Dr. Margaret Flowers has an important column about Medicare For All:
The United States has reached a severe crisis point and the next few months will determine how we address it. The COVID-19 pandemic is raging across the country and some areas are struggling to provide enough hospital beds and staff to care for people. The recession is deepening as unemployment benefits and the moratorium on evictions run out. Yet, members of Congress cannot even agree to pass a weak version of the CARES Act they passed last March when the situation was less serious.
This is our moment. This is the time to make demands that the government take action to address the people’s needs. Even the most ‘progressive’ members in Congress have shown they are unwilling to do more than talk about the crisis. They refuse to use what little power they have to confront their leadership. It is up to us to bring the crisis to members of Congress and demand immediate action.
Bill Quigley provides some “tragic facts” about the crisis. Without Congressional action, 87 million workers will lose their sick leave, 30 million people will face eviction and 12 million people will lose their unemployment benefits by the end of the month. The student loan deferment is also set to expire.
Hunger and poverty are rising with 50 million people, including 1 in 4 children, lacking food security. The number of children who are homeless, 1.5 million, is at a record high. And fewer students are applying for college.
Unemployment, homelessness and hunger put people at risk of poor health and death from COVID-19 and other causes. It is all connected and there are obvious solutions to these crises. The problem is that Congress is refusing to act.
Sarah Lazare points out that Congress had no trouble approving a $740 billion budget for the Pentagon on December 2. She writes, “That we can find the money for war but not for coronavirus relief exposes the moral rot at the center of U.S. politics, a rot that must be dug out and expunged if we are to get through this crisis.”
This week, Congress agreed to a one week extension of funding to keep the government open and to give them more time to agree to a COVID-19 relief package. The package currently being discussed is much smaller, just over $900 billion, than the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed by the House last May. It would give $300/week in unemployment benefits for 18 weeks and extend the two pandemic unemployment programs, one that targets gig and self-employed workers and the other that extends unemployment benefits. It would provide some funding to small businesses and local and state governments as well as funding for vaccines and health care. It will also extend the eviction moratorium and student loan deferment, give funds to schools and increase food stamps. It will not provide direct payments to people.
We need to demand more and that our Congress stop serving the interests of everyone but We The People. From the column:
One demand that is getting a lot of attention is National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA). The Congressional Budge Office came out with a report this week that found NIMA would save $650 billion a year in administrative costs. If it included long term care, it would still save $300 billion. There is a NIMA bill in the House that is pretty good, HR 1384, introduced by Pramila Jayapal.
Jimmy Dore is calling on so-called progressive Democrats who champion NIMA to demand a vote on HR 1384, which has 115 co-sponsors, by threatening not to support Pelosi for Speaker of the House if she refuses. The Democrats will have a slim majority in the House next year, so even if as few as 15 members had the courage to do this, they could force a vote. This would expose whether the Democrats who have run on NIMA and won really mean it. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is the largest caucus in the House. They have the power to stop legislation, but to date, they have refused to use that power.
If there were ever a time to demand NIMA, it is now. At least 14 million more people have lost their health insurance this year, bringing us to similar numbers of uninsured people as there were in 2009 when the health reform process took place. But, sadly, it doesn’t look good. Even the “Squad” in Congress is refusing to go against Pelosi.
This needs to happen. We need to know who is on our side in this struggle and who is going to stab us in the back.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Wednesday, December 16, 2020. The US government destroyed the lives of girls and women in Iraq and the US government has done nothing to repair the damage.
"Identity politics.'' Some on the left keep hissing that. You wonder if they have a brain -- one capable of learning and expanding. No this or that woman brought into Joe Biden's administration is probably not going to do anything for the country just because of gender. The glass barrier has been broken regarding press secretaries and heads of cabinet -- and Kamala Harris just broke the glass ceiling on the vice president. That really just leaves the office of president. And that will be broken at some point. Conditions for women in the US are not great. But they are better than in many countries and there are role models -- good ones, not corporate whores -- for young girls throughout the country.
REPUBLIC WORLD notes:
The British ambassador in Iraq, Stephen Hickey, visited Najaf on Tuesday and affirmed his country's support for Iraq.
Hickey visited the holy city at the invitation of al-Rafidain Center for Dialogue, where he delivered a lecture on relations between Iraq and Britain.
During his visit, Hickey discussed with seniors officials ways to enhance relations between the two countries and assured Iraq of international financial support to conduct the elections next June.
Speaking during a news conference Hickey said: "I am sure there will be financial support via the United Nations to conduct these elections and it is important that there be monitoring by the United Nations of these elections."
Stephen Hickey is the UK ambassador to Iraq. All of UK's ambassadors to Iraq have been men. Does it matter? The same is true of the US.
The US destroyed the rights of women in Iraq. Iraqi women have had to fight for their rights and did so against the extremists that the US government backed. Ava and I met with members of Barack Obama's transition team in late November of 2008. We explained that (a) there are qualified women who can be the ambassador to Iraq -- we provided examples, including Ann Wright but also women who wouldn't be so 'controversial' to centrist Barack. We explained that (b) women's roles in Iraq had been reduced and that it would be a plus for Iraq if a woman had a powerful role. We got nods and agreement and, after each meeting, we'd look at each other and say, "They're not going to do a damn thing." And they didn't.
Barack did nothing. Ryan Crocker was in office when Barack was sworn in. Barack then nominated: Chris Hill, James Jeffrey, Brett McGurk, Robert S. Beecroft, Stuart E. Jones and Douglas Silliman. All but Brett McGurk was confirmed. We were lucky to have friends in the Senate, Democrats, who would say hell no to Brett. What is acceptable in the US doesn't help women in Iraq. Meaning, his being married and having affairs in Iraq, leaving his wife finally to marry a woman who left her husband? No, that man could not be an ambassador in the regressive and restrictive Iraq that the US government created. Any Iraqi woman visiting or working for the US Embassy in Iraq would have a target on her back. This is a country that has 'honor' killings -- where women are killed for various 'disgraces' -- like being raped, or marrying the 'wrong' man or whatever they've done that has offended the sensibilities of those who would rob women of every right that they have. These people stood up to Barack and he had to tell Brett that the post just wasn't going to be his.
But look at that list. In eight years, he nominated six people and all six were men. There were, in Barack's mind (Joe Biden's too), no women who could handle the duties of being an ambassador.
Now in the US, the net effect is that we just realize how stupid and sexist our leaders are.
But putting a woman in that position could have helped women and girls in Iraq. In Iraq, that isn't 'identity politics.' This is about providing a role model, this is about making men who aren't necessarly wanting to interact with women learn that they have to do so.
It would have made a difference.
If you're wondering, there were five other US ambassadors to Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. John Negroponte was the first, next came Zalmay Khalizad and then Ryan Crocker. Those were under Bully Boy Bush. We've covered the five Barack got confirmed (and six nominated). Donald Trump has had two if you count acting ambassador Joey R. Hood. He was replaced with Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller.
The US is responsible for the destruction of the rights of women in Iraq. So is the UK and Australia -- the three main leaders of the illegal war. Today, Australia's Ministry for Foreign Affairs issued the following:
Ambassador to Iraq
Today I announce the appointment of Ms Paula Ganly as Australia’s next Ambassador to Iraq.
Australia and Iraq have a long history of partnership and cooperation. We stood by Iraq during the Da’esh conflict and continue to work with the Government of Iraq to build a more stable and secure country.
Together with New Zealand, Australian Defence Force personnel have trained more than 47,000 Iraqi security force personnel since early 2015. We have assisted Iraq’s recovery through our $100 million humanitarian and stabilisation assistance package. Australia’s aid package focuses on assisting vulnerable Iraqis, particularly women, girls and people living with disabilities.
With more than 67,000 Australians born in Iraq, our personal ties are strong.
Ms Ganly is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and was most recently the Executive Director, Diplomatic Academy. Her career reflects a wealth of experience in diplomatic security, consular policy and ministerial support, having worked in DFAT and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
She has previously served overseas in London, Beijing, Hong Kong, Prague, Seoul, Dhaka and Caracas.
I thank outgoing Ambassador Joanne Loundes for her contributions to advancing Australia’s interests in Iraq since 2018.
\She will be Australia's ninth ambassador to Iraq since the start of the illegal war and the second women -- as the release notes, Joanne Loundes is who Ganly is replacing. Australia has now found two qualified women but the US can't find one.
UNAMI is the United Nations mission in Iraq. It is headed by the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative. There have been seven of them since the start of the illegal war. Only one, the current one, has been a woman. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert since November 1, 2018.
The US and UK have done nothing to make up for the hell they created for Iraqi women and girls. Let's remember that just a few years back, the Parliament was trying to pass a law to allow men -- grown men -- to marry girls as young as nine. Let's remember that they have 'trial marriages' that leave women with a scarlet letter but don't harm the man if the man opts out of the pretend marriage.
No woman could ever do worse as US Ambassador to Iraq than Chris Hill. And certainly, many, many women are immensely qualified for the post. And whomever is picked -- man or woman -- will only implement policy -- they won't make it. They might argue for or advocate for something but, in the end, they're just implementing policy. So why can't it be a woman?
And why hasn't the US government made a real effort to help women in Iraq.
Iraq, the land of widows and orphans. That's thanks to the US-led war.
The United States first used depleted uranium (DU) ammunition against Iraq during the Gulf War of 1990-1991, and then again during the 2003 invasion. According to available estimates, the US contaminated Iraq with at least 2,320 tonnes of the highly toxic substance, with DU affecting both American servicemen and Iraq’s civilian population.
Baghdad will be filing a case against the United States with European courts over Washington’s use of DU weapons, Iraq’s al-Maalomah News Agency has reported, citing Hatif al-Rikabi, an adviser to the Iraqi parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
Speaking to the news agency on Sunday, al-Rikabi indicated that he would be filing suits in courts in Sweden and Germany over alleged major US crimes, including the use of depleted uranium munitions.
That's damage caused by the US government. There is other damage the US government caused. MEMO reports:
Three separate simultaneous bombs targeted liquor stores west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, causing material damages, the Iraqi security media cell said.
The Iraqi Defence Ministry's Media Cell said in a statement that an unknown group calling itself Ahl Al-Ma'rouf targeted the stores on Monday night using improvised explosive devices or IEDs.
According to the statement, a fourth bomb attached to a civilian car has exploded in a neighbourhood in western Baghdad, causing material damage.
Local media circulated a statement issued by the group calling on the security forces deployed in the vicinity of liquor stores and nightclubs to withdraw from the areas ahead of the areas being targeted.
So three stores are no more. Probably stores run by Iraqi Christians since they were alcohol stores. The radical mob is back and ready to terrorize Iraq. How? The US didn't just coddle them, it put their people in charge. Nouri al-Maliki, forever thug and former prime minister. That was due to the US and he's part of the thuggery (and the corruption).
Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) provides context on the latest bombing:
Six days earlier, Iraqi security forces dismantled an explosive device near a liquor store in the upscale district of al-Mansour, which is located far from the influence of armed groups.
A group calling itself People of the Good issued a statement on Dec. 14, calling on Iraqi security forces to stay away from liquor shops. "After the number of security forces increased to protect these stores, we call on them to move away from them, because we will continue targeting them until the land of Baghdad is cleared of their filth," the group said.
People of the Good is one of the unknown groups that appeared recently; it is widely believed to be affiliated with Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah.
Prior to his death on Tuesday, Al-Iraqi urged the Iraqi people to not sit down and watch injustice. “The free die, while the cowards rule,” he said in a Facebook post.
Social media videos show Al-Iraqi’s coffin being carried by a crowd of mourning and chanting protestors.
Al-Iraqi is not the first activist involved in the protests to be assassinated.
Nearly 560 protesters and security force members have been killed since October 2019, according to data provided in July by Hisham Dawoud, advisor to Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
Iraqi security analyst and Rudaw columnist Husham al-Hashimi was assassinated in July by unknown armed groups in Baghdad, with many accusing Iran-backed militias of being behind his death. Despite Kadhimi’s promise to hunt down the killers, no one has been arrested over his death.
Two high-profile activists in Basra were brazenly killed in the span of a single week in August.
Back to a previous topic, Tahsin Qasim (RUDAW) reports:
A hundred Shingal (Sinjar) women will become police as part of the
recent Erbil-Baghdad security and administration agreement for the
disputed area, according to Shingal mayor Mahma Khalil.
As part of the deal’s new armed force to be created from the local population, Yazidi women in Shingal will serve as police for the first time ever.
“I have registered my name for the Shingal police force. It has been my dream to hold a gun someday, to defend my country, and become police,” Halaa Jardo, an applicant to the new force.
Many of those expected to take up the role survived horrors under the Islamic State (ISIS).
That is good news but the KRG region has always led on this issue. Both the Barzanis and Talibanis, for example, have had strong women in prominent roles. Those are the two political dynasties in Iraq.
Iraq's ceremonial president Barham Salih Tweeted the following a few days ago:
He is also a Kurd. The Kurds have led on this issue and we've noted this. But where is the US? Something as simple as naming a woman to be ambassador to Iraq is just too much for our so-called leaders.
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