Thursday, March 02, 2017

Bruno Mars and Sarah McLachlan

Here's Bruno Mars' new video that went up yesterday.

It's already had 7 million views.

  1. New photos of Bruno Mars for a photo shoot
  2. Our March Men's Style cover star is ! Read the story online now, issue on stands March 11:

By the way, I'm really loving Sarah McLachlan's new song "The Long Goodbye."

Listen to “The Long Goodbye” on today! What’s your favorite lyric?

I don't know when the album's coming out but I really love that song.

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

Thursday, March 2, 2017.  Chaos and violence continue, The Mosul Slog continues, if the frequently reported dead Abu Baghdadi is dead he apparently returned as a ghost to issue a message, what is the State Dept not doing, and we look a burn pits.

Iraq War veteran Amie Muller died last month.  Her death is most likely related to her exposure to the burn pits.  Jennifer Mayerle (WCCO) speaks with her family including her widow Brian Muller:

The Mullers believe Amie’s diagnosis is linked to her time in the Air National Guard. She did two tours in Iraq, in 2005 and 2007. And during that time she was exposed to toxic burn pits — where it’s documented that chemicals, paint, aluminum cans, munitions, petroleum, among other things, were constantly burned.
“Environmental, that’s the biggest cause of cancer, so there’s no question that a 36 year old with pancreatic cancer, with no history of pancreatic cancer in her family, that had to be related,” Brian said.
During her journey, Amie had the strength to stand up for veterans who were also exposed. She worried the answers will come too late for many.

“My dedication to her is to honor that and to keep that story alive and make sure that veterans get taken care of,” Brian said. 

June 13, 2012, Senator Mark Udall explained burn pits while speaking to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:

In both Afghanistan and Iraq, open air burn pits were widely used at forward operating bases.  Disposing of trash and other debris was a major challenge.  Commanders had to find a way to dispose of waste while concentrating on the important mission at hand.  The solution that was chosen, however, had serious risks.  Pits of waste were set on fire -- sometimes using jet fuel for ignition.  Some burn pits were small but others covered multiple acres of land. Often times, these burn pits would turn the sky black.  At Joint Base Balad Iraq, over 10 acres of land were used for burning toxic debris.  At the height of its operations, Balad hosted approximately 25,000 military, civilian and coalition provision authority personnel.  These personnel would be exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals released into the atmosphere.  According to air quality measurements, the air at Balad had multiple particulates harmful to humans: Plastics and Styrofoams, metals, chemicals from paints and solvents, petroleum and lubricants, jet fuel and unexploded ordnance, medical and other dangerous wastes.  The air samples at Joint Base Balad turned up some nasty stuff. Particulate matter, chemicals that form from the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas garbage or other organic substances, volatile organic compounds such as acetone and benzene  -- benzene, as you all know, is known to cause leukemia --  and dioxins which are associated with Agent Orange.  According to the American Lung Association, emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. All of this was in the air and being inhaled into the lungs of service members.

Udall was championing a burn pit registry in the Senate.  It was a long battle and included many supporters in Congress (such as former Senator Evan Bayh and former US House Rep Todd Akin) and veterans, VSOs, family members and more.

And while that was ultimately successful, all that has happened thus far has been a registry.

And people are suffering and dying.

Last week, Mark Brunswick (STAR TRIBUNE) reported:

On Feb 24, more than 800 of her friends and family gathered at a memorial service in Woodbury to remember the life of the 36-year-old mother of three. A pastor noted her loss was both painful and seemingly incomprehensible.
"I wish there was a simple way to explain what has happened to Amie. Why Amie is gone," said Pastor Lisa Renlund. "Life truly isn't that simple. It can get messy. It can feel complicated. It can seem unfair."

But others also are remembering Muller's battle to win recognition from the U.S. government for victims of the burn pits, which have the potential of becoming the Iraq and Afghanistan wars' equivalent of the Vietnam War's Agent Orange. It took nearly three decades for the U.S. government to eventually link the defoliant used in Vietnam to cancer.

And when that happened, please note, it ended Jim Webb's political career.

Webb had been the rising star Democrat because there's nothing the press likes better than a 'moderate' (in this case, a Republican who switched to the Democratic Party to run for office).  And they made him a star.

But Webb slit his own political throat by opposing the victims of Agent Orange.

Let's drop back to the September 23, 2010 report on that day's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing:

Today we heard US Senator Jim Webb babble on and, when he's insincere, his voice cracks.  It was like the episode of The Brady Bunch where the kids are set to record a song but Peter's voice begins changing and won't stop cracking.  As he used opening remarks to recount his entire resume at length -- everything but working the counter one night and giving a veteran a free milk shake -- that voice cracked and cracked.  Why was that such a hard thing for him.  "We have a duty," Webb insisted as he added coughs to his bag of tricks.  And "this is not simply a cost item."  Oh, now you may be getting why Webb was freaking out.
If not, join us as we drop back to the June 15, 2010 snapshot:
 WAVY reports (link has text and video) that victims of Agent Orange (specifically Vietnam era veterans) could recieve addition beneifts for B-Cell Leukemia, Parkinson's disease and coronary heart disease.  Could?  A US Senator is objecting to the proposed changes by VA.  Jim Webb has written VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that ". . . this single executive decision is estimated to cost a minimum of $42.2 billion over the next ten years. A regulatory action of this magnitude requires proper Congressional review and oversight."  Besides, Webb wrote, "Heart disease is a common phenomenon regardless of potential exposure to Agent Orange." That is really embarrasing and especially embarrassing for the Democratic Party (Webb is a Democrat today, having converted from a Reagan Republican).  It also goes a long way towards explaining Webb's refusal to get on board with Senator Evan Bayh's bill to create a national registry that would allow those Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to be able to receive treatment for their exposures without having to jump through hoops repeatedly.
And if you doubted that Webb was about to try to pull out the axe on Vietnam veterans benefits, you had to only give him a few more seconds as he began bemoaning that the law was written one way (yes, he is a 'framers' intent' and 'original construction' type politician)  and then expanded (to "dual presumptioms both based on very broad categorizations").  What are the expansions?  It's been expanded to allow payments to Vietnam Veterans suffering from Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease and hairy cell leukemia.  VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is not someone we praise blindly here (to put it mildly) but the hearing was really about Shinseki's 'performance,' specifically with regards to expanding the categories -- based on medical and science evidence -- qualifying for payments. 
There's a whole dance going on beneath the hearing that few will ever notice.  If there was anything sadder than Webb's remarks it was Senator Jon Tester who felt the need to praise Webb "for asking some very tough questions."  To watch some of the  senators today was to be aware they appeared to think leukemia, heart disease and Parknson's is little more troubling than adult acne.

Senator Roland Burris was one of the most straightforward and it's too bad that the Democratic Party establishment loathed him because, as usual, when veterans needed an advocate on the Committee, Senator Burris could be counted on.  "There's no price that we could put on what we can do with those veterans suffering from those chemicals that were sprayed throughout that country."  "Budget shortfalls," Burris noted, were no excuse for not providing for veterans.   Was it telling that Jon Tester walked out while Burris was making that statement?  Maybe he was just needed elsewhere.  Although that certainly doesn't explain the ugly glare visible on his face as he left, now does it?
These moves are what destroyed Webb's career.  Veterans and veterans groups followed what The Debra Messings never do.  They didn't need a meme or Instagram to give them marching orders, they merely followed actual events.
And the backlash is why Webb did not seek re-election and why his attempt to secure the Democratic Party's presidential nomination was so brief.
He destroyed his own political career by refusing to honor the victims of Agent Orange.
That should be true for all those who refuse to honor the victims of the burn pits.
Again, there is a registry now.  That's really it.  It's time for real Congressional action and America should be watching to see who supports the veterans and who betrays them -- the latter group should be sent packing as swiftly as 'rising star' Jim Webb was.

WDIO notes:

Senator Amy Klobuchar said over the phone on Monday that 36 is far too young, to lose someone like Amie. She also said in a statement, "We owe her our gratitude. My heart goes out to her family and friends. There are an increasing number of our brave men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses potentially caused by burn pits exposure. I am going to keep fighting so that these veterans receive the support and care they need."
There is a Burn Pit registry, which nearly 100,000 veterans have signed up for. Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would create a center of excellence, so the information from the registry can be used to help these vets.

Day 136 of The Mosul Slog.  There are reports (such as here) that Abu Baghdadi, supposed leader of the Islamic State, has declared that ISIS has been defeated.  Of course, over the last two years, there have been repeated reports that he has been killed.

If he is alive, possibly he has admitted defeat.

Regardless, the fighting goes on.

And the dying.


A number of civilians and suspected [Islamic State] members were killed in an attack that hit a mosque that was being attended by residents and damaged neighbouring houses in the west of the Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday, three residents said today.
The Omar Al-Aswad mosque, in the Al-Faruq district of the old city centre, was hit by an airstrike, three residents in the same area told Reuters by phone.

Neighbouring houses were damaged or collapsed because of the blast, they said without giving a precise estimate of the casualties as their moves are restricted by the militants and also Iraqi government shelling and aerial attacks.

The 'success' -- it's also noted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today:

191,826 persons internally displaced from Mosul and surrounding areas since military operations to retake the city resumed on 17 October 20161
21,770 UNHCR kits of core relief items (CRIs) distributed to families in camps, assisting some 129,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Mosul and surrounding areas
7,167 family plots are currently occupied out of 14,781 family plots (for some 88,000 people) in UNHCR built camps that are ready to receive IDPs displaced from Mosul corridor.
3 million IDPs since January 20142

250,952 Iraqi refugees registered and hosted in countries in the region, in addition to 13,768 Iraqis received in Al Hol camp in Syria since 17 October 2016

UNAMI kind of made an announcement today -- shifting it to FACEBOOK instead of their usual outlet:

On the release of news -- are we going to be the only ones noting that the entire month of February passed without a single US State Dept daily press briefing.
There was none.
There was not one yesterday, March 1st, and there's not one scheduled for today.
Are we going to be the only ones noting this?
We covered the State Dept under Bully Boy Bush and under President Barack Obama.
There was never a month taken off.  Outside of Christmas holidays, there was never a week taken off.
The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS, BLACK AGENDA REPORT and DISSIDENT VOICE --  updated:

    Wednesday, March 01, 2017

    Music (Tina)

    I've got the worst headache, so you've been warned.

    I took a Tylenol codeine so hopefully that will kick in but it's so bad that it hurts to stand up.  Seriously, if I'm not lying down, it hurts so much more.

    And it hurts bad as I lay on my stomach and type this.

    Bonnie, Caleb, Chris and Joe -- did you start a drive?

    Seriously, did the four of you get together and all decide to e-mail on the same day?

    I didn't realize we were in March and I hadn't done any music reviews.


    But now that the four of you have informed me, I will get a review up either this weekend or next.

    Of what?

    I don't know.

    If worse comes to worse, I'll review a box set, how's that?

    I know I'll review Blondie's new album in April.  Other than that, I haven't thought too much about music.

    Or new music.

    I was listening to Tina Turner's BREAK EVERY RULE today.

    The second side of that album (vinyl and cassette days) was so much stronger.

    They should have went there for the singles.

    "Paradise Is Here," for example.

    Or "Back Where You Started."

    Those are great songs with great vocals.

    "Overnight Sensation."

    Instead, they went with some really weak songs -- and none was weaker than "Typical Male" -- the lead off single which killed all enthusiasm for the album.

    I love Tina.  But there are days when even I can't get through the first six or so tracks.

    I don't expect another album from Tina.  That's sad but she has every right to peace.

    I would like another Carly Simon album, another Tracy Chapman album, etc.

    I will work on a review and get one up soon, I promise.

    That's it though because this headache is just not going away.

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

    Wednesday, March 1, 2017.  The Mosul Slog continues, the so-called press continues to flounder, and much more.

    THE DAILY BEAST remains one of the sorriest sites online.  They lost Nancy A. Youssef (to BUZZFEED) and how does that happen?

    You have a journalist who can actually do the work required and write it up in a way that informs.

    And you're not smart enough to grasp how rare that is?

    Instead, they let Nancy move on and they kept Kimberly Dozier.

    Dozier had some talents in TV.  She can condense a story into 90 seconds or less.  It never imparts anything of value but TV news blips really aren't supposed to provide context or illumination.  From CBS, she went to AP where she floundered but got a pass due to some of the topics.

    Now she's at DAILY BEAST (and CNN) where all her flaws are on full display.

    Such as in her latest piece of junk.

    She's reporting on what she's being told about US President Donald Trump's plan for Iraq.

    What she's being told.

    She hasn't read it.

    So she's left to do what she always does, half-assed work.

    And, goodness, does it show.


    She has none.

    She yammers away in desperate need of a camera operator to signal 'wrap it up' or a copy editor to tell her she's covered no new ground.

    The Iraq War?  It's about to enter year fourteen this month.

    If you're covering it today, rote really isn't the way to go.

    She tries to pretend that saying Donald Trump's plan is just a copy of Barack Obama's while forgetting that Barack's was just a copy of Bully Boy Bush's plan.

    The plan is three parts, she's told.

    1) Military battles

    2) targeting ISIS finances and recruitment

    3) "defeating the ideology"

    Like the kid bluffing his way through an oral report on a book he never read, Kimberly blathers away and only makes clear that she has no understanding or grasp of any issue.

    The third issue is the one she breezes past.

    It's really the only issue to focus on.

    Yesterday, the US Defense Dept announced:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Coalition military forces conducted 16 strikes consisting of 81 engagements in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

    -- Near Baghdad, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS-held building.

    -- Near Mosul, five strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units and an ISIS staging area; destroyed seven mortar systems, four vehicles, four fighting positions, three ISIS-held buildings, two anti-air systems, two rocket-propelled grenade systems, two vehicle bombs, a supply cache, a vehicle bomb facility and an unmanned aircraft control station; damaged six tunnels and six supply routes; and suppressed 21 mortar teams and an ISIS tactical unit.

    -- Near Qaim, 10 strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two vehicle bomb factories, two ISIS media facilities, an improvised explosive device factory, a weapons storage facility, an anti-air artillery system, a vehicle, a fuel storage tank, an ISIS staging facility and an ISIS financial facility.

    I think everybody grasps that.

    Barack initiated that in August 2014 and the strikes have taken place daily.

    The freezing of assets, though less covered, is understood.

    On the root causes, Kimberly focuses on social media.

    Social media is not the root cause of the Islamic State.

    Stigmatizing it on social media -- possible but not probable -- doesn't change a thing.

    As everyone paying attention has been noting -- Kimberly Kagan, Patrick Cockburn, us, etc -- there are already new groups coming up in Iraq.

    If the Islamic State is defeated, it's going to be replaced.

    And then it's do the same thing all over again?

    The problem is the government.

    The problem is the persecution of the Iraqi people.

    Bully Boy Bush demanded national reconciliation in his 2007 benchmarks but it never happened.  Barack was insisting on the need for it throughout his two terms and most specifically in his June 19, 2014 speech.

    Until Iraq represents the Iraqi people -- and not just the interests of a few -- there is going to be one group after another rising up.

    Let's be honest why: The leaders aren't Iraqis.

    If you consider an Iraqi person someone who lived there, these cowardly exiles fled in the 70s and 80s.  They only returned after the US-led invasion of 2003.

    And the US government propped them out.

    This allowed them to weaponize their grudges and all they've done is try to avenge the past -- or their perverted version of the past.

    The Iraqi people didn't want to be led by a group of cowards who fled the country decades before.

    Had these exiles made any real efforts at inclusion, the anger would have been stemmed long ago.

    But it hasn't happened.

    The persecution of Sunnis, Christians, every minority, continues.

    The Iraqi forces carry it out while the world watches.

    Every now and then Prime Minister Hayder al-Abadi insists that there will be an investigation.

    Like every other investigation in Iraq, nothing ever comes of it.

    Kimberly Dozier mocks Donald for doing the same but she's the one who has the power to change and refuses to do so.

    She's the paint-by-number 'reporter' who lacks all curiosity and skepticism.

    At THE NATIONAL INTEREST, Libertarian Doug Bandow weighs in on a lengthy (permanent?) US presence in Iraq:

    There’s no reason to believe that renewed U.S. involvement will create an honest, effective, nonsectarian government. Nor to think that ongoing payments and training will create a dramatically better and more competent military and other security forces. We’ve already seen the movie and the ending was the Islamic State taking over Anbar, Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi and much more. In some cases, the Iraqi forces refused to fight. That’s not going to change if Washington sticks around longer.
    [. . .]
    Worse, the sectarian political crisis continues. Iraq’s government remains Shia-dominated and therefore is distrusted by minority Sunnis. After choosing seventh-century brutes over twenty-first century sectarians three years ago, the horrors of ISIS rule caused many Sunnis to back away from the Islamic State. Absent reform, however, they could switch again if they find another group willing to act as their supposed protectors against an abusive central government and sectarian security forces.
    Indeed, post-liberation killings, especially by Baghdad’s militia allies, have accompanied Iraq’s recent victories. These abuses undermine the prospect of reconciliation in Iraq and taint Washington’s reputation as well. Yet the problem could grow in the future. Warned the Washington Post: “If and when the Islamic State is defeated, there is no fully developed plan for how these armed groups can be brought under state control and prevented from exacerbating the sectarian divisions that brought about the militant group’s rise.” If Sunnis are not included in their nation’s future, another sectarian war looms on the horizon.

    You address that or you stop pretending you're addressing anything.

    You don't need boots on the ground to address it.

    You need to use the diplomatic tool box.  You make aid conditional.

    It's day 135 of The Mosul Slog and AP insists, "Troops were approaching Mosul's main government complex in the Iraqi city's western half as they continue to battle the Islamic State group."

    Maybe the claim's true, maybe it isn't.

    Here's some truth:

    : Surge in displacement from -

    This week, over 4K IDPs from West Mosul arrived in IOM emergency sites: exhausted, need assistance. IOM provides health care&non-food items.

    In the US, Donald Trump spoke last night.  He didn't mention Iraq, we've got no need to cover it.  (We'll note a statement on it later today -- much later.)

    The following community sites -- plus the House Veterans Affairs Committee and PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated: