Friday, December 15, 2017

Steve Grand, Stevie Nicks and Tori Amos

Steve Grand has a new single out.

I like it.

I also love Stevie Nicks and enjoyed this 1982 performance with Fleetwood Mac of her song "Sisters of the Moon."

"Intense, silent as she walked in the room."

And it's coming on Christmas so let's note "River" but let's go with Tori Amos' cover of Joni Mitchell's classic song.

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

Friday, December 15, 2017.  The UN responds to Iraq's mass executions, a selfie sparks outrage, the claims that the Islamic State was defeated in Iraq look increasingly hollow, and much more.

Yesterday, the Iraqi government carried out 38 executions.

Important. Iraq also holding German-born Linda Wenzel.

This morning, Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, declared:

We are deeply shocked and appalled at the mass execution on Thursday of 38 men at a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya, Iraq, which once again raises huge concerns about the use of the death penalty in the country. These 38 prisoners had been convicted for terrorism-related crimes.

Given the flaws of the Iraqi justice system, it appears extremely doubtful that strict due process and fair trial guarantees were followed in these 38 cases. This raises the prospect of irreversible miscarriages of justice and violations of the right to life.

So far this year, we have learned of 106 executions in Iraq, including the mass hanging of 42 prisoners in a single day in September.

We once again urge the Iraqi authorities to halt all executions, establish an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty and carry out an urgent and comprehensive review of the criminal justice system.

Throssell notes 106 executions in Iraq this year.  In 2016, Amnesty International recorded 88 executions in Iraq.

The 106 will not include the extra-judicial executions carried out by Iraqi forces.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (GUARDIAN) reported on some of these executions in "After the liberation of Mousl, an orgy of killing."  One example:

Then, on the radio, between batches of numbers, came the words: “We caught a D**sh.”
 Taha grabbed a radio and said: “Bring him to me.”
A wave of excitement ran through the room. Taha made a pistol gesture and shot in the air. “We will have a party today.”
Half an hour later, a soldier brought an old man into the room and pushed him to the floor. The man looked emaciated, but underneath his threadbare T-shirt, his muscles were tense and lean. His silky grey hair and wavy, shaggy beard, and the thick circles around his large, dark eyes, gave him the look of a 19th-century Russian revolutionary. The soldier said he was spotted crossing over from Isis lines with the civilians, but when he saw the soldiers he tried flee back to Isis territory.
“Who are you?” asked Taha in a firm voice.
“I am a hospital medic, please check my card.”
“Where is your national ID card?” asked Taha.
“It was taken by Isis fighters to prevent us from leaving,” replied the man.
“Taken by Isis, or you destroyed it to hide your name? How do we know you are not an Isis commander?” asked Taha.
“I am a medic sir, I told you. D**sh forced me to go to the old city and work in their field hospital. I was there treating injured civilians and yes, I will be straight with you, I did treat some of their fighters, too, because they forced me to. But I am not D**sh, sir, I actually hate them.”
“You are a liar,” said Taha.
“I swear by Imam Abbas … ” the man began, but before he had finished his oath upon the name of one of Shia Islam’s most revered figures, Taha smacked him hard in the face, sending him tumbling back into the lap of a soldier who sat behind him.
“Don’t utter these names, you filthy animal.”
The medic picked himself up, with an insulted look on his face. “But I am an old man,” he said softly, gradually bringing back the smile to his face. If there had been a moment in which he could have saved himself, it had now passed.
Taha and the soldiers dragged the old man out of the basement and into the street. They found a deserted house attached to a large ancient church, and pushed the captive through a courtyard, up a few steps, and into a small, dark room with three tall arched windows that overlooked a cemetery. They sat him on the floor and he leaned against the base of one of the windows, his head backlit by shafts of the afternoon sunlight. They stood encircling him. “Yalla old man, why don’t you confess so we can send you away from here?” said one young officer.

The old man, still smiling, said: “But how can I confess something I haven’t done? How can I prejudice myself?”
A heavy-set soldier picked up a short, thick metal pipe and started prodding the old man’s knees with it. “Look, from the window, that rotten body over there,” he said. “That was one of your people. We captured him few days ago and he, too, refused to confess.”
The man craned his neck and looked out of the window behind him. Below the house, a bloated, decomposed body had turned black under the scorching summer sun. He turned and smiled, but there was now a hint of fear, a loss of control. “I am just a medic,” he mumbled. Taha swung his leg back and kicked the man’s face so hard that he collapsed motionless on his back. For a second, everyone in the room thought he was dead.
“Pour water on him, he is faking,” Taha said angrily.
 One soldier pulled the man up and sat him down again. Slowly, he opened his eyes, which at first looked stunned, and then darkened with anger. He opened his mouth, and a dark lump of flesh, blood and a set of large, gleaming false teeth tumbled on to his chest and the floor.
“Ha, will you confess?” said the soldier with the metal pipe.
“I have nothing to say,” hissed the man with blood pouring from his mouth. Taha nodded to the heavyset soldier, who pulled the old man to his feet, his legs wobbling. He leaned the man against the arched window and then, in one quick move, the soldier flipped him out of the window, but held his feet. The old man hung, swinging, from the window.
“Are you going to confess now?” asked the soldier. “What else is left for you?”
“How can I prejudice myself?” came the faint voice of the old man from below.
In that dark room, the soldiers and officers looked at the old man’s feet, dirty and cracked, for a few seconds before they vanished from the window. He fell into the yard below with a thud. The soldier who had dropped him leaned out of the window with his machine gun and fired five bullets into the body in the rubble below. A cloud of gunpowder filled the room, dancing in the shafts of light. The soldier looked out of the window and then fired two more bullets. “These two at his legs, just in case he wants to walk home,” said the soldier, laughing.
Taha and the two officers walked back. A young officer said, with a sheepish smile: “I wonder if God one day will punish us for all these killings. Will we go mad or something worse?”

“He is my fifth since the start of [the battle of] Mosul,” said Taha. “Al-Qaida have one good principle: if they suspect someone, or have the tiniest evidence against him, they execute him. They say that if he was guilty, he deserved it, and if he was innocent, his blood will be purged and later he will go to heaven. I follow the same principle.”

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad's entire report is available in audio format here read by Alice Arnold.

As Iraq breaks all human rights laws, prime minister Hayder al-Abadi frolics in France.

AP reports:

Three days after declaring victory over the Islamic State group, Iraq's prime minister warns that the group's extremists might "erupt again somewhere else" without international cooperation in combatting the militants.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told reporters Tuesday that "we have managed to break them" in Iraq, but added that it's a worry for everyone that IS has "this unfortunate ability to recruit young people very quickly."

Meanwhile . . .

IS still being hit in Iraq and Syria despite claims by some that it’s mission accomplished.

And XINHUA reports:

A total of ten Islamic State (IS) militants were killed Friday in airstrikes on two IS safe houses at a rural area in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, an army commander said.
Iraqi helicopter gunships pounded two safe houses based on intelligence reports in Maytah area, some 120 km northeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, leaving ten IS militants killed, Lt. Gen. Mezhir al-Azzawi, commander of the security forces responsible for military operations in Diyala province, told Xinhua.

Doesn't appear ISIS is defeated or broken in Iraq.

And reports of the Iraqi government attacking civilians in Tuz Khurmatu have reached the United Nations.  Spokesperson Liz Throssell declared this morning:

We are seriously concerned about the situation in the city of Tuz Khurmatu, in Salah al-Din Governorate in Iraq, where on 9 and 12 December residential areas were reportedly shelled, causing casualties among civilians.  It is not clear who is carrying out the shelling which is reported to be coming from the mountains overlooking the area. Iraqi forces are still working to discover the exact locations from which the shelling has come and the identity of those responsible.

Tensions have been increasing in Tuz Khurmatu following September’s independence referendum in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and in disputed areas, which include Tuz Khurmatu. In recent weeks, clashes have broken out between Kurdish Security Forces – also known as the Peshmerga - and Turkmen Popular Mobilization Units or PMUs. This fighting has to date resulted in an unconfirmed number of deaths in each group.

UN human rights officers visited the area on 7 December and again on 14 December to investigate reports of the burning of homes and looting of businesses. They spoke to residents of Tuz Khurmatu in Kirkuk and Erbil who had fled the violence and also saw for themselves in Tuz Khurmatu some 150 premises that had been burned or otherwise damaged. This follows reports that, on 16 and 17 October, a similar number of houses were looted and burned by Turkmen PMUs and civilians, and that up to 11 houses reportedly belonging to Kurdish families and officials were destroyed by explosives in the city. Thousands of residents, mainly of Kurdish origin left for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, apparently fearing repercussions, and to date many have not returned.

Iraqi Government forces are in control of Tuz Khurmatu, supported by Popular Mobilization units. The city’s population is a mix of Turkoman, Kurd and Arab communities and there is a serious risk that given the ethnic and religious fault lines in the area, that violence could escalate and spread.

We urge the end of all acts that threaten the fundamental rights of the Tuz Khurmatu population. We also call on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that civilians there are protected and those responsible for human rights abuses brought to justice.

  1. : We urge the end of all acts that threaten the fundamental rights of people living in Tuz Khurmatu. Given the ethnic & religious fault lines in the area, there's a

Vengeance is not a governing principal -- a detail the US government forgot to pass on to all the Shi'ite runaways they put in charge of Iraq.  (The runaways fled Iraq and only returned after the US-led invasion in 2003.  Possibly due to their cowardice that led to fleeing, they returned feeling they had something to prove.)

Lastly, what can a selfie do?

Wow => Miss Iraq Posted a Photo With Miss Israel. Now She Has to Flee the Country.
Miss Iraq's family are forced to flee the country after the beauty queen posed for a selfie with Miss Israel

Miss Iraq's family has now been forced to flee their country after death threats. Miss Iraq simply posted a selfie with Miss Israel, saying she wanted to promote "peace and love"

A country is truly broken if a selfie leads to death threats and the forced relocation of a family. No wonder the Kurds want out of the monstrosity that is Iraq.

The following community sites -- plus PACIFICA EVENING NEWS and THE DIANE REHM SHOW -- updated:


  • Thursday, December 14, 2017

    Global warming


    There’s a theme lurking under the giant science meeting here along the Mississippi River: Extreme weather really is getting more extreme because of climate change.  The human influence on hurricanes and wildfires is increasingly obvious.  For years this has been a subject clouded in uncertainties.  But now scientists say they have hard numbers.
    Wednesday morning two independent research teams, one based in the Netherlands and the other in California, reported that the deluge from Hurricane Harvey was significantly heavier than it would have been before the era of human-caused global warming.  One paper put the best estimate of the increase in precipitation at 15 percent.  The other said climate change increased rainfall by 19 percent at least – with a best estimate of 38 percent.
    Meanwhile another team of scientists released a blockbuster report on extreme weather in 2016, saying that for the first time they could declare that three spate weather events – the weirdly warm “blob” of water off the Alaska coast, a heat wave in Asia and the record global warmth – would have been impossible without human-caused climate change.
    And I can remember when Our Lout and Screwup Barack was supposed to save us – the waters will rise – what was that crap in his 2008 DNC address?
    Instead, he brought us fracking.  And, as Joni Mitchell sings, “ripping off Indian land again, how long, how long, short sighted business greed.”
    That’s the actual theme of Barack Obama’s presidency, his true legacy “short sighted business greed.”
    We need to address global warming.
    But I doubt we will.

    We’ll probably make the planet inhabitable and the extremely rich will buy rides to Mars, the moon, etc. where they’ll try to live on colony outposts.

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

    Thursday, December 14, 2017.  Donald Trump and the War Powers Act are noted, Iraq carries out more executions, the British legal system issues a ruling regarding the treatment of Iraqis, and much more.

    Bill Van Auken (WSWS) notes:

    The Trump White House Monday issued a so-called “War Powers” letter addressed to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the president pro tempore of the Senate, Orin Hatch, to “keep the Congress informed about deployments of United States Armed Forces equipped for combat.”
    In 1973, against the backdrop of the debacle of the Vietnam War, the US Congress, overriding the veto of then-President Richard Nixon, passed the War Powers Act. The aim of the legislation was to prevent future presidents from waging undeclared and open-ended wars with little or no accountability to Congress, which under the US Constitution has the exclusive power to declare war.
    It gave the president the right to use military force at his discretion for up to 60 days—itself a huge concession of power to the executive branch—but required withdrawal after a total of 90 days if Congress failed to vote its approval of military action.
    While still on the books, the War Powers Act has long ago been turned into a dead letter by the quarter century of US wars of aggression that have followed the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union, all waged without a declaration of war by Congress.
    Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have willingly acquiesced in the de facto concentration of dictatorial power in the hands of the “commander in chief” in the all-important matter of the waging of foreign wars.
    The latest letter from the Trump administration, however, represents another qualitative step in this protracted degeneration of American democracy and the elimination of the last pretenses of civilian control over the military. Failing to even keep Congress “informed” about US combat deployments, the document, for the first time, omitted any information about the number of troops participating in Washington’s multiple wars and military interventions.

    While Trump hides the numbers of the deployed, Hayder al-Abadi flaunts a set of numbers.

    Apparently fearful that Iraq might lose its standing as a country with the most executions annually, the prime minister oversees a year-end blitz of executions.

    AFP reports, "Prison authorities in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah hanged 38 convicts on death row for offences today, a senior provincial council official said." Ahmed Rasheed (REUTERS) adds, "On Sept. 24, Iraq executed 42 Sunni Muslim militants on terrorism charges ranging from killing members of security forces to detonating car bombs."

    Those two execution dates along add up to 80.  In 2016, Amnesty International recorded 88 executions in Iraq.

    In the second half of this year, at least 31 more people have been sentenced to be executed.

    When the figures for 2017 are compiled, it is doubtful that the extra-judicial executions carried out by the Iraqi forces will be included in the official tally.

    Since the days of Nouri al-Maliki, many Sunnis have seen executions as Baghdad's way of eliminating the Sunni population.  This latest set of executions does not alter that belief.

    Osama al-Sharif (AL BAWABA) offers:

    The failure of the political establishment in addressing the rights of Sunnis and other minorities helped create so-called incubator environment for extremist groups such as [ISIS]. The fact that [ISIS] was able to recruit thousands of Iraqi Sunnis into its ranks will trouble the country for many years.
    Unless they succeed in reforming the political system in a way that allows all Iraqis to participate on the basis of citizenship, rather than ethnicity and sectarian identity, the country will continue to be torn from the inside. It is a tall order because those who are supposed to embrace these reforms are themselves a by-product of the same dysfunctional system.
    Abadi is facing challenges from within his own Dawa Party, primarily from former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki and other pro-Iran politicians. Tehran’s influence over the Baghdad government has increased following the establishment of the PMU, who were led by Iranian military advisers. In order to steer away from Iran, Abadi will have to join forces with former foes, such as Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr and others. How long he can maintain this balancing act remains to be seen.

    The clock strikes midnight and Cinderella's coach turns back into a pumpkin.  Why are we surprised?  The common goal of destroying ISIS is gone -- as everyone knew it would be -- and nothing has been done to repair the rifts in the country -- in fact, they've grown even wider.

    Here, we argued the 'training' (and bombing) Barack Obama began in August of 2014 would be worth nothing if a diplomatic surge didn't take place.

    It never did.

    Jane Patterson (RNZ) reports:

    Visiting American counter-terrorism expert Matthew Levitt is a senior fellow and director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
    He has had senior roles with the US Treasury, the FBI and the Department of State.

    Dr Levitt warns unless countries like New Zealand, Australia and the US put pressure on Iraq to give the minority Sunnis a voice in government, at the least, the "bad old movie" would be replayed.

    New Zealand has approximately 150 troops in Iraq and Australia's had over 300 (with a rotation of 300 due home for Christmas).

    In other news, the KRG has just completed work with the UN on raising awareness with regards to gender-based violence:

    . and partners conclude activities for the ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence’ campaign in Duhok Governorate.

    A big shout out from staff in & , in the Kurdistan Region of , working together to end sexual and gender-based violence.
    A big shout out from UNHCR staff in , in the Kurdistan Region of , working together to end sexual and gender-based violence.
    A big shout out from UNHCR staff in , in the Kurdistan Region of , working together to end sexual and gender-based violence.
    تحية من موظفي المفوضية السامية لشؤون اللاجئين فى ، في إقليم كردستان ، الذين يعملون معا لإنهاء العنف القائم على النوع الاجتماعى.
    تحية من موظفي السامية لشؤون اللاجئين فى ، في إقليم كردستان ، الذين يعملون معا لإنهاء العنف القائم على النوع الاجتماعى.
    تحية من موظفي السامية لشؤون اللاجئين فى ، في إقليم كردستان ، الذين يعملون معا لإنهاء العنف القائم على النوع الاجتماعى.

    Violence against women and girls goes on throughout the world.

    A hidden truth: new report documents widespread sexual violence by security forces against women & girls in this year's Kenya election

    "'Where is the evidence? How can we believe you?’ They told us we must have enjoyed the rape.” Women who reported sexual violence endured during ridiculed, verbally abused, and sent away by police, says

    Turning to England, ITV reports:

    Four Iraqi citizens have won High Court damages against the Ministry of Defence related to their treatment during the invasion of Iraq.
    Claims were brought alleging they were unlawfully imprisoned and ill-treated by British armed forces.

    A judge in London ruled they were entitled to compensation under the Human Rights Act, with one of the men being awarded more than £30,000.

    Ian Cobain (GUARDIAN) adds:

    British troops breached the Geneva conventions and subjected Iraqi civilians to cruel and inhuman treatment by hooding them and taking turns to run over their backs, the high court has ruled.
    Furthermore, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) breached the conventions as well as the 1998 Human Rights Act in the way in which it detained civilians after the 2003 invasion, the court concluded on Thursday.

    The judgment comes 10 days after the international criminal court (ICC) declared there was “a reasonable basis” to conclude that British troops committed war crimes against Iraqi detainees.

    The following community sites updated: