Friday, February 06, 2009

Kellogs, FDA, etc.

Are you a Michael Phelps' fan? As Stan pointed out in "Phelps" last night, Kellogs is dropping him. Now I bring that up because if you are a fan, you'll want to get your Cornflakes box right now. Though it may be too late. We went to three grocery stores today before we found one. Not three in a row because we had to go between speaking engagements.

C.I. thought of it and said we might do something on it for Third and, if so, we'd need an illustration. The first two stores had Cornflakes, none with him on the box. Some woman -- blonde hair. The third store, same thing but, as before, C.I. looked behind every box. At that store, C.I. found one and only one Michael Phelps box.

Did they all suddenly sell? Did they get recalled? I have no idea. But if you want one, you better go get it already. He's on the front and back of the box, by the way.

Are you paying attention to the peanut butter recall? Am I more used to it or have they gotten better at their recalls (I'm remembering especially the way they handled spinach)? I'm not sure but I'm less worried than I was with spinach. This is the opening testimony of Stephen F. Sundlof before Congress yesterday:

Statement of
Stephen F. Sundlof, D.V.M., Ph.D.Director, Center For Food Safety and Applied NutritionFood and Drug Administration Department of Health and Human Services
before the
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry United States Senate
February 5, 2005
Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I am Dr. Stephen Sundlof, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA or the Agency), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. FDA appreciates the opportunity to provide you with information on our ongoing investigation of the foodborne illness outbreak associated with Salmonella Typhimurium, which has been found in peanut products produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). Because our investigation and the accompanying recall of suspect product continues as we speak, our final conclusions and recommendations are necessarily pending the outcome of our investigation.
Let me begin by providing a brief description of the typical traceback process employed by FDA and our sister agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Once CDC, through its epidemiological investigation which involves working with state and local health departments, identifies the possible food(s) associated with a foodborne illness outbreak, CDC notifies FDA. At that point, FDA considers the strength of the evidence implicating the suspect food or foods and determines the appropriate level of regulatory response. To start our traceback investigation to identify the source of the contamination, we work with the food industry and with state and local regulatory partners, and, when needed, with foreign governments. We do this by tracing the food suspected of being the vehicle for transmitting the pathogen back through the supply chain from the retailer, restaurant or institutional setting and inspecting or investigating points throughout the supply chain to determine where the contamination most likely occurred. Tracing food requires us to find and examine documentation (such as bills of lading and invoices) for the product throughout the supply chain. We also obtain information on the practices and conditions under which the product was stored and handled at each point to better determine shipments of interest and whether contamination may have occurred at each point. The records we need are not always in an electronic format, and records review often can be a time-consuming, resource intensive process.
In the current case, FDA began its investigation prior to having a strong epidemiological link to a particular food, both to inform the epidemiological study and to shorten the time required to get potentially contaminated foods off the market. Because institutionally-served peanut butter, in five-pound containers, was identified by the state of Minnesota as a potential vehicle, our investigation had a strong lead: the brand name of a company and the address to begin our trace. But allow me to explain a few components of the epidemiological work, the first step in our collaborative efforts.
Since early December 2008, FDA has collaborated with CDC, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and public health officials in various states to investigate the multi-state outbreak of human infections due to Salmonella Typhimurium. Early epidemiological efforts to identify a likely food vehicle were inconclusive. While initial efforts focused on the potential for chicken to be the illness vehicle, peanut butter was first identified as a possible source in mid-December. On January 7 and 8, after conversations with CDC, FSIS, and the Minnesota Department of Health about the strength of association between illness and exposure to chicken or peanut butter, FDA decided to begin to investigate institutional food service sources of peanut butter despite the inconclusive epidemiological data.
On January 7, based on preliminary information from CDC's multi-state case control study that explored other possible food sources in addition to peanut butter, and before Minnesota had identified the Salmonella strain, FDA made its initial contact with the King Nut Company in Ohio. King Nut distributes peanut butter manufactured by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) at its Blakely, Georgia, plant to institutional facilities, food service industries, and private label food companies in several states. On January 9, FDA initiated an inspection of the PCA plant in Blakely, and Minnesota reported that they had isolated Salmonella from the open container, though the type of Salmonella was not yet known.
As part of its epidemiological investigation, the Minnesota Department of Health tested an open five-pound container of King Nut peanut butter obtained at a nursing home where three patients were sickened by the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. By January 10, Minnesota health officials had determined that the peanut butter contained the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with the illnesses linked to the outbreak. However, because it is always possible that the open container was contaminated by someone or something else in the environment, these results did not definitively confirm PCA as the source. FDA and other state health departments expanded the testing of unopened containers of the same brand of peanut butter.
On January 19, testing by the Connecticut Department of Health of an unopened container of King Nut peanut butter showed that it contained the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with illnesses linked to the outbreak. The fact that the Salmonella Typhimurium was confirmed in an unopened container of peanut butter indicated that the peanut butter was contaminated when it left the Blakely processing plant.
Peanut butter is sold by PCA in bulk containers ranging in size from five to 1,700 pounds. The peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to tanker trucks. However, through its investigation, FDA has determined that PCA distributed potentially contaminated products to more than 300 consignee firms, many of whom then further distributed products, for consumption as peanut butter or for use as ingredients in hundreds of different products, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream.
As of February 1, CDC reported that 550 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 43 states, plus one person from Canada, and that the infection may have contributed to eight deaths.
After visiting King Nut on January 8 to determine where its peanut butter was manufactured and to collect samples, FDA initiated an inspection of PCA's Blakely plant on January 9, shortly after preliminary information indicated that this firm might be linked to the ongoing Salmonella outbreak. FDA completed its inspection on January 27.
A document listing observations by FDA investigators during their inspection, known as a List of Inspectional Observations, or Form 483, has been posted on FDA's website at This list is not a final Agency determination regarding compliance. The list of observations includes matters relating to cleaning programs and procedures as well as failure to implement steps to mitigate Salmonella contamination in the facility.
FDA's environmental sampling at the plant found two Salmonella strains, neither of which were Salmonella Typhimurium, the outbreak strain. As of now, CDC is not aware of any illnesses definitely connected to these other Salmonella strains. We are confident, however, based on the investigations by the states, CDC and FDA, including product testing, that the Blakely plant is the source of the contaminated foods related to the current Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak. State sampling and analysis of unopened finished products indicate that PCA-shipped product from the Blakely plant was contaminated with the outbreak strain.
Further, FDA's review of the firm's testing records -- which were not disclosed to FDA and state inspectors during earlier routine inspections -- revealed that there were instances in 2007 and 2008 where the firm distributed product in commerce which tested positive for Salmonella.
As you may be aware, FDA has recently confirmed that our Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation.
After discussions with FDA, the first product recall related to the outbreak was initiated on January 10, 2009, by the King Nut Company of peanut butter distributed under the King Nut and Parnell's Pride labels. On January 13, PCA initiated a voluntary recall of certain lots of peanut butter and peanut paste produced on or after July 1, 2008, due to the risk of Salmonella contamination. PCA expanded this recall on January 16 to include peanut butter produced on or after August 8, 2009, and peanut paste produced on or after September 26, 2008. This was followed by yet another expansion on January 18, 2008, when PCA announced it was recalling all peanut butter and peanut paste manufactured on or after July 1, 2008, at its Blakely processing plant.
On January 28, PCA issued another expanded voluntary recall of all peanuts and peanut products, including all peanuts (dry and oil roasted), granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter and peanut paste processed in its Blakely facility since January 1, 2007. All of these recalled peanuts and peanut products were made only at the company's Blakely facility.
Many companies that received peanuts and peanut products manufactured by PCA's Blakely facility have, in turn, conducted voluntary recalls. A user-friendly, searchable list of the products being recalled, with corresponding photographs, when available, can be found at The searchable list currently includes approximately 1,000 entries in 16 categories representing products that have been recalled by more than 75 companies. FDA is updating this list on a daily basis, as new information becomes available.
FDA has been working with purchasers of PCA's peanuts and peanut products to identify affected products and facilitate their removal from the market. FDA initiated inspections at the direct consignees of PCA and King Nut and continues to follow the distribution points for products. FDA and state officials have contacted hundreds of firms throughout the entire distribution chain that may have purchased or further distributed PCA products. This work is continuing and includes the additional products in the expanded recall.
Companies nationwide that received product made by PCA have issued voluntary recalls of their products. As FDA gathers additional information about these products, the list of recalled products has expanded, and will likely continue to do so. FDA urges all affected retailers to immediately stop selling recalled products. Directors of institutions and food service establishments are also strongly urged to ensure that they are not serving recalled products.
We would like to emphasize, as we have stated numerous times, that major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores are not affected by the PCA recall. Further, FDA has no evidence to suggest that the Salmonella Typhimurium contamination originated with any manufacturing facility other than PCA's Blakely plant. The facility is not operating at this time.
FDA has established a web page to provide constantly updated information on the contamination and recall at This web page has already been viewed more than 19 million times. The web page includes a searchable database to assist consumers in quickly identifying recalled products, found at
Consumers are urged to check this web page to determine which products have been recalled and to become aware of new recalls as they are announced. Any product that is on the recall list should be disposed of in a safe manner. Consumers are also urged to wash their hands after handling potentially contaminated products. If consumers are unsure whether a peanut-containing product is potentially contaminated, they should avoid consuming it until they obtain more information about the product. Persons who think they may have become ill from eating peanut products are advised to consult their health care providers.
Product recalls include some pet food products that contain peanut products made by PCA. Although the risk of animals contracting salmonellosis is minimal, there is risk to humans from handling these products. It is important for people to wash their hands -- and make sure children wash their hands -- before and, especially, after feeding pets. Further information for consumers is located in the Frequently Asked Questions section located on this web site. The pet food products are also included in the searchable data base of recalled products.
For information on products containing peanut butter from companies not reporting recalls, consumers may wish to consult the company's website or call the toll-free number listed on most packaging. We note that information consumers may receive from the companies has not been verified by FDA.
FDA urges manufacturers and distributors of products containing peanut-based ingredients to inform consumers about whether their products could contain peanuts or peanut products from PCA Blakely. If a manufacturer knows its products do not contain peanuts or peanut products from PCA, it may wish to provide this information to consumers.
FDA is continuing to work with the firms on the details of their actions, conducting follow-up audits and inspections, monitoring the progress of the firms' actions, working with state and local regulatory authorities, and notifying our foreign regulatory counterparts of products that have now been confirmed as having been distributed internationally. FDA is continuing its work to identify products that may be affected, and to track the ingredient supply chain of those products to facilitate their removal from the marketplace.
FDA is working hard to ensure the safety of food, in collaboration with its Federal, state, local, and international food safety partners, and with industry, consumers, and academia. Although the Salmonella Typhimurium foodborne illness outbreak underscores the challenges we face, the American food supply continues to be among the safest in the world. Food safety is a priority for the new Administration.
Over the last year and a half, FDA has made significant progress in identifying food vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies. For example, we have strengthened our response to food safety threats by providing incident command system training to our FDA offices around the country, and to states, and by developing templates to enhance communication during a food recall. We are proud of the collaborative efforts among Federal and state agencies to investigate, analyze samples, monitor the effectiveness of the current recall, and communicate with the public to protect public health. We will continue to strive to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness to the lowest level possible.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss FDA's response to the recent Salmonella outbreak. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Again, it seems to me that the FDA is more on top this recall than previous ones. I may be wrong on that. Another thought, if the Dept was adequately funding, investigations could be done throughout the year as opposed to these post-problem inspections where they try to reconstruct what happened. The FDA does not have the budget currently to do prevention but that would save a lot of post-problem heartache for the public. It's a real shame Barack doesn't care about food safety.

On Wednesday, the theme post was magazines and, on that theme, Mike's "International Socialist Review," Rebecca's "interview," Betty's "Movieline, Premiere," Marcia's "off our backs," Ruth's "Dynamite," Stan's "Clamor," Elaine's "The Progressive" and Kat's "Lionel Richie, Billy Corgan, and more." Cedric's "Dick issues a threat" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! DICK THREATENS!" also went up Wednesday night.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, February 6, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Barack moves back his "immediately" pledge on Iraq, Military Families Speak Up launch their DC action, US war resister Cliff Cornell has returned to the US from Canada, the (partial) election results are sifted through, and more.

Jon Allen (People's Weekly World News) reports on a teach-in entitled "War's Real Impact: Our Voices" that a number of groups staged in Chicago:

Eugene Cherry joined the army at the age of 19 in the hopes of getting money for college. Despite being a good student, he found his options in his impoverished south side neighborhood limited. "I thought the military would be my ticket out, but I found an organization based on racism, sexism and misogyny" he testified before the assembled audience. Later he spoke of "[a] culture of violence and racism" that the military promotes within its ranks. These pressures proved to be too much for Sherry. He deserted for 16 months after being refused mental health support by the army. "I found myself fighting and oppressing a group of people in the name of the war on terror" concluded his remarks to the gathering. The plight of women in the armed forces proved to be a recurring theme. Patricia McCann, a National Guardsman deployed in 2003, noted during her testimony that instances of sexual assault and sexual harassment within the armed forces have risen but court-martials for these crimes have declined. Another veteran (and current Chicago police officer), Lisa Zepeda, added that victims of assault have no outside authority they can report assaults to; a victim must go through her immediate superior within her unit.

Allen notes that US House Rep "Jan Schakowasky and several Chicago aldermen also took the floor and addressed the audeince. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. and Illinois Senator Roland Burris also sent staff members to reaffirm their support of bringing the troops home."

Military Families Speak Out was among the organizations participating in the Chicago event and today they started a DC action that will run through Monday:
Come to Washington February 6-9 to demand "The Change WE Need"
President Elect Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it started, calling it a "dumb war." But he and his advisors have also said that they plan to spread the return of combat troops from that "dumb war" out over sixteen months and to keep
tens of thousands of other troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely.
So from February 6-9, MFSO will be traveling to Washington to bring the new President and new Congress the message that it is long past time to bring all our troops home from Iraq. The four days of events will include:
* A
teach-in featuring the voices of military families, veterans, and Iraqis, explaining the need for an immediate and complete end to the war in Iraq -- and the human impacts of continuing the occupation. Friday, February 6 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. at Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue.
* A solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetary to the White House beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 7. Meet at the front gate of the cemetery right outside the exit of the Arlington Metro stop. Please arrive early.
* A "Meet and Greet" and Legislative Briefing from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 8 at the Mariott Metro Center.
* Lobbying members of Congress to end the war in Iraq. Meet in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 9.
The teach-in takes place this afternoon. Actions continue through Monday. Meanwhile US war resister Andre Shepherd is seeking asylumn in Germany (we last noted Andre in
Wednesday's snapshot). Wednesday, he was making his case for asylum to Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Andy Eckardt (NBC News) offers a strong report on Andre who explains, "When I enlisted in 2004 and later was sent to Iraq, I believed I was doing the right thing. But then, like other comrades around me, I started questioning why we were there and what we were fighting for. . . . My job was harmless until I factored in the amount of death and destruction those helicopters caused to civilians every day. The government made us believe we would be welcomed as heroes in Iraq, but we saw nothing but hostility from the Iraqis that came to work for us, they wanted to kill us." Meanwhile James M. Brnaum's GI Rights explained yesterday:

U.S. war resister Cliff Cornell surrendered himself to U.S. border police on Wednesday after being ordered to leave Canada. He was promptly arrested for being AWOL from the U.S. Army, and is now being held at the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Washington, twenty miles south of the U.S.-Canada border.
Cornell's attorney and supporters expressed outrage at the arrest.
"Clifford Cornell came back to the United States so that he could voluntarily return to his old unit at Fort Stewart," stated attorney James Branum. "He stated this intention to the Border Patrol, both verbally and in writing, by way of a letter I drafted on his behalf. I am disappointed that the Border Patrol chose to arrest my client and place him into a county jail with general population prisoners. This should not have happened."
Cornell, 28, fled to Canada four years ago after his Army artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. But despite a popular outcry to provide sanctuary to soldiers who refuse to fight in illegal wars, Canada's Conservative government is pressing ahead with deportations. Cornell, an Arkansas native, had come to call British Columbia home. But he now faces a possible court martial and imprisonment in the United States.
"Cliff Cornell should not be going to jail," said Gerry Condon, director of Project Safe Haven, a war resister advocacy group. "He had the guts to follow his conscience and obey international law," continued Condon. "President Obama should grant amnesty to Cliff Cornell and all war resisters."
Cornell is the second Iraq War resister to be held in the Whatcom County Jail. He follows Robin Long, who was deported from Canada in July. Long is now serving a 15-month prison sentence at Miramar Naval Consolidated Brig near San Diego.
"We want Bellingham to be a Sanctuary City for war resisters," said Gene Marx of Veterans For Peace, "not a way station for war resisters being sent to prison." Bellingham is known for being a progressive city, having passed two anti-war resolutions through its city council.
A public vigil in support of Cliff Cornell will be held outside of the County jail on Thursday from 10 am -- 1pm, organized by the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center.
A legal defense fund for Cliff Cornell is being established by Courage To Resist, a war resister support group, at
CONTACT: Marie Marchand, Executive Director, Whatcom Peace & Justice Center(360) 734-0217 (office); (434) 249-5957 (cell), WhatcomPJC(at)
Gene Marx, Bellingham Veterans For Peace, Chapter 111, 253-653-4423 (cell)
Gerry Condon, Project Safe Haven, 206-499-1220 (cell),projectsafehaven(at)

In an update,
AP reports that Cliff is being allowed to travel "by bus to Georgia" and will "turn himself in Tuesday at the Army base near Savannah." And, as Gerry Condon stated, Barack Obama should grant amnesty to all war resisters. But the reality is Barack's not even in a rush to end the illegal war.

Staying with the White House, US vice president Joe Biden is headed to Germany. Before he left the US today, he made some public remarks.
Edward Epstein (CQ) reports, "He listed the economic crisis and ongoing fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as the most pressing issues. Biden used a football analogy to describe the situation in Iraq, saying the United States is 'on the 20-yard-line' and 'driving toward the goal'." Jared Allen (The Hill) states the Biden "admitted that any victory is far from certain, and he reiterated that a victory through military means alone is unattainable." AFP quotes him stating, "Our administration is going to have to be very deeply involved not only keeping the commitment that we've made drawing down our troops in an orderly fashion consistent with what we said."

McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef is convinced that Barack's decision to request a variety of options for 'withdrawal' from Iraq is "the first indication that the Obama administration may be willing to abandon a campaign promise of a 16-month withdrawal." Or it may be Barack wanting to see all options, wanting to check if opinions ever see withdrawal possible (would you listen to someone's opinion if they didn't think the US could pull out in 16, 19 or even 23 months?). Who knows. But withdrawal' is not withdrawl. It is "combat" troops only. The White House unofficially says the number left behind would be approximately 70,000. That's not withdrawal. Youssef reports, "Obama is likely to announce his strategy for Iraq by mid-March, a senior administration official told McClatchy." That would be an indication of a broken promise and Youssef misses that point. At Hopey Changey "Three Facts about Barack Obama and Iraq" which includes this 'fact:' "Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq; successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased."

What did Barack promise? "Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased." Mid-March? Mid-March is "immediately upon taking office"? Immediately upon taking office was when Barack was sworn in. That was last month. It's February. And a White House source is telling McClatchy it will be mid-March before anything's announced. Another case where "
Barack kicks the can" and here he's promised "immediately upon taking office". (I have no idea who Nancy Youssef spoke to and this morning I'm being told that is not correct and that Barack will be making an announcement "this month" on Iraq. He may or he may not. But Youssef didn't make up that source. Even if an announcement is made this month, as two insisted this morning, the fact that some White House insider would tell Youssef it wouldn't be until mid-March goes to how unimportant Iraq is in the Obama White House. And "this month" would not be "immediately upon taking office".)

"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's strong performance in Iraq's provincial elections was also a victory for American goals." No. al-Maliki wasn't a candidate. That's the lede to
Sudarsan Raghavan and Ernesto Londono's Washington Post article and it's incorrect and they are not the only reporters/outlet to get it so wrong.Nouri al-Maliki was not a candidate in provincial elections. These, as Londono himself has explained, are the equivalent of state legislature elections in the US. Did anyone assert that victory for Republicans in (pick one of fifty states) in (pick 2001 through 2007) was a victory for George W. Bush? wanted to get some press and wanted to make the elections about him. He estimated a minimum of 70% of registered Iraqis would turn out. (51% did.) He thought this was going to be his big moment on the international scene.For a reporter, it is very tempting to make it about al-Maliki for a number of reasons. For example, making provincial elections about the prime minister frees you of having to . . . cover the actual candidates. And there were 440 winners -- none of whom were named "Nouri al-Maliki." It's so much easier to stamp "al-Maliki Victory" and be done with it. This afternoon Alissa J. Rubin (at the International Herald Tirbune) focuses on Yusef Majid al-Habboubi who "managed to defeat not only the religious parties who controlled the province of Karbala but also Maliki's preferred candidates by a 2-1 margin in one of the bigger surprises in the provincial elections last week." In the preliminatry vote, Rubin explains, it appears al-Habboubi has 17% of the vote over twice what "the next two closest parties" appeared to have received.This morning, Rubin's "Prime Ministers Party Wins in Iraqi Vote but Will Need to Form Coalitions" (New York Times) did a little better than the Post. The headline writer captures it and Rubin does as well for most of her article; however, sentences like the following trip her up: "In Baghdad, where Mr. Maliki ran a strongly nationalist campaign, he appeared to have had some success in winning votes from Sunnis, but in the Sunni-majority provinces to the north, his party's slate barely made a showing." He ran a strong nationalist campaign? And how many votes did he receive? What did he say in his victory speech? When will he be sworn in?Here's reality, if you're going to wrongly make the provincial elections about Nouri al-Maliki, you're going to have to judge the success or failure of al-Maliki and the reality is "his party's slate barely made a showing" in the north. The reality is that Iraq has 18 provinces -- three of which have scheduled votes for this spring -- and to claim al-Maliki has 'won' a national campaign is not only premature, it doesn't even jibe with the actual (preliminary) results.Raghavan and Londono tell you that the Dawa Party (al-Maliki's party) "won in nine provinces" -- with "an outright plurality" (NOT a majority) in Baghdad and Basra while it was a narrow win for Dawa "in the other seven provinces." Or, as Rubin puts it, "the party fell short of being able to operate without coalition-building."That's a win? 14 provinces held elections last Saturday and Dawa didn't squeak out a majority win in any province, it only got "an outright plurality" in two provinces and, to govern, they need to coalition-build with other parties. That's not a win. Not for al-Maliki -- who was not a candidate -- and certainly not for Dawa.What is troubling - - and what no one's pointed out -- is that we don't expect, for example, Barack Obama to head over to Oregon when they're electing their state legislature. We don't expect him to campaign for them or butt in. That al-Maliki was allowed to hit the road (attempting to buy votes) goes to how problematic the election actually was. Rubin writes, "Some politicians have voiced concerns in recent months that too much power was being concentrated in Mr. Maliki's hands, and the election results suggested that Iraqis were not ready to rally around a single leader." It's a shame the press never bothered to question why a prime minister was attempting to repeatedly inject himself into provincial elections?Rubin writes, "Except in areas where Sunnis were voting for the first time, the large, prominent parties with nationally known leaders won the most seats, showing the power of incumbency and the difficulties facing the newer secular parties." Well if you're going to make that observation, you might also question why the country's prime minister is interfering in provincial elections? These are not the equivalent of US Congressional elections (that would be Iraq's Parliament). That issue was never raised. But, no, it is not normal for the highest office holder in the country to try to inject her or himself into local elections. And it's not normal -- when the press is lauding 'democracy' -- for no one to question that injection. Another question to ask: Did al-Maliki's injection depress voter turnout?In the final paragraphs of Rubin's article she notes Anbar and quotes various complaints from Tamouz ("a nongovernment organization monitoring the elections"). She tells us that the Iraqi Islamic Party is Sunni. She tells us nothing about the make up of Tamouz. Tamouz is making accusations. Readers have a right to know who they are and the use of "nongovernment" will translate to some as 'from outside Iraq.' That's not reality. But we don't get a lot of reality in this morning's election coverage. Back to the Washington Post's article, the following should never happen:The Obama administration appeared as pleased at what did not happen on election day as it was about the results. "Any election where [there is] fairness and generally aboveboard practices, where the people get a chance to vote and they're not rioting in the streets and throwing bombs . . . is a good result," a senior administration official said in Washington. "We should celebrate that. So far, so good." There is no reason to grant anonymity for the above. If the 'celebrator' can't be named, his or her comment doesn't need to be included. When you start granting anonymity for prattle, you're degrading journalism standards. James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) attempts to write up Moqtada al-Sadr's political death stating, "British officials see the political setback as the latest sign of Mr Sadr's diminished importance in southern Iraq." Diminished importantce? Rubin says al-Sadr "did surprisingly well, given that his movement decided to support them only two weeks before the elections." BBC notes, "Finals results are not expected to be known for weeks." What is known is that the violence continues with Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Abdulmajeed al Nuaimi, member of the incumbent provincial in Mosul" called the police about an unidentified object outside his home that turned out to be a roadside bomb.
In other reported violence today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing at a liquor store that left "material damages to the store," a Baghdad grenade tossed at a supermarket leaving "material damages to the store".


Reuters reports, "U.S. and Iraqi security forces killed a civilian and arrested six suspected militants in raids on towns southwest of Kirkuk".

Nawal Al Samarrai is making news in Iraq.
Alsumaria Iraqi Satellite Network reports she has resigned as the Minister of Women's Affairs due to the fact that her job is for-show and contains no real power to improve anything. Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Katie Nguyen report Reuters exclusive interview with al-Samarai: Iraq's minister of women's affairs resigned on Thursday in protest at a lack of resources to cope with "an army of widows, unemployed, oppressed and detained women" after years of sectarian warfare.Nawal al-Samarai said her status as a secretary of state and not a full minister reflected the low emphasis given by the government to the plight of women in Iraq, once one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East for women's rights. "This ministry with its current title cannot cope with the needs of Iraqi women," said Samarai, who was appointed in July.The Times of India adds, "Samarrai, who took office in July 2008 and had recently chaired two committees on improving the conditions of women and another on the breast cancer, said she would seek a position where she could actually help women." wowOwow covers the story and notes, "She has not, however, heard back from the Prime Minister's office on whether they accept her resignation or will heed her calls and provide more social services for Iraq's women."

Barbara Starr and Mike Mount (CNN) report, "The Army said 24 soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in January alone -- six times as many as killed themselves in January 2008, according to statistics released Thursday." Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News) observes, "In a rare move, the Army released monthly suicide data Thursday to highlight the growing problem. Last week, Army officials said its suicide rates were at their highest in nearly 30 years. Last year, 128 soldiers committed suicide and another 15 suspected cases are pending. Last month, Army officials believe that 24 soldiers killed themselves - compared with just four in January 2008." Lizette Alvarez (New York Times) quotes Gen Peter Chiarelli stating, "Each of these losses is a personal tragedy that is felt throughout the Army family. The trend and trajectory seen in January further heightens the seriousness and urgency that all of us must have in preventing suicides." If you mean your words, do something. If not, stop boring us. The military's had more than enough time to notice the suicides and to do something about it. It's done nothing other than a few pamphlets and a 1-800 number. The change has to come from the top in the military because it is a top-down command. Chiarelli wants to change the culture? Great. Otherwise, it's just him using a tragedy to look sympathetic. And if that's harsh, it's harsh that so many suicides have repeatedly taken place and the military has ignored the problem. Or lied about it. It wasn't all that long ago CBS News was catching the VA lying about the number of suicides. CBS Evening News' Kimberly Dozier most recently reported on the suicides in December noting that 1st Sgt Jeff McKinney's family (rightly, my opinion) called him "a casualty of war" because he served, ended up wtih PTSD and did not receive the treatment he needed and he took his own life while serving.. His father, Charles, McKinney, told Dozier, "I think he felt like he couldn't send one more broken body home, one more person home."

Kimberly Dozier recently wrote about Iraq and Afhganistan for wowOwow.
Throwing out a link for friends,
Washington Unplugged is a new CBS News show. It airs each Friday afternoon. Haven't seen it? It airs online only. Face The Nation's Bob Schieffer is the anchor and I use anchor because it is news reports and, at the closing, Schieffer offers a commentary as he does on Face The Nation. This week his comment is on Tom Daschle. Before that, Kent Conrad appears to make a fool out of himself. Tom Daschle didn't report it to the IRS because he thought the driver and car were a "gift"? Kent, learn the tax code. Such a gift would have to be reported to the IRS. Washington Unplugged streams live online Friday afternoons and archives are available seven days a week. This week (tonight on most PBS stations) NOW on PBS offers:Is there a solution to the foreclosure mess that's destroying communities?Across the country, cities are in crisis because of the fallout from the mortgage mess -- property taxes are way down, and abandoned homes are bringing down property values, inviting crime, and draining government coffers. Neighborhoods are being destroyed. Yet the federal bailout money is not going directly to desperate communities and homeowners, but to local and national banks.This week, NOW investigates the innovative way some cities are fighting back. The city of Memphis, Tennessee is suing major national lenders and banks for deceptive and discriminatory lending practices in an effort to recoup the cost of the financial mess. Other cities suing lenders for their role in the mortgage mess include Baltimore, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Birmingham.With desperation climbing alongside debt, can the strategy help these blighted parts of America?Washington Week also begins airing tonight on most PBS stations and joining Gwen this installment is Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Charles Babington (AP), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Jackie Calmes (New York Times). And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, no 60 Minutes:Saving Flight 1549Hero pilot Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his flight crew together reveal for the first time the sights, sounds and physical sensations they experienced as they pulled off an incredible water landing last month, saving the lives of all 155 people aboard US Airways Flight 1549. Katie Couric reports. (This is an extra-length story. Watch Video
ColdplayThe British rock group that has taken its place among the most popular bands in the world gives 60 Minutes a rare look inside its world that includes a candid interview with frontman Chris Martin. Steve Kroft reports. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 Minutes Update
Beckham Leaving The L.A. Galaxy?David Beckham wants to leave the Los Angeles Galaxy and stay with AC Milan after his loan to the Italian club is scheduled to end next month. The 33-year-old English midfielder announced his intentions Wednesday after playing in Milan's 2-2 exhibition tie at Glasgow Rangers. Beckham is about two years into a $32.5 million, five-year contract with Major League Soccer. In March 2008, CNN's Anderson Cooper profiled Beckham for 60 Minutes, discussing his widely publicized move to Los Angeles. Video

military families speak out
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jim branummcclatchy newspapersnancy a. youssefalsumariawaleed ibrahimmichael christiekatie nguyen
the washington posternesto londonothe new york timesalissa j. rubin

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