Friday, October 30, 2009

Rice cookerin the Kitchen

Rice Cooker.

There are many things that make life easier in the kitchen but one of them is a rice cooker.

Now you can buy boil in rice (bags) and usually have a fairly easy time.

But a rice cooker allows you to make rice with no fuss and no fears of it burning.

How it works?

You have a measuring cup that you fill with rice and you can then rinse your rice (I do but my next door neighbor Cheryl doesn't and her rice tastes just the same as mine) to remove any film and foam. Then you use the measuring cup to add water. You can add an oil substance or not after. You put the lid on and you press the cook lever. When it's done cooking, it automatically goes into warm mode. You won't burn it. I've had to delay dinner for up to an hour before and had the rice cooker on warm the entire time.

It makes cooking rice so simple. The only thing easier is when you cook rice (with a meat) in the oven.

With a rice cooker, you can focus on stir-fry in the skillet and not worry about the rice, you can focus on any number of things. The rice cooker is really the easiest thing in my kitchen. Not even the blender or the mixer is as easy.

There are many times when I'll eat rice by itself (I do brown rice if it's just for me -- if it's for others, I do white rice) as a snack or light lunch so the rice cooker really comes in handy.

If you're someone who cooks rice or would love cooked rice but hate cooking it and all the fuss to do so on the stove top, a rice cooker really is a wonderful thing to add to the kitchen.

In most drugs stores, on the appliance aisle, you can find a small rice cooker (makes three cups of rice) for less than ten dollars. You can buy a bigger one (we have a big one and a small one-- remember, I've got a big family) but a little one is fine. I use the little one if I'm just making rice for me.

My husband loves to grill some meat and vegetables and use that as a topping for some rice. If he's wanting to cook, I'm thrilled and he'll tell you, he will not cook rice -- even in the boil in the bag -- unless he's using a rice cooker. It's just too messy and frustrating for him any other way.

Okay, time for Liz Peek. This is from her latest column, "Grandiosity, Not Common Sense, Drives Health-Care Bill" (wowOwow):

If you’re wondering where our $787 billion went, visit the website. The quick answer is … nowhere. Out of the entire program, only $173.2 billion has been paid out. Of the $14 billion in federal contracts awarded so far, for example, only a little over $2 billion has been received. There are some terrific projects that have received funding, though. My particular favorite is the $219,000 spent on a study of the sex lives of freshmen women at Syracuse University. You might prefer the "Week Mapping Radioactive Rabbit Feces With Detectors Mounted on a Helicopter Flying 50 Feet Over the Desert Scrub," which cost $300,000. If you’re a golfer, you’re probably thrilled with the $5,500 tax credit being applied to the purchases of golf carts.

Some of these projects make me chuckle, but the failure to create jobs for Americans is no laughing matter. A story in today’s Financial Times points out that "more than 8 out of 10 U.S. stimulus dollars spent on wind energy farms have gone to foreign companies." Cash that has gone to wind farms has funded 4,500 jobs overseas. Oops.

Well, after all, it’s the government, and no one expects perfection, or timeliness, or accountability. Then why in heaven’s name are we about to allow the government to interfere in our health care? It is inconceivable to me that Democrat leaders in the House and Senate and the Obama administration are bulling ahead with health-care legislation that Americans do not want, that we cannot afford and that is likely to detract seriously from the most pressing issue before us: putting people back to work.

Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and President Obama have reinvigorated the so-called "public option" based primarily on a couple of recent polls that say that Americans favor a government-run insurance program. Everyone should look up the actual WSJ/NBC poll that supposedly "green lighted" the public option. Early on, respondents are asked if the country is headed in the right direction. Over half (52%) say no, up from 43% in April. The sixth question asks people whether they approve (43%) or disapprove (48%) of the way Obama is handling health-care reform. In answering question No. 10, 48% of those surveyed say the government is doing too many things, while 46% say it is not doing enough. Responding to question 26, 42% said they think the president’s health plan is a bad idea, versus 38% who think it is a good idea, and in the follow-up 40% think that the legislation will make their health care worse (vs. 21% who think it will get better) and 47% think the cost will go up, while 13% think it will go down. Does this group sound enthusiastic about more government involvement?

I really enjoy Liz Peek's columns. We disagree re: government run insurance. But I see her pont and, in terms of the 'public option,' happen to agree with her.

I fully support single-payer but that's not the embarrassing 'public option.' Americans are about to get screwed big time and I'm glad we've got at least one economist who will sound the alarms.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

Friday, October 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, no movement on an election law, a new attack on press freedoms in Iraq, nepotisim is an ugly thing, and more.
Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier died, Oct. 30, of non-combat related injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of the service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website [. . .] The announcements are made on the Website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." And they announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE, Iraq -- A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Division - South died of non-combat related injury October 30. [. . .] The incident is under investigation." The announcements bring the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4355.
On the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show, Iraq was addressed by guest host Frank Senso, NPR's Tom Gjelten, CNN's Elise Labott and McClatchy Newspapers' Jonathan Landay.
Frank Senso: To Iraq now, and in a few minutes, to our phone calls, to bring our audience into this and any other conversation that they may want to have with respect to what's going on in the world. But in Iraq discussions amidst ongoing, violence, intensifying violence in some cases, about trying to fix the national election law because that is what is looming large. Jonathan Landay, what's the landscape look like right now?
Jonathan S. Landay: Well they've tried for a third time to pass an election law in time for the January elections and they've failed again. The issue -- there are a number of issues, but the main issue has to do with the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq and uh a city that sits atop billions of gallons of untapped oil. Uh, the issue has to do with the -- what census is going to be used to register voters there. Now this is a city that the Kurds -- now this is right now a predominately Kurdish city. It was, the Kurds say, a predominately Kurdish city before the reign of Saddam Hussein who ethically [ethnically] cleansed Kurds out of the city and brought in Arabs. The issue is, do you -- since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds have been restoring their majority in that city and, indeed, other ethnic groups claim over uh restoring their majority, bringing in more Kurds than there had been before. The Kurds want voter registration to be based on the most recent census, I think it was in fact, done this year. The Sunni Arabs and other ethnic groups there -- the Turkomen for instance -- want the voter registration based on the 2004 census and they have not been able to come to an agreement on this and this has hung up the passage of this law and what it really -- and what it really comes down to it appears is contol over that massive amount of untapped petroleum.
Frank Senso: And yet this-this-this dispute, this stand off over the election law comes just after this Sunday terrible bombing in Baghdad, the worst in two years killing more than 150, wounding hundreds more, severely damaging three major government buildings now there's been an arrest of some 50 odd security and there was some suggestion that this intensifying violence might drive the politicians to nail down this election law and drive those to some kind of political, if not resolution, progress. Tom?
Tom Gjelten: Well it seems, Frank, that the Iranians, I mean the Iraqis, have become so inured to this kind of violence that just sort of everything proceeds normally and that's true I think in both a good sense and a bad sense. In a good sense, there has been this move towards stability and peace in Iraq and Iraq's been filling more confident about their future and they seem amazingly enough to have taken this bombing in stride in a sense. I mean there have been other bombings --
Frank Sesno: It's almost unimaginable, isn't it?
Tom Gjelten: It's almost unaimaginable. But they have -- this is six years that they've been through this and they seem to be able to cope with these great tragedies. On the other hand, the negative side is that, as you say, you know, you would -- you would hope that this would jolt them into sort of some reality but, again, they become so used to this that they just proceed with the same stalemate.

Frank Sesno: What's behind the uptick in violence, Elise?
Elise Labott: Well, we saw -- first we saw an uptick in violence in August and there were also some massive bombings at the Foreign Ministry, at the Finance Ministry and this seemed to be kind of a way to sew sectarian tensions once again and they thought that maybe this would lead Iraq down the path it was in 2006, 2007 with major sectarian tensions. Now what officials says is they think that these foreign fighters are [or?] the real hard core al Qaeda in Iraq are trying just at anything, they tried at religious targets, now they're just trying at softer targets to kill a lot of people. They think maybe it can effect the election in January. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been running as the security candidate. He's the one that's bringing stability to Iraq, he's the one that got US forces out of the city. The question is now is this going to effect his standing as the security candidate.
Jonathan S. Landay: There may be also something else going on here. The more instability, I think perhaps the insurgen -- whoever is behind these bombings create, in their mind, it delays perhaps the departure of American forces and what do you get from that? Well you get a delay or perhaps problems coming up with additional American forces to send to Afghanistan and there may very well be that thinking going on on the part of those who are responsible for these massive bombings.
On the above. Jonathan S. Landay used the term census. That is incorrect. There has been no census. The issue, which McClatchy's Sarah Issa and Hannah Allem and which the New York Times' Timothy Williams have outlines, is where the voting rolls for 2009 or the voting rolls for 2004 will be used. There has been no census. "Census" is a concrete term. And, in fact, a census in Kirkuk is mandated -- as is a referendum -- by Iraq's 2005 Constitution. No census has been conducted. This is not a minor issue and it goes to the dispute over Kirkuk. "Census" was the wrong term to use. There is NO census thus far.
That's (A). (B) Tom Gjelten. What the ___ was that? I'm reminded of when Goodtime Gals Linda Robinson and Gwen Ifill decided to discuss Blackwater's September 17, 2007 slaughter (see the October 8, 2007 snapshot) -- a discussion noteable for its appalling ignorance and gross lack of concern for human life. Gjelten can argue that some of his remarks were intended to be about officials. But he can only argue that about some of his remarks. And what exactly does he want Iraqis to do? They're shell shocked and just because he hasn't reported on the multitude of studies, THE MULTITUDE OF STUDIES, on the effects this illegal war has had on Iraqi children doesn't mean the damage isn't real and doesn't exist. So his happy talk bulls**t was embarrassing. That was really a shameful moment for NPR. The 'good' and the 'bad' of the bombings? How appalling. What made it worse for NPR was that it wasn't a guest from, for example, NBC News. It was an NPR reporter. That's shameful. The good and the bad of bombings? Pay attention, Tommy.
Our children are surrounded by violnce. Most of them are traumatized. I call them the silent victims. Our Iraqi childeren are the silent vctims.
From January to March of last year, the World Health Organization worked with Iraqi psychiatrists on a series of studies on the mental health of children in the cities of Baghdad, Mosul and Dohuk. (Watch the effects of war on children Video)
One of the studies on primary-school-age children in Baghdad found that nearly half of the 600 children surveyed had experienced a major traumatic event since the war began. Just over one in every 10 suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, the study found.
Another of the studies found that older children in Mosul suffered even worse. Thirty percent of the 1,090 children surveyed showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Nearly all of those with PTSD symptoms, 92 percent, had not received any treatment, according to the study.
In fact, the doctors aren't immune to the dangers of the conflict. Fifty percent of Iraq's psychiatrists have fled the country or been killed since the war began, said Dr. Naeema Al-Gasseer, the WHO's representative for Iraq.
A month after CNN filed that report, NPR's Linda Wertheimer spoke with Dr. Mohammed al-Aboudi about the mental stress Iraqi children were under. Now we can go through various reports and studies. We can enlarge and look at other segments of the country's population. But the above alone demonstrates how offensive Tom's statements are. The population is shell shocked and the illegal war has caused that trauma. The bombings that he thinks have good and bad are the same violence responsible for creating the world's largest refugee crisis. And the UN has already advised that Sunday's bombings will most likely results in Syria and Jordan receiving some additional Iraqi refugees. I'm not seeing any "good and bad" to the bombings. And Tom's statements were inarticulate and offensive. Frank Senso did a fine job this week filling in for Diane but had Diane been present, she probably would have said something. She generally does when gas baggery replaces discussion -- when human beings are removed from the issue, she generally brings them back into the picture even if it means she has to disagree with a guest. (She did that most recently with a guest gas bagging -- and glorifying -- the drone strikes in Pakistan when she made a point to note the civilian deaths the man was dismissing.) Tom's statements were offensive and it's only more so because he works for NPR. He declared that "you would hope that this would jolt them into sort of some reality" -- Tom, we'd hope the reality of the violence in Iraq and the fact that it is an inhabited country would jolt you into some sort of reality but there's no evidence, as yet, that it has.
Let's break that up for a moment to note this:
What are the lessons of Iraq that I carry with me? The cultures are as different as mountains and desert, and for outsiders, there is a familiar struggle to see the place as it truly is, not as we might wish it would be. Back in 2003, the Americans wanted to believe that an age of brotherhood and integration, loosed by American military might, had come to Iraq. Many Iraqis wanted to believe it, too. Thinking too much about the depth of distrust, long latent between sects and ethnicities, would mean acknowledging that a frenzy of violence waited in the wings. They swept into the desert sands the centuries-long struggle of Sunnis and Shiites for dominance in the fertile river basin between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. It was as if officials thought that perhaps by saying they were brothers, they would become them.
Back to NPR, (C) Jonathan S. Landay and Elise Labott's speculation -- presented as such with Labott making clear she was referring to what officials were stating. It's a shame that more time wasn't spent on that. No one knows why the bombings are taking place (other than due to the ongoing, illegal war). Could they be to influence the elections? Possibly. Could they be to harm Nouri al-Maliki? Possibly. But it's equally true that the message can be sent throughout Iraq. The August 9th bombing just outside Mosul, for example, was deadly (at least 35 dead) and it received huge attention within Iraq and outside of it. Why target only Baghdad if the issue is just the elections? It's not as if only residents of Baghdad will be voting. Equally true is that there are other areas that should be easier to attack than the region targeted on Sunday. So why those targets?
We noted the arrests Nouri ordered in yesterday's snapshot. Heyetnet reports:

Puppet government police forces arrested three people claimed to be wanted in al Hadbaa area of eastern Mosul.

In al Furat area of Baghdad, continous arrest and raid campaigns perpetrated by government army forces led indiscriminate arrests of dozens. Eyewitnesses said that aforementioned forces used sectarian and irritating slogans beating civilians. During the arrest campaigns the area was monitored by American occupation forces.

On the other hand, government police and army forces arrested eight civilians in various areas of Diyala Province.

In Basra, government police forces arrested 20 people in raid and search campaign alleged to be wanted.

In Tuzkharmotu of Saladin Province, government police forces arrested three civilians who were beaten, insulted and irritated.

In Latifiya of southern Baghdad, sectarian government army forces arrested seven civilians in raid and search attacks.

Today Deng Shasha (Xinhua) reports that Iraq's Sunni vice president (Iraq has two vice presidents -- one Sunni, one Shia) Tariq al-Hashimi has "called on an evaluation of running the security dossier after Sunday's bloody suicide bombings that claimed the lives of 155 Iraqis." Meanwhile Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that today saw many clerics using the sermons to call out "Iraqi authorities" and quotes Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai stating, "With insurgents having repeated the same bombings, with the same style and in the same secure area, we have to review the security plan that has been implemented in Baghdad" while Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani declared, "I demand immediate and urgent checks for the reasons that led to teh bombings." Nouri's government rsponse has been to attack Syria (naturally) and to attack the press (ibid). On the latter, Azzaman reports he has "banned movement by press vehicles with equipment to broadcast live. [. . . ] The order has been issued by the military command of Baghdad operations which specificially denies television broadcasters the right of live coverage."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left four people injured and a Mosul sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer.
Reuters drops back to Thursday and notes that 3 police officers were shot dead and another injured at a Mosul police checkpoint.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul while 1 police officer -- who may or may not have been part of the investigation into Sunday's bombings -- was discovered dead (from a shooting) in his Baghdad office.

Violence was kind-of, sort-of an issue yesterday in the US House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The hearing was about IEDs and the money spent on studying them. The Pentagon's James Schear and Lt Gen Thomas Metz as well as the GAO's William Solis were the witnesses, Vic Snyder is the Subcomittee Chair.
Subcommittee Chair Vic Snyder: IEDs remain the number one cause of casulities to coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although IEDs are not a new threat, they have been used with unprecedented frequency in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the decrease in successful attacks in Iraq is encouraging, that success has not been replicated in Afghanistan which has seen an increase in success in fatality attacks with our increase in forces there. Since former CENTCOM commander General [John] Abizaid called for a Manhattan Project like effort 5 years ago to defeat IEDs, Congress has provided nearly $17 billion to DoD's efforts. This effort has grown from a twelve-man army task force to the Jointed IED Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, which currently employs a staff of about 3600 dedicated government, military and contract personnel.
Lt Gen Thomas F. Metz declared, "What's really different in the two theaters is that over time in Iraq, as we were experiencing 1500, 2500 IEDs a month -- and finding and clearing half of them, we were gaining an enormous amount of forensics and biometrics information. We use that in the COIC [Counter-IED Operations Integration Center] to our advantage It is our asymetric advantage."
US House Rep Duncan Hunter noted a lack of mobilization. He referred to NPR's report on IEDs this week and how, despite all the money being spent, it was human beings noting, for example, "that corpse wasn't there yesterday" and guessing that it appeared to hide an IED. He noted that Marines in Afghanistan report they have only rarely seen predator drones and that instead they rely on "hand held mine sweepers -- a version of which people use on the beach to find coins." He also showed a child's innocence or foolilshness as he lived in a world where only the 'guilty' were killed.
US House Rep Duncan Hunter: This doesn't make me feel comfortable that we are truly doing everything that we can right now. Once-once more, if Secretary Gates said, "No more IEDs to be buried" -- I understand that there are tons in Afghanistan and they can be turned on like that at any point in time. But we could do that. We could stop IEDs from being buried if we mobilize to do it. And -- and if we want to politically about this war too -- it would fall off the map if nobody was dying. Iraq's not in the paper anymore because nobody's dying. One reason is we've knocked off IEDs, huge in 2007 and 2008, with [Gen William] Odum by killing over 3,000 IED placers. Project Odom with IEDS killed more people than every single other person in Iraq put together -- with all the offensive operations, Odom killed more and they were all bad guys -- not one single civilian, they were all inputting IEDs.
"Not one single civilian." Just "bad guys." Because a drone is judge and jury. So if a drone says it's "bad guys" that's all the proof Duncan Hunter needs. (And, to clarify, this is Duncan Hunter the younger, the 32-year-old elected to his father's seat. Still wet behind the ears and with a child's wide-eyes, he needs correcting, not the blanket approval Snyder gave him when Snyder followed Hunter. And someone might have bothered to inform Hunter that, despite his claims that "nobody's dying" in Iraq, Iraq saw at least 155 people die on Sunday alone. "Nobody's dying"? That didn't require a correction? Did he mean no US service members? If so, even that's wrong because there are 8 announced dead in Iraq so far this month -- granted 2 of them were announced today so, at the time of the hearing, only 6 had been announced. And it's a good thing to Duncan Hunter that the news media walked away from Iraq? Really? (Hunter is a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, FYI.) Congress had time for that nonsense yesterday. Not for anything important, but they had time for that.
Related, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Martin Smith looks into the educational benefits scandal and reports (US Socialist Worker) on various people who have suffered and are suffering:
Politicians always clamor that we have to "support our troops" and take care of our veterans first. The White House Web site quotes Obama's proclamation that "we...owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned."
But the VA's latest failure to deliver on educational benefits--coming just a few years after the scandal of VA health care negligence at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.--leaves these lofty assertions sounding like just another example of the politicians' empty rhetoric.
And given Obama's increasingly clear record of impressive speeches followed by little action, some veterans are calling his administration "the audacity of nope."
While the veterans at the VA office in Chicago expressed relief at finally receiving their first check, the bitterness persists. Bureaucratic red tape and mismanagement always holds up money and benefits for veterans, but there always seems to be an abundant supply of cash for bank bailouts, the "cash for clunkers" program to help U.S. automakers, a failed Olympic bid for the city of Chicago, or a bloated Pentagon budget.
How is that related? One damn hearing. That's all the Congress is going to hold on that scandal? Really? One damn hearing. They fawned over VA Secretary Eric Shinseki October 14th -- even when he admitted that the VA knew before he became the Secretary (and that he found out as soon as he became the Secretary) that they wouldn't be able to implement the benefit checks in a timely manner. They acted like smiling zombies. October 15th, when he was present, they were suddenly concerned for their one and only hearing thus far into the scandal. That's disgusting. That effected so many veterans and it got so little attention from Congress. Most importantly, it's still not 'fixed.' Read Martin Smith's report. But Congress has other things to do and, point of fact, the Senate held no hearings on the issue. Want to explain how that happened?
Staying on the topic of veterans issues and dropping back to the October 21st snapshot:

Meanwhile Lauren DeFranco (WABC -- link has text and video) reports Christal Wagenhauser gave birth to a two month premature daughter and she and the family want Cpl [Keith] Wagenhouser -- currently stationed in Iraq -- home to see the baby: "If the baby's condition deteriorates, it would take Wagenhauser a week to get home. At that point, it would be too late."

Jennifer Logan (CBS) reports that Keith Wagenhauser was finally given time to visit his family and arrived in New York yesterday and explains: "In an incubator adorned with her father's military photo, Madison, born by life-saving caesarean section, weighing just 2-pounds 11-ounces is being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit of Stony Brook University Medical Center. Initially, marine brass explained that emergency leave is granted only in cases of imminent or actual death in their immediate family and that Madison's condition was not sufficiently life threatening enough to grant an exception." So while the military brass did the right thing, what's the hold up with the US Congress when it comes to the latest (known) threat to deport the spouse of a veteran?
Iraq War veteran Jack Barrios would probably love some downtime with his family but the government keeps creating problems as LA's KABC reports (link has text and video):

Subha Ravindhran: [. . .] Frances Barrios considers herself an American. She grew up and went to high school here in Van Nuys but for the past 17 years, she's been living in this country illegally. Now she and her husband, an Iraq War veteran, must deal with the consequences. 26-year-old Army Specialist Jack Barrios can barely talk about the time he served in Iraq.

Jack Barrios: I'll skip that.

Subha Ravindhran: You don't want to talk about that.

Jack Barrios: Yeah.

Subha Ravindhran: But what he can speak about is the battle his family is going through now. His wife, 23-year-old Frances, is facing deporation back to Guatemala -- a country she left when she was just six-years-old.

Jack Barrios: I'm pretty sad and angry that we will get separated.

Subha Ravindhran: Not only will three-year-old Matthew and one-year-old Allanna be separated from their mother, but Jack will also lose his main caretaker. Since he returned from Iraq in 2007, he's been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Frances Barrios: He was an outgoing person, you could say. He used to like being outside with his friends and just, you know, having a good time. When he came back, like I said, he shut down. It wasn't him.

Subha Ravindhran: Their attorney Jessica Dominguez says the chances of keeping Frances here are slim.

Jessica Dominguez: It's just mind boggling to try to understand that in a situation like this, Mr. Barrios cannot be assured that his family is going to stay together because immigration laws do not protect the sanctity of his family at this point.
The US government wants to deport her. (She's from Guatemala originally, entered the US with her mother when she was just six-years-old.) As offensive as that is -- and it's really offensive -- it's also economically stupid because Jack suffers from PTSD. The US government is going to provide him a caretaker who will do all that Frances currently does? Really? Teresa Watanabe (Los Angeles Times) reported earlier this week:

But as he undergoes counseling and swallows anti-depressants, the soldier is fighting an even bigger battle: to keep his family from collapsing as his wife, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, faces deportation.
His wife, 23-year-old Frances, was illegally brought to the United States by her mother at age 6, learned of her status in high school and discovered just last year that removal proceedings have been started. Her possible deportation has left Barrios in panic as he contemplates life without her.
The Army reservist says his wife is the family's anchor, caring for their year-old daughter and 3-year-old son and helping him battle his post-traumatic stress.
"She's my everything," Barrios said as he sat glumly in the family's sparsely furnished but tidy Van Nuys apartment. "Without her, I can't function. It would be like taking away a part of my soul."
Hundreds of U.S. soldiers are facing the same trouble as they fight to legalize their spouses' status, a difficult process that has affected their military readiness, according to Margaret Stock, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves and an immigration attorney specializing in military cases.
Turning to the issue of contracting, Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reports on the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction's latest report which finds that Aecom Government Services which "supplied vehicle parts for the Iraqi army sought reimbursements from the U.S. military far in excess of the costs of the items". Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor -- link has text and audio) reports that the report finds that KBR is not recycling in their catering facilities despite the contract stating they would.
Dropping back to the October 21st snapshot, "In the US yesterday, a twenty-year-old Iraqi woman was run over along with her 43-year-old friend. James King (Phoenix News) reports that police are looking for the twenty-year-old's father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, whom they supsect of running the two women down and that the alleged motive is that the daughter was 'becoming too westernized.' Katie Fisher (ABC 15 -- link has text and video) reports the 20-year-old woman is Noor Faleh Almaleki and her 43-year-old friend is Amal Edan Khalaf and the friend is also the mother of the twenty-year-old's boyfriend." CNN reports he was arrested yesterday in Atlanta -- after he had gone to Mexico, flown to London where British officials refuse him admittance in England, and returned to the US. CNN states his daughter is still in the hospital and "unresponsive" to treatment thus far. Sarah Netter (ABC News -- link has text and video) reports on the apparent attempted honor killing and notes that Noor's status as "life-threatening condition".
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings for times and for other dates if it doesn't air on your PBS station tonight):

Home to a worldwide summit on climate change in early December, Denmark is setting a global example in creating clean power, storing it, and using it responsibly. Their reliance on wind power to produce electricity without contributing to global warming is well known, but now they're looking to drive the point home with electric cars. To do this, they've partnered with social entrepreneur Shai Agassi and his company Better Place.
This week, NOW investigates how the Danish government and Better Place are working together to put electric cars into the hands of as many Danish families as possible. The idea is still having trouble getting out of the garage here in America, but Denmark could be an inspiration.
Will so much green enthusiasm bring about a "Copenhagen Protocol"?

Washington Week also begins airing tonight on many PBS stations and sitting around the table with Gwen this week are Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), John Dickerson (Slate and CBS News), Marilyn Serafini (National Journal) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

H1N1 Vaccine
Scott Pelley reports on the manufacture, distribution and safety of the H1N1 flu vaccine. | Watch Video

How does a foreigner jump the line in America for a life-saving liver transplant? It might be because he is a high-ranking member of Japan's mafia, known as the Yakuza, whose criminal influence is worldwide. Lara Logan reports.

The Movie Pirates
They are the bane of Hollywood: criminals who copy films - sometimes before the movies even reach the theater - and distribute them illegally on the Internet, costing Hollywood billions in lost revenue. Lesley Stahl reports.

60 Minutes, this Sunday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The health insurance swindle

Okay, from Dennis Kucinich's campaign:

Dennis Kucinich -

What Do We Stand For: Insurance Companies Or The People?

Click here to view video

Click here to view video.

Dear Friends,

On MSNBC,The Ed Shultz Show (October 28) Congressman Kucinich stated: It's time to re-double our efforts to insist on a robust public option, that is the least we can do since the single-payer option has been taken out of the bill, leaving negotiated rates, a trigger - capitulating to insurance companies. Without a robust public option the poor will pay more, the government will pay more, ending up in a larger bailout to the insurance industry.
Your contribution will empower our efforts to fight for the single-payer, not for profit health care bill, H.R. 676.

Congressman Kucinich continued: We can't sway from our responsibilities as members of Congress who have pledged to deliver health care to the American people and we must ensure that it is health care and not insurance care. We have to make sure the American people know that we want everyone covered with the best possible plan. Frankly, we are selling ourselves short by not going forward with a robust public option. We must make sure the insurance companies are not going to raid the American taxpayer's coffers.

Please contribute $25, $50, $100 to continue support for single-payer health care.
Please contribute now.

Thank you.

The Re-Elect Congressman Kucinich Committee

Does anyone foolishly believe that what's being trumpeted today is going to do a damn thing to help anyone?

I wish the 'believers' had moved to my state two years ago. This is a fraud and fake, just like what we have here. 'Universal' coverage means everyone buys it or they face steep fines. That's reality. And it forced us all to begin customers of the insurance companies. It's very rare that a corporation gets a bulging market handed over to them and even rarer that the market has to take the product at the risk of a fine.

As usual, we lose out as citizens and as consumers. As citizens, our rights are weakened anytime they are trampled (forcing people to buy insurance is trampling on their rights). As consumers, Barack did nothing to protect our pocketbooks. There is nothing that will lower prices.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Thursday:

Thursday, October 29, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, the Iraqi refugee crisis continues, problems with the public inquiry into the Iraq War the UK government plans to hold, no election law passed by the Iraqi Parliament, and more.

Today the US military announced: "JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – A Soldier who was currently assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) died Wednesday of a non-combat related injury at Camp Adder, Iraq. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq to 4353.

Meanwhile Sunday's Baghdad bombings have pretty much erased the August Baghdad bombings ("Bloody Wednesday," "Black Wednesday," "Gory Wednesday," "Iraq's 9-11," etc.). Press TV reports, "Iraq has arrested some 60 security forces over the weekend twin bombings which targeted government buildings in Baghdad, killing up to 153 people." The Sentinel states the 60 were compoes of "11 army officers and 50 security officials". Xinhua adds, "The arrested were in charge of providing security for a downtown Baghdad district which was hit by the deadly suicide attacks that targeted government buildings, Major General Qassim Atta said." BBC News notes, "The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says it is not clear whether those arrested are accused of negligence or collusion. However, he added, it seems to confirm what many people have suspected - that the security forces are susceptible to infiltration by insurgents or are just not up to the job." Reuters reports Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesperson for Baghdad security, "said that officers, foot soldiers and police in areas where attacks happen would be arrested in the future and placed under investigation." Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds, Baghdad Governor "Abdul Razzaq said security forces made mistakes and were negligent in their work, and he demanded a court-martial for those who allowed explosive-laden vehicles to get through checkpoints." Karadsheh also notes the number arrested is 61. Timothy Williams and Mohammed Hussein (New York Times) explain, "The statement Thursday that announced the arrest order came from Baghad Operations Command, which is responsible for security in the capital and reports directly to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The statement did not offer any further details, so it remained unclear whether the 61 security force members were suspected of having adied those who carried out the attacks."

The death toll for the Sunday bombings is at least 155 and does include children. Mohammed Jamjoom (CNN) reports:

The force of the blast threw Rawnaq against the wall of her office at the Ministry of Justice. She instantly thought of her two children in the day care center just two floors below.
"I rushed downstairs and found all the children under the rubble," says Rawnaq, "My daughter Tabarak was standing near the stairs. My son Hamoodi outside. Me and a colleague took them out, running. A police car drove us to the hospital."
Both children were injured, 3-year-old Tabarak much more so than her 2-year-old brother. Severe head and back injuries have left the little girl needing extensive surgery and unable to sleep due to unceasing pain. She is also deeply afraid.

Back in August, the day before Bloody Wednesday, Iraqi Thug and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in Syria where he was demanding that nearly 200 Iraqis be handed over to Iraq. It was all like a bad acid flashback since Nouri spent years in Syria and the Syrians refused to turn him over at the whims of Saddam Hussein. Nouri was grateful back then, now he's just a raging drama queen. Bloody Wednesday came the next day and Nouri immediately blamed the bombings on Syria. He and his spokespeople and cabinet would sometimes say that it was former Ba'athists in Syria. Sometimes. Mainly they would rail against Syria. That hasn't ceased all this time later. Phil Sands (Le Monde) offers today that "Syria is perhaps the only country in the Arab middle east that can truly claim to be independent from the US, and Damascus remains a thorn in the side of American regional ambitions. [. . .] In the post-Saddam Hussein world, the Iraqi government is jealous of its sovereignty, an independence that goes only as deep as the presence of more than 100,000 American soldiers on Iraqi soil allows. There is little sign a planned pull-out will be complete." Syria has a huge number of Iraqi refugees and we'll turn now to the topic of Iraqi refugees. Joseph A. Kechichian (Gulf News) explains:

According to the International Organisation on Migration, there are still 1.6 million internally displaced Iraqis who cannot "return home". Many are trying to survive "without work, their own home, schooling for children, access to water, electricity and health care". These refugees are Iraqi citizens who are not represented in government but whose fates will probably determine whether the pool from which opposition forces can recruit bombers will shrink. As it is widely recognised, remnants of the Baath party or any number of the security services created by the old regime are still active, even if Baghdad and its allies continue to hearken to Al Qaida.

The United Nations' World Food Program has launched "a pilot project in Damascus" in which food vouchers are distributed "in the form of mobile phone text messages to Iraqi refugees. [. . .] Around one thousand families are involved in the four-month pilot phase, which will be extended if it is successful. The project has been developed in cooperation with the Syrian government, enabling the refugees to redeem their vouches in state-run stores in the Jaramana and Sayeda Zeinab neighourhoods of Damascus. The mobile phone service provider MTN has donated SIM cards for the project." Cassandra Vinograd (Wall St. Journal) reported Tuesday, "In the WFP program, each family will receive one $22 voucher per person every two months. After each transaction, families will receive an updated balance, also sent by SMS to their mobile numbers -- free of charge. There are more than 1.2 million displaced Iraqis in Syria, according to government figures. To date, about 130,000 regularly receive food assistance from WFP with complimentary food and non-food assistance from the U.N.'s refugee agency." Though some have criticized the WFP for targeting people with cell phones (under the mistaken belief that refugees wouldn't have them), Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports, "The discovery that most of the 130,000 people to whom the organisation provided food vouchers had mobile phones gave officials the idea for the pilot scheme, to be targeted at 1,000 families in the first instance." Laura MacInnis (Reuters) quotes Emilia Casella, WFP spokesperson, stating, "They will be able to exchange their electronic vouchers for rice, wheat, flour, lentils, chickpeas, oil and canned fish, as well as cheese and eggs -- items that cannot usually be included in conventional aid baskets." Saeed Ahmed (CNN) quotes Casella stating, "It infuses some contribution to the communities, because we're not giving food away. They have to go to the local shops to buy it." Staying with Syria, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expects more Iraqi refugees to flee to Syria as a result of Sunday's bombings. EU News Network states UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic "told a delegation in Geneva earlier this month that the United Nations recommended the resettlement of more than 80,000 Iraqi refugees to other countries." Meanwhile UNHCR is building homes in Taza, Iraq following bombings there this sumemr which ledft many people homeless, "Immediately after the blast, UNHCR field staff visited Taza to assess the damage and to distribute emergency aid to the survivors. The team found that about 160 houses, mostly made from mud bricks, had been totally destroyed and some 400 damaged. As a result, around 3,500 people were left without shelter. The refugee agency immediately swung into action, funding the reconstruction of 150 collapsed homes and the renovation of 73 shops and two other buildings in Shorja Market. The work was carried out by an Iraqi implementing partner as part of UNHCR's emergency shelter programme which has helped rehabilitate some 10,000 conflict-damaged buildings for refugees and internally displaced Iraqis and aims to double this figure in 2010." But in Syria, IRIN reports, a significant number of Iraqis are attempting to win asylum "across the Middle East to Europe and North America" and they note, "A year after its launch, strikingly few Iraqis have taken up the UN's Voluntary Repatriation Programme. Less than 300 families from Syria have returned to Iraq under the programme, though the number claiming resettlement has grown rapidly."

The Chicago Tribune did a multi-article series at the start of the week on Iraqi refugees in the US. The paper noted of one group: "Back home, they worked for the Americans, as translators, project specialists and office managers. For that, they received death threats from militants opposed to the U.S., and they ask to remain anonymous, fearing retribution against relatives in Iraq." Then there's Layla Mousa whose husband is in Jordan while she and their three children are in Chicago where she struggles to make ends meet, find work (she's a hair dresser) and rebuffs offers of payment for sex and states, "Now I want to go back to Iraq, not even Jordan. America is just a lie." Layla Mousa is among the Iraqi refugees who Ahlam Mahmoud attempts to asist even though she herself is a refugee: "She didn't have it easy herself. When she and her two children arrived in Chicago in 2008, she had only the clothes she was wearing when she left Syria, where, she says, she was imprisoned for refusing to spy on foreigners. The apartment they got in Chicago had three beds, one plate, a fork, a spoon and two knives." In Syria, Ahlam Mahmoud was also someone refugees turned to. Using her own resourceful nature, she quickly began developing a network of assistance and advice. Due to her connections, the Syrian government attempted to force her to spy on other Iraqi refugees. She refused and was thrown into prison. When the outcry and attention became too much, the Syrian govenment ordered her released from prison and she was quickly transported to the US. Also attempting to assist other refugees is Fatima Hindi who became an Iraqi government official, was then kidnapped and sought Egypt and then the US for safety along with her three-year-old daughter Takwa. She states, "They kidnapped me because of America. America couldn't protect me. When I first got here, I cried on the street."

Today Nancy Eshelman (Patriot-News) reports on Iraqi refugee Zina Alkubaisy who ended up in the United States with her husband and their children following her husband's kidnapping: "Alkubaisy began working the phones. She contacted people who knew people and eventually learned what militant group had snatched her husband. Her connections arranged to have him released the next day. But a chilling phone call warned the couple they would not be so lucky the next time. It would be in their best interest to leave the country."

The October 22nd snapshot noted the United Nations High Commisoner for Refguees (UNHCR) released a new report entitled "Asylum Levels and Trends in Inudstrialized Countries First Half 2009: Statistical overview of asylum applications lodged in Europe and selected non-European countries." The report found that Iraqis continued to be the number one aslyum-seekers around the globe. Last Friday UNHCR's Andrej Mahecic spoke on the issue of Iraqi refugees and the forcible deportation of them:

UNHCR is concerned about the fact that some European states have begun forcibly returning Iraqi originating from the region of Central Iraq over the last few months. In our guidelines issued last April, we noted that in view of the serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents throughout Iraq, most predominantly in the central governorates, asylum-seekers from these governorates should be considered to be in need of international protection. UNHCR therefore advises against involuntary returns to Iraq of persons originating from Central Iraq until there is a substantial improvement in the security and human rights situation in the country.
This reminder comes after the UK attempted to forcibly return 44 Iraqi men to Baghdad earlier this month. They were reportedly unsuccessful asylum claimants held in immigration removal centres in the UK. Iraq only accepted 10 who were allowed to leave the chartered aircraft in Baghdad, and the remaining 34 were returned to the UK and placed in immigration centres.
Other European states have signed readmission agreements with Iraq for voluntary and forced return. Denmark has forcibly returned 38 people originating mainly from Central and Southern Iraq since signing its agreement in May 2009. Sweden has undertaken some 250 forced returns with an unspecified number of returnees originating from the five central governorates of Iraq since signing an agreement in February 2008. UNHCR has also concerns about the safety and dignity of these returns.
Concerning asylum-seekers from the three northern governorates, as well as those from the southern governorates and Al Anbar, UNHCR recommends that their protection needs are assessed on an individual basis.

Colin Yeo (Guardian) evaluates the UK Home Office's attempt to forcibly deport Iraqi refugees this month:

The second problem is a profound lack of understanding or respect for the rule of law at all levels of UKBA. Six Iraqis were taken off the removals flight because they had managed to get in touch with good lawyers. A high court judge was persuaded that the flight might be unlawful because the route and destination were unknown and Iraq is a highly unstable country, as the appalling recent bomb attacks and interviews with those who did return to Iraq vividly demonstrate. The flight was no less unlawful for the other Iraqis yet UKBA went on regardless, simply because the other Iraqis did not manage to get a lawyer. Some may disagree with the refugee convention and human rights law, but they are the law of the land and while they remain so they must be respected.
But like an unruly toddler, the Home Office believes that what matters is whether they are caught, not what the rules are. Time and time again the Home Office is found to be acting unlawfully: on prolonged unlawful detention, secret policies, misleading the courts and failure to respect court judgments in the last fortnight alone. Substantial compensation is paid to some of the victims as a result. What UKBA fails to appreciate is that there are many, many more victims whose rights are violated but who never manage to secure the protection of the rule of law.

Friday's snapshot noted that Christians in northern Iraq were under attack again and weighing whether or not to leave Kirkuk. Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) noted "Baghdad's dwindling Christian population. Even in the darkest days of Saddam Hussein's rule, it was a thriving community. Now it is half gone,d riven out by the casual lawlessness of the streets." Iraqi Christians make up a significant number of external refugees. (It should also be noted that Baghdad's Jewish community has been decimated since the start of the illegal war.) While much attention was given to the government buildings damaged and destroyed in Sunday's bombings, Adirenne S. Gaines (Charisma Magazine) reports that St. George's Church in Baghdad was also badly damaged. Though the issue wasn't important enough for the New York Times to put it in print, they did post a blog by Rod Nordland: "Built in 1936 by the British military during their occupation of Iraq, the church loast some of its famous stained-glass windows when the United States military bombed a nearby building in 1992, and more were destroyed during the invasion in 2003, leaving only three examples remaining. They were mementos of British regiments stationed there. Sunday the last three stained glass windows were blown out by suicide bomb blasts that destroyed three Iraqi government buildings nearby, according to the church's lay pastor, Faiz Georges." Episcopal Life notes the church has approximately 2,000 members.

On the issue of Iraq's religous minorities, Senator Carl Levin's office released the following statement Monday:

WASHINGTON -- Calling the plight of religious minorities in Iraq "a tragic consequence" of the war there, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., today introduced a Senate resolution calling on the U.S. government, Iraqi government and United Nations Mission in Iraq to take steps to alleviate the dangers facing these minority groups. Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., joined Levin in sponsoring the sense of the Senate resolution.
"While violence has declined in Iraq overall, religious minorities continue to be the targets of violence and intimidation," Levin said. "Members of many minority groups who have fled other parts of the country have settled in the north, only to find themselves living in some of the most unstable and violent regions of Iraq. We strongly urge the Iraqi government, the United Nations and the U.S. government to address this crisis without delay."
Of approximately 1.4 million Christians of various denominations living in Iraq in 2003, only 500,000 to 700,000 remain. Another minority group, the Sabean Mandeans, has seen its population decline by more than 90 percent. Iraq's Jewish community, once one of the largest in the Arab world, has almost ceased to exist.
According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, members of religious minorities "have experienced targeted intimidation and violence, including killings, beatings, abductions, and rapes, forced conversions, forced marriages, forced displacement from their homes and businesses, and violent attacks on their houses of worship and religious leaders." The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees reported that in 2008, there were an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced persons living in Iraq. Of that 2.8 million, nearly two out of three reported fleeing their home because of a direct threat to their lives, and, of that number, almost nine out of ten said they were targeted because of their ethnic or religious identity.
The resolution introduced by the senators addresses the tragedy in several ways. It states the sense of the Senate that the fate of Iraqi religious minorities is a matter of grave concern and calls on the U.S. government and the United Nations to urge Iraq's government to increase security at places of worship, particularly where members of religious minorities are known to face risks. The resolution calls for the integration of regional and religious minorities into the Iraqi security forces, and for those minority members to be stationed within their own communities. The resolution calls on the Iraqi government to ensure that minority citizens can participate in upcoming elections, and to enforce its constitution, which guarantees "the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights" of minorities. Finally, it urges a series of steps to ensure that development aid and other forms of support flow to minority communities in Iraq.

Iraq is the source of more external refugees than any other country currently; however, Iraq does have refugees in its own country including the Palestinians who are trapped on borders and largely ignored by the global community as they live lives as prisoners, unable to leave Iraq and unable to leave the tented, border communities they've been exiled to since the start of the illegal war. In addition to the Palestinians, there are the Iranian refugees of the MEK. Welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein decades ago, they've called Iraq home for some time. The Iranian government doesn't care for them so you know Nouri's going to jump when that government snaps. Until 2009, the US was protecting the MEK who reside in Camp Ashraf. Nouri gave the US government repeated assurances that he would respect the refugees. Then, on July 28th, he launched an assault on Camp Ashraf.

Saturday Jamshid Karegarfar's account of what happened was published in the Washington Times:

The situation came to a head July 28, when some 2,000 Iraqi forces stormed Ashraf, and to add insult to injury, used American Humvees and weapons to do so, while the Americans stood by and watched. The attack left 11 dead and 500 injured - and the Iraqis took 36 Ashraf residents as hostages. I was one of them.
At first, we were held outside Ashraf. During the first days of captivity we were severely beaten, and went through physical and psychological torture. Some of us who were run over by Humvees and hit by bullets were in excruciating pain.
Then, we were transferred to the local prison in the city of Khalis. From there, they took us to an Iraqi military intelligence detention center and finally to the prison at al-Muthana airfield.The goal was to break us down. But we refused to give in.
In protestof the raid and being taken hostage, we went to a hunger strike and refused food for weeks, and we prayed for deliverance. We had no idea what was happening or why we were being held. And we had no idea of the support we were getting around the world.

The government or 'government' out of Baghdad can't help the refugees or their own people. They can't even pass an election law apparently. "If it doesn't make a deal before this weekend, Iraq will run out of time to organize an election before Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's term expires," Renee Montagne observed on today's Morning Edition (NPR).

Renee Montagne: What, Quil, is at stake with the delay of this election law?

Quil Lawrence: Well, as you say, the Iraqi prime minister and his government's term run out on January 31st so the election commission here has said they need 90 days to organize a legitimate poll and Parliament is deadlocked on over a dozen or so complicated issues regarding the election. They may vote on it today. If the elections are delayed or if they are rushed, there's a risk that Iraq's government could be deemed illegitimate and then a whole Pandora's Box of problems can open up -- issues of legitimacy of the government, maybe even a crisis like we've seen in Afghanistan. One big question is whether the US has done enough to push it through, especially since their plan to pull out 70,000 troops by August can't really start until the elections are done.

Renee Montagne: Well six years on the ground in Baghdad, hasn't the American embassy there worked up a fair amount of what you might call institutional knowledge regarding Iraqi politics?

Quil Lawrence: Well the problem is it took the Obama administration four months to get an ambassador confirmed and out here and that's taken that ambassador another couple of months to assemble a new political team. So he's got a good number of people with expertise in the region -- a good number of Arabic speakers -- but they've never been to Iraq before, many of them. So before they can have much influence, they need to learn who the players are and build these personal relationships with them and that could take months and years.

Renee Montagne: Although haven't American diplomats been, in a sense, pressing the flesh at the Parliament.

Quil Lawrence: There's been as many as six of them at a time over at the Parliament but it's sometimes curious who they're meeting with or not meeting with on the Iraqi side. And like I said, they're just getting up to speed so it's possible they could walk right past a very important Iraqi politician in the halls of Parliament and not even know him by face.

Okay, on the above. On pulling out troops (which is the draw-down, not the "withdrawal" as so many outlets keep insisting -- confusing the two in a way that even the White House doesn't) and how it can't start until after the election?

Yesterday, the KRG swore in their prime minister's cabinet. Yesterday. Elections were held in July. In December 2005, Iraq last held the national elections. Nouri comes along in April as the US-installed prime minister (after the US rejected the Iraqis first choice). In May, he announces his cabinet. Point? The counting of the votes, the verifying and assorted other issues mean the elections are not 'over' in January even if held then. As for a vote happening as early as today, CNN reports that as well but notes, "The Kurdish bloc in the Iraqi parliament intends to boycott the vote on a proposed election law if the oil-rich province of Kirkuk is banned from voting in next year's national elections, two Kurdish lawmakers say." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports that "the Iraqi parliamentary legal committee again failed to reach a compromise over Kirkuk issue, and decided to delay Thursday's parliament session to Sunday, an official in the parliament told Xinhua." This, Xuequan reports, despite efforts today by US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Ray Odierno to "urge" Iraqi politicians to pass a law.

No law was passed but violence continued . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing injured five people and a Mosul suicide bomber took his own life.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed attack on a Mosul police checkpoint which left 3 police officers dead and an armed clash in Mosul in which one person was injured.

Today is the 2413 day of the Iraq War. Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes that and other facts -- and he notes Iraq facts each week, by the way, in his "The Count."

In England, Peter Walker (Guardian) reports that the inquiry into the Iraq War will hear evidence starting November 24th and that former Prime Minister Tony Blair will be offering public testimony. Chris Ames (at The Index on Censorship) reports:

As the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war announces its first public hearings, serious concerns about censorship and secrecy are beginning to arise. Some of those who are thinking about giving evidence are wondering how free they will be to do so and whether the evidence they present will ever see the light of day.
Tony Blair's upcoming appearance at the Inquiry has taken centre stage, with his actions on Iraq threatening his bid to become the first EU president. While Blair won't face prosecution in this Inquiry for launching the war, witnesses fear they might be prosecuted for talking about it.
Other political factors also play a role in the timing of the hearings, which will open on 24 November. Sir John Chilcot said that the Inquiry intends to stop these hearings during the general election campaign, expected in the spring. It appears that the move is intended to limit the possibility for highly charged appearances or new disclosures to influence voters. This should not be a consideration for the Inquiry, which is supposedly independent of government.
Chilcot has also suggested that the Inquiry's report, which is not expected until at least the end of next year, might not be published in full but might include a secret annexe dealing with intelligence matters.

Meanwhile in Malaysia tomorrow and Saturday, Meena L. Ramadas (Sun Daily) reports, a tribunal, the War Criminal Conference and Exhibition, will be held which will hear from "a Sudanese reporter and a Briton who were detained without trial in Guantanamo Bay" "in an effort to bring Iraq war perpetrators to justice." Tun Mahathir bin Mohamad (Malaysia's prime minister from 1981 to 2003) will be the keynote speaker and he states, "International institutions and the courts established by the United Nations charter have done nothing in dealing with war crimes. Even the powerful nations like the United States and the United Kingdom have done nothing."

War is big business. Tom Fowler (Houston Chronicle) reports that with KBR getting less work in Iraq, it "reported a 14 percent drop in third-quarter profit". KBR insists it did professional work. Few not currently working for KBR who've seen their work in Iraq make the same assertions. KBR's shoddy work may be responsible for multiple deaths of US citizens -- death by shower. On the topic of death by shower, Jeremy Scahill's "Pentagon Investigation Iraq Electrocution Death" (The Nation) reports:

The Department of Defense has confirmed that the US Army Criminal Investigation Command has launched a formal investigation into the
electrocution death of 25-year-old Adam Hermanson, a US Air Force veteran-turned private security contractor who died in a shower at the compound of his employer, Triple Canopy, at Camp Olympia inside Baghdad's Green Zone on September 1, 2009. The State Department's Regional Security Office is also investigating.
The DoD appears to be placing responsibility for the deadly incident squarely on Triple Canopy. "As part of the terms and conditions of the JCC-I/A contract, Triple Canopy is solely responsible for providing billeting, showers, latrines and other life support activities to its employees at Camp Olympia," according to Under Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter. Hermanson is the nineteenth US soldier or contractor to die from electrocution in Iraq since 2003.

KBR denies having anything to do with the wiring which, if true, would mean they weren't responsible for the above shock . . . just approximately 230 other ones.

The heartbeat went out of our house
The rhythm went out of our romance
But in life that happens and you just have to remember to breathe . . .

That's from
Carly Simon's "Coming Around Again" as redone on her latest album, Never Been Gone. Today she was on NPR's Talk Of The Nation and discussed a variety of topics including singing with Lucy Simon in the Simon Sisters and recently on the phone. In terms of revisiting ten of her classic songs for the new album, Carly observes, "Yes, it was a very interesting kind of synergy between the old and the new." To hear her segment with host Neal Conan click here and note NPR online has paired it up with her 2008 concert which you can also stream. Click here to watch Carly on Monday's Good Morning America (ABC). Carly Simon appeared on NBC's Today Show yesterday and performed "You Belong To Me."

jomana karadsheh
timothy williams
the new york times
rod nordland
richard spencer
the telegraph of london
press tv
the sentinel
mohammed jamjoons
morning edition
renee montagne
quil lawrence
jeremy scahill
carly simon
talk of the nation
neal conan