Thursday, January 03, 2013

The fight to save Social Security

Dean Baker has a column at CounterPunch on the real point of Barack and Congress creating the 'fiscal cliff' and it includes:

The explanation is simple: Profits have returned to pre-recession levels. This means that from the standpoint of the people who own and run American businesses, everything is pretty much fine. Moreover, they see the deficits created by the downturn as providing an opportunity to go after Social Security and Medicare.
The Campaign to Fix the Debt, a nonpartisan organization involving many of the country’s richest and most powerful CEOs, sets out to do just that. It has become standard practice in Washington for Wall Street types and other wealthy interests to finance groups to push their agenda. The Campaign to Fix the Debt involves the CEOs themselves directly stepping up to the plate and pushing the case for cutting Social Security and Medicare as well as lowering the corporate income tax rate.
It’s clear what’s going on here. We don’t need any conspiracy theories. CEOs from both political parties have openly come together to demand cuts in Social Security and Medicare, two programs that enjoy massive political support across the political spectrum. The wealthy are joining hands without regard to political affiliation to cut benefits that enjoy broad bipartisan support among everyone who is not rich.

It's time to call it out and if you don't then you're to blame.

Maybe you're not going to be effected so you feel you can be silent?  Other people will be effected.

Look at C.I.  She won't need a Social Security check.  But she has spoken out about this because it will effect people who need it.  I'm still blown away by the great job she did writing about it in "2012: The Year of Avoidance" -- and this is after talking to her about the 'fiscal cliff' throughout last year, repeatedly. 

We should all be taking this seriously.

My husband has a pension so we'll be fine.  But there are many other people who really need Social Security.  I worked all those years and put into Social Security and now these fat cats and a compliant president come along and scheme to take it away?

And what about the people who only have it to count on?

This is really one of the most important fights we can have in 2013: The fight to save Social Security. 

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Thursday:
January 3, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the neocons remain in the US administration, protests continue in Iraq, Shi'ites join Sunnis in the protests, US State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland smears the protesters, Nuland can't define progress in Iraq or give an example,  the Turkish government is said to be in discussions with the PKK about a ceasefire, the Defense Department needed over $500 million in Iraq this fiscal year, and more.
A major bombing in Iraq today has again underscored how there is no peace or end of war for the country the US invaded in 2003 and now controls via the puppet Nouri al-Maliki who was first installed in 2006.   Today was the culmination of the Arbaeen rituals which AFP estimated resulted in 15 million pilgrims going to Karbala over the last tend days.  They explain, "Arbaeen marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures, by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD.  Sad songs blared from loudspeakers throughout the city and black flags fluttered alongside pictures of Hussein and his half-brother Imam Abbas, both of whom are buried in the city."  A pilgrim from Basra explained how long it had taken him to get to Karbala on foot and how he was taking part to defy terrorism.  That was before the bomb struck.   CNN reports it was a car bomb in nearby Musayyib. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) adds, "A police source in Babil province told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that the blast took place at a car park when pilgrims returned from the Shiite holy city of Karbala in southern Iraq."  BBC News cites a police source for their news that "the bomb went off close to a bus stop where coaches that carry pilgrims from Karbala to other Iraqi cities drop and collect them."  Reuters quotes eye witness Ali Sabbar, "I was getting a sandwich when a very strong explosion rocked the place and the blast threw me away.  When i regained my senses and stood up, I saw dozens of bodies. Many cars were set on fire.  I just left the place and didn't even participate in the evacuation of the victims."   NBC News Wire Services quotes teacher Ibrahim Mohammed stating, "The explosion shook the whole block and smashed the windows of my house.  I ran to the scene of the explosion only to find charred bodies and burning cars.  There were women screaming and searching for their missing children." 
Michael Peel and Abeer Allam (Financial Times of London) count 27 dead.  Reuters notes at least sixty people were injured.  KUNA points out, "Over the past few days, Iraqi authorities have carried out tight security measures in the areas, including air surveillance."  Deutsche Welle points out that today's "violence hit despite" those security measures.  Omar Al Saleh (Al Jazeera) observes, "We understand that security is very tight, and it's obvious that this is a breach of security, this is a setback for the security of this country."
Let's move from real violence to pretense and also to money -- the US taxpayer money. 
First up, Victoria Nuland.  We've covered Icky Vicky repeatedly.  For those late to the party, she was the Deputy National Security Advisor to Dick Cheney during Bully Boy Bush's first term which allowed her to take Dick's plans for world domination and help make them happen.  She is not a neocon just because she worked for Dick Cheney on 'national security.'  She is also a neocon because she married into the Kagan family which is the neocon family. 
In the 60s, the US government's war on Vietnam allowed some Communists in the US to take stands on peace and on fairness.  It allowed other Communists to go running for a Daddy to comfort them from their night terrors.  Donald Kagan is one of those former lefties who ended up a conservative -- although this transformation was also said to be in part as a result of Cornell creating a Black Studies program.  He is one of the leading lights (or dimmest bulbs) in what is the neoconservative movement.  With the Project for the New American Century in 1997, they began publicly calling for war on Iraq.  Donald Kagan is Victoria's father-in-law.  She's married to Robert Kagan (who is a neocon -- and probably their strongest theorist -- but he rejects the label).  Her brother-in-law is Fred Kagan and her sister-in-law is Kimberly Kagan.  Donald, Fred and Robert all signed the Project for the New American Century screed entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses."  Fred has a wide ranging background with a variety of fields and expertises.   Most recently, as Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Washington Post) exposed, it was learned that he and Kimbergly Kagan were advising then Gen David Petraeus while he was heading up the US mission in Afghanistan.  Kimberly Kagan is seen as the most personable of the Kagans.  She married Fred and is liked by the press because she's seen as less intense as the others (including Nuland).  She's in charge of the Institute for the Study of War.  Victoria and her family all wanted war on Iraq. 
Somehow it was decided, after Barack Obama was elected president based on his pretense of being against the Iraq War, that Victoria Nuland was the perfect face for the State Dept -- begging the question of had anyone seen that face?
At the State Dept, Victoria Nuland usually handles the daily press briefing which allows her to ignore Iraq.  Yesterday was one of those rare times she bothered to mention Iraq.
QUESTION: On Iraq, what do you make of the protest in Iraq? I mean, obviously, there are more – they're now in Anbar, in Mosul, and they're even – they've moved to the – blocking the highway that connects Iraq into Syria and Jordan, the international highway, and they're protesting against the – Maliki's regime, their government, they're against what they call sectarian practices, arresting women and torturing them. That's – these are their claims. What do you make of these protests?

MS. NULAND: Well, first, let me just make the general statement that we always make, which is that we support the right of peaceful protest around the world. That said, we have been concerned by violence by parties during these protests, and we call on all those involved to exercise restraint, to respect that right of peaceful expression, and to apply that right responsibly without inciting further tensions. And any actions by any party to subvert the rule of law or provoke ethnic and sectarian tensions risks undermining the significant progress that Iraq has made towards peace and stability, and the important work that the U.S. and Iraq have been doing together.

So we want to see these difficult issues settled through consultation among Iraqi leaders, and we want to see them reach an agreement on the path forward for Iraq.
The Iraqi protests have not been violent.  They've been taking place since December 21st and only one has had any violence -- when an unpopular politician showed up, refused to take the stage and his guards fired on protesters.  I filled in for Rebecca last night and noted that Nuland was deliberately distorting reality in order to play the protesters as 'wrong doers.'  Sure enough, the Albany Times, reporting on her remarks at the press conference, headlines their piece The Albany Tribune headlines this 'news,' "U.S. Concerned Over Violent Protests in Iraq."
She knew exactly what she was doing.
It's interesting, isn't it, that she didn't rush to talk about the need to allow the press to do their work?  As noted in Friday's snapshot, Nouri used the military to keep reporters away from protests so that they couldn't cover them. 
In today's press briefing, Nuland experienced a little push back on the topic of Pakistan and on the topic of Iraq.  Here she is taking offense to a pretty fair characterization of her lackadaisical, flat affect when it comes to Iraq.
QUESTION: The country is teetering nearly on the verge of explosion yet we are – I am struck by your position towards what's going on in Iraq. I mean, there is a threat that Kurdistan may break away. There are elements of – there is heightened sectarian tension, there is violence going on every day, and so on. And your reaction is like that of Switzerland. I mean, the United States has invested blood and treasure, to repeat the common term, in Iraq. Yet, share with us what are you doing behind the scene to basically mitigate this explosive situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, I would completely reject your characterization of our dialogue and our interaction with Iraq and Iraqis. We have been extraordinarily active for many, many months now with Iraqis of all stripes and all groups, and maintaining the highest level contact with leaders across the country in support of political dialogue among them to protect and preserve the gains that they have made, and the constitutional structure of the country that provides for human rights protections and power sharing among the various different Iraqi groups.
So you know that we want to see Iraq continue on a stable, peaceful, democratic trajectory. That's going to – that takes work. It takes commitment by all forces in Iraq. And we've been making the general point about issues of concern between communities being settled by dialogue. But we've also been quite active when individual issues have cropped up, including recently with regard to Iraqi forces in the Peshmerga, et cetera. So we are continuing to be enormously vigilant. We have an enduring commitment and agreement to support Iraq, but it is undergirded by our desire to see Iraqi democracy protected in all of its forms.
QUESTION: On that very point, on the constitution, and it was shepherded by the United States of America, there are some major things that have not been followed through on despite commitment to the contrary, like the hydrocarbon law.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: Like the power sharing. Like many, many, other things, Article 140 that regulates whatever between Kurdistan and the central government. Could you share with us how much progress have you made in the last two, three years?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I don't think anybody's satisfied by how difficult it's been to resolve some of these issues that have never gotten settled, including the question of the hydrocarbon law and energy sharing, et cetera, inside Iraq. I think Iraqis, among all of us, are the most frustrated by that. But, again, these issues can only be solved politically, they can only be solved democratically, they can only be solved through dialogue. That's the course that we continue to urge, and we continue to use our influence to try to encourage Iraqis to talk to each other and work through these issues.
The point of the neocons was war with Iraq and they latched onto Nouri al-Maliki as the answer to stealing Iraq's oil.  That's why the Bush administration installed him in 2006 and why Barack Obama refused to let Iraqiya have the prime minister post in 2010 despite the fact that Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law in the parliamentary elections.  (Doubt Barack's neocon connections.  Listen to the 2012 State of the Union address again -- that's Robert Kagan's The World America Made that he's riffing on, as even Random House noted.)  Michael Rubin's a neocon as well (you don't post pieces like this one unless you're a neocon).  Rubin's not an idiot.  So at Commentary today, he really isn't as stupid as he comes off.  He's lying the way neocons always lie.  Protests are taking place in Iraq against Nouri.  Against Nouri.  Rubin knows that.  Rubin knows Nouri's a joke on the international stage.  Rubin knows the best way to distort the protests and improve Nouri's image is to pretend that the protests are "anti-Shi'ite."  Here are facts that Rubin hopes you don't know Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya, is Shi'ite.  Allawi has endorsed the protesters.  Moqtada al-Sadr, Shi'ite cleric and movement leader, has endorsed the protests.  Today another Shi'ite group endorsed the protesters.
These are not anti-Shi'ite protests.  But Rubin hopes if he lies about it, it'll take some of the pressure off Nouri, the neocon pet.  Getting rid of Bush did not end the neocons.  In fact, Rubin still is the adviser to US military officers when they're about to be shipped off to the Middle East.  Do you get how offensive that is?  This is under Barack's administration. 
Please grasp that the US government has spent and wasted billions of tax payer dollars on Iraq -- on the illegal war, on propping up puppet Nouri and so much more.  When Bully Boy Bush was in the White House, the State Dept was required to publish a weekly report on Iraq -- and they did.  Back then, the Defense Dept was in charge of the billions.  Now it's the State Dept in charge and in charge of billions of dollars.  In Fiscal Year 2013 (which started October 1, 2012), the State Dept plans to spend $4.8 billion in Iraq.  How?  Don't you know the State Dept is not accountable to you the taxpayer.  Apparently, the State Dept is like the Bell Telephone Company before the break up. "We are not subject to city, state or federal legislation.  We are ominpotent," Lily Tomlin's Ernestine used to say.
They won't answer the Congress, they won't answer the Special Inspector General on Iraq Reconstruction.  No one can get a straight answer out of them.  In a functioning democracy, they would be denied all Iraq funding as a result.  And asked today, "Could you share with us how much progress have you made in the last two, three years," Nuland had nothing to offer.  How telling.  $4.8 billion wasted this year that could have been better spent.
Instead, they get the bulk of Iraq funding.  The bulk.  Not the only.
The US Defense Dept is still in Iraq, still spending money despite claims that all US troops are out.  Look at the DoD's budget request for FY2013 [PDF format warning, click here].  It is in this Feburary 2012 document that you'll find all sorts of interesting information including this:
Years of effort have helpd enable the Iraqi government to take the lead in protecting its people and providing essential services.  While U.S. forces will continue to play important roles in providing force protection and targeted counterterrorism operations, there are no performance goals included in the Department's Annual Performance Plans (Exhibit B) in FY 2012 and FY 2013 for this objective area.
That's chapter seven's page thirty-seven, by the way.  (Each chapter in the request starts numbering their pages with page one, FYI.)  On chapter six's page five, you'll find this:
OSC-I: $508 million for the operation of the Office of Security Cooperation - Iraq (OSC-I), which is a cornerstone for achieving the long-term U.S. goal of building parternship capacity in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).  The OSC-I will conduct the full range of traditional security cooperation activities such as joint exercise planning, combined arms training, conflict resolution, multilateral peace opeartions, senior level visits and other forms of bilateral engagement.  Additionally, the OSC-I will conduct security cooperation activities in support of the ISF to include providing: Academy instructors; Ministerial and Service level advisors; logistic and operations capacity building; intelligence integration; and interagency collabortion.  The OSC-I is the critical Defense component of the U.S. Mission Iraq and a foundational element of our long-term strategic partnership with Iraq.
$508 million.   That's a pretty big figure when Barack kept saying in the debates that he brought all US troops home. 
Let's move over to the protests that the US administration refuses to support.  Alsumaria reports Nineveh Province Governor Ethel al-Nujaifi (also spelled Atheel) noted today that the protests against Nouri al-Maliki and his oppressive government continue.  He states that the demonstrations will continue until the protesters demands are met.  The Governor is the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and yesterday their family suffered a loss when the son of their cousin Abdul-Rahman Khalid al-Nujaifi was shot dead in Mosul.  AFP reports today that the son killed, Abdulrahman al-Nujaifi, was only ten-years-old and that Governor al-Nujaifi states Nouri's anti-terror brigade killed the child, "This anti-terrorist brigade, we call it the golden brigade, in Mosul, opened fire on the car and killed the young boy in public, in front of everyone. They followed the car, and they opened fire with no regard.  The young boy was in the car with his brothers and the driver, returning from school."
Nineveh Province is only one area where the protests are taking place.  UPI notes, "Sunni communities in Anbar set up a tent city near the provincial capital of Ramadi to protest Maliki's government, the BBC reports. A protest banner on a tent warns "the sectarian government" against dragging the country into war."  Alsumaria observes that banners and slogans in Anbar are calling for harmony and unity and they demand that Nouri's government correct itself from the path its on.  The Economist offers this perspective on the protests:
A recent wave of protests across the mainly Sunni areas to the north and west of Baghdad, including strikes and sit-ins, has sharpened sectarian strife. Sunnis were particularly outraged last month when the bodyguards of the Sunni finance minister, Rafi al-Issawi, were arrested.
That provoked memories of a similar episode a year ago, when Mr Maliki's men jailed, tortured and sentenced to death the guards of the vice-president, Tareq al-Hashemi, another leading Sunni, accusing them of being part of a death-squad that was targeting Shias. Mr Hashemi fled to the Iraqi Kurds' capital, Erbil, and now resides in Turkey. He was later sentenced to death in absentia. A serious illness that has recently befallen Iraq's mainly ceremonial president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who has sometimes acted effectively as a mediator above the sectarian fray, has further jangled Iraqi nerves.

As the protests continue, they gather additional support.  The Iraq Times reports that Baqir Jabr al-Zubeidi has declared this political party is in solidarity with the protesters.  al-Zubeidi is a high ranking member in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (led by Ameer al-Hakim).  al-Zubeidi was the Iraq Minister of Finance during Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister. Kitabat notes the statement's significance is due to the "broad popular support" the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (a Shi'ite group) enjoys in Iraq and within the government.   The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's endoresement of the protesters follows cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr's earlier endorsement this weekMichael Jansen (Irish Times) covers the endorsement and offers this compare and contrast between Nouri and Moqtada:

For a majority of Iraqis, Mr Maliki represents the Iran-nurtured Shia fundamentalists who returned to Iraq under US auspices after its invasion and occupation of the country.
By contrast, Mr Sadr (39) was born and raised in Iraq during the last years of the regime of Saddam Hussein and has projected himself as an independent Iraqi nationalist. A middle-ranking cleric, he is the son and son-in-law of grand ayatollahs Mohamed Sadeq al-Sadr and Mohamed Baqr al-Sadr, both revered religious figures assassinated by the ousted regime.
Discord between Mr Maliki and the populace has intensified due to his inability to deliver electricity, water, jobs and security since 2006 when he first became prime minister. According to Iraq Body Count's conservative estimates, last year's death toll from bombings and shootings reached more than 5,000, topping the 4,136 of 2011.

Al-Monitor translates an Al-Hayat article by Mushreq Abbas on the protests which includes:

Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has stepped up his campaign against Maliki and warned him of an "Iraqi Spring." On the other hand, Maliki has threatened to disperse demonstrations by force.
With the return of prominent cleric Abdul-Malik al-Saadi to Iraq and his immediate joining of the demonstrations that are gaining ground in Sunni cities, sources confirm that it will not be long before Sadr's supporters do the same in Shiite cities.
Since his return, Saadi has changed the inclination of demonstrators in Anbar and other cities. He sought to eliminate sectarian slogans and flags from the former regime and give the demonstrations a national impetus. He also called on prominent Shiite figures to give the demonstrations their blessing.

MP Jawad Alshahyla is with Sadr's bloc in Parliament and he tells Alsumaria that if Nouri dares to use force against the protesters, it will immediately trigger an Arab Spring across Iraq.  Iraqiya has also voiced its support for the protesters and Alsumaria reports that the Ayad Allawi led political slate today called for an end to corruption, an end to the targeting on large segments of Iraqis and an ended to attempts to marginalize various groups of Iraqis.  This refers to Nouri's targeting of various groups including Sunnis and Kurds.  Xinhua notes that Nouri allowed in a statement yesterday that the protesters might have some point and the outlet explains:

For more than a week, thousands of Sunnis have been taking to the streets to hold anti-government demonstrations in several Sunni-dominated provinces protesting against marginalization by the Shiite-led government as well as targeting the Sunni community by arresting hundreds of their sons.
The demonstrators also accused the Shiite-dominated security forces of arresting women instead of the wanted male of their family members.

Christine Hauser (New York Times) has a brief write-up on Nouri's speech yesterday.  Ted Galen Carpenter (National Interest) notes the "American news media" lacks interest in Iraq and he presents a number of issues that raise concern such as:

The Maliki regime's political practices grow ever more worrisome. Not only is corruption on the rise, but there is a steady erosion of political freedoms. Journalists who dare to be critical of the prime minister and his allies increasingly complain of harassment and sometimes outright censorship. Maliki's security bureaucracy has detained hundreds of former officials, accusing them of supporting a return to Ba'athist Party dictatorial rule. Although some of those allegations may be true, the government has cast a very wide and indiscriminate net.
An especially ominous development occurred when the Maliki administration charged Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with treason -- specifically with running anti-government death squads. Hashemi, one of Iraq's leading Sunni Arab politicians and a leader of the Iraqiya political bloc, vehemently maintained his innocence and fled the country.
A report by the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War concluded that Maliki seems to be conducting a concerted campaign to stifle dissent and political opposition. "He has made it more difficult for his Shi'ite rivals to dissent," the report stated, "while simultaneously confining his Sunni opponents in a position suitable for exerting pressure and exploiting divisions within their ranks."

Nouri's nonsense and lies know no bounds. We're dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:

Raheem Salman, Ahmed Rasheed, Isabel Coles and Kevin Liffey (Reuters) report that Sunni cleric Khaled al-Mullah is representing the protesters in talks with Nouri and that Nouri states he will declare a special pardon which would allow approximately 700 female prisoners to be released out of 920.  That may or may not address one of the issues.  May or may not?  Nouri's not real good about following up on verbal promises or written ones. And if that doesn't sound fair, you're not only missing his past record, you're missing the rest of the story.  Ammar Karim (AFP) reports the women aren't going anywhere just yet.  What's being reported isn't what Nouri's promised.  What Nouri promised?  That he would "write to the president to issue a special amnesty to release them." That would be President Jalal Talabani.  Nouri's not releasing anyone.  And he's writing to Jalal who left Iraq for Germany in a medical transport from an illness/condition that no one with his office or his family has identified.  (Nouri's office stated Jalal had a stroke.)  

The 700 most likely will never be released.  Just like his lie of "give me 100 days and I'll stop the corrpution."  He lies to defuse the anger.  100 days passed and he had no plan and didn't do a damn thing.  Today Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports "Iraqi authorities" are going to release 11.  No, not really.  If the 11 families -- in poverty striken Iraq -- can raise the money for a fee (they're calling it "bail"), then the women -- who have no charges against them -- can finally come home.  That's not being released.  Today's protests throughout Iraq saw a development that Michael Rubin just can't handle.  AFP reports, "In a sign of cross-sectarian anger with the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, meanwhile, hundreds of protesters from mostly-Shiite provinces in south Iraq joined the rallies, days after a powerful Shiite cleric voiced support for the demonstrations."
The protests are being seen as indicitive of the mood of the electorate and provincial elections are only a few months away.  Selim Hussni (Al-Monitor) offers:
Citizens will be eager to cast their votes, for they wish to eliminate former figures from the scene. Iraqis' experience with these officials was not pleasant; they heard many promises but unemployment rates remained high, services stayed just as bad as ever and the security situation continued to deteriorate. Iraqis have observed up close their outrageous behaviors, as they went to-and-fro to their bureaus.
Democratic Iraq has undergone many electoral experiences that uncovered a deep-seated collective resentment. Promises have never been met and candidates turned a deaf ear after they were elected. Such a recurrence has pushed Iraqi voters into a state of deep regret that is expressed in private, in public and on satellite channels.


Alsumaria reports that Diwaniya Province has announced 478 candidates will be running in their provincial elections (130 are women).  (There are 650,000 voters in the province.)

In other news, All Iraq News reports that there is no deal between Baghdad and Erbil and the military stand-off in the disputed areas continues.  The KRG Ministry of Peshmerga says of their Erbil meeting with a delegation from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense yesterday did not result in an agreement and that differences on several key points remain.  Erbil is the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government -- the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq.  Fars News Agency notes, "Turkish Fighter jets bombed over 20 targets of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Northern Iraq late Monday."  Trend News Agency points out, "The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has lasted over 25 years."   Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."  Today the World Tribune reports the government of Turkey is in talks with the PKK on a disarmament treaty, "Officials said Turkey's intelligence community was examining the prospect of a long-term ceasefire with the PKK. They said the intelligence community offered the PKK a range of options after Ankara determined that Kurdish insurgents could not be defeated militarily."  This follows their report from yesterday that Turkey was speaking to Abdullah Ocalan (imprisoned PKK leader) about a ceasefire.  Hurriyet Daily News adds, "Peace and Democracy Party Deputy Ayla Akat Ata, lawyer Meral Danış and independent deputy Ahmet Türk traveled to İmralı Island on Jan.3 to meet with the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan, according to daily Radikal."
Moving over to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office issued the following today:
Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
MILITARY SUICIDE: Murray Effort to Create Standardized Suicide Prevention Program Signed into Law by President Obama
New law will eliminate gaps in care from one service to the next; change comes in response to major review of military suicide prevention programs
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, an amendment sponsored by U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, that would require the Pentagon to implement a standardized and comprehensive suicide prevention program was signed into law by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (S.3254).  Murray crafted the amendment after a major study by the RAND Corporation showed that there are serious gaps and a lack of consistency in military services' suicide prevention programs.  The new law comes as the number of active duty suicides continues to rise with 2012 exceeding 2011.
"This law is another step forward in our efforts to ensure that servicemembers aren't slipping through the cracks," said Senator Murray.  "It will help to not only standardize suicide prevention efforts, but also contains provisions to reduce wait times, ensure proper diagnoses, and achieve true coordination of care and information between the Pentagon and the VA.  We cannot afford to be passive about the military suicide epidemic we face.  We must continue to respond with every legislative and outreach effort possible in order to turn this tragic trend around."
Senator Murray's amendment [calls on] the Department of Defense to create a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program; expand eligbility for Department of Veterans Affairs mental health services to family members; strengthen oversight of DoD Mental Health Care and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System; improve training and education for our health care providers; create more peer-to-peer counseling opportunities; and require VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services.  For more information on Senator Murray's ACCESS Act which was signed into law as part of the Defense Authorization Act visit:
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
Turning to radio, Nellie Bailey and Glen Ford are the hosts of the weekly  Black Agenda Radio (here for this week's broadcast) which airs on Progressive Radio Network each Monday from 11:00 am to noon EST.  This week they explore a number of topics including an anti-lynching march in Dover, Delaware on January 15th and the NAACP with Reverend Edward Pinkney who feels the organization's strayed far from its roots and is organizating a picket outside the February 1st NAACP Image Awards and with David Lowrey who explains how he went from President of the Chicago South Suburban chapter to non-member.  Excerpt.
David Lowrey:  This started on October 4th, when I received a call from Lewis Raymond who is one of the regional managers for the re-election Obama campaign.  He tried to convince me to use my branch, to be able to disimenate information as well as get people registered to vote for the Democratic ticket in the upcoming election.  After I refused to do that, because I'm an independent, Mr. Raymond got upset with me and told me he had been watching me and that he knew everything about me as well as go on to say that they would deal with me -- then hung up in my face. So I didn't know at the time who he was.  I reported it to the police because of my position and being in a national organization like the NAACP we run into some situations when we try to stand up and do the right thing.  So we made a police report of it.  WBBM Channel 2 got a hold of it.  It went viral.  And so the media was looking to interview me about the incident.  So I did do a show on Sirus Radio Rob Redding News Review.  I did this on the fourth.  And so I started talking about the issue of what happened.  I had spoke to the state president George Mitchell and told him what happened as well.  After that show aired, maybe six or seven days later, that was when I was supposedly suspended when Ben Jealous heard it.  But this is what actually happened, the show had aired and then they did hear it but they came at me with a cease-and-desist letter.  And I had already complied with that.  I'd spoken to the state president and told him, you know, man, I haven't said anything out of line, everything I said was true, that President Obama has not addressed any kind of issues in the Black community such as economic development, employment and education and all the other things that the situation face every day.  He hasn't said one word.'  And so when the state president heard the WBBM clip, he sent me a letter telling me to cease-and-desist -- as if I was trying to hurt President Obama's re-election and accomplishments, all that kind of stuff.  So I sent him a letter back saying I'd adhere to it but my freedom and right to speak is my own and cannot be dicated by the NAACP national office.  So the word was getting around, other people were calling me about interviews and so Ben Jealous finally did hear it.  That was when they ordered me to be suspended. But that wasn't what they suspended me about as well.  They were looking for something and when I rebutted the fact that I had not been partisan to any party -- because at first they said that I was being partisan to the Republican Party by talking about Romney and not Obama.  So when I dismissed that, then they came back and said that I was going to be suspended for supporting President Obama.  [Laughs.]  So I filed an appeal and I'm waiting to hear from that but in the meantime they tried to conduct an election.  And one of the guys, Gil Ford, who is over the membership branch, he and I have not been friends over the years so they suspended me plus my membership so that I couldn't even run for office over this branch again.  And after this incident happened, I did a news piece at Redding News again.  I found out that there's been several other NAACP presidents who they've done this to that took a dead branch -- I had 12 members when I started and now that branch has swollen to over 300.  I've written legislation -- House Bill 5665 that deals with illegal foreclosures here in the state of Illinois -- that is now at the Senate getting ready to go committee.  We've gotten people jobs, we've worked at re-entry people, we've done so many things out here in the Southland that have promoted equality and respect for the branch that I didn't actually understand what they wanted because they didn't want that.  We got no support from national. So I'm excited to hear back what the NAACP has to say regarding my appeal that I filed.  And after I hear from that, then I'll take this to the next level because I'm recommending that people who have experienced the unaccountability of the NAACP in the Black community -- and yet they get millions of dollars to say that they're doing things -- and yet they cannot be partisan and we all know for a fact that they are a political machine for the Democratic Party. So I'm getting a petition together and you can go to my website at and tell people to sign the petition and let's get the NAACP back to the table because I'm going to request the IRS revoke their national charter until they get themselves back to what it's all about and that's freedom fighting for people of color.