Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Remember TARP?  The big bail-out?  Andre Damon and Barry Grey (WSWS) report the thoughts of someone who worked on it:

In interviews prompted by the publication of his new book (Bailout) on the $700 billion US bank bailout scheme—the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)—the former special inspector general for the program, Neil Barofsky, has denounced bank regulators and top officials in the Bush and Obama administrations for covering up Wall Street criminality both before and after the financial crash of September 2008.
In an interview last Thursday with the Daily Ticker blog, Barofsky accused Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner of facilitating the banks’ manipulation of Libor, the global benchmark interest rate, when he was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2007-2008, prior to his joining the Obama administration. Recently published documents show that as early as 2007, Geithner knew that London-based Barclays Bank was submitting false information to the Libor board to conceal its financial weakness.
Geithner merely wrote to the Bank of England suggesting certain changes in the Libor rate-setting mechanism, but made no public statement and failed to notify regulators at the US Justice Department, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, even though major US banks were alleged to be involved in the rate-rigging fraud.
In his interview, Barofsky rejected Geithner’s claims to have acted appropriately. Calling the Libor scandal a “global conspiracy to fix one of the most important interest rates in the world,” the former TARP inspector general said, “[Geithner] heard this information and looked the other way. Geithner and other regulators should be held accountable, they should be fired across the board. If they knew about an ongoing fraud, and they didn’t do anything about it, they don’t deserve to have their jobs. I hope to see people in handcuffs.”
In the same interview and others given over the past week, Barofsky has spoken in scathing terms of the domination of Washington by Wall Street and the subservience of both major parties to the financial elite. “It was shocking,” he told the Daily Ticker, “how much control the big banks had over their own bailout and how they often would dictate terms of some of the TARP programs and the overwhelming deference shown by Treasury officials to the banks. I saw no differences in these core issues between the Bush and Obama administrations.”

It's amazing how there is no accountability.

Everybody wants the tax payers' money but no one wants to document how they did this and no one wants to punish the guilty.

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the press misreported yesterday on why the US government gave up the Baghdad police training facility because the SIGIR was less than clear in his report (to put it nicely), Baghdad is slammed with twin bombings, July sees more deaths from violence than June, Total becomes the latest oil company ready to do business with the KRG, and more. 
Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The United States wasted more than $200 million on an Iraqi police-training program that has little backing on the ground, a new U.S. government audit released Monday found."  The Office of the Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction issued [PDF format warning] "Iraq Police Development Program: Lack Of Iraqi Support And Security Problems Raise Questions About The Continued Viability Of The Program."  From the report:
The DoS is wisely reducing the PDP's scope and size in the face of weak Iraq Ministry of Interior (MOI) support.  In July 2012, the number of in-country advisors was reduced to 36: 18 in Baghdad and 18 in Erbil, down from the 85 advisors supporting the program in January.  These latest reductions steemed, in part, from the MOI's rejection of some planned PDP training that was to be the centerpiece of the DoS program.  DoS is currently refocusing its training on five technical areas requested by the MOI.
Along with Iraqi disinterest, security concerns also affected the program. The Embassy's Regional Security Office deemed it unsafe for advisors to travel to Iraqi-controlled facilities in Baghdad on a frequent basis.  Thus, the PDP's advisors conducted more training at the U.S.-controlled Baghdad Police College Annex (BPAX). DoS constructed significant training and housing facilities at BPAX at an estimated cost of about $108 million.  But the DoS has decided to close the facility just months after the PDP started, due to security costs and program revisions.  Although BPAX's facilities will be given to the Iraqis, its closure amounts to a de facto waste of the estimated $108 million to be invested in its construction. In addition, DoS contributed $98 million in PDP funds for constructing the Basrah Consulate so it could be used for PDP training.  It too will not be used because the MOI decided to terminate training at that location. This brings the total amount of de facto waste in the PDP -- that is, funds not meaningfully used for the purpose of their appropriations -- to about $206 million.
I wasn't in the mood for the report yesterday.  My attitude was we covered waste in this program  last week (see, for example, "Did the US government have 1.5 billion to throw away" ) and the thing everyone was running with was the Baghdad Police College Annex.  That was the headline in piece for piece after piece.
Why is the Police College Annex being given to the Iraqi government?
It's not difficult to explain and it has been explained.
But not in reports yesterday and not in Stuart Bowen's SIGIR report everyone treated as gospel.
This was addressed in Congressional hearings.  And the press needs to pay attention to what's going on because the reason the Police College Annex is being handed over?  That can effect other US complexes in Iraq.
The June 29th snapshot covered the most recent hearing on this topic (the June 28th House Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations hearing).  Jason Chaffetz is the Subcommittee Chair but he'd stepped out of the hearing and US House Rep Black Farenthold was Acting Chair.  As he established in his line of questions (to the State Dept's Patrick Kennedy and Peter Verga and the State Dept's Acting IG Harold Geisel, DoD's Special Deputy IG for Southwest Asia Mickey McDermott, US GAO's Michael Courts and SIGIR's Stuart Bowen Jr.), the US government did not secure a lease for the land.  As Farenthold noted of the Baghdad Police College Annex, "It was intended to house the police department program -- a multi-billion dollar effort that's currently being downsized.  And as a result of the State Dept's failure to secure land use rights, the entire facility is being turned over to the Iraqis at no cost.  The GAO reports Mission Iraq has land use agreements or leases for only 5 out of all of the sites that it operates."  That number has increased by one since that hearing.  From the July 9th snapshot:
The Kurdistan Regional Government really wasn't the concern there.  But Sunday the KRG announced that Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa met with outgoing US Consul General Alexander Laskaris: "As his last official act in the Region, prior to the meeting Consul General Laskaris signed an agreement regarding the allocation of land for the permanent premises of the US Consulate to be built on. Commenting on this agreement, Mr Laskaris said, 'We thank the government of Kurdistan for allocating this land as part of enhancing our permanent diplomatic presence in Iraq including Baghdad, Basra and Erbil. We look forward to breaking ground and thank the leadership of the KRG for their continuing support and partnership'."
AP and others yesterday wrongly conflated two separate aspects of the waste.  If they'd bothered to attend Congressional hearings, maybe they wouldn't have.  But the police college was not turned over because people didn't want to participate.  That's not the issue on the turnover. The issue on the turnover is the lack of land-lease agreements.  These should have been in place.  They weren't.
Michael Courts testified in the June 28th hearing referenced above that "there's still only 5 of 14 [US facilities in Iraq] for which we actually have explicit title land use agreements or leases."
If you are alarmed by the waste trumpeted yesterday, then you need to pay attention to this topic.  There are now 6 out of 14 facilities with agreements.  (Courts used "explicit agreements" to draw a line between actual agreements and the diplomatic notes Patrick Kennedy was trying to falsely pass off as agreements.)
Point being, this could happen again and again.  This story was completely missed because the press is not doing the work required.
Article after article yesterday acted alarmed about the handover of the building and the numbers they used in the headlines relied largely on that building.  But no one wants to tell you that this could happen with 8 other US buildings in Iraq if the administration doesn't get land agreements?  No  one wants to be the one to step up to the plate and discuss how the administration failed?
In fairness to the reporters, they're covering a SIGIR report (though should they be adding context and a bit more in their so-called reports) and that report makes the same conflation between two separate things.
Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) speaks to Bowen and even that doesn't allow Rogin to get it right. For all not at the June 28th hearing, that's when the American people learned (or would have if the press attended and reported) that the Baghdad Police College Annex was being handed over to the Iraqi government and that this was happening because of the lack of lease agreement.
It is not because of security concerns -- as Rogin and Bowen discuss. That was discussed in the hearing as well. That had nothing to do with it. Issues are being confused and it's hard to believe it's not intentional.
It is not because of the lack of participation by the Iraqi police.
It is being handed over because no land agreement was finalized and apparently the White House doesn't think one can be on that area of land. This is important and to have an honest discussion, people need to know the issues at play.
Let's deal with another issue because it goes to failure as well and it didn't happen this week or last month, it happened months ago but Rogin -- who I'll assume was trying to be honest on this -- quotes from the SIGIR report, "Without the MOI [Ministry of Interior]'s written commitment to the program, there is little reason to have confidence that the training program currently being planned will be accepted six months from now."
I'm appalled by that statement.
I don't disagree with it but it's more than a little late for that statement. This dishonesty's coming from Bowen who I'll assume is under a lot of pressure and is trying to pretty things up. But why is it appalling to read a juts-released SIGIR report stating there's no buy-in by the Ministry of Defense on a police training program?
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: He [Bowen] has testified before other bodies of Congress, he has released written quarterly reports, as well as specific audits and the message is the same: The program for which the Department of State officially took responsibility on October 1st is nearly a text book case of government procurement -- in this case, foreign assistance -- doesn't buy what we think we're paying for, what we want and why more money will only make the problem worse. Failed procurement is not a problem unique to the State Department. And when it comes to frittering away millions, Foggy Bottom is a rank amateur compared to the Department of Defense. As our colleagues on the Armed Services committees have learned, the best of projects with the most desirable of purposes can go horribly, horribly off-track; and the hardest thing it seems that any bureaucracy can do is pull the plug on a failed initiative. How do we know the Police Development Program is going off-track? Very simple things demonstrate a strong likelihood of waste and mismanagement. Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the program? Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue.
That's US House Rep Gary Ackerman rightly noting there is no buy-in on the police training program and that's not last week, that's not last month. That's last year. That's from the December 1, 2011 snapshot and the hearing was November 30, 2011. And Stuart Bowen knows these remarks because he was testifying to the hearing.
Hundreds of millions have been wasted according to the latest report (billions have been wasted) and the American tax payer is paying for this 'oversight'? This lack of buy-in was established in Congress last year. From that House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia hearing:
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the program? Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue.
The report didn't uncover anything.  It was already known at the end of last year.  This is why Congress was so upset with the stone walling from the administration.  They felt the Iraq goals were not clearly defined, that the -- wait.  We don't need me.  Again, Ackerman, from that hearing, explained the problem was "the program's objectives remain a mushy bowl of vague platitudes" with "no comprehensive and detailed plan for execution."  He referred to the "flashing-red warning light."
This is a failure of the administration and the press can't tell you that because they don't know the story they think they're covering.  In part, that's because Bowen's written an embarrassing report that doesn't clearly document.  In part, that's because they didn't do their jobs.
Adnan al-Asadi had been questioned by Bowen last year and Bowen was told by Adnan al-Asadi that they didn't need the US to train Iraqi police.  Who is? Adnan al-Asadi? The Acting Minister of Interior.  He's not Minister of Interior.  Nouri never nominated anyone for that position so Parliament never confirmed anyone.  Which means Adnan al-Asadi does what Nouri tells him to do and serves at Nouri's pleasure.  Nouri must have been pleased with al-Asadi's actions. 
Though Nouri was supposed to nominate heads for the security ministries in 2010, he never did.  As  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed last week, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  And while those positions have remained vacant, the violence in Iraq has increased.
Today Baghdad was slammed with bombings.  Bushra Juhi (AP) reports two Baghdad car bombings have left 21 dead and fifty-seven injured. RTT News explains, "The first of the bomb explosions occurred outside a restaurant near the headquarters of the police major crime division in Baghdad's central Shiite district of Karrada.  Minutes later, a second car bomb exploded outside a passport office located just a few kilometers away."  Aseel Kami and Kareem Raheem (Reuters) quote police officer Ahmed Hassan, "We were in a patrol when we heard the first explosion.  The second explosion hit another square, and we went to help . . . There was a minibus with six dead passengers inside it."  The two bombings weren't the only violence today.
On the day Reporters Without Borders notes 6 countries have seen more than one reporter killed in 2012 so far while 7 -- including Iraq -- have seen at least one killed, Iraq moves up into the first category.  Iraq just moved up to the other category, the more than one.  Bushra Juhi (AP) reports police announced today that last night in Mosul, Ghazwan Anas was shot dead in an attack which left his wife and mother injured. Al Rafidayn reports that unknown assailants stormed Anas' home and shot him dead while leaving his wife injured.  Xinhua adds that it was his wife and their 4-month-old child that were injured in the attack and, "The Iraqi Union of Journalists condemned in a statement the assassination of Anas and called on Nineveh's Operations Command, responsible for the security of the province, to exert every effort to bring the killers to justice. The Union said that more than 280 of its members and media workers have been killed since the start of the US-led war in March 2003." In addition, Bahrain News Agency reports an al-Ramadi roadside bombing has claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injured. Basil El-Dabh (Daily News Egypt) observes, "An escalation of violence in Iraq comes with a renewed effort by Iraqi Al-Qaeda forces to energize its presence in the Anbar province. "  AFP adds that "two people were killed and three wounded by a car bomb north of Falluja, a police major in the western province of Anbar and Doctor Assem al-Hamdani of Fallujah Hospital said."

On the topic of violence, Iraq Body Count counts 403 deaths from violence through yesterday.  That does not include the violence noted above.  The month of July ends in a few hours and it has already resulted in more deaths than in the month of June.
Mission News Network notes that Iraq's Christian community continues to flee due to threats and violence and they note:
Open Doors USA recently received this e-mail from one of their contacts in Baghdad:
"The terror in Iraq recently was the worst for several years. Each hour the news of what happened gets worse. There have also been major al-Qaeda threats to everyone, especially the Christians. After last week's violence, communication is terrible.
"It is not really possible to describe the devastation here in Baghdad. Over 100 have been killed. Security has been a target. We have none. I came back early because things were getting worse, and they sure are! We are all okay, though.
"We are used to bad problems here in Baghdad, but the violence is just quite unbelievable. 12 car bombs, 2 suicide bombers on motor bikes. Scores of police and soldiers killed. We no longer have any security. It was all Iraqi police and soldiers. Whilst our people have not been killed, the injuries are so severe to so many."
While the e-mailer offers reality, the head of the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq, Amaar al-Hakeem spun like crazy in Kuwait.  Nawara Fattahous (Kuwait Times) quotes al-Hakeem stating, "Compared to two years ago the situation today is much better. After 150,000 American soldiers withdrew from Iraq, our government has been working alone to insure security."
Poor Ammar.  To be spanked in public by events of the day must be so humiliating for him.  And he's worked so hard trying to prove he's as much of a leader as his father was.  Then along comes reality, taking him over the knee and leaving him sobbing.
Al Rafidayn reports that the US Embassy is using "live ammunition" when training the Iraqi military (not the police) such as their recent July 17th exercise.  The Embassy issued a statement insisting that this training is covered under the 2008 Stratgice Framework Agreeement.

If you're picturing supposed diplomats strapping guns, don't.  The mission is overseen by the US military's Maj Gen Robert Kaslen who is utilizing an undisclosed number of US forces.  But don't say that too loud.  Remember Barack lied to the VFW that all the troops came home.  (Truth, thousands were moved to countries surrounding Iraq.  Truth, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report recently arguing the ones in Kuwait needed to be left there for some time to come.  Truth, Special-Ops, CIA, the FBI and an undisclosed number of US troops who are 'trainers' remain in Iraq.)
There is no improved security and the US military still provides training -- unless Amaar al-Hakeem thinks Maj Gen Robert Kaslen is just a flight attendent with a fancy title.
Remember how Nouri still refuses to nominate people to head the security ministries?  That's part of the current, ongoing political stalemate.
This is Political Stalemate II.  In March 2010, parliamentary elections were held.  Nouri was convinced his State of Law would come in first.  He had many reasons to think this.  The Justice and Accountability Commission popped up when it was supposed to be no more and went around banning various politicians who were seen as rivals of Nouri.  They were falsely charged with being a Ba'athist and they were banned from running.  A large number of Iraqiya members were taken out of the race as a result.  State of Law was a fundamentalist grouping of Shi'ites.  Iraqiya is, like Iraq, a mixture of a little bit of everything.  Leader Ayad Allawi is a Shi'ite.  In addition to Iraqiya having members forced out of the election, in the weeks ahead of the election a number of Iraqiya candidates and officials were shot dead.  Just luck, you understand, no one's saying Nouri ordered the murders just because he benefited from them.  Pure coincidence. When not 'taking care' of political rivals, Nouri busied himself bringing water (usually frozen) to various areas without potable water.  He thought that little bribe had worked so well in 2009's provincial elections so he repeated it.   But his favorite tactic was just to smear Iraqiya as "Ba'athists" and "terrorists."  (Ba'ath was the political party of Saddam Hussein.  For background on the party refer to this BBC News article.)
It didn't work out the way he'd planned.  Iraiqya came in first.  He was runner up.  Per the Constitution, Iraqiya was supposed to be given first crack at forming a government.  Nouri wanted a second term as prime minister and refused to allow anything to move forward.  Things ground to a standstill.  For eight months.  Nouri couldn't have pulled that off without the backing of the White House. 
In November 2010, the stalemate finally ended when the US ensured that Nouri got his way.  They brokered the Erbil Agreement which gave all the blocs something in exchange for their agreeing to allow Nouri to have a second term.  All the leaders of the blocs signed off on the contract (including Nouri) and Nouri got his second term as prime minister.  And Nouri then refused to honor the Erbil Agreement.  He refused to keep the promises he'd made.  Beginning in the summer of last year, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr began calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.
From there, we'll pick up the thread via the International Crisis Group's .  "Iraq's Secular Opposition: The Rise and Decline of Al-Iraqiya:"
The goal of the Erbil accord had been to limit the powers of the prime minister. It was not to be. Since taking office in December 2010, Maliki steadily has built up his power, making no concessions to his governing partners. He has retained control over the interior and defence ministries as well as of elite military brigades. As a result, Iraqiya has found itself marginalised in government, its leaders and members exposed to intimidation and arrest by security forces, often under the banner of de-Baathification and anti-terrorism. Having campaigned partially on the promise it would bring such practices to an end, Iraqiya proved itself powerless in the eyes of its supporters. Matters came close to breaking point in December 2011, as the last U.S. troops left the country, when Maliki's government issued an arrest warrant against Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi, a senior Sunni leader, while declaring Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, another Sunni leader – both of them from Iraqiya – persona non grata for having referred to Maliki as a "dictator".
In April 2012, tensions between Maliki and his governing partners escalated further. Joining forces, Iraqiya leaders, Barzani and other Kurdish leaders as well as some of Maliki's Shiite rivals such as the powerful Sadrist movement, accused the prime minister of violating the Erbil agreement and amassing power by undemocratic and unconstitutional means. Their efforts ever since to hold a parliamentary no-confidence vote against Maliki have been hampered by internal divisions. The crisis is at a stalemate: Maliki hangs on to power, even enjoying a surge in popularity in Shiite areas; his rivals lack a viable strategy to unseat him until the next parliamentary elections, which should take place in 2014. This, they fear, leaves plenty of time for the prime minister to further consolidate his hold over the security forces and carry out further repression to achieve the kind of parliamentary majority in the next elections that has eluded him so far.
An emboldened prime minister, growing sectarian tensions and a deeply mistrustful opposition are a recipe for violent conflict, especially in light of troubling developments in neighbouring Syria. Iraqis across the divide express fears that a spiralling sectarian-tinged civil war in their neighbour could exacerbate tensions at home and usher the country into another round of sectarian conflict. In a separate report, Crisis Group has proposed some ways to mitigate the chances of such a scenario.
I lost hope in Maliki when, in 2008, he deployed the Iraqi Army with tanks and other heavy weapons to Khanaqin to fight the Peshmargas.
We have problem with this mentality, that instead of dialogue, he believes in the language of arms. My concern is not for now; it is for the coming years. If this mentality is allowed to grow this way while he has power, he will create great problems for Kurdistan and Iraq.
According to the constitutional authority and responsibility that I have (as KRG president), I did not create new problems when I broke the silence about this (authoritarian) mentality (in Baghdad) this year, although some people see it that way.
Rather, I only brought issues on the table that have existed for years now but have not been addressed seriously.
Many years have passed since the promise was made to solve the pending issues (between Kurdistan Region and Bagdad) without taking serious steps in that direction. No serious steps have been taken for Article 140, or the issue of the budget and the (financial) needs of the Peshmarga, nor has the draft for oil and gas been passed. Moreover, Kurdish officers and officials are sidelined and alienated inside the Iraqi Army.
After the Erbil Agreement they always hid themselves from implementing the articles of the agreement, so, the real power-sharing term has almost faded away and what has been felt is only monopolization and a return to the dictatorship mentality.
They ignored all the promises in regard to the internal procedures of the ministerial council, and only Maliki's unlimited authority could be seen there in all administrative, security, military and economic aspects, which is breaching the constitutional definition of the government type of Iraq, since according to the constitution the head of the government is the head of the council of ministers and not a prime minister. There is a large difference between these two terms, since the head of the council of ministers will follow and execute the internal policies and procedures of the council and cannot act on his own.
That's from the speech he delivered Saturday which the Kurdish Globe has translated into English.   The conflicts between Nouri and the Kurds only increase.  Geraldine Amiel (Nasdaq) reports, "Total SA (TOT) challenged the Iraqi authorities Tuesday as it announced the acquisition of a 35% interest in two oil-exploration blocks in Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, just days after the central government in Baghdad blacklisted Chevron Corp. (CVX) from contracts in the rest of the country after it entered the Kurdish region."  Meanwhile the Kurdish Globe notes, "Oil giant Exxon Mobil announced that it is planning to start its operations for drilling in six oil fields in the Kurdistan Region.  Chevron, the second largest American oil company after Exxon Mobil, did not take Baghdad's threats about depriving the company from exploration and investment opportunities in the centeral and southern oil fields into consideration and insists on investing in Kurdistan Region's vast oil reserves."
Dropping back to yesterday:

Meanwhile AFP reports on the latest round of rumors Nouri and his cronies are spreading about others: KRG President Massoud Barzani has been caught attempting to buy weapons from "an unnamed foreign country."  Doesn't it all just reek of "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."?  Starting to understand why Bully Boy bush chose Nouri in the first place? 
Could it be true?  It could be.  Would it matter if it was?  The KRG can arm themselves.  That was established when Saddam Hussein was still the president of Iraq.  Nouri al-Maliki may not like it, but they've got that right and they established that right long before Baghdad fell in 2003 to foreign forces.  In other words, unlike Nouri and his chicken s**t exiles, the Kurds actually participated in their own liberation (1991).  Nouri and the other hens in his squawk party just bitched and moaned to get other countries to do what they were to chicken to do themselves and only returned to Iraq after Baghdad fell.  What a bunch of losers.  And now, on top of that, they're a bunch of backbiting gossips?
Naturally Iran's Press TV jumps all over the unsourced story and doesn't bother to weigh the veracity of the claims.  Press TV is almost as pathetic as the Chicken Hawk Exiles who now rule Iraq.

Alsumaria notes that State of Law MP Hassan al-Awadi is publicly accusing the KRG of trying to get weapons.  His proof?  He's State of Law.  They never have proof.  They're lucky to have a functioning brain.  Alsumaria notes that Kurdistan Alliance MP Chaun Mohammed Taha is denying the charge.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Nouri and his lackeys are also insiting that KRG President Massoud Barzani is going to be questioned by the Iraqi Parliament.  However, today Alsumaria notes that the Parliament has received no such request to question Barzani. 
Nouri's targets have included office holders and every day citizens.  The latter group was targeted last fall and are being targeted again with mass arrests.  Because they are not 'names,' they are invisible to the world's press. 
One 'name' Nouri's targeted is Iraq's Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  He has insisted al-Hashemi is a terrorist.  A rather strange accusation when al-Hashemi has been a vice president since 2006 (this is his second term) and it's not a charge Nouri wanted to make until after the bulk of US forces pulled out of the country in December.  al-Hashemi's staff have been rounded up and tortured.  At least one bodyguard was tortured to death.  That's the way it goes in Nouri's Iraq and that's the Iraq that Barack Obama decided to back when he threw the weight of the United States behind Nouri in 2010. 
Margret Griffis (Antiwar.com) notes Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has a resident permit from Turkey.  AKnews adds, "Today's Zaman reported Monday that the Turkish Interior Ministry has issued a residence permit to Hashimi so that he would not face legal troubles for staying in the country."

Monday, July 30, 2012

That dreadful economy


Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Dishonest Cheese Doodle" which is as funny as the employment figures are sad.  Mike Whitney (CounterPunch) notes:

Last week’s dismal “data dump” has ended all talk of a strong recovery in the US. Retail sales, factory output, jobless claims, consumer confidence, business investment and existing home sales are all down sharply indicating that the US economy is decelerating and may be headed for recession.
The Obama administration was warned repeatedly that activity would slow when the $800 billion fiscal stimulus (ARRA) ran out and net government spending became a drag on growth. But Obama’s chief economics advisor, Lawrence Summers, shrugged off these warnings in order to keep the economy sputtering along at half-speed. Summers figured that bigger deficits and slower growth would create the rationale for slashing entitlement spending and crushing organised labor (particularly, public unions) In other words, the economy is weak, because the policy was designed to make it weak. Mission accomplished.
Not everyone in the Obama administration played along with this scam. Economist Christina Romer, for example, wanted the stimulus to be $1 trillion more than was eventually approved by Summers. That’s what she figured it would take to kick-start the growth engine and put millions of unemployed Americans back to work.

Patrick Martin (WSWS) adds:

The Obama administration issued an official update on the US economy Friday that projects that unemployment will remain high for the next decade. The unemployment rate stood at 5.0 percent in April 2008, before the Wall Street crash triggered by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Even in the best-case scenario laid out in the White House report, the unemployment will remain above that level into 2022.
In other words, for those who are now unemployed, and particularly for the new generation of young people who have come of age since the 2008 crash, the prospect is for the continuation of mass unemployment more or less indefinitely.

That is unacceptable and shame on any president who treats it as normal.  Our grandparents and great grandparents would have been outside the White House with cardboard, setting up 'shanty towns.'  They'd be refusing to leave until the issue was addressed.

Today?  The most some can muster is maybe -- a weak maybe -- they won't vote for him this November.

That's the most they can handle.

No wonder he hasn't focused on creating jobs.

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

Monday, July 30, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis compete in the Olympics, KRG President Massoud Barzani gives a major speech, violence continues in Iraq, peace advocate Cindy Sheehan has been named a running mate on a presidential ticket, and more.
Starting with the Summer Olympics.  They're taking place in London and the official website is hereThe NBC website for the Olympics is here and cluttered and poorly put together.  If you're looking for anything other than video (live or otherwise) go to the London site which is easier to navigate and more pleasing to the eye.  Apparently NBC spent so much on the rights to the Olympics, they didn't have any money left to design a solid website.
Iraq has sent 8 athletes to the Summer Olympics in London.  Dana Abdul Razak competed in the 2008 Olympics and this go round will run the 100 meter race.  The other seven are attending for the first time: Adnan Taess Akkar (800 meter race), Noor Amer al-Ameri (shooting), Mohanad Ahmed Dheyaa al-Azzawi (swimming), Safaa al-Jumaili (weightlifting), Rand al-Mashhadani (archery), Ali Nadhim Salman Salman (wrestling) and Ahmed Abdulkareem Ahmed (boxing).
Ahmed Abdulkareem Ahmed  boxed yesterday.  Click here for a Reuters photo of his match with South Africa's Siphiwe Lusizi (photo taken by Murad Sezer).  Scott Christ (Bad Left Hook) reports, "Siphiwe Lusizi (South Africa) def. Ahmed Abdulkareem Ahmed (Iraq), 17-13: Decent fight, and an admirable effort from Ahmed.  He gave it all he had, but Lusizi was better than him.  A lot of these fights are really as simple as that.  One guy is just better than the other guy in these early stages."  The official Olympics site notes that the first time Iraq ever competed in the Olympics were in the 1948 Olympics.  And that was also the last time, until this year, that the Summer Olympics were held in London.  Back then, Iraq sent an "11-man team" for basketball, L. Hasso for the 400 meter run and Ali Salman ran in the 100 meter and the 200 meter in addition to playing on the basketball team.
The second photo in the Toronto Sun's "Photos of the Week" is by Suhaib Salem (Reuters) and of Rand al-Mashhadani from Friday's ranking round for women's individual archery. 
After the awful opening musical numbers (see Ann's "6 men, 1 woman"), you might think some in London might show some humility.  That's not the case.  Alsumaria reports that the Telegraph of London has declared that Algeria and Iraq have the worst national anthems.  The unsigned article in the Telegraph of London, ranks what they call the ten worst anthems -- Iraq comes in at number seven:

Iraq's national song, "My Homeland," comes from a poem written by Ibrahim Touquan, a Palestinian poet, in 1934.  Reinstated in 2004 after a previous anthem reminded residents too much of Saddam Hussein's regime, the lyrics are rousing but the jaunty melody underplays the seriousness of the message. 

In actual Olympic news, AFP reports Noor Amer al-Ameri, competing in the shooting competition for Iraq, was prevented from taking her equpiment on the flight from Baghdad to Dubai, "Emirati authorities later gave the green light for the pistol to be transported to Dubai by plane on Wednesday, and pledged that it would arrive safely in London."   Al Mada notes Noor competed Sunday and came in 46 out of 55, that she was born in Karbala in 1994 and attends Baghdad University.  In the article, an Iraqi official -- Minister for Youth and Sports Jasim Mohammed Jaafar --  blathers on about how, five to ten years from now, Iraq will have heroes who compete.  That's really insulting.  Dana Abdul Razak, for example, has been shot at while training.  The eight who made it are making history.  Instead of Iraqi officials making insulting remarks about those competing, they might want to take a hard look at themselves and where they put the emphasis.  It wasn't on training.  People shouldn't have to leave their home country to train but that happened.   As is usual in Iraq, a lot of over 40 men were made officials -- some who look they should be forced to retire -- and they made themselves the focus.  I'm referring to Iraq's official Olympic Committee.  Go to the website and prepare to be insulted.  I thought three weeks ago (wrongly), that this website would provide bios of the athletes and photos.  Wrong.  Even now, with the Olympics underway, when you go to the photo exhibit what you get are a bunch of bald and balding old men, sitting around, congratulating themselves.  If anyone visits the site, it's to see the athletes, not the officials.  That they couldn't grasp that goes a long way towards explaining where the problem is.  It's not with the athletes competing, it's with the egos of the officials. And many, like Jasim Moahmmed Jaafar have on claim to sports (engineer) and are only serving on the Committee because they are exiles like Nouri (Jaafar was an exile from 1981 to 2003).
All 8 who made it to the Olympics have much to be proud of.  And maybe if the officials ever do their job, Iraq will be able to compete in a lot more events?  But don't trash the eight who made it to the Olympics.  They overcame a great deal to be there.
In Iraq conflicts continue between the KRG and the Baghdad-based central government.  Last week, Rudaw reported, "On Friday the minitry of Peshmerga said that the Iraqi government had sent troops to border strip between Syria and the Kurdistan Region and that 3,000 Peshmerga fighters stationed in the area had stopped their advance.  There was serious concern about armed classhes between both sides."   Xinhua added, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki criticized authorities of the country's semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan for preventing Iraqi army soldiers sent by Baghdad from reaching a border point with Syria located at a disputed area controlled by Kurdish forces."  Al Mada noted that Jabbar Yawar, Secretary-General of the Peshmerga, states these are areas that the Peshmerga naturally patrols.  Al Mada also noted that the Kurdistan Alliance states Nouri is not able to move forces into the KRG without the consent of the Kurdish Regional Government.  Calling it "the most dangerous escalation and confrontation between the two sides," Omar al-Saleh (Al Jazeera) reported from Fishkhabur on the Iraq - Syria border.
Omar al-Saleh: What the Kurdish troops did is they prevented thes troops from advancing further this way.  They blocked it and they sent their own reinforcements.  We even saw some artillery, mortar, rockets and we've seen heavy -- heavy weapons.  And basically what the Iraqi government has said in a statement is that it's not aimed -- this move, this troops' movement -- is not aimed at the Kurdish Regional authority but it wants to prevent any infiltration or any security breaches from the borders with Syria.  Now what the Kurds will tell you is the prime minister of Iraq is trying to send his troops into a disputed area. 

Besides the usual turf wars universal to different security forces around the world, there iss also the fear that Nouri would use the issue of the border crossings in an attempt to install the Iraqi forces permanently in these areas.  That's a valid fear.  Considering other power grabs that he's made, it wouldn't be a stretch.  In addition, Nouri probably has a fear of his own.  It wasn't that long ago that Syrian 'rebels' seized control of the borders (July 19th).  Iraq's not had any cartography or survey done of that area in some time.  They have focused their concerns with regards to the border they share with Iran due to the fact that Iran insists that land Iraq considers to be Iraqi land is actually Iranian land.  With Syrian President Bashar Assad, this was not a concern or pressing issue.  That changed when the rebels seized up to four borders.  Nouri had no concern over 'securing the borders' until the 'rebels'
Alsumaria reported KRG President Massoud Barzanai gave a speech Saturday.
The speech was a clarification of the crisis between the KRG and Baghdad and Barzani states that he was compelled to address the basics and shine a light on the problems.   He argues it boils down to the fact that the Kurds have tried to live in a peaceful coexistence under the Iraqi Constitution but while some respect the rights and duties of the Constitution others disregard and dismiss the Constitution to compile a monopoly of power in their own hands.  He states the disagreement between Nouri al-Maliki and himself is not personal and that Nouri was a close friend many years ago when he lived in Kurdistan [presumably this is during Nouri's exile period which also includes stays in Iran and Syria].  But since 2008 when Nouri sent the Iraqi soldiers and tanks to Khanaqin in a face-off with the Peshmerga, dialogue has been harder and harder.  He notes that the Constitution's Article 140 has never been implemented.  [This is the Article about disputed territories such as oil-rich Kirkuk.  A census and referendum is supposed to be held.  By the end of 2007.  Nouri has refused, for six years now, to implement Article 140.  Nouri is in violation of the Constitution.  This issue, by the way, was seen by the RAND Corporation as the biggest once facing Iraq.]  In addition, Baghdad is not providing the budget for the Peshmerga, nor is it working on a draft oil and gas law.  He notes that the Erbil Agreement has been evaded and that a true partnership has been lost.  It is as though, he states, they hvae returned to a dictatorship, following all the ignored promises.  In violation of the rules and laws, he states, Nouri has attempted to grab absolute power over the administration issues, security issues, the military issues and the  economic ones.  This is in violation of the Constitution, he notes. 
He states in his speech that the oil contracts currently in dispute [ExxonMobil and Chevron] are about issues that have been spoken of for years and that, for years, there has been talk of the oil and gas law but still no passage.  The KRG will call for a special committee to review all of the government's files related to oil in the KRG and Iraq.  The Kurds have been patient and waited for issues to be resolved but they have not been.
On the political crisis, he states that the failure on Nouri's part to implement past agreements and Nouri's lack of commitment to the Constitution led to the move for a withdrawal of confidence in Nouri.  Barzani states he is willing to set that move aside if someone can put an end to the outstanding issues [seems to echo Moqtada al-Sadr's statement that all Nouri has to do to stop a vote of no-confidence is to return to the Erbil Agreement].  The vote can be tabled and Iraq can return to the right path that will prevent one person from amassing control and a monopoly of power.   That's my translation.  The speech was in Kurdish (which I don't speak or read) and the KRG translated it to Arabic.  There is no English translation provided by the KRG at present. 
Of the speech,  Hiwa Osman (Rudaw) notes:
The speech did not achieve the impact it should have, especially as the crisis escalated and Iraqi soldiers approached the Syrian border close to Kurdish territories.
As an observer, I was first of all surprised that the speech was not televised.  The second surprise was that it was in Kurdish.  Especially with the recent escalations of tensions, Iraqi Arab public opinion is very much against the Kurdish region.  The media in Baghad has been full of pro-Maliki voices to say the least, and they are all depicting Kurds as those who want everything. 
President Barzani's speech touched on many issues related to the future of Iraq as a whole, not just as pertains to the Kurds.  One of the key points in talks with Baghdad has been the vision of the country's federal future.  But this is not known to the Arab public.
In the absence of a strong Kurdish presence in Baghdad's media, a televised message from President Barzani in Arabic for the people of Iraq would have explained the Kurdish position to the rest of Iraq.  It would have also been a strong response to Maliki's NRT interview.
And possibly Barzani felt the same way and that's why he made a high profile TV appeareance over the weekend.  Barazni sat down with Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) for an interview.  Excerpt.
President Massoud Barzani:  There's no doubt that the Kurdish question has made a lot of progress.  But I cannot deny that we still face a lot of challenges.  I can however definitely say that the Kurds have passed the stage where their survival could be threatened.  It would be impossible for us as a people to give up everything we have achieved. 
Jane Arraf: There's a real crisis going on in Iraq and you warned just a few months ago that if it continues that the Kurdish region could seek its independence.  Are you still prepared to follow through on that?
President Massoud Barzani:  If I can make clear what exactly I said, it's this, that Iraq is facing a serious and genuine crisis and we have two kinds of problems.  One is a general problem for Iraq as a whole and the other is problems between the Kurdish region and Baghdad.  We've called for general reforms for the problems -- the Iraqi-wide problems and also the ones between the Kurdish region and Baghdad.  I call upon the Iraqi leaders, if they are ready and willing to come talk to us.  We are ready to do whatever we can to solve these problems.  If the other Iraqi factions are not ready to follow us, then I will go back to the Kurdish people and ask them to decide what needs to be done. And I am still saying the same thing.
Jane Arraf: And do you feel now, considering that there really hasn't been much progress between Baghdad and Erbil, do you feel now that you will go to the Kurdish people in September and ask them in a referendum whether they want independence?
President Massoud Barzani:  Frankly speaking, the current situation is not acceptable and we will not allow it to continue.  Our people cannot tolerate it and I'm sure the Iraqi people will not accept it either.  Certainly, at some point, I'd go back to the people but I'd first have to consult with the political parties in the region.  I have to consult with Parliament.  This is not a decision for me to make alone.  But certainly, the moment that we feel disappointed and lose hope of solving the problems and getting out of this crisis then I will go back to the people.  But before that, I have to consult with the political groups here and with Parliament. 
Nouri, who has thus far refused to appear before the Parliament for questioning (he's in violation of the Constitution) has several tricks he's attempting.  Al Rafidayn notes one, Nouri wants to question Barzani before the Parliament.

A 70-year-old man has been sentenced to 15 years in prsion.  That's the verdict handed down by the Iraqi 'legal' system after a 'hearing' that was shorter than a US traffic court appearance to appeal a speeding ticket.  Amnesty International issues the following alert:

'Grossly unfair' 15-minute court hearing in Ramze Shihab Amhed case relied on 'torture' evidence
Amnesty International has condemned the trial in Iraq of a 70-year-old British man who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after a hearing that lasted only 15 minutes.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 70-year-old dual Iraqi-UK national who has lived in the UK since 2002, was sentenced by a court in Baghdad on 20 June after being found guilty of "funding terrorist groups".
Amnesty has obtained and examined court documents and believes the trial proceedings were "grossly unfair". At his trial, the ninth in a series of trials (he had been acquitted in each of the earlier ones), Mr Ahmed's lawyer was not given the opportunity to challenge the prosecution's case, or to cross-examine prosecution witnesses or call his own witnesses.
The court also failed to exclude from the proceedings a "confession" of Ahmed's, despite longstanding allegations that this was extracted under torture. The court relied on information provided by a secret informant, with Ahmed's lawyer denied an opportunity to challenge this information. In addition, statements - also allegedly extracted from an individual under torture and other ill-treatment - were considered in the trial proceedings.
Earlier this month UK Foreign Secretary William Hague raised Ahmed's case with his counterpart, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, while the latter was on a trip to London. Amnesty has been running a campaign for justice for Ahmed (www.amnesty.org.uk/ramze) and over 6,000 Amnesty supporters have already contacted Mr Hague about Ahmed's plight.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
"This is deeply disturbing news. Ramze seems to have been convicted partly on the basis of a confession that was allegedly beaten out of him.
"The sentence comes on the back of what has already been a living nightmare for Ramze - of secret detention, alleged torture and then a prolonged trial that was itself grossly unfair.
"We need to see this dubious verdict set aside and Ramze either given a proper appeal or for him to be released and allowed to return home."
In November 2009 Ahmed had travelled from the UK to Iraq in an effort to secure the release of his detained son 'Omar. However, he was himself arrested at a relative's house in the northern city of Mosul on 7 December 2009. For nearly four months he was held in a secret prison near Baghdad, during which time his whereabouts were completely unknown to his family. During this period Ahmed alleges he was tortured - including with electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bags - into making a false "confession" to terrorist offences.
Ahmed "reappeared" in late March 2010 when he was able to make a phone call to his wife Rabiha al-Qassab - a 65-year-old former teaching assistant who lives in London - imploring her to seek help from the UK authorities. However, partly on the basis of his "confession", Ahmed was subsequently put on trial, including on various terrorism charges.
Last week,  Amnesty International issued an alert on the latest announced executions:
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel
(New York) – Amnesty International today urged Iraqi authorities to commute all pending death sentences and impose a moratorium on executions with a view to abolish the death penalty after the chief of police in the Iraqi governorate of Anbar announced on Monday a Court of Cassation decision to uphold 196 death sentences in the region.
It is unclear if the sentences have been ratified by the Iraqi presidency yet.
The announcement gave no timeline for carrying out the executions but expressed a hope that it would be soon.
"After this alarming announcement, Iraqi authorities must move quickly to commute all death sentences and declare a moratorium on executions across the country," said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
"If the Iraqi authorities carry out these death sentences, they would nearly quadruple Iraq's already shocking execution record so far this year."
In the first half of 2012 alone, Iraq executed at least 70 people, which is already more than the figure for all of last year.
According to Amnesty International's information, in 2011 a total of at least 68 people were executed in Iraq. Around the country, hundreds of others are believed to remain on death row.
The death penalty was suspended in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003 but restored in August 2004. Since then, hundreds of people have been sentenced to death and many have been executed.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty – the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment – in all cases without exception, as a violation of the right to life.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever
justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
Thursday, the UN News Centre noted the UN Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, was also expressing his alarm and quoted him stating, "It is extremely disturbing that up to 196 individuals may be at imminent risk of execution, with a serious lack of public information on the cases.  And this is in a single province of the country."  They noted, "He supported the appeal, made in January 2012, by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, for the establishment of a moratorium on the death penalty."  Speaking to the United Nations Security-Council earlier this month, Martin Kobler (UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq) noted:
Mr. President, Iraq retains the death penalty for a large number of crimes.  I therefore reiterate the call by the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] and the High Commissioner of Human Rights for the government of Iraq to establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to their abolition.  I welcome that the authorities of the Kurdistan Region continue to implement a moratorium on carrying out executions which has been in place since 2007. 
However, instead of a moratorium on executions, the Iraqi government appears determined to increase the number executed.  Amnesty International noted that Iraq executed at least 68 people in 2011.
Staying with violence,  Dar Addustour notes that the Pope has called out the attacks in Iraq last Monday which resulted in over a hundred deaths.  Independent Catholic News reports that Pope Benedict XVI issued an appeal for peace in Iraq yesterday, "The Holy Father prayed, 'That this great country find once again the path toward stability, reconciliation and peace'."
Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "The Islamic State in Iraq, a Sunni militant group that describes itself as affiliated with Al Qaeda, has been seeking to reassert its presence in the cities it plagued during the height of Iraq's civil war. Local officials have long been targeted by insurgents in Iraq, and it's a problem that really never went away. How many have been murdered over the years? The number is almost certainly in the thousands, though it doesn't appear there's ever been a systematic effort to track assassinations of politicians and local government officials." The International Crisis Group's Joost Hiltermann writes at CNN:
It's easy to be distracted by an uptick in violence in Iraq and ignore the larger political crisis in which al Qaeda, however diminished in its capabilities, can operate with apparent impunity. Despite last week's events, violence has been at a steady level since 2008 – too high for sure to those caught up in the spasms that occur, but sufficiently low to nonetheless convey a general sense of stability – a vast improvement over the days of sectarian fighting some years ago. Spectacular attacks have punctuated a pattern of declining violent incidents, causing mass casualties even as overall casualty levels have gone down. Shia militias, which mainly targeted the U.S. presence, put their guns back under their beds after the military component of that presence came to an end late last year.
Violent actors such as al Qaeda are likely to be around for some time, but without a political crisis, they could be contained. Iraqi security forces are still in the early stages of their development (after the Bush administration disposed of the former regime's army wholesale), and still exhibit clear vulnerabilities, especially in intelligence gathering and coordination that could prevent violent attacks, as well as in their explosives-detection capacity at checkpoints. (Security officers employ a piece of equipment that Western experts and journalists have referred to as a "divining rod" or "magic wand" for its inability to detect anything.) Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will be Iraq, nor its security forces. Yet by and large, these forces have been able to prevent a serious resurgence of violence.
What matters in Iraq today isn't so much its sporadic violence, however spectacular in nature, as the total absence of basic consensus over how the country should be run, as deepening discord could trigger a new round of civil war.
Still on violence, Matthew Russell Lee (Inner City Press) reports the UN's use of private contractors in Iraq and quotes Martin Kobler stating in an e-mail to him, "I would like to add that UNAMI is spending approximately USD 1.73 million in 2012 on static security provided by private security companies in Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait. The contract for the SAIT training, which is conducted by a private security company, is for up to USD 1,182,771.50 in 2012."
An issue we'll note tomorrow is covered by Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times).  I'm not interested in the story today.  We dealt with it last week and the headline from Huffington Post and AP?  We covered that aspect in the June 29th snapshot when we reported on a House Oversight subcommittee hearing:

 Acting Chair Blake Farenthold:  I just have one more question so we'll just do a quick
 second round of questions. Ambassador Kennedy, you mentioned the Baghdad police  college annex facility as one of the facilities.  It's my understanding that the United States' taxpayers have invested more than $100 million in improvements on that site. It was intended to house the police department program -- a multi-billion dollar effort that's currently being downsized.  And as a result of the State Dept's failure to secure land use rights the entire facility is being turned over to the Iraqis at no cost. 
We've covered it already a month ago.  It will wait until tomorrow.  Emily Alpert gets a link because she's hard working and two friends at the paper asked for it.
Turning to the US presidential election, as we noted in "Roundtable" at Third, there was big news over the weekend.  Roseanne Barr, who  is making an independent run for the presidency, announced her running mate.  Cindy Sheehan, probably the most famous peace advocate in this country in the last decade, is Rosanne's choice. 
Roseanne earlier made a run for the Green Party presidential nomination.  There's a good chance she would have won if people had known she was serious about it.  (She declared at the start of her run that she was just running to garner attention for the Green Party and that she would support Jill Stein.)  During her run, at some point, she decided she needed to make a real run because she obviously believes she can make a difference (whether that's in the race and in office or just in the race, I don't know).  She's not alone in feeling that way.  Cindy Sheehan has had supportive words for Jill Stein in the past.  So has Green Party member Cat Woods.  But if you check the press release announcing Cindy is Roseanne's running mate, you'll see Cat Woods is the contact person.
Jill Stein has the Green Party nomination.  She also has several obstacles against her that she has placed in her own path this month.  No one's to blame for that except for her as we explained in "Touring the online campaign offices."   Roseanne is not her 'problem.'  Roseanne is running for public office and is Jill Stein's rival, Mitt Romney's rival, Barack Obama's rival, Jerry White's rival and Gary Johnson's rival.  None of them own anyone's vote.  Every vote should be up for grabs and go to the person a voter feels will best represent them.
Jill Stein needs a campaign blogger.  She doesn't have one.  She might want to consider Ian Wilder (On The Wilder Side) who writes with passion and clarity and is supporting her campaign.  Yesterday Ian noted:
It's a leap year, so CODEPink/UFPJ's* Tom Hayden must be shilling for a warmonger again.  Obama has opposed any Wall Street reform, and his Homeland Security Department coordinated the shutdown of Occupy in the US just as Hayden & MoveOn helped coordinate the shutdown of the peace movement in 2008,  Hayden's new article gives Obama credit for Bush's plan to shut down the Iraq war.  Not surprising since Obama has followed the Bush path on so many issues, to the point of being called Bush's 3rd term. Tom Hayden totally misses the point.
Tom always misses the point.  And Ian Wilder has emerged as one of the stronger political voices in the up-is-down-drones-are-good world we've been stuck in since the White House flipped political party while changing no policies.   We'll close with the press release announcing Roseanne Barr has picked Cindy Sheehan for her running mate:

Contacts: Cat Woods 415-218-8138 
David Josué djosue@yahoo.com
July 29, 2012
Roseanne Barr announced that Cindy Sheehan will be her running mate in her bid for the Peace and Freedom Party's nomination for President. Sheehan is an anti-war activist who first gained national attention for her protest camp outside then-President Bush's Texas ranch.
Barr said, "Cindy and I are the 'Throw the Bums Out' ticket and the 'Ballot Access' ticket. We want people to register in the Peace and Freedom Party so that the party can keep its ballot status in California." After the passage of the 'Top Two primary" in 2010, alternative political parties lost one of their ways of staying on the ballot. The Peace and Freedom Party needs approximately 40,000 more registrants to maintain its ballot status beyond 2014. "We also want people to start Peace and Freedom Parties in other states," added Barr.
Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who has been working closely with Barr on this campaign, commented, "Access to the ballot is a civil rights issue that needs attention across the country. If voters only have two choices, both of which represent the same interests, then we don't really have a democracy." McKinney went on to describe a higher standard of democracy, "When I was in Congress, I promoted proportional representation for legislatures. This is the only way to make our democracy representative of the people, rather than the corporate donors."
The Peace & Freedom Party nominating convention takes place on Saturday August 4th in Los Angeles. Cat Woods, an officer of the Peace & Freedom Party, echoed Barr on the party's emphasis on ballot access. She said that the party hoped to "draw attention to the ongoing erosion of alternative parties' access to the ballot and how this directly deprives voters of control of their government." 

When asked whether she supported the Barr ticket, Woods added, "Our party needs to reach a wider audience with its message of socialist solutions. Roseanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan can bring that."
Responding to charges that she could "steal votes" from Obama or "spoil the election," Barr said, "The American people are sick and tired of this 'lesser evil' garbage they get fed every election year. Both the Democrats and the Republicans do the same evils once they're in office. I'm here to tell the voters: if you want to tell the government and the two domineering parties that you're sick and tired of all their evil, register in the Peace and Freedom Party and vote for me and Cindy."
To contact the Roseanne for President campaign, contact campaign@roseanneforpresident.org 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rotini with Fennel, Carrots . . . in the Kitchen

I found this recipe at the Whole Grains Council.

Whole Grain Rotini with Braised Fennel, Carrots and Spring Onions

This easy-to-make dish combines carrots, onions, garlic and fennel. Preparation and cooking time should only equal about half an hour, so you will have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the meal.


1 box whole grain rotini             
1 medium carrot
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil               
salt to taste
1 - 2 cloves of garlic        
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 fennel bulbs with tops (fronds)       
1 bunch spring onions
1/2 cup parmigiano cheese, grated       
1 Tbsp. fennel fronds, chopped


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. Sauté minced garlic in oil until garlic turns slightly yellow, about 3 minutes.
3. Cut the fennel bulbs in half, then in thin slices. Add to the skillet, along with the carrot cut in roundels (rounds) about 1/8 of an inch thick. Braise for about ten minutes under medium high heat covered.
4. Season with salt and black pepper; cover with a lid and cook through stirring occasionally.
5. Stir in onions cut on a bias ½ inch long, cook an additional three minutes.

6. Meanwhile, cook Whole Grain Rotini according to package directions. Drain and toss with the sauce.
7. Stir in the grated cheese and fennel fronds before serving.

That's an inexpensive dish and it is nutritious.

There is nothing tasty about the economy.  In addition to our high unemployment, AP notes, "Weak consumer spending held growth to an annual rate of just 1.5 percent, even less than the 2 percent rate in the first quarter. "  Yes, another Friday report.  The Wall St. Journal notes:

President Obama didn't comment on Friday's report of declining growth in the second quarter, and that's no surprise. The economic story of his Presidency is by now familiar: a plodding recovery that has taken its third dip in three years and is barely raising incomes for most Americans.
"We're still in a position where we are pulling ourselves out of the very deep hole caused by the Great Recession, and there is still—of course—a great deal of anxiety in the country about the economy,'' said White House press secretary Jay Carney. He's right about the anxiety, but if only we were "pulling ourselves out."
The reality is that the Great Recession ended three long years ago. In this Less Than Great Recovery, the economy shows promise for one good quarter then slows back down. As the nearby chart shows, this is the third straight year of sputtering recovery. Growth of 4.1% in the fourth quarter declined to 2% in the first and now 1.5% in the second.

Jack Otter (MoneyWatch) reports, "Today's news that the U.S. economy grew at just 1.5 percent over the past three months adds to the evidence that global growth is in a painfully weak expansion, barely faster than stall speed, as Gross, an investor and widely followed prognosticator, has been predicting since the housing crash."  Patrick Martin (WSWS) explains:

The US economy slowed significantly during the second quarter of 2012, according to figures released Friday by the Department of Commerce, with a fallback in consumer spending, particularly on new cars, accounting for the bulk of the slowdown.
US gross domestic product grew by 1.5 percent from April to June, down from 2 percent during the first three months of the year (revised up slightly from the previously reported 1.9 percent) and less than half the 4.1 percent rate of growth in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Consumer spending was the main contributor to the slowdown, rising 1.5 percent in the second quarter, compared to 2.4 percent in the previous three-month period. Spending on durable goods, such as cars and home appliances, actually fell 1.0 percent during the quarter. Spending by state and local government also declined, falling 2.1 percent.

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

Friday, July 27, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the US has wasted over 20 billion tax payer dollars on training Iraq security forces, as they refuse to address that the press and pundits push and push for more war, Hilton Worldwide's building a hotel in Iraq, and more. 
At the start of the week, an international hotel chain announced they were coming to Iraq. The press release opened:
Hilton Worldwide today announced expansion plans in Iraqi Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, with the signing of a management agreement with the Mihtab Group to develop the first Hilton Hotels & Resorts property in the rapidly growing city of Erbil, Iraq.
The 300-room Hilton Erbil Hotel & Spa, which is expected to open in 2016, will be the second Hilton Worldwide property in Erbil following the 2011 announcement to develop a DoubleTree Suites by Hilton in the city.
Hilton Erbil Hotel & Spa will be set in extensive, landscaped grounds in an upscale residential and commercial district just North of Erbil, an area famous for its picturesque, mountainous landscape as well as its close proximity to the city's main access road. These key location benefits are attracting many new businesses to the area, including a number of foreign embassies planned within the next two years.
The KRG is not hurting for hotels. Already it has a ton including the Erbil Tower Hotel, Divan Erbil, Van Royal Hotel, Erbil Rotana (where this year's Miss Kurdistan competition was held), Yadi Hotel, Abu-Sana Hotel, etc. The KRG has 22 operating, internationally recognized hotels with more being built. Baghdad? Five operating and internationally recognized hotels -- including the Palestine International Hotel (where reporters stayed and where the US military infamously fired upon). No big construction going on. No big foreign investment rushing into the capitol. But the KRG? Hilton Worldwide becomes the latest to want to do business.
As we've noted repeatedly, Nouri's crazy scares them off. Nouri's tirades against Turkey, all the accusations and smears add in to the view of him as unhinged. His attacks on ExxonMobil and Chevron and so many others and his inability, as prime minister, to bring cohesion to Iraq, to provide real leadership to the region, hurts the country and harms the way others view the section of Iraq he has jurisdiction over. (The KRG -- Kurdistan Regional Government -- three northern provinces -- is semi-autonomous.)
After all this time, an argument could be made that Baghdad 'security' -- such as it is -- is as good as it's going to get and that the business community has taken note of that. Making that argument requires acknowleging how very little Nouri al-Maliki has accomplished in his six years as prime minister. Acknowledging that requires confronting how little Nouri has achieved as prime minister and how much the people continue to suffer.
Ahmed Hussein (Al Mada) reports that along with the continued lack of electritiy, you can add to that the scarcity of potable water in Baghdad -- specifically east Baghdad and South Baghdad. The situation has gotten so bad that Parliament will be questioning the governor of the province and the secretary of the city of Baghdad. The newspaper notes that, July 7th, officials pleaded "technical problems." That was 20 days ago.
The delivery of basic goods and services is a political issue and the potable water appears to have entered the same crisis level the political stalemate has. Al Mada reports on Ayad Allawi's statements yesterday. Allawi is the head of Iraqiya (the political slate that came in first in the elections, Nouri's State of Law came in second). Allawi notes that there is no need for a Reform Committee or for people to think up or adopt new reforms. The answer is to return to the Erbil Agreement which was already agreed upon.

Following the March 2010 elections, Political Stalemate I lasted for a little over eight months and this was the period where Nouri refused to allow things to move forward because he wanted a second term as prime minister; however, State of Law's showing didn't allow him -- per the law -- to be made prime minister-designate and given 30 days to assmble a Cabinet. So he pouted and threw his tantrum and the White House nursed him and refused to pull him off Barack's nipple. With the White House backing, Nouri was able to bring things in Iraq to a complete standstill. The White House then brokered the Erbil Agreement which was the way around the Constitution (it was extra-Constitutional, not unconstitutional) for Nouri to get his way.

That's not how the US government presented it. The political blocs were told to figure out what they wanted and this items were written into the agreement with the understanding that, in exchange for those, Nouri would get a second term. The agreement is a binding contract and was signed off on by all parties. Plus the US government assured the political blocs that the US was backing this agreement. That was November 2010. The next day, Parliament finally held a real session and Nouri was named prime minister-designate. When he became prime minister, he trashed the agreement and, since summer 2011, Moqtada al-Sadr, the Kurds and Iraqiya have been calling for him to return to the Erbil Agreement.

He has refused.

That's what the current political stalemate is about. He is not only doing a power-grab, he is refusing to honor the contract he signed onto and used to get a second term as prime minister. He has further alarmed rival politicians by going back on his 'pledge' not to seek a third term.

So Allawi is calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. He sees Nouri's silly Reform Commission as a waste of time -- which it is. Why do they need weeks of meetings to figure out what to do?

Have we forgotten the months of meetings for the national conference that then fell apart as Nouri wanted it to? Before that fell apart in April, there had been months of meetings about this issue. So the Reform Commission shouldn't need a ton of meetings to figure out what to do.

But the reality is it exists solely to buy more time for Nouri. This is what he always does, stall, stall and stall. And hope people either get tired of waiting or just forget.

Due to backing from the Bush White House and then the Barack White House, this strategy has been highly effective for Nouri personally.

It's helped tear the country of Iraq further apart but, for Nouri, it's all about what Nouri al-Maliki wants. Further proof is in reporting today by Rod Nordland (New York Times) about 15 Baquba officials quitting their jobs because they state the government has failed to protect them from al Qaeda. Threat have made them fear for the safety of their families. This lack of security despite all the US tax dollars wasted in training Iraq's security forces.

"Status of Fixcal Years 2011-2012 Iraq Security Forces Fund (SIGIR 12-018)" [PDF format warning, click here] was released today by the Office of the Special Inspector General on Iraq Reconstruction and is a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillar Clinton which notes the money given (wasted) by US taxpayers for Iraq's security forces to be trained: "To date, Congress has appropriated $20.54 billion in ISFF. This includes $1.50 billion Congress appropriated in April 2011 for use in fiscal years (FY) 2011 and 2012."
Over $20.54 billion US tax dollars sent out of the US to pay for the training of Iraq's security forces. You learn about how freely the government spent the taxpayer money. So freely, that they gave more than even they thought could be spent which is why: "Congress specified the period of time each ISFF appropriation could be used. In each case, Congress made the funds available for periods between 12 and 19 months, during which time funds would have to be obligated. Any funds not obligated with their designated period of availability would be considered expired and, therefore, not available for new obligations."

Nancy Pelosi kept using the "blank check" metaphor even after many of us thought the then-Speaker sounded ancient and ourselves were referring to it as the administration using Congress as its own personal ATM. But Pelosi ends up right and we (including me) end up wrong because it was indeed a blank check. And it was blank check under Bush and a blank check under Barack.

While Americans domestically struggled with historic levels of unemployment, with losing their houses and so much more, the Congress and the White House were so eager to give Iraq billions for 'security forces' that they realized they might be giving more than was needed so they tacked on that if the funds were not "obligated" within X number of months, the US would get them back.

And some may wrongly think that means, "Well, Iraq didn't spend X so we're getting that back. Yea!" Wrong. "Spent" is not "obligated."

"Obligated" means they say it will be spent on, for example, "forensic training."

Will be. Not has been spent.

This is made clear in the letter: "However, un-obligated funds can be used for up to five years after they expire to pay for authorized increases to existing obligations made from the same appropriation. Any un-obligated funds remaining after the five-year period must be returned to the U.S. Treasury."

So the White House and the Congress (then Democratically controlled, both houses) made the decision not only to give Iraq more money than was needed, they also said, "Hey, screw the American taxpayers and their needs, if you can't spend this money in the Fiscal Year, just say you will someday spend it on something and we'll let you have it for up to five years, interest free."

$20.54 billion US tax dollars wasted.


What do you see in Iraq in terms of security that justifies spending 20 billion dollars -- $20,000,000,000?

The CIA estimates the Iraqi population to be 31.1 million. (Iraq hasn't had a census since the 90s.) When the US government refers to Iraq's "security forces," they are only speaking of the number employed by the central government out of Baghdad. So all of this money has just spent on the national forces. In a country with an estimate population of 30 million, how many security forces are there?

By September 2007, according to Brookings, they had 359,700. In the same month, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post noted that then-top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus was using a higher figure of 445,000 at that same time and that this "suggest[s] he was including every person employed by the ministries in an effort to promote the size and capability of security forces that many experts say are plagued by absenteeism, attrition and sectarianism." Last December 7th, Luis Martinez (ABC News) reported US Lt Gen Frank Helmick had stated in the US military's "last briefing from Iraq" that Iraq's security forces number 700,000.
30 million population, nearly a million police officers. Iraq is not Malaysia. It's an oil rich country generating billions each year. How very fortunate for the US-installed puppet Nouri that these forces he's put under his own command -- not really how the Iraqi Constitution set it out -- were trained on the US tax payer dollar.

Please grasp that this figure doesn't include the $850 million that the US State Dept requested (and received) for Fiscal Year 2012 to, yes, train Iraq's security forces. And the 'good' news on that money? The letter explains that, after allocation, "the funds will be deposited into an Iraq FMF account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where the GOI [Government Of Iraq] will decide how to use the funds."

And when you look over how that money's being allocated, you'll see that the US tax payer foots the bill for everything from night vision goggles to "training ammunition." Again, Iraq is not a struggling economy. It's not Ethiopia. It's an oil rich country that make billions every month in oil revenue.

But Nouri can't provide security and can't even pick up the bill for the security forces he has placed under his control. Who's safe in Iraq besides Nouri? Who's benefitted from all those billions spent on security?

On efforts to end -- or pretend to end -- the crisis Nouri started, Al Mada reports that the National Alliance is warning that the Reform Committee lacks "a magic wand." No one expected them to have a magic wand. People are more upset that they (a) have no teeth, (b) have no power and (c) are a for-show group. This evening, Alsumaria reported that State of Law was stating Deputy Prime Minister and Iraqiya member Saleh al-Mutlaq was supporting the Reform Commission. If true, this could be the most serious fracture Iraqiya has faced. They've written off the loss of members since the elections. This would be a high ranking member betraying them. Saleh al-Mutlaq, it should be remembered was tarred and feathered by Nouri's Justic and Accountability Commission in 2010 as a "Ba'athist." As such, he wasn't allowed to run in the elections. Iraqiya stood by him throughout that. In the second-half of December of last year, Nouri was attempting to strip al-Mutlaq of his position as a result of an interview al-Mutlaq gave CNN where he comapred Nouri to a dictator. Iraqiya stood behind him collectively and that was among the reasons he retained his office. So a defection like this -- even if he remained in Iraqiya -- would be a major turn -- and a major betrayal.
International leaders and the press betrayed Iraq and the citizens of the world by building a false case for the illegal war. Some of those international leaders never really leave the daily buzz. Take George W. Bush. PTI reports that the Dalai Lama has declared he and George W. Bush ad BFFs and, "Personally I love Bush but I have reservation on his policy towards Iraq." Personally, I was neutral on the Dalai Lama until a few years ago when he decided to let his homophobia run wild. After that, very little about the 'peaceful' Dalai Lama can surprise me -- not even his desire to be best friends with a War Criminal.
From Bush, who occupied the White House from January 2001 through January 2009. In England, the chief War Criminal was then-prime minister Tony Blair. Former British diplomat Craig Murray observes at his site, "Blair's latest attempt at rehabilitation is a discussion tomorrow at Westminister Central Hall with the Archbishop of Canterbury on the place of religion in society. A vexed question, but give that Blair believes God OK'd the invasion of Iraq and the resulting millions deaths, not one that can usefully be discussed by this charlatan." Meanwhile in England, Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports, efforts continue to hide evidence from the public about how Blair and Bush planned or 'planned' the illegal war:
The Foreign Office (FCO) is appealing against a judge's ruling that extracts of a conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush days before the invasion of Iraq must be disclosed.
It argues that revealing Blair's comments to Bush on the telephone on 12 March 2003 would present a "significant danger" to UK-US relations. It would lead to the US withholding information from Britain in the future, damaging Britain's security and diplomatic interests, the FCO says.
Those two War Criminals may not be able to lead nations into illegal war today but there are so many other of the original helpers still hungry with War Lust. The Atlantic was a big War Cheerleader back then. Today you can find John Hudson pondering, "Did Syria Receive Its Chemical Weapons from Saddam?" What a stupid War Whore. As Kirs Alenxander (Wired) notes, "No, Syria Doesn't Have Saddam's Chemical Weapons." Excerpt:
I’ve already debunked one of the rumors about Iraq’s WMD. I’m not buying this one. Here’s why.
First: Think about it for a second. Strategically and militarily, it made no sense for Saddam to transfer his weapons of mass destruction to Syria. Saddam worked on acquiring WMD for a reason: to stave off an invasion and hold on to power.
Just listen to a defeated Saddam for a second. In a post-invasion interview, Saddam admitted that he had been bluffing about his WMD. This is actually case-closed for the conspiracy theories about his weapons transfers.
But for a moment, let’s suppose that Saddam circumvented the most intrusive sanction regime the world has ever known and rebuilt his WMD programs after inspectors (and Israeli jets) destroyed them. His reasoning would have been deterrence — as Thomas Schelling put it, Saddam would have given his enemies a “threat that leaves something to chance.” That’s why the Assad regime threatens on and off to use WMD: It keeps the foreign hordes at bay. So why, with U.S. massing forces on his border, would Saddam give up the one thing he had to raise the cost of invading to the Americans?
At Antiwar.com, John Glaser takes on the idiot and evil Seth Jones (evil? he taught counter-insurgency at the university level) and Jones' ridiculous attempts to build support for a Syrian War. Excerpt.
Well then genius, it might have been good not to have initiated regime change, no? US support for the rebel militias has emboldened the opposition, deepened the conflict, and allowed extremist insurgents to destabilize the Assad regime. Jones admits that one thing explaining al-Qaeda’s rise in Syria is “the draw of a new jihad—smack in the middle of the Arab world.” Like in Iraq, the US has helped create an al-Qaeda presence in Syria, which is now justifying even more military intervention.
Jones’s position is pitifully confused. Which policy is the US supposed to pursue in Syria – supporting the rebels in a proxy war against Assad, or fighting the rebels and eliminating the main threat to Assad’s regime? This isn’t quantum mechanics; we can’t exist in two different realities at once. Or are we just supposed to take any excuse to intervene at face value?
Jones is also contradictory: He admits al-Qaeda fighters are swarming to Syria because of the draw of jihad. Yet, he wants to “launch a covert campaign to ramp up intelligence-collection efforts against al Qaeda, capture or kill its senior leaders, and undermine its legitimacy.” Right, because nothing snuffs out al-Qaeda like an unprovoked US war in the Middle East.
Counter-insurgency is war on a native population through intimidation and deceit -- the US generally mixes in violence as well. So the question to ask is someone trained in deception should really be allowed to write opinion columns? Do we really need domestic psyops on the op-ed pages of our daily newspapers in this country?

Syria’s citizens are now another nation reduced to tragic turmoil resultant from being targeted in the post 11 September 2001 Pentagon plan to “take out seven countries in five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finishing off with Iran”, as described by General Wesley Clark.
US planned carnage in sovereign Syria was a bit behind schedule, but now back on track -- if out of predicted sequence — with another wannabe Crusader in the White House, this one with a Nobel Peace Prize. Fact mirrors fiction’s wildest darknesses, and from the “Nile to the Euphrates” the regions’ residents increasingly have only the most uncertain and tenuous places to hide.
Syria, with population of under 23 million, is also host to nearly half a million Palestinian refugees and the largest influx of Iraqi refugees in the world, a minimum of 1.2 million, who fled the US-UK’s liberating bombs, bullets, kidnappings, rapes, murders, ethnic cleansing, looting and mayhem.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that “Syria has been a generous host to Iraqi refugees.”
The horrors they fled after the invasion are again stalking those who thought they were now safe.
As the War Hawks get their jollies, life is forever destroyed for the people on the ground -- the ones that an alleged humanitarian impulse is screaming must be saved. From IRIN:
Thousands of Iraqi refugees returning from Syria will face huge challenges reintegrating into a country with high rates of unemployment, dismal basic services and ongoing sectarian strife.
“I think we will face a humanitarian crisis regarding this issue,” said Yaseen Ahmed Abbas, the president of the Iraq Red Crescent (IRC). “You should expect pressure on everything in Iraq by having such a large number of people in a short time. It’s not easy.”
More than 15,000 Iraqis have returned to Iraq in the past nine days, after unprecedented fighting in the Syrian capital Damascus, according to Deputy Minister of Displacement and Migration Salam Dawod Al Khafagy. The government evacuated 4,000 by air, he said; the rest crossed by land. Tens of thousands of others have returned since the Syrian conflict started in March 2011.
Elham was one of them. After seven years in Syria, she and her son returned on 3 July to Iraq, where she says she has nothing: “I am like a stranger here.”
After a few nights in a hotel, her money has run out and she is now staying with friends, she told IRIN. Her family home, abandoned years ago, then occupied, and now empty, is “not fit for living”, she says, and she has no capital to rebuild it. Her parents have since died and transferring the home into her name is another hurdle, she said.

Rami Ruhayem (BBC News -- link is video) reports, "The Iraqi authorities crammed them together in local schools and government buildings and imposed strict restrictions on their movement. A Syrian refugee tells BBC, "Our main demand is to leave this prison and go to our relatives. If they don't let us out, we will return to our houses in Syria, whether they like it or not." Of the Syrian refugees, UNICEF notes:
Some people have taken displaced families into their own homes. One woman I know, Manal, who has two children of her own, has been hosting her extended family from Homs in her house for the past three months. Recently they all had to relocate, and took refuge in a school. Such generosity is becoming harder to sustain. Many shops are closed, so it is difficult for local residents to buy enough food and other basics to meet their own needs, let alone those of their guests.
Conditions in the schools are not easy, either. In one school in Masaken Barzeh, around 600 people are using just seven small toilets. The new residents do their best to keep the school clean. But they need cleaning supplies and awareness-raising about the importance of good hygiene. UNICEF is helping by supplying hygiene kits that contain detergents, shampoos, sanitary napkins, soap, towels and other personal hygiene items.
Sometimes the children themselves step up to help. I came across 14-year-old Maya who, along with seven other family members, had been relocated twice. She calls herself a “hygiene expert.” Volunteers were so impressed with her knowledge that it was agreed that Naya would be the school’s focal point for hygiene awareness. Naya promised to spend her free time going around telling other children about proper hygiene. “Younger kids listen to me, but I’m not sure about the grown-ups,” Naya laughed.
Another problem is keeping the children occupied. It is too hot to run around in the yard, and there is nothing to play with. UNICEF is providing the schools with recreational kits and sports kits through its local partners.
Violence continues in Iraq. With only a few days remaining in the month, Iraq Body Count notes that at least 376 people have been killed from violence in Iraq through yesterday. The United Nations counted 401 deaths last month. Iraq is on track to meet that figure or even surpass it. (The official Iraqi government numbers -- which the press ran with -- were much lower.) Today Alsumaria reports a Baghdad sticky bombing has claimed 1 life. It has been a very violent month in Iraq.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) adds, "Twelve more militants were killed in clashes in Hadid. Yesterday, gunmen had managed to kill 12 security members, including one person on a helicopter that was forced to make a hard landing. "  Rudaw notes, "On Friday the ministry of Peshmerga said that the Iraqi government had sent troops to the border strip between Syria and the Kurdistan Region and that 3,000 Peshmerga fighters stationed in the area had stopped their advance.
There was serious concern about armed clashes between both sides."
On the violence, Deutsche Welle observes:

Intelligence sources say the Islamic State of Iraq terror network is in dire financial straits and that attacks are increasingly become contract killings. "Terror in Iraq is politically motivated," says Yonadam Kanna, one of the few Christian members of the Iraqi parliament. The government has been in a perpetual state of crisis since the US withdrew its troops at the end of 2011. In vain, the opposition has for months tried to enforce a vote of no-confidence against Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. They accuse him of assuming too much power while trying to keep Sunni Muslims at bay. Maliki's State of Law party is the second-strongest party in parliament; the bloc headed by his opponent Iyad Allawi has one seat more but failed to form a governing majority.
Two years ago, Maliki signed a coalition treaty for a "government of national unity" with various Shiite parties and Kurds. The agreement promised key ministries to Allawi, who was also to head a new security and surveillance agency. But none of the above ever materialized. Maliki is acting head of the interior and defense ministries and talk of a new security agency has ceased. Like Maliki, Allawi is a Shiite, but he enjoys the support of most Sunni parties. Tensions between the two politicians have for months paralyzed development in Iraq - everything but the oil sector has ground to a halt. The country has reached an economic and political standstill spelling disaster for the population.
Notice how the topic circles back to the stalemate. It has to because Nouri's inability to honor his agreements has left many in Iraq feeling disenfranchised and not willing to trust him anymore. That goes a long way towards explaining the present violence.