Why didn't I cover the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing C.I.'s writing about? I wasn't there for it. It was supposed to start at two. C.I. left about three to do a speaking thing and I stayed but it was starting a few seconds after C.I. got back. (Which I believe was after 6:30 p.m.) So I didn't cover it because I was gone. I went to eat and then to relax some. If it had started while I was there, I was going to cover it. That was the plan. C.I. assumed that I'd have it to cover last night and the snapshot today would quote from my coverage.
But the hearing never started. It was at least four hours and thirty minutes late starting, at least. I've never had a hearing being that delayed. I blame the same person (not on the committee) that C.I. does. The little "OH HELP ME!! OH HELP ME!!! THE REPUBLICANS ARE OUT OF CONTROL" whiner.
I stayed thinking I would be covering it. Instead I was just one of many people staring.
Free Speech Radio News had an interesting headline today:
More than 700 UK workers fired after holding unofficial strike
In the UK a dispute by construction workers at a Total oil refinery threatens to spread across the UK. Workers at 17 power stations and construction sites are holding solidarity actions for the more than 700 workers fired by the French oil corporation. From London, FSRN’s Naomi Fowler reports:
Reporter:According to Total oil refinery workers, 700 people were sacked Thursday night for their previous involvement in unofficial strike action. They say Total has been bringing in foreign European workers in order to drive down wages and undermine job security. Workers say they are not opposed to foreign labor, but believe if they lose this fight, it will give the green light to other big corporations to behave similarly. Total says striking workers are taking part in an "unofficial, illegal walk-out" and that firing workers is normal practice when different parts of a project end. It has so far refused to meet with the unions. Naomi Fowler, FSRN, London.
Big Oil knows no boundaries. As the Iraqi people can certainly attest. Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Friday, June 19, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the VA backlog continues and will continue for some time judging by a Congressional hearing, Gordon Brown continues to be a newsmaker of the week (not a good thing for Brown), Iraqi refugees continue to struggle, and more.
Late yesterday, well after 6:00 p.m., the House Committee on Veterans Affairs' Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs called their 2:00 p.m. hearing to order. US House Rep John J. Hall chaired the subcommittee hearing, "Addressing the Backlog: Can the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Manage One Manage One Million Claims?" Hall observed, "This is a problem that's plagued the VA and the veterans it's supposed to serve for years."
The first panel was composed of the American Legion's Ian de Planque, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Disabled American Veterans' Kerry Baker, Service Women's Action Network's Rachel Ntelson and Gulf War veteran David Bohan of Oregon.
Bohan shared his personal story which is not unique to him and which members of the House Veterans Committee and its various subcommittees have heard repeatedly but there's still been no action on it -- even with John Hall having proposed legislation to assist with this (HR 952).
David Bohan: A counselor at the VA in Roseburg suggested I pursue a claim for my PTSD and for injuries to my left foot during the time I was stationed at Fort Riley Kansas and recommended I contact the American Legion for help. The VA system is confusing, overwhelming and it is not all friendly to veterans. [. . .] So many of the people at VA are not veterans and don't understand what we are going through. You end up feeling like some of them care more about their rules and regulations and paperwork than they care about the veterans. We veterans don't have any idea where the piece of paper or that record is after all of the time. Regarding military records, veterans don't have any idea where our records are kept. And apparently the military doesn't know either. I was up late last night digging through boxes, looking for records to prove I was in the army, that I was in the Gulf War and that I had been in a combat -- in combat and that I had all the necessary stressors to qualify for VA assistance. The memories -- the memories that going through all these materials from my army days were very painful. With the help of American Legion service officer Gregg Demaris, I received a PTSD rating from the BA. But the issues with my foot have not yet been -- been addressed. My medical records from Fort Riley are missing. I've spent hour on the telephone, I've sent faxes, I've even sent e-mails. But after months of trying, no one can find my records. The hospital at Fort Riley says they do not have the records of the surgeries on my foot. I have contacted the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis many, many times. But I still do not have the records of the multiple surgeries on my foot. Until I can obtain those records and present them to the VA, I cannot pursue the rest of my case.
HR 952 would make it much easier for veterans suffering from PTSD to receive treatment for it without jumping through hoops of paperwork. The measure would not help David Bohan with his foot injury. The issue of the foot injury, however, is something that a call to one of his senator's office should have resolved already. (Via the office lighting a fire under the VA. I'm not stating Bohan hasn't pursued that. I would guess he has. I'm stating someone's dropping the ball: Gordon Smith or Ron Wyden -- or both.) We'll note this section of Rachel Ntelson's opening remarks.
Rachel Ntelson: To begin, studies indicate an institutional bias in favor of claimants with combat experience, an advantage which disproportionately favors men. Not only do claim processors fail to understand the degree to which women are effectively -- if not nominally -- serving in combat positions but they also fail to appreciate the extent to which service members in non-combat occupations and support roles are exposed to traumatic events. Among the most pervasive stressors experienced by military women are incidents of sexual assault and harassment. The prevalence of sexual assault in the military is hardly news and has been the subject of a number of recent Congressional hearings and Pentagon reports. By some accounts, nearly a third of female veterans report episodes of sexual assault during military service while seventy-one to ninety percent report experiences of sexual harassment. These experiences are closely associated with PTSD in a variety of studies; in fact, military sexual assault is a stronger predictor of PTSD among women veterans than combat history. Likewise, studies indicate that sexual harassment causes the same rates of PTSD in women as combat does in men. In spite of this correlation, the VA grants benefits to a significantly smaller percentage of female than male PTSD claimants. This disparity stems largely from the difficulties of substantiating experiences of military sexual assault -- especially in a combat arena. Under military regulations, for example, sexual harassment investigations are only retained on file for two years from the close of each case. While criminal investigations of sexual assault are better documented, eighty percent of assault victims fail to report the offense and over twenty percent of those who do file reports opt for a 'restricted' mode that precludes official investigation. Although training and reference materials for raters provide a great deal of guidance on how combat medals and commendations may be used to support PTSD claims, they make little mention of how to address the challenges of documenting military sexual assault as an in-service stressor.
The first panel was the only one not staffed by government employees. We'll note a series of exchanges from it and these are my notes and I may have missed a word or two. (I was tired. During the long wait for the hearing to start, I believe it was Kerry Baker who was on his laptop throughout the wait using the time wisely. Most waiting were thinking, "This has to start soon. This has to." Or as one reporter put it during the long wait, "It won't look very good for the House Veterans Committee if they can't handle a hearing on whether or not the VA can handle claims." No, it wouldn't. That's all stated because the Ranking Member may have had good questions but my pen skids right across the paper during his questions. It was a long wait for the hearing to start.)
Chair John Hall: Mr. de Planque, there have been some concerns and misperceptions about the role of service connection in being able to access VA health care. If a veteran is not service connected than how likely is it that he or she will get turned down for VA health care treatment? Should veterans with claims pending adjudication be held eligible for VA health care and should mental health counseling be offered to all veterans during the stress of the VA claims processing system?
Ian de Planque: In the sense of that, Mr. Chairman, it's -- it's actually -- it's a slightly complicated issue and there have been a number of things that have changed although they are attempting to bring them back forward. In 2003, when the category eight veterans were shut out of VA from treatment, it made it very difficult for them to receive treatment for -- for medical conditions. And that is being phased back in. However veterans who are serving now in the present conflict are entitled to five years of VA health care after they demobilize, after they are discharged from the military and it will run out after that point and they will not be able to get health care for the conditions that are not service connected. With regards to mental health care, in many of the VA outreach clinics they're not in a position to be turning people away from trying to get the care they need but it's not always capable of getting the full level of care that particularly severe cases of mental disorders which can arise. It is possible to get some degree of health care within certain circumstances when you fall into certain categories as a veteran but in terms of an all inclusive group of veterans being able to receive health care if they are not service connected for a condition than that is not the case.
Chair John Hall: I would ask you one more question if I may which is that some of the solutions highlighted in your testimony were already considered and enacted by Congress in PL110-389. Do you think these provisions are sufficient or are there other legislative changes the Legion would like to see Congress enact?
Ian de Planque: In some sense with the changes which have been enacted, they've all been enacted very recently and we're seeing promising signs for example with what VA is beginning to do with improving electronic communication and making 4As into the IT solutions. They're showing promising signs but it's still very early to determine how overall effective those will be. As I've stated before, it would be beneficial to work with the -- the changes that are creating improvements but we don't want to just change the set of tools that continues to operate within the same system. If we -- if you're continuing to make the same problems but doing it electronically that doesn't make it any better than if you're making the same mistakes and doing it on paper. In terms of legislative solutions which could be brought forward, already up for consideration are the -- as we mentioned in our testimony -- the changes to the Section 1154 which covers veterans -- currently covers veterans who have engaged in combat in proving the occurrence of incidents that are consistent with combat and the expansion of it to combat zones as we recognize the non-linear battlefield of modern warfare and that the documentation of all such incidents for all soldiers -- not just soldiers who have infantry cross rifles and can get a combat infantry badge. Not just soldiers who are wounded and receive a Purple Heart which makes things obvious, but all the soldiers who are deployed to combat zones and experience these incidents which are sometimes difficult to document. So continuing to work towards the legislation and pass solutions on that front would be a great help in reducing because it would reduce a lot of their burden for overdeveloping. They would be able to grant that one point and they wouldn't spend a lot of time needlessly developing.
Chair John Hall: Thank you sir, and Mr. Bohan once again thank you for your testimony and your service. It sounds like nobody from VA mentioned to you that you could file a claim even though you were in treatment for over 15 years before you did file. Would your experience with this process have been easier if you had filed a claim right away?
David Bohan: Mr. Chairman, not knowing what the technology back then at that point, I'm assuming there would be roadblocks also as well. But that's hard to say because I did not file back at that time.
Chair John Hall: Fair enough. Thank you. And, Mr. Jackson, I'm interested in the provisional claims processing proposal you mentioned in your testimony. Could you elaborate on how it would work practically by walking us through the first steps of finality for a veteran who might file a claim under this system?
Robert Jackson: My pleasure, Mr. Chairman. What this does, it essentially is not a -- it's not a permanent fix. What it does is buys time. What you're doing is you're -- you're allowing existing information to be used for a provisional rating. The veteran then -- if he or she decides that that rating is not what they think is sufficient then they can continue the process that they normally would. The goal of the provisional proposal that Jerry [Manar] has created is to -- is to get claims -- new claims through the system quickly allowing the VA workforce to work on the backlog. It's -- it's something that's not going to be a permanent fix but it's something that could certainly alleviate some of the workload.
This is where the Ranking Member Doug Lamborn came in. I believe I nodded off for his entire questioning of the first panel. Here's where Hall resumed speaking.
Chair John Hall: In listening to your testimony I'm reminded of a hearing we held over a year ago on artificial intelligence, Dr. Randy Miller, Chair of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University made similar observations about reducing the days to process claims by using clinical informatics which is what your imaging scanning center would seem to do. Have you also considered that the scanned image should be converted into a standardized electronically processed format? What is the feasibility of implementing the proposed centralized information system that you mentioned in your testimony?
Kerry Baker: Well Mr. Chairman, if you're talking about -- are you suggesting if we use something like an image scanning center would you do more than just copy the document? Would you have a workable format that could provide some sort of database and search-able tool? That would absolutely be preferable. It would allow people to search the claims file much, much easier than sitting there having to read 1000 pages on the computer. The feasibility of that? I'm afraid I don't have the expertise. I don't know where VA is in their IT development, if they could do something like that. As I understand it, there's a lot of companies out there and processes out there that can capture that sort of data. I just don't know where VA is with that technology.
Chair John Hall: Thank you. And your plan also calls for a reduction time from one year to 180 days of the time that a veteran can make an appeal but then allows them the opportunity to ask for an extension. Other insurance programs have restrictions that do not allow an appeal after the due date. Are their circumstances in which you could see a case being closed and an appeal being disallowed? And should there be a limitation on the number of times that a veteran can appeal the same condition without new evidence?
Kerry Baker: I could see where one could get closed and disallowed if they allowed the six months to run out and they did not request an extension and they couldn't show any cause as to why their appeal should be equitably told. That would be no different than the appeal running out at the in excess of one year point right now. Only right now they cannot request an extension and they cannot be equitably told the court have stopped short of addressing that issue with the appellate period. So we realize that the six months issue may not be met with a lot of favoritism upfront but when you're providing a couple of extra benefits that a lot of people are going without right now -- which is the extension and the equitable tolling -- we think that's more than fair. And it's still six months we're talking about. The average time it takes VA to get an NOD is forty-one days. 90% of all the POs are received in the first six months. So we think in the long run the system will be much better with that. You had a second part of that question?
Chair John Hall: Should there be a limitation on the number of times the veteran can appeal the same condition without new evidence?
Kerry Baker: Well VA -- VA has a process now, a lot of people get it confused. If you -- if you reapply for the same thing and you've been denied for and you don't have any new evidence, what you normally get is -- you will get a decision saying 'you haven't presented new evidence, your claim is not reopened.' However, that issue -- in and of itself -- can be appealed all the way up to the courts. So it is, in effect, a claim within the system -- the claim is an appeal to reopen the claim. During the appelate process, that could be decided in favor of the veteran and goes all the way back down to the beginning just to be reopened and the actual issue decided so I mean there is some convulsion there -- how do you go about, you know -- Iiii -- rectifying that. I wouldn't suggest that you simply not allow the veteran to reopen anything without new evidence, I mean there's a fine line where you start taking away rights as some point. But if they had no evidence whatsoever, that's kind of what they do now. You can just appeal that decision just like you can appeal anything else.
Chair John Hall: Thank you very much. And Ms. Ntelson, thank you first of all for your support of HR 952. The information that you've presented on women's veterans -- women veterans corroborates what we have heard before at our hearings. When the Department of Defense appeared at one of these hearings, they described their PTSD approach as relying on the opinion of the medical examiner which is what it seems you are suggesting. So if VA like DoD instituted a disability evaluation system that relied more on medical opinions than psychometric testing results, do you think this change would be reliable enough for the establishment of compensation?
Rachel Ntelson: Well I think that there's a value in allowing -- a VA professional has a treating relationship with the claimant. To have their word, you know, taken at face value. Presumably since these are VA medical professionals, there's been some sort of vetting, some sort of determination, that their credentials are approriate. So it doesn't make very much sense to me that if somebody has been in a treating relationship with a medical professional or counselor employed by the VA on the VHS side of the equation that -- that somebody on the benefit section to decide that, you know, that person's word isn't good enough.
Chair John Hall: Thank you. And lastly would you please elaborate on your recommendation to incorporate upon request investigative files of harassment and sexual assault into the joint virtual lifetime electronic record. How would thi help women veterans
Rachel Ntelson: Well an enormous problem for women with military sexual trauma in establishing their in-service stressor is that it's so hard to obtain those documents. Like I say there are actual military policies -- especially with harassment as opposed to an actual criminal case of assault that prevent records from even being kept on file for more than a couple of years. So if somehow those -- the documents that do exist could be memorialized and kept within the system, you know, for as long as possible, so that if the claimant elected to they could use that in support of their claim. I think that would be very helpful in establishing that there was an in-service stressor.
The second panel was composed of the VA's Lt Gen James Scott and the VA's Michael Ratajczak. Michael Ratajczak made many sound points in his opening remarks but the point we'll emphasize was his points that managers without experience or with only a little experience when it comes to processing claims are not able to provide training, to supervise or to assist with the work. That's basic but it is a repeated point you will hear from VA as you step away from the appointees and administrators at the top. US House Rep Deborah Halvorson was probably the strongest voice from the committee or the panel on the second panel. She pointed out how confusing the form alone was and how someone's claim being turned down can be confusing and leading to more work as a result of appeals over a denail that may or may not have been judged correctly. Who answers the question when a veteran calls in about a denied claim is a basic question.
Her efforts to keep it basic and simple weren't helped by Ratajczak meandering answer that did not address the issues but offered bromides (no heading in the manual with "do the right thing"). Good for Halvoroson for interrupting and asking, "And why aren't we doing that?" Why aren't veterans brought in immediately when there's something confusing about their case that might lead to a denial. Ratajczak replied that it's "because we're not giving credit for doing it." Halvorson explained how she runs her office, "Because I have a lot of caseworkers in my office and I don't let them share cases, I want them starting it and finishing it because when there's questions, one person can answer the question because if you've got a team or five people working on something, you're going to get five different answers depending on who answers the call." Ratajczak wanted to offer a ton of examples that backed up Halvorson's question but none that answered her question. He ate the time, ran out the clock and avoided providing an answer.
"I don't have an answer for that," Michael Waldcoff said in a flat voice on the third panel. Though VA sends many people to Congress who make that comment, the Deupty Under Secretary for Benefits was replying to John Hall's question about how many veterans committed suicide while waiting for their claims to be settled? That's a basic question and as distrubing as Wadlcoff's claim that he didn't know was his obvious disinterest in the question. Hall rightly noted that this was "a question that VA should be able to answer" -- yes, they should.
Today Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports that there has been an increase ("nearly doubled") in the number of enlisted seeking treatment for dependency on or abuse of alcoholism. and he notes there were 142 recorded army suicides in 2008 and that there are already 82 confirmed so far this year. This as VA's backlog continues.
Turning to England. Gordon Brown's been the topic of the week. Fresh from nearly losing his prime minister post and on the heels of the spending scandals in Parliament, Brown promised a new age of transparency only to turn around Monday and offer the long promised inquiry into the Iraq War . . . as a back-door, hidden-from-public view song and dance. Today Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) offers "Iraq war inquiry: Five reasons why a full Gordon Brown U-turn looks inevitable" which includes:
1. The Commons wants a public inquiry This hasn't had much publicity, but yesterday the (Labour-dominated) Commons public administration committee published a strong report criticising the format proposed by Brown. This was its key finding: While we welcome the government's announcement that an inquiry into Iraq will be held, that it will have a broad scope, and that it will aim to learn lessons from the decision to go to war, the conflict and its aftermath, there is a strong risk that the inquiry as currently constituted will not be able to pursue what should be its fundamental purpose: to identify the truth and ensure that the executive can be held properly accountable for its decisions and conduct in relation to Iraq. Tony Wright, the committee's chairman (and the man Brown has just asked to recommend ways of making the Commons operate more effectively), said this: It is also crucial that the inquiry be conducted openly and in public, and that Parliament has a role in establishing it. Only an open, legitimate and credible process of this kind will satisfy a sceptical public that this inquiry is not a whitewash.
Aljazeera's Inside Iraq this week explores Gordon Brown's never ending problems. "The announcement," Aljazeera notes of Brown's closed-door inquiry, "was supposed to boost his populartiy among the British public. However the calls for an inquiry has met with indifference at best, hostile criticism at worst." John F. Burns (New York Times) offers that the "outcry" has been from the families who lost service members in Iraq, "the House of commons, from newspaper editorials and from powerful establishment voices, including a retired military commander, Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, who oversaw Britain's operations in Iraq as army chief in 2003." Duncan Gardham (Telegraph of London) covers Brown's spokesperson who swears that "the precise format of the inquiry" will be determined by Sir John Chilcot.
While everyone else appears eager to pull correspondents out of Iraq, a British paper has actually sent another correspondent into the country. Alice Fordham (Times of London's Inside Iraq) notes that Barham Salih, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, is now Twittering. Yesterday Salih noted he was following news on Iran's elections while "Busy with our own elections". Click here for Ray Odierno's Facebook page. Alice Fordham is blogging at the paper's Iraq blog and blogging regularly on a variety of topics. Visiting an American base, she noted all the food associated with the US, "It's not a new observation, and my colleague Martin Fletcher wrote brilliantly about the supply chain required to keep the thousands of troops stationed here in popcorn and Froot Loops. But sometimes in Iraq an unexpected offer of marmalade or somesuch reminds me of the British colonial legacy here, and I wonder if, as the Americans withdraw, they will leave behind a taste for infintely variable ice cream and baseball."
From baseball to karate, BBC reports 45-year-old Izzat Abdullah was shot dead in Mosul today. He had been the coach of Iraq's karate team. On the topic of Mousl, Thursday Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reported it was allegedly Mosul police that shot dead US Lt William Emmert February 24th, as well as his interpreter (five more people were wounded in the attack). Carter reported that Col Gay Volesky was told by the Mosul police chief that the reason the two alleged killers hadn't gone before a judge was because there were 'doubts' but "Volesky wasn't buying it, saying the men's relatives had identified them." Nikki Weingartner (Digital Journal) observes, "The first step in the process of prosecution is appearing before a judge."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul bombing targeting an alcohol store which left two people injured, a Baquba roadside bombing which wounded Ahmed Zarkush ("District Commissioner of al Saidyah") and three members of his security team, a Falluja house bombing and an Anbar Province sticky bombing targeting Zeki Obaid's son who was wounded (Obaid fled to Jordan in 2008).
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports aremd clashes in Falluja in which two civilians were wounded, 1 person shot dead in Mosul from "a speeding car" and, dropping back to last night, 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 iraqi civilian shot dead in Mosul.
Patrik Jonsson and Kristen Chick (Christian Science Monitor) report on the small number of Iraqi refugees admitted into the US and note that the number who have been able to find work has fallen from 80% in 2007 to 11% this year. International Rescue Committee's Alaa Naji states that the Iraqi refugees "never imagined that they would be struggling to survive here in America. They expected more from a country that was involved in the violence that destroyed our land, homes, and loved ones." IRC has a new report [PDF format warning] entitled "Iraq Refugees In The United States: In Dire Straits." "We conclude," the report notes, "that the U.S> resettlement program, likely the only safe alternative for thousands of Iraqi refugees, faces major structural challenges in its organization and funding. These challenges are exacerbated by a simultaneous global economic downturn and resettlement of a highly educated refugee population with many special needs. Issues like rising unemployment and homelessness are threatening the well-being not only of Iraqi refugees but also of all recently resettled refugees in America." The report notes conditions that can add to economic issues:
Many of the women widowed by the war in Iraq have young children. Without male relatives, these women are especially at risk in Iraq and in its neighboring countries and are considered among the most vulnerable of refugees. In Phoenix, the IRC delegation met with six refugee women from Iraq whose husbands were killed. The situation for those who are here alone with young children is especially precarious. Like other refugees, they must secure a job soon after arrival in the United States. Manyhave been separated from sons, brothers or other family members because of the delays from the additional security checks that Iraqi men are subjected to before the United States will grant them admission.
In Atlanta Commission members met Shayma Sadeq, a single mother with three children who recently obtained a job working the night shift cooking for inmates at a detention facility in Atlanta. It is a job she is not likely to continue to hold for long. The support she receives from the state pays only for certified day care providers, and such providers do not operate at night. Unable to afford nightmare childcare for her three minor children, she has arranged for a neighbor to watch the children at night, but the arrangment is not sustainable. At the same time, the financial support the IRC is able to provide to her has run out. Without a job she and her children will soon face eviction.
Inaya Al Basha, a widow from Iraq living alone in Phoenix, has received multiple eviction notices. She jokes that if she is evicted she will come to sleep at the IRC office. Like other refugees with eviction notices, she has nowhere else to go. The homeless shelters in Phoenix are at capacity and the waiting list for subsidized housing is up to two years long.
Assyrian International News Agency also covers the refugees with a report (including many photos) entitled "Assyrian Refguees in Sweden Caught in Political Struggle." The article notes that despite puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki meeting with Pope Benedict XVI there's no increase in trust. A refugee is quoted stating, "How will he [al-Maliki] protect anyone? He doesn't even dare to leave the Green zone."Meanwhile Asia News reports that the Pope met with the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians Ignace Youssiff III Younan today and the Pope declared, "I constantly pray for peace in the Middle East, in particular for the Christians who lived in the beloved nation of Iraq, every day, during the Eucharistic Sacrifice, I present their suffering to the Lord." On Iraqi Christians, Iran's Press TV observes the declining number of Christians in Iraq stating "nearly half have fled" as a result of threats and attacks "unleashed by the Salafi militants as well as the Al-Qaeda. These Salafi groups did not appear over night in the Arab countries. Some regional governments have been funding these groups primarily to target Shia Muslims and those Sunnis who rose up against extremism." A large percentage of Iraq's external refugees are Christians. Some Christians remain in Iraq. In Kirkuk, Archbishop Louis Sako has called for an end to executions in Iraq as Amnesty International also has. Adnkronos Security quotes Archbishop Sako stating, "The Death penalty is horrible deed. It is humanly and spiritually unjustifiable. It is an offence to life and to the maker." This as Iraq Oil Report notes a Sunni satellite TV station which is said to broadcast hate speech aimed at Shi'ites and Christians inflaming tensions in Najaf with such comments as, "If I have ten nuclear bombs, I would use one against Christians and Jews, and the remaining nie agains Shi'ites."
TV notes. Starting with PBS. This week on Bill Moyers Journal (begins airing tonight on most PBS stations, check local listings, and it streams online -- video and audio -- and offers transcripts):
Instructed by a dream and organized in prayer, Leymah Gbowee andthousands of everyday women in Liberia - both Christians and Muslimsalike - confronted warlords and a corrupt president to successfullyfight for peace and dignity in their war-torn nation. "I realized thatevery problem we encounter on this journey, I'm going to rise above itand lead these women because they trusted me with their lives and theirfuture," says Gbowee. Journal guest host Lynn Sherr interviews LeymahGbowee and Abigail Disney, who documented their inspiring tale in theaward-winning film PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL. Lynn Sherr is along-time broadcast journalist who most recently covered events inLiberia for PBS' news program, WORLDFOCUS.NOW on PBS offers:According to the Department of Education, the average amount of undergraduate student debt in this country is now more than $22,000. And sudden changes in lenders' terms and rates can quickly turn a personal debt into a financial sinkhole, grounding the dreams of many college graduates even before they've started.This week, NOW follows the story of a single mother in Baltimore trying to dig herself out of more than $70,000 student loan debt. While issues of personal responsibility are debated, there's no question the high price of higher education is creating an ocean of student loan debt for people who can least afford it.How are the 70 million Americans with student debt frustrating America's economic recovery?Washington Week finds Gwen sitting around the table with Barbara Slavin (Washington Times), Karen Tumulty (TIME magazine), David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times). All begin airing tonight (check local listings) on most PBS stations and tonight also finds Bonnie Erbe sitting down with Karen Czarnecki, Irene Natividad and Leslie Sanchez to discuss the week's news on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
A Clean Version Of Hell Exclusive footage from within and a rare interview with its former warden takes viewers inside the secretive "Supermax" federal prison, where the nation's most dangerous and infamous criminals - including terrorists - are held under the strictest rules. Scott Pelley reports.
The War Next Door Drug-cartel fueled violence has turned into a war in Mexico, with thousands of deaths and the government battling well-armed gangs whose military-quality weapons come mostly from U.S. dealers. Anderson Cooper reports.
LeBron Steve Kroft profiles the Cleveland Cavalier's superstar, LeBron James, who at only 24, is already among an elite handful of athletes who command tens of millions a year in playing and marketing fees.
60 Minutes, Sunday, June 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
gregg zoroyausa todaythe new york timesjohn f. burnsandrew sparrow
patrik jonssonkristen chickthe christian science monitor
bill moyers journal60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbsnprthe diane rehm showpbs