Today we attended the House Veterans' Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing chaired by Harry Mitchell exploring how the VA's done a lousy job of treating prostate cancer. Lousy. Five of the VA facilities that were doing it have been banned from doing it while the investigate.
The known bad apple is the Philadelphia VA. There? Anything went.
First, let me congratulate Harry Mitchell. He did what everyone should do at the start of a hearing before any testimony was offered. I really appreciated that.
You're not supposed to lie to Congress to begin with. But it matters a lot more if you lie after you've been put under oath and putting people under oath might make some think twice about lying to begin with.
By making it regular thing, Congress could avoid any problems with White House officials, etc. The policy would be, "We put everyone under oath."
Could you imagine how much better the country would be today if everyone testifying to Congress from 2001 through 2008 had been put under oath?
People can still lie under oath. And they can even get away with it.
I'm not claiming they can't.
But I'm saying some people might take it a little more seriously if everyone was sworn in. If everyone was sworn in, that would be the policy and when some administration (the present or future) wanted to whine, "We don't need to be sworn in," the reply would be, "We swear in everyone."
It teaches the witnesses and the public respect for the testimony offered.
I really firmly believe every hearing should begin as Subcommittee Chair Mitchell started this one.
I think C.I. captured it perfectly. The doctor and his lies and his nervousness and his non-stop excuses.
John Hall was there at the start of the hearing and made some remarks at the opening before the testimony. I wish he'd been able to stay for the whole hearing (I know people were working on many, many other things today) because it would really have been great to see him ask some of the questions.
The Congress member from New Jersey, Adler (John Adler, I just looked at the snapshot), he did a really strong job. If you're from New Jersey, you should be proud of Adler and if you're a veteran or someone who cares about them, you should be really proud of Adler.
US House Rep Chaka Fattah doesn't serve on the Subcommittee but they allowed him to sit in (the VA with the known problems is in his region). I thought he had a funny line about getting his medical degree from Google.
Otherwise, the big things were that the treatment that was being done wasn't being done effectively -- they put radioactive seeds next to the prostate to treat the cancer. But sometimes it went in the liver, sometimes it went . . . I'm not referring to floating which was also a problem. I'm referring to when it was being put in the body, it was being put in the wrong place.
The other big problem was that these treatments weren't necessarily effective and, especially for older men, were they being counseled that these procedures and treatments might not extend their lives?
Other thing that stood out was what an apologist Phil Roe (Congress member from Tennessee) was for the bad medicine and how he seemed to be on the committee just to attack the press.Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Wednesday, July 22, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Barry O calls it 'progress,' 15% less Americans believe Barack's going to bring US troops home from Iraq, during a House VA Subcommittee hearing US House Rep John Adler tells a witness, " I'm thinking you're in a dream world right now," and more.
We'll start in the US for VA news. Brachytherapy is one treatment for prostate cancer. Walt Bogdanich (New York Times) explained the treatment last month as: "a doctor implants dozens of radioactive seeds to attack the disease." But at the VA Medical Center in Pennsylvania, Bogdanich reported, Dr. Gary D. Kao's treatment resulted in nearly all of the forty seeds ending up "in the patient's healthy bladder, not the prosate." Instead of addressing it or Dr. Kao's other problems, regulators who are supposed to oversea the VA allowed creative records to be kept and Kao was allowed to rewrite what happened, to hide his errors. The paper's investigation discovered "92 implant errors resulted from a systemwide failure in which none of the safeguards that were supposed to protect veterans from poor medical work worked". Josh Goldstein (Philadelphia Inquirer) reported last month, "It took officials more than six years to catch the mistakes, investigators said. When they were discovered last year, all brachytherapy treatments at the hospital were halted and remain so." That's some of the backstory. Today the House Veterans' Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by US House Rep Harry Mitchell, held a hearing entitled Enforcement of US Department of Veterans Affair Bracytherapy Safety Standards. In his opening remarks, Chair Mitchell observed:
Brachytherapy is a form of radio therapy, often used to treat prostate cancer, in which radioactive seeds are placed inside or next to a patient's malignancy. Failure to accurately place the radioactive seeds can cause serious harm. To say that it is disturbing to learn that veterans received bungled procedures and that safety protocols failed to safeguard against such mistreatment would be an understatement. As a result, we are hear today to examine system-wide safety standards for these procedures to ensure that our veterans are receiving the best and safest care available.
Mitchell explained that there were four VA brachytherapy programs which were suspended (Cincinatti, Washington and Jackson, Mississippi) and that "we know that Philadelphia was by far the worst." The hearing was composed of three panels and the first panel had the witness of greatest interest, Dr. Gary Kao who no longer works for the VA after his repeated errors. In his opening statement, he decried "some very serious false allegations that have appeared in the media about me" (in his written statement he decries the reports on himself "in recent publications, most notably the New York Times"). He sneared at the term "92 botched cases" -- insisting this was a mischaracterization and that reported incidents to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the VA's radiation safety program, did not mean "botched cases" or even that anything was wrong. Apparently, Dr. Kao believes, it's just a little candy heart that says "BE MY VALENTINE" on it. Kao apparently slid one over to the Ranking Member, US House Rep Phil Roe (Republican), who decried the New York Times efforts to "sensationalize" the issue. Roe apparently doesn't read, we've cited two papers above, those were not the only ones reporting on the problems.
The first panel was Kao, Dr. Steven M Hahn, Dr. Michael R. Bieda -- all of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. Kao is offended that the "botched" incidents are associated with him because he has never, ever had a medical malpractice law suit against him. Damn lucky. Most doctors plant a treatment in a liver by mistake (and botch the follow up procedure as well), they'd be sued. When his colleague, Hahn, was offering his opening remarks and got to wanting "to express my deppest regret that prostate cancer patients receiving brachytherapy at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center," Kao nearly dropped the pitcher he was holding to pour himself a glass of water.
For any wondering, Kao expressed no such regret in his opening statements which were all about (a) how great he was and (b) how wronged he'd been by the press. He expressed no sadness or regret for any of the veterans harmed by the 'treatment' they received (eighty of the 92 botched cases were his, according to statements made in the hearing by subcommittee members).
Chair Harry Mitchell: First can you please explain the quality of care provided at the VA compared to the quality of care at other facilities you've worked at?
Dr. Gary Kao: The-the brachytherapy procedure that we adopted at the VA was, um, identical to the system that was used at uh-uh other -- at the University of Pennsylvania and also, um, one of its satellites. Um, and in my training, in fact, um, I went to observe, uh, brachytherapy procedures performed in, um, our satellite in, um, in Trenton, New Jersey. And, uh, as a resident, I-I was trained, um, in brachytherapy by senior physicians at, uh, the University of Pennsylvania
Chair Harry Mitchell: Uh, what quality of care matrix do other facilites follow?
Dr. Gary Kao: My-my understanding is that, um, the quality [long pause] control -- the quality assurance procedures are similar in that a CT is performed after the procedure and, uh, the symetry calculated, uh, from that CT.
Chair Harry Mitchell: And the last one I have, what markers are red flags when conducting the brachytherapy procedures indicated a problem?
Dr. Gary Kao: I-I now understand that, uh, [long pause] one-one of my regrets is that, um, I could have been, um, much more assertive in engaging the NRC in what it defines as a reportable medical event. Um, at -- as a result of their investigation in 2003 and 2005, we-we were, uh, under the understanding that the definition of a reportable medical event was based on the number of seeds laying outside the prostate. Um, subsequently, I-I-I, I wuh -- I was, um, I found out that that, uh, was not the case, that the NRC, um, uh, apparently is now relying on a D90 metric and that is something that, um, to my regret, I-I could have been much more, uh, much more [long pause] focused on using that metric.
It would take repeated questioning and intense pressing of the issue for Kao to express any regret at all for the patients he was supposed to be caring for. We'll note US House the questioning from US House Rep John Adler (New Jersey).
US House Rep John Adler: I guess my first question is for Dr. Kao. We've heard about, um, the closure of this program in June of 2008. We've heard about possibly 92 cases out of 116 with some concern. Some of us use the word "botched," you don't like that word. We've heard that the National Health Physics program reported to the NRC at least 35 medical events later in 2008. We heard Dr. Hahn just now acknowledge on behalf of U Penn that not every -- not in every instance did every patient get the best possible care. This program is still closed. You were running this program. You were the principle operative of this program at the VA in Philadelphia. How do you reconicle your view in your own testimony here today that patients received appropriate medical care with the VA's view that it made mistakes during this period of years, with U Penn's recognition that not every patient got the best possible care, um, with NHP and NRC saying there are medical events even in a context where we probably don't define medical event suffientilly to trigger reporting to the extent that we would want reporting? So let's assume there's some under-reporting going on. Even with under-reporting, we've got at least 35 instances from 2008, um, reported about, over a period of time, a program you ran. I'm thinking you're in a dream world right now. I'm thinking everybody else, all the other experts, are looking at this and saying, he didn't go well enough, that whether the number is 92 or less than 92, we want the number to be zero botched cases. How do you reconcile your view that every patient received appropriate medical care with the view of every other expert, of every potential supervisor, every contracting body, every regulatory body. Um, I kind of want to hear you acknowledge you did things less well than you would have wanted to have done.
Dr. Gary Kao: Sir, I, um, I don't disagree with, um, many of the other comments that-that were made. Uh, um, medicine is both an art and a science and the art of it is that, uh, even though the treatment may be effective it may be made to be even more optirmal essential, uh, theme here is [long pause] uh, what -- what is defined as a reportable medical event. An even -- a case that is a reportable medical event does not mean that the patient was harmed or did not receive effective treatment. Um, when the program was closed in 2008, we did not have any confirmed cases of tumor recurrence. Um, the NRC itself recognizes that a reportable medical event does not mean, uh, that -- does not address the ethicacy of the treatment. So-so, uh, in summary, there are -- I recognize there are many things -- several things that I could have done better, uh, but I still believe that the patients received the standard of care that was, um, in place at the time.
US House Rep John Adler: I'm just seeing it differently than you are, I guess. I understand from some news reports that it was at least a period of a year where you were not getting, um, post-implant dosimetry information to guage whether the patients had the seeds placed properly and that the seeds had stayed where you'd want them to be. Is it true that there was a year where you did not have that post-implant dosimetry information?
Dr. Gary Kao: It-it is true that [short pause] for a period of about 14 months there was a computer interface problem, uh, at the VA that, um, although the CTs that could be performed after the brachytherapy but that data could not be transmitted to the VariSeed work station used to calculate the doses. During that time, I followed the chain of command. I complained to radiation safety, to the chair of the department, uh, and, uh, other members of the program did the same but this problem was never fixed. I was then faced with the very difficult choice of either stopping the program -- but if I had done so, then the patients would not have received any care. As I mentioned earlier, many of the patients who came to us, uh, did not have re- surgery or other forms of radiation as a choice. So given the choice between delivering no care and having their cancers progress or to p -- go ahead and perform the procedure, I made that decision. I could still see from the CT that the seeds were in the prostate and I could judge that the seeds were concentrated around, uh, part of the prostate where the cancer was located. So the -- these gave me a measure of confidence that the patients were-were being appropriately treated but it is -- you're correct, sir, that is one of my regrets that I should have broken the chain of command, I should have been more assertive, I should have stopped the program at that point.
US House Rep John Adler: What number would you say was the number of patients who didn't get adequate care? The total you did was 116. Of that number what would you say? I've heard numbers 57, 35 and 92. What number would you say was the number?
Dr. Gary Kao: Sir, since 2008, I have not had access to the patient records but I believe based on the calculations that our team performed before it was shut down that the cases were far fewer, uh, and, um, probably closer to, uh, 20 or uh-uh cases that were reported -- that were [short pause] defined as medical-medical events. But-but-but again, what a case that is defined as a medical event does not mean that the treatment was not effective, sir.
Throughout the hearing, Kao repeatedly shot daggers at Hahn who, sincere or not, stated what Kao refused to. Such as following the above when Hahn interjected, "And let me just say that even if it were just one human being who did not receive the best possible care, Congressman Adler, that would be unacceptable." US House Rep Timothy Walz found Hahn sincere and noted that in his remarks.
The second panel was composed of Dr. Paul Schyve of The Joint Commission, Dr. Robert Lee (American Society for Radiation Oncology) and Steven A. Reynolds (Nuclear Regulatory Commission). From that panel, we'll note NRC's Steven Reynolds on the issue of medical event. Kao wanted to repeatedly argue what the meaning was. The NRC is the one defining. Reynolds explained that the term "misadministration" had been in use prior to 2002 and was then replaced with "medical event." What does that mean? He defined it as meaning "that the radioactive material or the radiation from the material, was not delivered as directed by the physician." That definition easily translates as "botched." When something is "not delivered as directed by the physicians," it was botched.
The third panel was composed of Joseph Williams Jr. (VA), Dr. Michael Hagan (VA), E. Lynn McGuire (VA), Michael Moreland (VA), Richard Whittington (VA) and Kent Wallner (VA). We're not noting titles. Reading off the non-medical titles of one panelist, Chair Mitchell asked, "Can they put that all in a name tag? Woo." Mr. Williams would lament that the Philadelphia VA "did not deliver the intended dose".
Today Petyon M. Craighill (ABC News) reports on a new ABC News-Washington Post poll in which sixty-one percent of respondents "say the United States is making significant progress restoring civil order in Iraq". 'Progress' was Barack's key word at an afternnon press conference, but we'll get to it. In the real world the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports, "The Cleveland, Tenn.-based 252nd Military Police Company of the Tennessee National Guard is scheduled to depart on the first leg of an upcoming Iraq deployment on Wednesday, July 29." A new AP-GfK Roper poll finds a decrease in the number of respondents who believe Barack will remove troops from Iraq -- 15% lower than the last poll. [PDF format warning, click here for the data breakdown.] 62% of respondents ranked "The Situation in Iraq" as either "Extremely important" or "Very important." The poll found an increase of five percent on the number of respondents who disapprove of Barack's handling of the Iraq War. Is this increase a result of angry right-wingers upset over Barack's so-called plan? Maybe. But the respondents were asked if they believed Barack would "remove most troops from Iraq?" In January, 83% of respondents said it was likely and 15% said it was unlikely. The 83% who thought it was coming has fallen to 68%. The number who believe it is not happening has risen to 26%.
Bama said there'd be days like this, Bama said, Bama said? Today puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki met with US celebrity in chief Barack Obama at the White House today and the two took a few questions at the Rose Garden. Barack declared the transition was going well for Iraqi control of their own country -- "substantial progress" was his talking point. He also said the resistance to the US occupation was winding down:
Violence continues to be down, and Iraqis are taking responsibility for their future. This progress has been made possible by the resilence of the Iraqi people and security forces and also because of the extraordinary service of American troops and civilians in Iraq. Now we're in the midst of a full transition to Iraqi responsibility and to a comprehensive partnership between the United States and Iraq based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
Yeah, we've heard it all before. One thing we hadn't was Nouri saying "sons and daughers." In Iraq, he just says "sons." (Which is why the Sons Of Iraq program is so well known as opposed to the Daughters Of Iraq.) In the US, desperate for more money and security, Nouri remembered Iraqi women. For a moment.
Violence is not trending down in Iraq. Barack didn't know what the hell he was talking about or he deliberatly lied. Starting in February, there was an increase in violence and that has continued. Now you can lie like the brass in the US military and point to the first two weeks of June -- and only those two weeks -- and say, "See, June's down." Two weeks is not a month but CNN and assorted other news outlets forgot that and let the claim be made repeatedly. In Februrary the increase begins and it has continued to increase. That's reality. And when Iraq's Alsumaria has the guts to report it, it's a real shame that US outlets -- supposedly publishing in a democracy with a free press that puts all others to shame -- can't reveal that reality. Al Jazeera notes today, "An estimated 437 Iraqis were killed in June, the highest death toll in 11 months, and the near daily attacks have continued in July."
No things are not smooth or progressing. (Barry wants the hydrocarbon law -- no surprise, he's the third term of Bully Boy Bush.) In some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left nine people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left six people injured and a Baquba roadside bombing which wounded a truck driver and claimed the life of "his assistant."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 pilgrims shot dead in Diyala Province with thirty-seven more wounded.
Wait. Pilgrims shot dead? Let's drop back to Seinfeld, the episode entitled "The Alternate Side."
Jerry: I don't understand, I made a reservation. Do you have my reservation?
Clerk: Yes, we do. Unfortunately, we ran out of cars.
Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That's why you have the reservation.
Clerk: I know why we have reservations.
Jerry: I don't think you do. If you did, I'd have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation and that's really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them.
The pilgrimage wasn't over and there were more holy sites to visit. And going further, a pilgrimage is what? Well, let's see. We leave our homes to travel to a holy site. Do we then live at the holy site? No. That would make us movers, not pilgrims. We return to our homes. So, therefore, those in the press who were splashing in the waves of Operation Happy Talk on Saturday and (falsely) claiming no one had died and it was a huge success -- the pilgrimage wasn't over. Do they get that now? Do you think they get it? With the shame facial of egg dripping down their brows, do you think they get it? Really? Like Jerry, I don't think they do. I really don't think that Mike Tharp or Timothy Williams gets it. They were so eager to cry success.
In the real world, Ali Sheikholeslami (Bloomberg News) reports it was six pilgrims shot dead -- "five women and a man". CNN reports, "Gunmen using machine guns, ambushed a convoy with three buses carrying Iranian pilgrims in the Diayal prvoince".
Dropping back to yesterday, the US miltiary has announced an American convoy was attacked and the the US military killed the attackers (two) as well as one civilian. Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reports, "An Iraqi police official gave a conflicting account, however, saying four civilians -- a boy and three bus drivers -- were killed when U.S. forces opened fire on the attackers near a bus station. He requested anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media."
Realities neither Nouri nor Barack dealt with at today's Rose Garden happening. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) observes of Nouri, "Mostly unknown in Iraq, he returned after the U.S. invasion." Yes, the cowardly exile, part of the group pushing for the US to go to war with Iraq, was installed by the US. He does not represent Iraqis and none of the leaders do. Even the ambassador to Washington is one of those cowardly exiles who wouldn't fight for their own country but were happy to do anything (including lying) to force the Iraq War. Chon notes:When he returns to Baghdad, Mr. Maliki will face some of the biggest challenges in his premiership. After months of relative calm, Iraq suffered high-profile attacks as U.S. combat troops withdrew from Iraqi cities in June; on Tuesday, attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere killed at least 18 people. Sharply lower oil prices, meanwhile, have imperiled Iraq's ability to fund its security services and rebuilding efforts.Even some traditional allies are skeptical. Sheik Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, a senior member of the Shiite alliance that includes Mr. Maliki's party, says the prime minister has improved security but hasn't attracted needed investment."There's a man for each era," says Mr. Sagheer. "For the next chapter, the focus needs to be on economic development. And I think we need a different man for this job."The BBC cites their correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse who "says that, behind the optimistic talk about withdrawal, reduced violence and the increased capabilities of Iraqi security forces, lie two facts - there are still around 130,000 American troops inside Iraq, and fatal attacks remain an everyday occurrence. He says the question is how to get American forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011 without the security situation getting any worse. Our correspondent says Iraqi reconciliation is key." Barack claims he and Nouri discussed the issue of territorial boundaries today. The biggest dispute there is oil-rich Kirkuk which is claimed both by the KRG and by the central government in Baghdad. Saturday the Kurdistan Regional Government holds their provincial and presidential elections. In the backdrop is increased tensions between the KRG and the central government in Baghdad over issues such as oil and disputed territories. Andrew Lee Butters explores "Why Kurds vs. Arabs Could Be Iraq's Next Civil War" (Time magazine):With a projected capacity of about 40,000 barrels a day, the new oil refinery inaugurated Saturday by the Kurdish regional government of northern Iraq on Saturday is modest even by the standards of Iraq's dilapidated oil industry. But its significance shouldn't be underestimated: In Kurdish minds, the region's ability to refine the oil it pumps is a vital step towards deepening its autonomy from the Arab-majority remainder of Iraq. (Read "The Reasons Behind Big Oil Declining Iraq's Riches.")
Until recently, Iraqi Kurdistan had no refineries of its own, and though the area is sitting on a huge pool of oil, it had to rely on gasoline supplies from elsewhere in Iraq, Turkey or Iran. Fearful of giving Iraq's ethnic Kurdish minority any control over the country's most precious resource, Saddam Hussein had not only declined to build refineries in the region; he made sure Iraq's oil pipelines bypassed Kurdish areas, and his army forcibly removed much of the Kurdish population of from Kirkuk -- the most important oil producing area in the north -- and repopulated the city with Arabs moved from the south. (Watch a video about the gas shortage in Iraq.)
Since Saddam's demise, however, the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is steadily developing an independent oil industry in northern Iraq. It has discovered and begun to develop new oil fields inside its boundaries, and entered production-sharing deals with foreign oil companies made without the consent of the federal government in Baghdad. Those deals have raised suspicions among Iraq's Arab-dominated government that KRG is not simply taking on more of the prerogatives of sovereign statehood, but is actually laying the economic infrastructure for independence.
Meghan L. O'Sullivan, of the Bush administration, offers an angry rant against US Vice President Joe Biden at the Washington Post. O'Sullivan grasps little of what she's writing on but, then again, she worked in the Bush administration. (Biden's not pushing federalism in Iraq at present. It is not the White House policy. If it becomes it, he will gladly push it. Biden noted publicly that the Senate did not support his plan. At which point, he dropped it. That was before he dropped out of the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. But facts is hard and it's so much easier to distort. Meghan learned all about that working for Bully Boy Bush.) Dan Senor also worked for the Bush administration. He's Campbell Brown's husband. They met in Baghdad. I'll join Elaine in noting this from his column at the Wall St. Journal:Providing the Kurds with a protected region made perfect moral and geopolitical sense. Saddam had repeatedly attempted genocidal campaigns against them: the Anfal depopulation campaign in 1987-88, in which the Baathist regime killed or expelled hundreds of thousands of Kurds; the expulsion of thousands of Fayli (Shiite) Kurds from northern Iraq into Iran; and the 1988 slaughter of 5,000 Kurds with chemical weapons in Halabja. In April 2003, the peshmerga helped the U.S. fight Saddam -- not just in the Kurdish area but also south of the Green Line. When it came to Kirkuk, however, the Kurds moved in during the war and never left. With Saddam gone, the Kurds quickly set up Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) offices in the city and began to establish facts on the ground. From the Kurdish point of view, all this was natural and just. Before Saddam's brutal expulsions during his Arabization campaign, Kirkuk had a Kurdish majority.Iraq's post-Saddam interim constitution -- which we in the Coalition Provisional Authority helped the Iraqis draft -- recognized Kurdish authority only over the territories that the Kurds controlled before the fall of the regime. The permanent Iraqi Constitution went a step further in requiring a referendum to determine the future status of Kirkuk. While both articles clearly left Kirkuk outside the jurisdiction of the KRG in the near term, the language also conceded that Kirkuk and other nearby areas were "disputed territories." In the eyes of the Kurds, this ambiguity left the door open. Please note that neither former Bush devotee found time to address the previous administration's refusal to address the issue which is why it is now even worse than it was before.
The sprawling US Embassy in Iraq is in the news today. Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the US State Dept's inspector general has found the embassy to be overstaffed. Chris Hill is the US Ambassador to Iraq. (And in DC this afternoon, the subject of a parody version of Rickie Lee Jones' "Chuck E.'s in Love" -- "Well is he here?") Liz Sly and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) interview Hill:
The Times asked how , in light of the withdrawal of American forces from cities, the U.S. Embassy would be able to promote reconciliation with the Sunni Awakening movement and armed groups that had stopped fighting the Iraqi government and the U.S. military since 2007.
Hill: I think the role of the United States is very much respected in this country. That doesn't mean it is universally liked, but it is very much respected. Having been an American diplomat for 32 years, I have tended to or usually found a willingness on the part of political groups to listen to what I or my colleagues have to offer. I don't think you have to be in the U.S. military to have people listen to you, because I think they correctly understand that we are also representing the United States. You ask what I assume to be an almost logistical question. Are we out there, are we in touch with people? The U.S. civilian authorities here . . . have something called provincial reconstruction teams [PRTs] which are located throughout the country. We have some 28 PRTs. Obviously we will be looking at how we configure PRTs in light of the eventual drawdown of U.S. troops, even outside of the cities and to determine how that will affect PRT operations. But certainly in the meantime, we have an unprecedented number of U.S. diplomats who are out among the people throughout the country. I don't think we'll have a problem reaching people. I think the issue will be whether some of these rejectionist groups, who probably consider us part of the problem in the first place, whether they will listen to a plea to join in the political process.
The Times asked whether the ambassador thinks U.S. officials in Iraq will be listened to by the Iraqi government on issues of freedom of speech, human rights and power-sharing in government, now that the United States has begun to withdraw troops from Iraq.
Hill: I don't think you need to have necessarily 130,000 troops in a country to remind a politician of the need to observe human rights and respect the rule of law. . . . A country like Iraq that wants to join the international community and reverse several decades of recent history understands that the price of admission into that international community is quite often respect for international norms of human rights. I don't think it's necessarily for American diplomats to sell some kind of American form of human rights, but rather to be helpful to the government, in this case in Iraq, to be helpful in seeing if they can implement some international norms that will make them an equal member of the international community. What you need there is not so much troops as experience and a certain amount of patience, and certainly an understanding of how these issues need to be addressed in the world.
Monday, US Secretary Robert Gates was running from reality as well. He held a press conference with Adm Mike Mullen to announce the expansion of the US Army and to refute Ernesto Londono report "U.S. Troops in Iraq Find Little Leeway" (Washington Post) from earlier in the morning. Not only was Londono's report correct, other reporters are covering the issue -- more press conferences needed, Gates! Oliver August (Times of London) addresses the issue:When American troops pulled out of Iraqi cities this month they did not realise quite how final their departure would be. The Iraqi military has since barred them from re-entering areas they previously controlled and all but locked them out of towns and cities. US convoys can no longer pass through checkpoints in Baghdad without prior approval and an Iraqi escort. American night-time raids in pursuit of insurgents have also been curtailed by Iraqi officials who gained the right to veto all such missions on July 1. In several cases, the Iraqis took action themselves; in others the suspected insurgents slipped away.
In legal news, Gina Cavallaro (Army Times) reports that US Sgt Joseph Bozeicevich did not enter a plea at his Fort Smith arraignment yesterday: "Bozicevich, 39, is accused of killing his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson, and his fellow team leader Sgt. Wesley Durbin on a patrol base sout of Baghdad on Sept. 14." Russ Bynum (AP) notes that a trial date was set, March 29th.
Military propaganda makes it on air in the US and is disguised as news. At least two Wisconsin TV stations have aired military propaganda with one putting their own reporter over it (Jeff Alexander) to read the military's copy. Madison Wisconsin's WKOWTV offers a pure propangada look (video report) at the US run Iraqi prision Camp Cropper. It tells you that terrorists and criminals are in the prison. It forgets to tell you that no one's been tried. It forgets to tell you that at least six prisoners have died or that the Red Cross has documented abuses at the prison. But it does run it as is. Meaning the report ends with the announcer of the footage declaring, "Army Sgt. Frank Morello, Joint Area Support Group, Public Affairs." An ABC affiliate wanted to air the propaganda but they wanted to present it as a news report created within the station. What to do, what to do? Oh, I know! Let's take Morello's exact words and let's have our own Jeff Alexander read them. Let's have him step before the camera in the studio and then go to the military's footage while Jeff narrates, then we'll cut to him at the end and he'll do a wrap up and we'll let viewers think that Jeff actually reported this. As opposed to letting them know that the footage and every word spoken was from the US military. Which is how Green Bay's WBAY promotes the propagndad insisting, as they toss to Jeff, that this is "a rare behind the scenes look at their mission is our top story on Action Two News at Four." Their top story is one they didn't even film? Their top story is one they didn't even write? How pathetic is WBAY and where do they get off lying to viewers?They've put Jeff Alexander's voice over on top of Morello's and presented this as their own report. That's outrageous. That's shameful and it violates every rule of journalism. Jeff Alexander, as the on air, should be fired as should every one responsible for that segment making it on air and an on-air apology should be made to viewers.These aren't the only two stations airing this. You should look for it if you're in Wisconsin, this 'inside look' at Camp Cropper. Fox 11 at least had the good sense to state before airing the footage that it was produced by the US military, "Tuesday the military released video of the Camp Cropper, along with interviews from some Wisconsin soldiers working there." They should have noted, however, that their own Becky DeVries was reading the copy that the US military wrote with just a few variations.
Lastly, from Media Channel:
AND THAT'S THE WAY IT IS FOR US
On Monday morning, I was pleased to be a guest on Democracy Now talking about Walter Cronkite's support for MediaChannel.org and playing clips of his criticism of the demise of journalism. It was great that Amy Goodman plugged MediaChannel and showed the website. Unfortunately, if you have been trying to visit the site since then, you have found that our server is down. We have, in effect, vanished. It appears that a hacker was able to get into our database and temporarily shut us down. We are in the process of restoring our sites, upgrading security and server software, but at a cost we cannot afford. Will you help us offset some of these costs by making a tax deductible donation to keep MediaChannel going and growing, and help us improve our technical capabilities to fight off hostile hackers - before we are permanently shut down!
SOS (Save Our Site)
Please donate via paypal or make your donation with a check made out to: The Global Center (write "for Mediachannel" on the memo line of your check) 575 8th Avenue, #2200 NY, NY 10018 P.S. Please look out for a MediaChannel 2.0 survey that we will be sending out soon. The first 50 people to respond will get a free copy of the soundtrack to my film IN DEBT WE TRUST. Thank you for your continued support! Sincerely, Your News Dissector Danny Schechter Editor, MediaChannel.org Reply to: Dissector@mediachannel.org Until Media Channel is back online, Danny Schechter has an essay on the economy at ZNet and also this commentary.
chelsea j. carter
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time magazineandrew lee buttersdan senortimes of londonoliver augustgina cavallaroruss bynum
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