warned Osaka that she could face suspension before promising to address players’ concerns about mental health once it became clear that public opinion was turning against them. That argument was typified by the retired tennis star Billie Jean King, who first tweeted that athletes had a responsibility to speak to the press: “There is no question they helped build and grow our sport to what it is today.” Once Osaka revealed her depression, King tweeted again, praising it as “incredibly brave.” Still, league officials’ tone deaf response suggests that many are “still treating mental health like the stepchild of health,” Saltz says. “It’s just this complete lack of understanding.” 


On the Healing Benefits of Music


1 - Excused Absences

Athletes who can provide a doctor’s note acknowledging their mental health issues could be allowed to forgo media responsibilities — as they would with a doctor-recognized physical injury. Even Eichenberger, a proponent for greater access to athletes, believes sports persons should be trusted when they say they are facing mental health difficulties: “We’re expecting them to be fully formed human beings,” he says. But trust can always be misused. “Can we go with the presumption that our star athletes are not sociopathic liars who are making things up to help them cheat?” Saltz asks.

2 - Building Connections

Reporters don’t want to seem too chummy with the athletes they cover … but with trust between both parties at a low, would it be so bad to throw an industry retreat? Giving athletes and journalists a chance to get to know each other with an off-record weekend might help ease some of the conflicts that have become all too common. Besides, who wouldn’t want to see Adrian Wojnarowski going river tubing with Russell Westbrook? While that may seem unlikely, the pandemic has led to reporters getting more creative than ever to find stories … although they could face even more challenges if access remains limited.

3 - Eliminate Required Availability

For every athlete who doesn’t want to speak, a number of others do. Perhaps getting rid of the requirement to speak to the press would spark more earnest conversations between athletes and the public. Most of these required press conferences are already of low value, Eichenberger says: “A lot of the questions are kind of softball questions.” Maybe giving up the ruse that rigorous journalism is possible in the scrum of a presser would allow athletes who do want the opportunity to embrace it, as Mike Florio argues for NBC Sports. However, Florio says coaches should still be required to speak, and locker rooms should remain open to the press to capture “raw, real-time reactions” from those who do speak.


1 - Comedy

Call it a tale of two comedians. Consider the different ways that Colin Jost, the baby-faced host of “Weekend Update,” and his Saturday Night Live co-star Pete Davidson, have been treated in the press. Jost is routinely adulated for his (literally) star-crossed relationship with his wife Scarlett Johansson, while Davidson is treated like a bad boy pariah while dealing with legitimate mental health concerns. Both are victims of intense and intrusive attention from the entertainment paparazzi. Countless comedians, famous or not, struggle with depression, but the silent struggles behind their loud laughs have drawn more scrutiny since the shocking suicide of Robin Williams in 2014.

2 - Music

Just 17 when she broke through in 2019 with her debut album, Billie Eilish has been subject to intense sexism throughout her career, as press outlets fixated on her atypical wardrobe choices — first, her propensity for wearing baggy clothing, and then, in May 2021, her choice to wear lingerie for a British Vogue cover. The “amazing” but “scary” reaction to the latter shoot “just makes me never want to post again,” Eilish, who has spoken about dealing with Tourette syndrome and body dysmorphia, told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. Last February, The New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears led to a reckoning among (some) media and entertainment professionals about their treatment — sometimes horrendously cruel — of Spears as she dealt with mental illness. Will this generation avoid those mistakes with the next rising stars, such as recently ascendant teen rocker Olivia Rodrigo?

3 - Influencers

Sure, some find it hard to sympathize with “influencers” who profit from posting Instagram pics or TikTok videos. But with that wealth, they often come under an intensifying spotlight, as recent events have shown. Tess Holliday, who earned millions of followers while celebrating her plus-sized figure, was savaged online after she revealed she suffered from anorexia despite reportedly weighing over 330 pounds (her fans felt betrayed, believing she was faking the disorder for clout). VanLife influencer Lee MacMillan died from suicide last March, with her family posting a statement afterward asking that followers not fixate on the seemingly perfect lives often presented on social media: “Don’t believe what you see online.” And a number of influencers are choosing to log off, saying the intense online praise and criticism has become dangerous to their mental health.

4 - Media

Journalists aren’t the enemy of athletes like Osaka who are struggling with their health. In fact, many of them are also facing major anxiety in a shrinking profession that nonetheless requires more hours due to the internet age’s introduction of the 24-hour newsroom. A number of reporters have admitted to dealing with intense trauma while covering the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps vulnerable media members and athletes can work together to create a healthier environment for all.


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