Friday, November 08, 2013

Joni and Carly

The Telegraph of London has picked Joni Mitchell's 20 essential songs.

Make a point to check out the list.

I'm glad that "Chinese Cafe" made the list.  It seems like every track from Blue made the list.

I love Blue and it's an album of perfection.

But there's so much more for Joni.

I love Dog Eat Dog.  Critics trashed it in real time.  (It's since been re-evaluated but more needs to be done there.)  I love Shine.  I like so much -- albums -- that don't even get a mention.

For example, "Night in the City."

This is hard, I know, coming up with a list of 20 best songs, of any great artist.

I would hesitate with Carly, for example.  And when I'm noting Carly Simon or Joni or someone of equal merit, I try to point out that my list is based on what I'm feeling today and that another day might bring a different list.

So I'm glad about the list but see it as a starting point for further discussions.

Let me do a top 20 of Carly -- where I am today -- so that others can disagree with my picks.

1) "We're So Close"
2) "You're The One"
3) "You Don't Feel The Same"
4) "Fairweather Father"
5) "Two Hot Girls On A Hot Summer Night"
6) "Do The Walls Come Down"
7) "Big Dumb Guy"
8) "Embrace Me You Child"
9) "The Best Thing"
10) "We Just Got Here"
11) "Scar"
12) "How Can You Ever Forget"
13) "So Many Stars"
14) "Come Back Home"
15) "Summer Coming Around Again"
16)  "Halfway 'Round The World"
17)  "After The Storm"
18) "Life Is Eternal"
19)  "Cross The River"
20) "I'd Rather It Was You"

I could easily do 20 more.  And you may have noticed, I avoided going with singles.  There are just so many great songs Carly has written and co-written.

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

Friday, November 8, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue,  campaigning gears up in Iraq, Nouri's called on his obvious effort to manipulate, protesters gather across Iraq and note Nouri's visit to DC wasn't as grand as previous ones,Amnesty International condemns the ongoing executions,  the US gears up for Veterans Day, a silly fool tries to pull the US into a war in the country of her origin, and more.

Monday is Veteran's Day in the United States.  Senator Patty Murray is the former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee -- she continues to serve on the Committee and she's now the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her late father, David L. Johns, was a Purple Heart recipient (World War II).   Her office issued the following today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Friday, November 08, 2013                                                             (202) 224-2834
Senator Murray’s Veterans Day Statement
: A Veterans Day Message from Senator Patty Murray
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released the following statement as the nation prepares to observe Veterans Day:
“On Veterans Day, we honor and celebrate the courage and commitment of our nation’s heroes, both past and present. When these brave men and women signed up to serve our country, we agreed to take care of them. They kept their end of the bargain and we must keep ours.
“Our veterans have leadership ability, discipline, and technical skills to not only find work but to excel in a 21st Century workforce. But despite these facts, veterans across the country continue to struggle as they try to find work.
“For too long we have invested billions of dollars in training our young men and women with skills to protect our nation, only to ignore them once they leave the military. For too long, at the end of their career, we patted our veterans on the back for their service and then pushed them out into the job market alone. Thankfully, we have been able to take real, concrete steps toward putting our veterans back to work with new laws like my “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” and other legislative efforts.
“We have also worked to build partnerships with private sector businesses in order to tap into the tremendous amount of goodwill that companies have toward our returning heroes.  In fact, just this week, our own Microsoft and Starbucks launched major, nation-wide initiatives to put our men and women in uniform back to work.
“This is the legacy of opportunity we have to live up to for our nation’s veterans. This is the responsibility we all have on our shoulders. It doesn’t end on the battlefield. It doesn’t end after the parades Monday. In fact, it never ends.
“Our veterans don’t ask for a lot and too often they are coming home and facing unnecessary stresses and struggles. On this Veterans Day we need to redouble our efforts – government, businesses, and citizens - to guarantee our veterans get a fair shot and to guarantee them that they are not measured by fear or stigma, but what they can do, what they have done, and what they will do.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

Monday, Olive Garden will be serving a free meal to veterans  click here for menus.  (They will also be also be giving a 10% discount throughout November for veterans and veterans families.)  Hooters notes  their way of honoring veterans:

Hooters is showing its gratitude for veterans and active duty military personnel this Veterans Day. On Monday, Nov. 11, Hooters invites all veterans and current servicemen and women to enjoy a free meal, up to $10.99 in value with any drink purchase, by presenting a military ID or proof of service at any Hooters location across the country.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to show appreciation for our military personnel who have selflessly sacrificed for the freedom of all Americans,” said Andrew Pudduck, vice president of marketing, Hooters of America. “Supporting the military community is very important to the Hooters family; we hope our veterans and active duty military will join us on Veterans Day to relax and enjoy a meal on us as a small but earnest way to say ‘thank you’ for your service.”
In addition, Hooters is sending extra love to the troops with its annual Operation Calendar Drop campaign. The 2014 Hooters Calendar is now on sale and guests are encouraged to purchase an extra calendar and write a personal message of appreciation for the troops. Hooters will collect the personalized calendars and deliver them to U.S. military stationed overseas.     

Hoss's Steak & Sea House will honor Veterans Day on Monday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a free meal: Parmesan Crusted Tilapia & Rice Pilaf, Grilled or Fried Chicken Tenders Stuffing & Mashed Potatoes, Meatloaf Stuffing & Mashed Potatoes, Chicken Parmesan & Pasta, Fried Shrimp & Fries or All You Can Eat Soup, Salad & Dessert Bar.  Any meal includes soup, salad & dessert bar and beverage.

Golden Corral has a video with Gary Sinise (above) explaining that this Monday, from four p.m. until nine p.m., is Military Appreciation Monday and those who have served in the military receive a free dinner during those five hours.  Veterans who feel like a burger on Monday might want to visit Shoney's which notes:

Nothing says “Thank You” like a great burger and Shoney’s is set to prove it, as the iconic all-American restaurant brand will thank our nation’s veterans and troops with a FREE All-American Burger™ on Veterans Day, Monday, November 11, 2013.
“For generations, Shoney’s always has been a ‘Welcome Home’ sign to America’s military,” said Davoudpour. “On their national day of celebration and honor, Shoney’s looks forward to welcoming our veterans and troops with a free burger as we thank those who protect our very freedom. We salute you.”
According to Davoudpour, service members will be treated to Shoney’s Signature favorite All-American Burger, a freshly prepared, hand-pattied, grain-fed, 100% ground beef, cooked to order burger, served on a toasted corn-dusted bun with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, pickles and mayonnaise.
“It’s named after the greatest country on earth,” said Davoudpour, “and has been a guest favorite for years.”
Since acquiring the great American eatery in 2007, Davoudpour has been on a spirited mission to make Shoney’s better than ever, and return the icon to its Glory Days, when it became part of American popular culture as one of the first family casual dining concepts in the United States. Shoney’s served as a popular post-WWII family destination when it began serving guests 66 years ago. Davoudpour personally sees that an American flag flies proudly in front of his Shoney’s restaurants.
“Veterans Day is a day of thanks and for us, being able to serve the many who serve for our freedom is a privilege,” added Davoudpour. “We are thankful every day for our veterans and troops, and on their day we look forward to serving them a free burger.”
Shoney’s offer of a free All-American Burger to veterans and active duty military service members is available on Monday, November 11, 2013 at participating restaurants while supplies last. There is a limit of one per day per military service member and the offer is not valid in conjunction with any other offers. Shoney’s military guests will need to provide proof of military service. Offer is valid for Dine-in only and beverage, tax and gratuity are not included.

Applebee's notes:


Available during business hours on November 11, 2013, in all U.S. Applebee's restaurants.  Dine in from limited menu only: Fiesta Lime Chicken, Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburger, 7 oz. House Sirloin, Three-Cheese Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomato Penne, Chicken Tenders Platter, Double Crunch Shrimp or Oriental Chicken Salad..  
Beverages and gratuity not included.  Veterans and active duty military simply show proof of military service.
Proof of service includes: U.S. Uniformed Services ID Card, U.S. Uniformed Services Retired ID Card, current Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), veterans organization card (i.e. American Legion, VFW), photograph of yourself in uniform, wearing uniform, DD214 and citation or commendation.

Veterans of Foreign Wars notes they have a page noting places honoring veterans for Veterans Day. The American Legion's list is here.  In tonight's Iraq snapshot, we'll note these and the other establishments we've noted this week.  For events noting Veterans Day (some of which will take place Saturday or Sunday and not just on Monday), refer to this VA Dept webpage. or this Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America webpage.  The VFW issued the following today:

The VFW calls on Americans to remember our veterans and honor them for their service and sacrifice

Each Nov. 11, Americans celebrate our veterans by honoring them for their brave service to our nation.
These courageous men and women who have donned the uniform did not do it for the praise or the accolades. They did it because they answered the call to duty, and they selflessly and heroically served our nation. There is no doubt that they are truly America’s finest.
The America that we all know is a product of their service and dedication. For generations, they have kept our nation free and defended democracy from tyranny and oppression. They’ve protected freedom-loving people all around the world.
And we must also remember the thousands who are deployed all over the world today, defending our freedoms at this very moment. We pray for their safe return, and the VFW stands ready to support their families while they are away.
The VFW understands freedom is not free, and it is our veterans and their loved ones who pay the price. As we honor them on Veterans Day, and each day after, we should reflect on the sacrifices they’ve made to ensure America’s victories, as well as the many liberties we enjoy as a result of their stalwart sense of duty.
Since America’s founding, it has been those who have worn the uniform–those who have tenaciously defended American values–who we will be forever grateful to: America's proud Airmen, Coastguardsmen, Marines, Sailors and Soldiers.
The VFW salutes you and thanks you for your service.
Turning to other issues, Mohja Kahf is upset and gripes at Fellowship of Reconciliation about Syria -- specifically what she sees as failures with regards to peace.  Here she is uncorking her aged whine:
But where is the majority of the U.S. peace movement? Maybe I just don’t know; I’m only one person, seeing part of the picture. I would like a list of solidarity actions U.S. peace organizations have held for Syrians since March 18, 2011, demanding the regime stop massacring civilians, or petitions they circulated for the release of prisoners of conscience. How have U.S. peace organizations shown solidarity with nonviolent resistance to a brutal regime in Syria? 
Neglected by the global community is how Syrian civil resistance people felt in the first phase of the uprising, lasting till midsummer 2011, characterized—despite isolated incidents of violence— by consensus around nonviolence. I realize that’s subjective, but it’s useful to examine what that feeling could mean. It could mean that Syrian uprising folk indeed experienced little solidarity from peace movements abroad.
The Afghanistan War was not started just by Bully Boy Bush or just Bully Boy and Colin Powell (where is that proof Colin, you never did provide it).  It was also started by some people who meant well.  Some feminists who cared but who had gotten ever closer to militarism (a stance that is continuing and you can see whenever Anne Marie-Slaughter is given 'props' and 'shout outs' and, sadly, when her ilk are promoted at conferences that the Feminist Majority Foundation sets up).
A lot of well meaning feminists worked, in the 90s, on the issue of the abuse of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.  That US work was rendered obsolete when some feminists made nice with the White House and allowed the lie to be pimped that the Afghanistan War was in part or whole about women's rights.
What invasion in history ever improved women's rights?  That's insanity. You can't be on the left and feel that the US needs to be "The Cops of The World."  This is not a new claim, this is not a new belief.  Listen to Phil Ochs's "Cops Of The World" if you're as uninformed as Mohja.
Veterans Day is Monday.  Do you know how many young veterans are suffering right now?  Do you know how many are waiting on VA ratings?  Or that there are young veterans who are suffering and don't even know there's help out there.
They have been overtaxed.  Regardless of what you think of either war, the two big ones of the last years aren't like the previous US wars in that you didn't do one tour of duty and then get out.  You did several.  You did them over and over.  You did long tours and had less down time between them.  The military was close to the breaking point.  These men and women are not toys or trinkets.  They do not exist to battle personal whims.
What does Mohja want done?  She wants Americans to stand in solidarity with various groups they know nothing about.  Because she says so.  That's the proof, a ridiculous person with petty grudges she's been working for decades.  Has she even been back to Syria in the last four years?

She gets bitchy, "instead of amplifying Johnny-come-lately armed extremists, or promoting regime narratives such as that touted by the Lebanese-born nun, Mother Agnes-Mariam. Demand the release from prison of civilian resistance activists; protest when they are killed. Find and know the civilian resistance in Syria; support them."

You know there's a place for bitchy and goodness knows I appreciate bitchy when it's pulled off.
But I don't get the attack on "Lebanese-born nun . . ."  I know who she is, I'm familiar with her work and her work exposes the lies of so many that Mohja supports.
Yet the bitchy fails.  Why?

"Lebanese-born nun" -- uh, Mohja, you were born where?  It wasn't the US, it was Syria.  Why are you mocking a nun for being from Lebanon?  She's in Syria now.  While your family fled when you weren't even five-years-old.  Mojha's family brought their grudge against the Assad family with them.  When  any country gives you the chance to start over, start over.  Never bring your grudges to the airport -- they're heavy and they don't come with wheels.
There is no 'solidarity' answer for Syria which is a civil war -- played out by foreign interests (including the US government).  Mojha knows that -- even she's not that stupid.  The White House wants war on Syria and Mojha's agitating hard to deliver it -- which makes her as much of a tool of war and destruction as Andrew Bowmen (though he doesn't try to hide who he is).  If she wants to change the government in Syria, she needs to get her ass over there.  She's been primed for it by her family for years, she's grown up hating the family that's led Syria.  And she thinks she can pretend she's got plan.  She's got nothing but hate.  She was raised on hate and she's chosen to let it consume her.

If that seems harsh, let's looking a Mojha's opening:

I marched (er, clothed) with CODEPINK women when they stood butt-naked across the main strip in my Arkansas hometown protesting the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. As a longtime anti-interventionist, I am on U.S. peace group mailing lists out the wazoo.

I'm sorry Mojha, is Iraq no longer on your to-do-list?  Did you get bored?  Did it become a little too much for you, a little too real?  Iraq is in shambles.  Because of the actions of the government in the country you chose to live in.  In a text and video report, RT notes, "With over 7,000 civilian casualties so far, 2013 has already become the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008. In its new project, a timeline of the violence, RT brings the sad record into the spotlight."  But Mojha marched against Iraq a few years ago so she's checked it off her to-do list.

Let's move from one idiot to another.  Can someone please explain to me why The Palm Beach Social Pictorial has always had a stronger grip on facts than the Palm Beach Post.  Jac Wilder VerSteeg wants to offer, at the newspaper, "The US finally is out of Iraq.  So stay out."

How is the US out?  For Fiscal Year 2014, the US State Dept is requesting that Congress provide it with $1,180,000,000 -- over a billion dollars for the State Dept mission in Iraq.

That doesn't sound like the US government is out of Iraq.

In September 2012, Tim Arango reported for the New York Times:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General [Robert L.]  Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.        

That doesn't sound like the US military's out of Iraq either.

So how is the US finally out of Iraq?

Oh, right! The US press withdrew! (All but the New York Times, CNN and AP.)

And some Americans like the silly Mojha are bored with Iraq and have lost interest, is that how the US is 'out' of Iraq?  Then there's the ridiculous Thomas E. Ricks who stops performing fellatio on the war machine  long enough to type, "From a comment the other day. I think this is actually a healthy attitude, one I wish I could emulate more: " The comment is from a Iraq War veteran who no longer wants to think about Iraq.  I'm not going to slam the veteran for that or any Iraqi refugee who made it out and wants to just focus on what's in front of them.  In both cases, that's more than understandable.  But Ricks saying he wishes "I could emulate [it] more?  That'a pathetic.

He's not a journalist anymore.  He's a salesman for counterinsurgency -- war on a native people.  So it's not like he's stepped away from war.  He's just ignored the Iraq War because telling the truth got too hard for him.  He'd rather look the other way on the issue of Barack's September 2012 move with Special Ops going back into Iraq.  He'd rather whore for other wars.  And I know he got lost when he was embedded with the military and frequently forgot he was a journalist, but could someone make clear to Thomas E. Ricks that he's not a veteran, that you have to serve in the military to be a veteran?

While Ricks remains confused and silent, Eman Ahmed Khamas (CounterPunch) reports realities about Iraq and chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki:

Armed men with sectarian insignia patrol Iraqi streets. There are at least five armed militias working in collaboration with the Iraqi security forces, apart from the special units that are directly connected to the prime minister’s office. Even Maliki’s son, Ahmed, has his own armed men and conducts military operations, although he has no police or security portfolio.
According to Navi Pillay, the UN high Commissioner for Human Rights, there are massive human rights violations in Iraq. The Iraqi legal system under Maliki does not comply with the simplest global norms. From January-October 2013, 140 Iraqis have been executed by the Ministry of Justice, in defiance of the calls by many international human rights organizations for an immediate death penalty moratorium.
“The law has become a sword held to the necks of Iraqis,” said Osama Nujaifi, the Iraqi Speaker of the Parliament.
Iraqi government sources confirm that there are some 30,000 Iraqis in prison; 17,000 languish there without trial. Arbitrary arrests are common practice in Iraqi streets. Documented and filmed horror stories of torture and death in Iraqi prisons make the infamous Abu Graib abuses look like child’s play. Many of the detainees disappear, their families unable to ascertain if they are dead or alive.
Maliki claims that he leads a vibrant democracy, but he heads an authoritarian regime and monopolizes six high governmental posts: chief of staff, minister of defense, minister of interior, chief of intelligence, and head of national security. Even his partners in the Shiite alliance have been excluded, let alone his Sunni opponents. He is supported by the theocracts in Iran and he has supported the Syrian regime, one of the most notorious autocracies in the region. In a televised interview, Maliki threatened to liquidate those who demonstrate for justice and better services, and described them as a ‘stinking bubble’. Indeed, his SWAT forces used lethal weapons against peaceful protestors several times. In the town of Hawija, for example, at least 50 unarmed men were slaughtered last April. In other cities, such as Basra, Nassyria, Fallujah, and Mosul, protestors have been beaten, arrested and killed.

 Iraqi Spring MC notes the protest today in Falluja and in Baquba, in Tikrit, in Rawa, in Baiji, in Samarra, and in Jalawla.  Protests have been taking place since December 21st. as the 11th month mark looms, the US press continues to refuse to cover what's taking place.   Al Mada reports that Anbar Province speakers noted Nouri al-Maliki's visit to Iraq last week and how this visit was different and found Nouri in a weaker position than during past visits.  Speakers noted that the ongoing protests were exposing injustice and corruption.  Sheikh Saad Fayyad spoke about how the sit-ins would end -- when Nouri met their demands and when killers were held accountable. And by killers -- also noted by Sheikh Mustafa Sabri -- they are referring to the Nouri-sanctioned militias who are hunting and killing Sunnis.  Maybe that's why the US press can't cover the protests, it's not a lot of fluff the way they're used to.

Nouri's spent the week attacking cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr who has ignored Nouri, advising his followers not to even bother to protest Nouri's attacks.  All Iraq News notes:

MP, Bahaa al-Araji, of Sadr Trend assured that the head of Sadr Trend, Muqtada al-Sadr, has no personal dispute with the Premier, Nouri al-Maliki.
He stated to AIN "The recent statement issued by Sadr in which he criticized Maliki was an answer for an inquiry by some of his followers because he is a representative for the Religious Authority."

Mustafa Habib (Niqash) analyzes the political scene in Iraq:

As of last week, it seems more likely that Iraq will go to the polls again soon, in April 2014. But current PM, Nouri al-Maliki, doesn’t have too many friends or fans left – so the likelihood of a new national leader is high. And it seems that many Iraqis might be betting on former terror-inducing religious man, Muqtada al-Sadr, or another cleric, Ammar al-Hakim, for the job. Both men have recently been proving themselves adept politicians.  

Amid growing levels of violence, political tension and general governmental disarray, what might best be described as Iraq’s Shiite Muslim political block is splintering. These days their block is just as fragmented and disillusioned as any other political grouping in the country.

But there are two younger Shiite politicians who are becoming more and more popular, with both Shiite Muslim voters and non-Shiite voters. They are Ammar al-Hakim who leads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads the so-called Sadrist block, which includes political, military and social wings.

Somewhat ironically – considering the pair is becoming more popular with non-Shiite Muslims as well – both politicians come from fairly strong religious backgrounds and famous religious families; both wear the uniform of the religious man, or theological scholar, in Iraq, including a black turban which signifies they are Shiite Muslim descendants of the Prophet Mohammed. It’s also ironic considering that in recent days, the pair seems more popular in secular Iraqi political circles than the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, himself, who wears secular, Western-style clothing.

Al-Sadr and al-Hakim appear to be forging their own paths through the political quagmire that is Iraq’s nascent democracy. For one thing they are seen as being in touch with the people, having focused on social service to the ordinary Iraqi citizen – and this is in contrast to al-Maliki’s party, which is seen as working mainly for its own political gains and its elite, at the expense of any other interests.  

Provincial elections held earlier this year resulted in some serious gains for the followers of al-Sadr and al-Hakim.  The State of Law coalition led by al-Maliki was able to win 87 seats in the nine mostly-Shiite Muslim provinces of Iraq. Meanwhile al-Hakim’s Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq won 61 and the Sadrists won 58. Previously al-Sadr had joined with al-Maliki to shut al-Hakim out of any coalition. But recently al-Sadr has switched sides, forming an alliance with al-Hakim and standing against al-Maliki’s State of Law in some areas. And that allegiance allowed them to win the leaderships of two very important parts of the country, Baghdad and the oil-rich and prosperous southern city of Basra.

It is quite possible that al-Hakim and al-Sadr are able to repeat this performance in the upcoming 2014 parliamentary elections in Iraq, which, it was recently announced, would take place in April next year.

Additionally al-Hakim and al-Sadr are popular with more than just their traditional constituencies, having both been vocal in their support for a more inclusive system, where Sunni Muslims and other groups are not marginalized. Al-Sadr has been supportive of anti-government demonstrations held in the Sunni Muslim-dominated Anbar province and al-Hakim has said he considers such demonstrations a legitimate right of the Iraqi people. The two leaders have also been positive when it comes to Iraq’s other powerful political group, the Iraqi Kurdish.

It's campaign season in Iraq.  Al-Shorfa notes, "The Iraqi Ministry of Planning on Friday (November 8th) announced it has allocated 865 billion dinars ($744 million) for a plan to support Iraqis living in poverty with loans and jobs."  Ayad Jannah (Kitabat) responds wondering where Nouri's concern for the poor has been all these years as Iraqis have suffered and Iraqi cities have been turned into slums?  Jannah notes Nouri travels in an armored car, a luxury car, while living in lavish palaces but he's let the Iraqi people live in squalor.

Moving over to violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports two Baghdad bombings claimed 3 lives and left seven people injured, a Karmah sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa and left another person injured, an Alaaskari armed attack left 1 police officer dead and another injured, and early this morning an armed attack in Baquba left 1 person dead and a police member injured.  World Bulletin reports a Baghdad bombing has left 19 Iraqi soldiers dead and twenty-three injured.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that a "bomb was hidden inside the Abu-Yahya restaurant in central Mosul."  NINA reports the bombing killed 11 people and left forty-nine more injured.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes 165 violent deaths so far this month.  Their count for the year so far is 7,500.  Still on violence, World Bulletin notes, "The leader of Al-Qaeda Ayman Zawahiri has announced that the rebel group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will be dissolved, leaving only the Nusra Front to carry out its operations."

Still on the violence, Nouri's only real achievement has been to preside over more and more executions.  To be clear, his last round of multiple executions was, yet again, about targeting Sunnis.  Amnesty International issued the following today:

A sharp increase in the use of the death penalty in Iraq has brought the number of known executions to the highest in the decade since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, with at least seven prisoners sent to the gallows yesterday, sparking fears that many more death row prisoners are at risk, Amnesty International said.
"Iraq’s increased use of the death penalty, often after unfair trials in which many prisoners report having been tortured into confessing crimes, is a futile attempt to resolve the country’s serious security and justice problems," said Phillip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
"In order to actually protect civilians better from violent attacks by armed groups, authorities in Iraq must effectively investigate abuses and bring those responsible to justice in a system that is fair, without recourse to the death penalty."
At least 132 people have been executed in Iraq so far this year – the highest number since the country reinstated capital punishment in 2004. However, the true number could be higher and the Iraqi authorities have yet to publish full figures.
Previously, only in 2009 (at least 120 executions) and in 2012 (at least 129) were the figures of known executions comparable to this year’s total, but each time for the whole calendar year.
"The stark rise in executions witnessed in 2012 has only gotten worse in 2013. The government apparently refuses to accept that the death penalty does nothing in deterring attacks by armed groups against civilians in Iraq or other serious human rights abuses," said said Phillip Luther.
Death sentences are often handed down after deeply unfair trials, where prisoners do not have access to proper legal representation and "confessions" to crimes are frequently extracted through torture or other ill-treatment.
In recent statements announcing the execution of 23 prisoners in September and 42 in October, the Iraqi Ministry of Justice misleadingly states that all death sentences are reviewed and confirmed by the Court of Cassation before executions take place.
But the Court of Cassation regularly fails to address the admission by trial courts of contested evidence, including withdrawn “confessions” and allegations of coercion and torture, when approving death sentences at the review stage. The generally paper-based procedure fails to give defendants a genuine review.
"For justice to prevail in Iraq the authorities have a long way to go to address the flaws in their criminal justice system, investigate claims of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, and, where applicable, grant re-trials in full compliance with international fair trial standards," said Phillip Luther.
"The authorities in Iraq must stop their reliance on the death penalty, by immediately declaring a moratorium on executions as a first step and commuting all death sentences to prison terms."
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty – the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment – in all cases without exception, as a violation of the right to life.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Taylor Swift wins CMA Pinnacle Award

Wednesday night at the Country Music Awards, Taylor Swift was awarded the Pinnacle Award by the CMA.

Carly Simon appears in the presentation and declares, "She knows how to include her audience in the way she delivers a song and I'm floored by it."  Ellen, Justin Timberlake and others also deliver statements.

She was presented with the award by Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and George Strait.

Good for Taylor.

She is young but she's been dominating the charts for several years now.  I think she was an inspired choice.

Oops! I just posted and forgot something.  Taylor was an inspired choice.  So were our picks from the theme post.  As C.I. notes in the snapshot today:

In September, Betty wrote "The Female Brando" about a book she was reading, Jon Krampner's The Female Brando, which argued Kim Stanley was the female Marlon Brando.  Betty disagreed with the book and this became a theme post last night.  Betty offered "Jane Fonda," Rebecca picked "debra winger,"  Elaine offered "Jessica Lange," Mike went with "Marilyn Monroe," for Marcia it's "Charlize Theron," Ann selected "Diane Keaton," Stan argued for "Tuesday Weld," Trina felt the obvious choice was "Faye Dunaway," for Kat it's "Cher" and Ruth went with "Shelley Winters."

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

Thursday, November 7, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, does the 'turned corner' myth resurface, Dar Addustour captures Nouri's visit to DC, Ayad Allawi talks to CNN, Cindy Sheehan responds to USA Today's attack on her, a State Dept employee enters a guilty plea,  and her beliefs, and more.

In 1973, Maureen McGovern made it to the top of the Top 40 with the number one hit "The Morning After" ("There's got to be a morning after . . .").  Thirty years later, the US government and its press agents posing as 'reporters' sang their own version "The Turned Corner," ("There's about to be a turned corner . . .")  For those who've forgotten or missed it in real time, as the illegal war kicked off, reality kicked back.  And the White House and press hacks like John Burns and Thomas Friedman constantly insisted a turned corner lay in the immediate future and the entire failed war was about to turn around.  However, that never happened.

Were any lessons learned from that?

Apparently not.

The Washington Post's Liz Sly noted the turned corner claim is still around.

  • Apparently this is good news about Iraq: its crisis will be over in 20 years. Then it will have a bright future.

  • The Shagaq News article is about the judgment calls of an American,  Michael Knights of the Washington Institue, and it starts:

    "Iraq's tunnel is long, but at the end there is a light, with this sentence Michael Knights, an expert at the Washington Institute for the Near East began his talk as he believes that after 20 years, Iraq will come out of this crisis, will be a leader , tolerant and open state".

    That's the article's punctuation.  They leave a quote -- without noting that they have (clearly Michael Knight did not declare "with this sentence Michael Knights, an expert at . . .") -- and put an end quote at the end of their sentence.

    The point of that is that "20 years" may or may not be Knights' remark.  He is quoted in the article speaking of "someday."

    Regardless, his hope for a turned corner seems more than a bit unrealistic based upon his own argument.

    He is quoted stating, "During our presence in Iraq , we say that the problem were not Saddam Hussein, as it was the Iraqi strong central regime. For this, we focused on decentralization , and for this we have set and develop in the Constitution. However, after we have withdrawn Maliki returned to Saddam Hussein's central strong (...) and surrounded himself with a group of angry Shiite that wasn't for revenge. These groups controlled the nominations of the armed forces, courts and the central bank. "

    So the problem is Nouri.  You can pretend and mess around all you want but the reality is the problems in Iraq are the making of Nouri al-Maliki (which means they're the making of the White House since the 2006 administration demanded that Nouri be named prime minister and the 2010 administration negotiated The Erbil Agreement to give Nouri a second term the voters and the Iraqi Constitution didn't give Nouri).

    Is Knights really so reluctant to tell the truth or is it the outlet?  I have no idea but 'someday' or '20 years' isn't good enough for the Iraqi people -- it's not good enough for any people.  They shouldn't have to suffer under Nouri's nonsense.

    Knights's 'findings' are illogical and not fact based.  This is evident by the half-quote that the article includes from him, "if not anything else, the decentralized Constitution that we have set, which I think solved Iraq's problems, as I told you "  Setting aside who 'set' the Iraqi Constitution, the Constitution is meaningless at this point.

    Nouri's refused to implement Article 140 of the Constitution.  He was required to implement it by the end of 2007.  He refused to do so.  He agreed, in The Erbil Agreement of 2010, to implement it.  He has refused to do so.

    The Constitution outlines who becomes prime minister.  The Erbil Agreement circumvented the Constitution.

    The Constitution's not being followed with regards to replacing the incapacitated president.  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  Every few weeks someone comes along to announce, "He's getting better!"  It's past time that Iraqis were told when Jalal was coming back and if he's not coming back shortly, it really is time to replace him.  He's been out of the country -- and not doing his job -- for nearly a year now.  We're 11 days from a year. A constitutional government does not allow this to happen.

    There has been no president of Iraq for a year.

    That's not a sign of a functioning government.  It's not a sign of compassion.  Compassion is you give the Talabani family six weeks or so.  After that, you start calling them on the lie.  Jalal's hidden away because he can't function and he can't perform his duties.  He's been allowed to draw his salary though.

    Then there's the issue of the Cabinet.

    The President names a prime minister-designate.

    The person has 30 days to become prime minister and the only way they do that is by forming their Cabinet -- which is done by naming nominees that Parliament votes for and confirms.  They have 30 days for that.

    It's the only thing that has to be done for a prime minister-designate to become prime minister.  (This is Article 76 of the Constitution.)  Should the prime minister-designate fail to complete this task in 30 days, the president is supposed to name a new prime minister-designate.

    Jalal  betrayed the Constitution.  Firstly, he declared Nouri prime minister-designate at Parliament's November 11, 2010 session but then claimed that wasn't official -- it was -- so he could provide Nouri with a later date -- he reset the clock.  Even doing that, Nouri still didn't have a partial Cabinet until January 2011.  That's a violation of the Constitution.

    So is 'partial cabinet.'  Anyone can form a partial cabinet.  You just get one nominee to your Cabinet confirmed and you've formed a 'Cabinet' by Nouri's logic.  The Constitution calls for a Cabinet -- that means a full Cabinet.  (Four Iraqis who were part of the 2005 Constitution have made that clear.)

    Yet Nouri wasn't bound to the Constitution.  And even now, as his second term winds down, he's not got a full Cabinet.  Back in July 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."   Those posts have remained vacant.  Throughout his second term. No Minister of Defense?

    Is it any wonder that Iraq has seen an increase in violence?

    AFP notes today, "It is the latest in Iraq's worst violence since 2008, with more than 5,500 people dead this year despite tightened security measures and a swathe of operations against militants."  But they fail to connect the increase to the security ministries.    They also undercount.  As Christiane Amanpour noted on Amanpour (CNN) Tuesday, it's "almost 7,000" killed this year.  She was raising the statistic because she was addressing Iraq with her guest was Ayad Allawi who was prime minister of Iraq from June 2004 through May 2005 and who should, based on the 2010 election results, have been named prime minister in 2010.  Click here for video, here for transcript.  Excerpt.

    AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, sorry to interrupt you, and we'll talk about the politics, but many people believe, including former U.S. ambassadors, commanders, et cetera, that you can't really do as much as you would like on political progress without having security.

    So the question is, do you think Prime Minister Maliki had a successful visit to the U.S.? Did -- do you believe he got what he wanted from President Obama? And what does the U.S. need to do to help at least in the security area right now?

    ALLAWI: I don't think the U.S. have a larger stake to improve security overnight in Iraq. I don't know what he discussed -- and Maliki discussed in the U.S. But I definitely know that the ingredients of security are not there.

    The ingredients, the three (inaudible) security lies upon is healthy political process; institutions which are professional, that control their responsibility and the economy finding jobs for the people, in a rich country like Iraq, where a third of the nation are under poverty line.

    On top of this, we have gross interferences from our neighbor to our east, which is Iran. Iran have been trying to meddle with the Iraq efforts, especially after everything was dismantled upon occupation and Iraq -- Iran became the most important power wreaking havoc on Iraq and supporting militias and support sectarianism in Iraq.

    AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, regarding the political situation, President Obama urged Prime Minister Maliki, the current prime minister, to make sure a new election law gets passed.

    Apparently it has been passed; there will be elections according to what's been laid out in a road map.

    Do you have hope for those elections?

    And do you eventually plan to run for election again yourself?

    ALLAWI: Of course. I mean, you know, we have fought for 30 years for my country, to get rid of tyranny. We will continue to play a role in politics. And definitely I'll go into elections.

    But I don't have that much faith. Last time I won the elections, I was two seats in Parliament, and we were clearly the winners. And according to our constitution, the way I should form the government, or at least should be given the chance to form the government and the chance was according to our constitution for 45 days.

    This even challenge we were denied to have. And according to Maliki, was reinstated, what the power of Iran, with the support of Iran with the acceptance of the U.S. And we are where we are now, unfortunately.

    People have been betrayed in Iraq as far as the elections are concerned. And they felt that they went -- when they went to the ballots and they elected their -- whatever or whoever they elected, but yet the results were not to their -- to the -- to the standards of the -- of the (inaudible). But rather to Iran to decide what was doing there. And those were not doing there.

    AMANPOUR: So what is your view of where the Sunni population is going to be?

    I said that they felt frustrated and this is some fertile ground for the resurgence of Al Qaeda.

    Is the Sunni population still willing to give politics a chance?

    ALLAWI: It's getting much weaker, their resolve towards politics and towards election is getting much weaker now. Unfortunately the turnout in the last provincial elections, which was just under a year ago, was in the best 28 percent in the best areas in the -- in the -- in some of the -- like most are like Salah ad-Din (ph) and Anbar (ph).

    And you know, all these provinces now have been demonstrating for the last seven months, eight months, and there are lots of adversities being committed against them.

    So really there is a lot of faith lost in the -- in the elections and the results of the elections. And even on the democracy, there is a loss of faith. And that's why Al Qaeda is getting more powerful in the country, it's waging a clear war, sitting whenever they like at whatever -- whatever they like, without the government being able to do anything about this.

    AMANPOUR: You sort of -- I know you're not playing down the violence, but obviously you're playing up the need for a political solution; everybody would agree to that. But how do you expect to be able to again try to defeat and push back Al Qaeda? And how dangerous are they right now, especially given the fact that Al Qaeda in Iraq has linked up with Al Qaeda in Syria?

    ALLAWI: Well, Christiane, let me tell you frankly, if people are disenfranchised, if people are oppressed, if people are on the side, if people are not cared for, if they live in poverty, they will definitely go to the extreme. And this is unfortunately what's happening in almost half of the country.

    The violence is bred by Nouri and Michael Knights may be prepared to wait for 'someday' but how much longer can the Iraqi people survived Nouri al-Maliki?

    Last week, Nouri visited DC and that visit was, in part, to get a blessing for a third term.

    Many words have been written about the visit but maybe the one what best captured US President Barack Obama's feelings towards thug Nouri is the photo Dar Addustour published last night of Nouri standing next to a bored Barack?

    Al Mada notes Nouri's visit cost the Iraqi government at least $48,000 and, according to Ahmed Chalabi, may have cost as much as $100 million.  Former US Ambassador  Dan Simpson (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) observes:

    The theory on the U.S. side was that Mr. Maliki would put together a power-sharing government, including his majority Shiites; the Sunni, who ruled the country from independence in 1932 until the U.S. invasion in 2003; and the Kurds.
    Mr. Maliki instead put together a ruling Shiite power nexus that has hogged political and commercial authority, pounded on the Sunnis, including locking up their leaders, and fallen out with the Kurds. Both groups, but especially the Sunnis, have fought back. Sectarian fighting in October alone produced 1,095 deaths.
    Mr. Maliki came to Washington asking for arms, including F16 jet aircraft at $47 million a copy and Apache attack helicopters at $20 million each, to fight his Iraqi enemies. He should get nothing — given that America was entirely correct to clear out of the useless, catastrophic Iraq War in 2011 and that Mr. Maliki has not done what was needed to put together a government that reflected the diversity of the 32 million people of Iraq.

    There are so many reasons -- legal ones -- why the US should not provide Nouri with weapons or funds.

    There's the  April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured)

    By that incident alone, US laws and guidelines forbid US tax payer dollars going to Iraq.

    There's also the issue of  the topic of the Ashraf community.   Camp Ashraf in Iraq is now empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty) as of last month.  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Iraqi Prime Minister  Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). That's the attack Lara Logan reported on.  In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.

    During Nouri's DC visit last week, the supporters of the Ashraf community protested him and his visit repeatedly and were most visible at the US Institute of Peace when Nouri spoke last Thursday.  At Grio, the former chair of the RNC Michael Steele writes:

    While this face-to-face meeting may have served to raise Maliki’s diplomatic profile, in the eyes of many it diminished the profile of the United States and its professed commitment to justice, human rights, and international law. The president should have refused this meeting.
    No one should doubt, least of all Prime Minister Maliki, that he owes his position to the United States, which sacrificed its blood and spent billions of its treasure to pave his way to power. But Maliki’s failure to be a true partner with the U.S. and his cozy relationship with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as well as his recent actions, have created more problems than solutions for the United States.
    On September 1, 2103, at the apparent request of the Iranian Mullahs and on the orders of Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi security forces attacked and killed 52 Iranian refugees (and kidnapped seven, including six women) at Camp Ashraf in eastern Iraq.
    Camp Ashraf was settled more than 25 years ago by 3,400 members and sympathizers of the principal Iranian opposition known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The U.S. military disarmed Ashraf City in 2003, and in 2009 turned over control of the camp to the Maliki government in Baghdad. At that time, the United States assured residents of Ashraf City that the Iraqi government would treat them humanely in accordance with international law. As refugees, members of the opposition and their families are protected persons according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should not be subject to harassment, much less kidnapping and murder by the military forces of Iraq.

    Steele is not a lone voice in the US.  Other prominent voices calling attention to the attacks on the Ashraf community include Senators Robert Menendez, Carl Levin and John McCain, former Governor Howard Dean, former US House Rep Patrick Kennedy.  Those are only some of the people who have called for the US government to honor its legal obligation, under Geneva, to protect the Ashraf community.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton never managed to go to Iraq while holding that position.  She held hands with Hoshyar Zebari and maybe played footsie with Nouri's boy toy but she refused to honor her obligations with regards to the Ashraf community.  She refused to comply with a court order until after she was slammed publicly for over a year.  She refused to do her job.  Forced to, by the court and by the court of public opinion, she did it begrudgingly.  While she was SoS,she refused -- and her department refuse -- to answer the Office of the Special Investigator General for Iraqi Reconstruction. Secretary of State John Kerry has shown no inclination to address Iraq either.  This despite the request that billions of tax payer dollars continue to flow to Iraq as they did, via the State Dept, during Hillary's term.  $1.8 billion is what Kerry's department is requesting for Iraq adventures for Fiscal Year 2014.

    Violence continues in Iraq.  EFE counts 37 dead today and eighty-seven injured.   The Voice of Russia reports, "Two suicide bombers blew themselves up minutes apart at an Iraqi army base late on Thursday, killing at least 16 soldiers, police and medics said."    National Iraq News Agency reports a Mosul roadside bomb claimed the lives of 4 people (3 were Iraqi soldiers) and left two injured, and a Mosul attack left 2 people dead and one woman injured, car bombing. All Iraq News adds that a Jisr Diyala roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left five injured, a Baghdad car bombing left 3 people dead and ten injured, a Baquba car bombing left 2 police dead and a civilian injured, a Tikrit home bombing left 6 people dead (all members of the same family), a Tikrit armed attack left 2 police dead and three more injured, and a Beji Refinery worker was kidnapped in Tikrit. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports a bombing of pilgrims en route to Karbala which left 4 dead and six more injured.  EFE adds, "A police officer was shot to death by unknown gunmen in the southern city of Mosul." Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes 132 violent deaths in Iraq.

    On the killing of the religious pilgrims, BBC notes, "The latest violence as Shia Muslims prepare to commemorate Ashura, which marks the martyrdom at Karbala of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad."  On the attack of the Tikrit home, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes it was the home of a Sawha commander (and has the 6 dying from bullets, not a bombing).  In addition, the self-check outs from the Iraqi military continue.  World Bulletin reports, "The Iraqi army in the city of Kirkuk has seen a mass exodus of soldiers. The 12th Division in the governorate of Ta'mim saw the defection of 20 soldiers."

    Last week, the US Embassy in Iraq issued the following:

    The U.S. Embassy Baghdad urges Iraqi citizens and residents to use caution when working with private entities to apply for visas to the United States.  Reports of fraudulent e-mails, websites, and print advertisements offering visa services are on the rise.
    The Diversity Visa program (“DV program,” also known as the “Green Card Lottery”) offers up to 55,000 visa slots annually for people who wish to immigrate to the United States.  After conducting a random drawing, the U.S. Department of State contacts applicants directly, advising them to check the status of their applications online at  Applicants may only verify status online; no information on an application’s status is sent by letter or e-mail.  Unsuccessful applicants have no further recourse but to apply again next year.
    Only the U.S. Department of State is authorized to notify DV program applicants of their status.  Unfortunately, fraudsters posing as DV program officials have targeted Iraqis.  The scam e-mail instructs recipients to send money via Western Union to a fictitious person at the U.S. Embassy in London.  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should money be sent to any address for participation in the DV program.  Immigration information and forms are free and available to all at the Department of State ( and U.S. Embassy Baghdad ( websites.
    The only way to register for the DV program is directly through the Department of State website during a limited-time registration period; DV-2015 applicants may register between October 1 and November 2, 2013, and will be able to check the status of their entry for free at starting on May 1, 2014.  DV-2014 entrants (those who entered the DV lottery between October 2 and November 3, 2012) may check their status at through June 30, 2014, and should keep their confirmation letter until September 30, 2014.
    To report incidents of visa fraud, please e-mail the Embassy at  Complaints about scam e-mails may be sent to the U.S. Department of Justice (

    What was that about?

    Apparently the scandals never end at the State Dept.  John Kerry's over the Dept and he's responsible for it but today's scandal should  fall at Hillary Clinton's doorstep because it predates John Kerry becoming Secretary of State.  In fact, the criminal in question stopped working for the State Dept in September 2012 -- while Hillary was still Secretary of State.   The scandal?

    The South China Morning Post reports, "Michael Sestak, who had worked in the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City since 2010, was arrested in May. Sestak, 42, was responsible for issuing visas after reviewing applications and conducting interviews."  Vera Bergengruen (McClatchy Newspapers) reported yesterday that the man "admitted in U.S. District Court that while serving as the non-immigrant visa chief in Vietnam, he accepted more than $3 million in bribes to approve visas for nearly 500 foreign nationals seeking to enter the U.S., according to government prosecutors."  Domani Spero (DiploPundit) notes that the man could be sentenced to as many as 24 years behind bars and also includes links to past DiploPundit coveage:

    While this happened on Hillary's watch, it's worth noting that the State Dept refused to hold a press briefing today.  Apparently, this guilty plea was among the things the State Dept didn't want to discuss.

    On the topic of criminal exploitation, the US Justice Dept issued the following today:

    Department of Justice
    Office of Public Affairs
    Thursday, November 7, 2013
    Iraqi-Based Construction Company Pays $2.7 Million to U.s. for Alleged False Claims in Bribery Scheme
    Iraqi Consultants and Construction Bureau (ICCB) has paid the U.S. $2.7 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by bribing a U.S. government official to obtain U.S. government contracts in Iraq, the Department of Justice announced today.  ICCB is a privately owned construction company headquartered in Baghdad, Iraq. 
    “Bribery will not be tolerated in government contracting,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “We will ensure that government contracts are awarded based on merit and pursue allegations of fraudulently procured contracts wherever they occur.” 
    The government alleged that, from 2007 to 2008, ICCB paid bribes to Army Corps of Engineers procurement official John Salama Markus, 41, of Nazareth, Pa., to obtain information that gave it an advantage in bidding on several construction contracts with the Department of Defense in Iraq.  The contracts supported reconstruction efforts involving the Iraq war, including infrastructure and security projects and the building of medical facilities and schools.  ICCB then knowingly overcharged the U.S. for services provided under the contracts, according to the government’s allegation.   
    “It is offensive that anyone would see projects to promote stability, health and education in a rebuilding country as a way to make illegal cash on the side,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman.  “We will not abide companies paying to play in such a system.”
    “The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) is committed to protecting the integrity of the Defense acquisition process from personal and corporate avarice,” said Special Agent in Charge, DCIS Northeast Field Office Craig Rupert.  “Ensuring the proper use of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars and preventing contract fraud is in our nation’s interest and remains a priority.”
    The settlement is part of a larger investigation initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.  As part of that investigation, Markus pleaded guilty on Sept. 7, 2012, to wire fraud, money laundering and failure to report a foreign bank account in connection with more than $50 million in contracts awarded to foreign companies in Gulf Region North, Iraq.  Markus was sentenced to 13 years in prison on March 12, 2013, in Newark, N.J., federal court.
    The investigation is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, in cooperation with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Major Procurement Fraud Unit of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, the Criminal Investigative Division of the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security.  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability. 

    Monday and Tuesday, we noted USA Today's attacks on peace activist and California gubernatorial candidate Cindy Sheehan.  Today, Cindy issues a response to USA Today's attacks:

    These are some of the issues that the USA Today did not choose to tell its subscribers:

    I believe in peace: not just the absence of war, but a society organized around the principles of non-violent conflict resolution and economic and human equality.

    My heart aches at the growing income and wealth disparity in this country. I believe that it is immoral that over one million of our children don't get enough food or that millions of our fellow citizens do not have roofs over their heads each and every night. Are these humans considered disposable "fringe?" In a society where about .01% of the population own about 50% of the wealth, it makes me sick to my stomach to know that advocating for a more just distribution of wealth and resources is considered "fringe."

    The USA Today somehow left out the fact that the PFP and I are an environmentalist party. I told the "reporter" that contacted me that I rode my bike across the country this year advocating for the reduction and eventual elimination of the exploration and use of fossil fuels. Of course, mainstream politicians and rags like USA Today are in the pockets of Big Oil and the destruction of life on this planet is the "normal" position. No mention was made of my urgent advocacy for an international response to contain the multiple nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima, either. Hmmm...same explanation. Ignoring radioactive Armageddon is also mainstream. I am proudly on the "fringe" for environmental sustainability and health!

    I advocate for education from pre-K to University and health care as rights, not privileges for the wealthy. In most industrialized countries of the world, these positions are normal and not fringe. What about the fact that our government, the ones that are supposed to work for us, actually spy on all of our communications and collect them to mine data? This is not a fringe view or conspiracy theory, the government brags about it and people like Nancy Pelosi (the leftwinger--LOL) defend the policy.

    According to the puppet man on this video, the media also stopped covering me in 2012 because I ran for VP on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket with comedian Roseanne Barr. I think the media stopped covering me (unless it wanted to marginalize me) in 2006 when the establishment figured out that I figured out the game of the "elites." It's about the system, not about Bush, or Obama. That little secret cannot get out, or there might be a revolution of we the ones who have been oppressed for generations. 

    In September, Betty wrote "The Female Brando" about a book she was reading, Jon Krampner's The Female Brando, which argued Kim Stanley was the female Marlon Brando.  Betty disagreed with the book and this became a theme post last night.  Betty offered "Jane Fonda," Rebecca picked "debra winger,"  Elaine offered "Jessica Lange," Mike went with "Marilyn Monroe," for Marcia it's "Charlize Theron," Ann selected "Diane Keaton," Stan argued for "Tuesday Weld," Trina felt the obvious choice was "Faye Dunaway," for Kat it's "Cher" and Ruth went with "Shelley Winters."

    the washington post
    liz sly