Saturday, May 07, 2011

The spinner





Protest continue in Iraq. They've been taking place every Friday in Iraq since February. Today is Situation Friday. The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "Tahrir [Square], Baghdad reflects an amazing community -- one watches and listens to a young man, a member of the Free Youth Movement, who speaks tirelessly about the political ills and the reasons for them that exist -- everyone -- literallly everyone listens to him and is supportive of him and his ideas. The scene then zooms to a mother crying heartbreakingly searching and at the same time mourning her son who had left his home with his cousin and never returned; then to another woman crying 'we are not terrorists - we are not terrorists - you, Maliki, are the terrorist!' People shout and sing 'thieves' 'thieves' 'thieves' . . . and 'liars'. They also chant everything is illegitimate and false. These people have been coming here every Friday since the beginning of February - they represent all walks of life - artists, workers, civil servants, young university students; Facebook users; mothers, fathers; lawyers; retired civil servants as well as children. The songs, the chants and the fervour . . . where is the foreign press, I wonder????"
It's a cry that's been repeatedly made: Where is the media? Why won't they cover the protests? Tim Arango (New York Times) thinks they have. Go to last week's snapshots, I don't want to rehash that because I don't want to pick on him. His view is the paper's view which makes them a great fit but of little interest to those trying to follow the Iraqi people. (The New York Times became the paper of record -- before Tim Arango was even born -- due to its reliance upon officials. That's why it's unable to report on actual movements. They are so rarely led by elected officials.) We've tried to cover the press silence here and also we've covered it at Third (for Third coverage, see "Editorial: The press covers up Iraqi protests" and "Editorial: We Heart Iraqi Protesters" and "Editorial: The Children of Iraq" among other pieces.) Today Joel Wing makes like Christopher Columbus and 'discovers' the issue and he sees things differently which can be fine -- we're all entitled to our own viewpoints -- and it can be wrong. I'll applaud him for finally noting what is one of the most pressing issues even if he completely misses the underlying causes for the lack of coverage. I won't applaud him getting things wrong.
If you're going to include -- in your survey piece -- NPR's coverage of Moqtada al-Sadr's protest, you cannot write "and McClatchy Newspapers never reported on the Iraqi unrest" and be accurate. Laith Hammoudi reported on Moqtada's protest with Jane Arraf. Which is the other thing. McClatchy has no one to head their Baghdad desk and doesn't trust their stringers are reporters. I don't mean that as an insult to Laith, Mohammed, Sahar or anyone else there. I think they're reporters and I think they've demonstrated that repeatedly. The Laith link goes to a piece written with Jane Arraf and anyone can benefit from writing with Jane. But Jane's out of Iraq and is McClatchy going to do nothing? Hannah Allam can't head Baghdad, they've assigned her elsewhere. The smart thing to do would be to realize that McClatchy has strong reporters in Iraq -- the local population -- and set them up with an editor in the US who would go over their copy (the way editors -- in the pre-web days -- were supposed to). But Joel Wing is wrong about what McClatchy did or didn't do and he might want to check some pieces that will have end note credits to McClatchy. I heard about his blog post from a friend at CNN who was irritated that CNN got no credit for their work. CNN had more than the 9 he gave it credit for. Equally strange is the fact that he doesn't include AP. Reuters, AFP, etc aren't US outlets. But AP is and readers of American newspapers in print are more likely to have read about the protests via AP than anything else because AP is a wire service carried by so many outlets. AP has done some strong coverage of the protests. Kelly McEvers has done some for NPR (NPR gets noted by Wing) but the strongest protest coverage was done by the Washington Post and specifically by Stephanie McCrummen. She did the best US coverage of the attacks on protesters and journalists who covered the protests -- attacks after the protest had ended. In addition to filing stories (plural) on that (the New York Times did a strong editorial on the subject but the reporting section of the paper never covered the detention and beating of journalists by Iraqi forces), she also contributed the first and so far only -- THE ONLY -- feature article on the protest leadership that ran in the US. (Le Monde had a nice article but that was only in French, it didn't run in their English language version.)
Joel Wing writes, "Finally, the Los Angeles Times and McClatchy Newspapers never reported on the Iraqi unrest." Really? What is the basis for that claim? We've dealt with McClatchy already, let's move over to the Los Angeles Times. "New Iraq protests smaller, less viollent amid tight security." That March 5th article was written by Aliice Fordham and Raheem Salman for the Los Angels Times. I don't know how Joel Wing does his research but I do know the reaction.
I don't read Wing. I heard about his post via a phone call from a CNN producer who first noted how CNN's coverage was slighted. CNN did much more coverage than Wing gave it credit for. And since he was wrong about that, the reaction is to dismiss all the parts of his essay or post. It's a bit like the people who wrote pieces after the March protest against the illegal war on the 8th anniversary of it. A lot of people showed up making false claims in their 'analysis.' Such as, "NPR never even mentioned the protests!" Actually, not only did it get some coverage after, Mara Liasson noted the protests a day before they took place, noted them on air on NPR. Now we can disagree with one another on the quality of Mara's coverage and that's fine. But we can't ignore that NPdid mention it on air. Not if we're claiming to be honest.
There's no point in including the Los Angeles Times at all. The paper had to step it down because they published stories that made Nouri al-Malik uncomfortable. That's not a criticism of the Los Angeles Times and certainly not one of Ned Parker. Joel Wing will no doubt have the facts down for the future but the people playing catch up now are missing a huge part of the story.
As January wound down, Ned Parker reported on the secret prisons for the Los Angeles Times and Human Rights Watch issued their report on it. Parker's January report on the secret prisons and how they were run by Nouri's security forces, the Baghdad Brigade followed up on his earlier report on how the Brigade was behind the prison that he and the paper exposed in April 2010. All the while Nouri insisted that there were no secret prisons in Iraq -- such as February 6th when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "The Iraqi government on Sunday denied a human rights organization's allegation that it has a secret detention center in Baghdad, run by Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki's security forces." The report then quoted Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi stating, "We don't know how such a respectable organization like Human Rights Watch is able to report such lies." Camp Honor is a prison that's under Nouri's control, staffed by people working for him. Amnesty International would also call out the use of secret prisons while Nouri continued to deny them. And of course, Nouri was wrong. But, honest, seriously, swear, it was the last time. (That's sarcasm.)
Ned Parker's article kicks off the 2011 round of protests. Outside of Baghdad, the most pressing issue in January and early February for protesters was the issue of their family members being wrongfully detained and a lost in a hidden maze. This continues to be a key component of all the people-protests in Iraq (as opposed to the Moqtada-ordered protests or Ahmed Chalabi silly reigonal protest). And it was the impetus for this year's protests.
Having written and published that strong article -- one that truly proved the power of the press -- the Los Angeles Times followed with a lower profile which is and has been their pattern. I don't question that. Everyone knows Nouri is hostile to journalism and that he and his cronies are litigious (see many, many lawsuits but especially Nouri's defamation suit against England's the Guardian in 2009 which, thankfully, the newspaper won on appeal in January of this year.). A step back, a lower profile, for a bit is in keeping with the pattern the paper long ago set in their coverage of Iraq. April 12th, Amnesty International issued the report [PDF format warning] "DAYS OF RAGE: PROTESTS AND REPRESSION IN IRAQ" and it provides an overview of the protests.
I'm confused by Wing's claim that "Iraq held its first protest on January 30, 2011." That's wrong. It's incorrect. That was not the first protest in 2011 by any means. I have no idea why Joel Wing can't get the facts correct but the easiest way to prove him wrong is to quote this passage from January 20, 2011:
Protests against Iraq's troubled electricity network have spread to the north. In Tamim province there was a street demonstration against the lack of power. The governor also announced that electricity produced locally would be used for the governorate's own use, rather than be sent to Baghdad. Tamim joins seven other provinces that have complained about the troubled power network in the last several months.

Clearly a January 20th protests is prior to January 30th so Joel Wing is wrong. And for those who might say, "C.I., maybe Joel Wing doesn't consider the source of that passage trust worthy?" He may not. There are people who do not trust themselves. Maybe Joel Wing is one of them. But he wrote that passage, it's from his January 20th entry "Electricity Protests Spread To Northern Iraq." Since he wrote it, he must agree with it, right? So I have no idea why he'd write that in January and then ignore it in May. January 16th (still before January 30th), Reidar Visser (Iraq and Gulf Analysis) reported "More Kurdish Protests against the budget.
But that's just one example. The protests -- as we define them -- have featured calls for improvements in basic services from the start. They've also called for an end to the foreign occupation of Iraq. So let's drop further back to January 14th when Jason Ditz ( observed, "Protests against Vice President Joe Biden's visit and the ongoing US military presence in general were reported in a number of cities in Iraq, with supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr getting the credit for organizing many of them." Maybe that should be the date we count the 2011 Iraqi protests as starting from? January 4th there were protests. Namo Abdulla (New York Times) reported, "More than a thousand protesters took to the main street in Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital, to condemn a new law requiring all public demonstrations to have government permits." Should we consider that the start?
On this end, I've called Wing out because (a) he's wrong and undercounted a number of outlets (including CNN) and also because doing this draws attention to media criticism which interests the press (if it weren't for self-love, sometimes the press would have no love at all) and may help draw more attention to the ongoing Iraqi protests in the long run.
One serious slam I will hit Wing with is, "How do you write about the media silence on the protests on a day when protests are taking place and not note that fact?"
Protests also took place in Ramadi. Revolution of Iraq reports on that protest noting "the arrival of the delgation of the families of Jalawla to Tahrir Square," and a "large delegation from Mosul," The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that the Ramadi crowd was "estimated to be 7,000" (and link has video). Among those protesting was a young Iraqi male in a wheelchair as a result of the ongoing occupation. Today, the 8th day of ongoing protests in Ramadi, the Great Iraqi Revolution notes, poet Abdul Wahid Al Badrani arrived to join the Ramadi sit-in. And the Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "A Free Iraqi Woman addressing all men who ware the Iqa'al to join the Squares of Freedom - Tahrir - and if they don't then they should give their Iqa'al to their wives, daughters and sisters so that they come over to the Tahrir in their stead! "

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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Friday, May 06, 2011

She's so pretty





Protest continue in Iraq. Among the speakers in Ramadi's Tahrir Square yesterday was a young boy (link has video). And they are gearing up for tomorrow's day of resistance. Leave Iraq notes that Sunday saw protesters turn out across the country with hundreds in Baghdad alone demanding improvements in their wages and work environment and among those protesting were scientists and academics. Sunday was May Day, International Labor Day, and Aswat al-Iraq reported the Communist Party held a demonstration in Baghdad's Liberation Square which was attended by "hundreds of workers" and that they "carried placards, demanding their legitimate rights, the abolishment of the expression 'employees' for workers and the issuance of laws that organize their work and vocational life." US Labor Against The War issued the following [PDF format warning] statement:
To: Our Sisters and Brothers in the Iraqi Labor Movement
Re: May Day -- Labor's Day for International Working Class Solidarity

Dear Sisters, Brothers, Comrades in struggle:
We join with you today in our common battle for worker rights and basic disgnity for working people everywhere.
We salute the bravery and resolute action of the Iraqi working class as it seeks a democratic Iraq, free from all foreign intervention and control, free from repression and with full rights for workers as guaranteed by international labor standards.
We in US Labor Against the War, whose 190 affiliates represent over five million U.S. workers, stand with you and pledge our continuing support fo ryour work and a speedy end to the occupation of Iraq by all foreign troops and governments and restoration of full national sovereignty to the Iraqi people.
We are moved by the fact that all who visit the memorial to the 1886 labor martyrs at Haymarket Square in Chicago, whose massaacre led to the declaration of May 1 as the international day of worker solidarity, see a meesae of greeting and solidarity from the Iraqi labor movement inscribed there in 2007 during an historic visit tot he united States by representatives of the Iraqi labor movement.
And we commemorate with you that day of intense class struggle, we stand in solidarity with you in the continuing class conflict that threatens the lives and livelihoods of working people in our two countries.
Long live the Iraqi labor movement.
Long live solidarity between our peoples.
U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)
Co-convenors: Kathy Black, Gene Bruskin, Bob Muehlenkamp, Brooks Sunkett, Nancy Wohlforth and Michael Zweig
National Coordinator: Michael Eisenscher
National Organizer: Tom Gogan
Administrative Coordinator: Adrienne Nicosia
Coalition Thorpchaabat notes tomorrow's protests with an invitation for Friday stability to continue the Iraqi youth uprising and Iraqi revolution, to continue the spirit of change and to support the ongoing protests in Ramadi's Tahrir Square and in Mosul. Mosul is where Iraqi forces under the command of Mahdi Sabih al-Gharawi have attacked peaceful demonstrators and where the govenor of the province, Athil al-Nujaifi has joined the protesters. al-Nujaifi is the brother of Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of Parliament. Reidar Visser (Iraq and Gulf Analysis) offered his take on the events last month:
The subtext of the drama is as follows. The local councils complains that the newly appointed police chief is "not from the governorate." (He comes from Shiite-majority Wasit.) Moreover, if one looks back at Gharawi's past career at the interior ministry, it becomes clear that he was frequently accused of acts of torture and association with Shiite death squads during the dark days of sectarian violence in 2006. Against that backdrop, his appointment to Nineveh in the current climate comes across as particularly provocative.
Additionally, the legal procedures seem to have been subverted in this appointment too. It is unclear how Gharawi even became a candidate, since the provincial powers law of 2008 specifies a procedure in which the governor is to come up with 5 candidates, the governorate council limits the field to three and then the ministry in Bagdhad selects one. Today, the head of the security committee in Nineveh indicates that they have not been involved in selecting three suitable candidates so far.
Of course, the ministry of interior -- which appears to have orchestrated these developments so far -- is currently under the control of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who technically remains the deputy minister of interior.
While they represent the people of Iraq and are the people of Iraq, there have also been protests or 'protests' organized and ordered by the Iranian-based Moqtada al-Sadr. Alsumaria TV notes that he's called a rally for May 23rd. The Economist notes of Moqtada:
For their part, the Americans are still nervous about Mr Sadr's increasing cosiness with Iran. His Mahdi Army used to flaunt nationalist credentials in an effort not to be viewed as being in Iran's pocket. But during Mr Sadr's time in Iran, where he has been studying in the holy city of Qom, he renewed his friendship with the mullahs. The deal he struck last year to keep Mr Maliki in power may have been brokered by them. And Mr Sadr, like the Iranian authorities, has vociferously backed Bahrain's Shia opposition. On the other hand, Sadrists in Baghdad said that they backed the Green Movement in Iran, which rebelled against the regime there in 2009.
Mr Sadr was once derided as "Ayatollah Atari", a nickname denoting his love of computer games. He was also widely regarded as a thug, albeit one who performed astutely in the violent game of Iraqi politics. But he has still not revealed his latest goals and allegiances. After two years in exile, Mr Sadr has made only two high-profile appearances in Iraq to address his followers. A spokesman said he was testing to see whether Mr Maliki or the Americans would arrest him. But Mr Sadr has recently spent more time in Iraq, mainly in the Shia's holy city of Najaf. As the Americans draw down their numbers, his supporters may see a lot more of him.
Today in Iraq, a police compound is attacked. CNN reports that a Hilla police headquarters was targeted by a suicide car bomber who took his own life and that of "at least 21 officers" with sixty more people left injured. Australia's Herald Sun quotes security official Haidar al Zazour stating, "The suicide bomber took advantage of the police station's guards changing shifts to attack. He managed to drive through the main gate and blew up his vehicle four meters [12 feet] inside the station's perimeter." AGI News notes, "A list of the victims has been posted inside the city's largest hospital." AP explains, "A witness at the scene said the blast knocked down the concrete ceiling covering a parking lot where many police cars were located." Along with damaging the police headquarters and leaving a six foot crater, AFP notes, "Several nearby houses and shops were also seriously damaged, an AFP journalist said." BBC News observes, "Hilla is a mainly Shia city and has in the past come under attack by Sunni militants." Mo Hong'e (Xinhua) updates with, ""Our latest reports put the toll from the suicide car bombing in the city of Hillah at 25 and 75 wounded," the source from Hillah police told Xinhua on condition of anonymity." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) quotes Kathum Majed Toma ("head of Babil's provincial council") stating, "The central government is responsible for this explosion. We requested many times for them to provide us with sonar devices to detect explosives and for them to hire more security forces so we can secure our province but they did not reply." Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) adds, "Other council members also blamed the national government and made clear the province had been on alert since the announcement of Bin Laden's death." Habib al-Zubaidi (Reuters) notes a Hilla hospital source for the death toll of 25 and the wounded count of 83.

In addition, Reuters notes a Mussayab roadside bombing, a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left four injured and, dropping back to last night, a Mosul doll bombing which injured three people. Aswat al-Iraq notes that Lt Brig Moayed Khalil Abdul-Aziz of the Ministry of Defense was assassinated today in Baghdad. And as the violence continues, Aswat al-Iraq reports, the Surpeme Iraqi Islamic Council's Ammar al-Hakim expresses his disapproval of the continued inability to fill the security positions, "The delay of the said issue has become unjustified with the presence of efficient candidates for those posts, who had been nominated by some political blocs." And while al-Hakim is dismayed by Nouri's continued inability to name those positions, equally true is that the clock is ticking for Nouri on his own self-appointed deadline. Alsumaria TV notes there are only 33 days left in Nouri's "100 days" to change. In the face of continued protests and unable to stop them via curfews, demonizations or assault, Nouri proposed that he would have corruption licked in 100 days. It would be a new government, one without corruption. Alsumaria offers three positions known to be taken. The National Alliance is backing a vote of no confidence for Nouri while Iraqiya wants "wider reform" and th Kudistan Alliance sees it all as talk to motivate Cabinet ministers to get focused on the issue.

Still on the security issue, Al Mada notes Iraqi Maj Gen Hamid al-Maliki -- Army Air Staff, stating that Iraq can't protect its air space or defend itself from an external threat and this leads quickly to speculation that the US has deliberately delayed providing military aircraft to Iraq in order to extend its stay. (If that is the plan, it was the plan before the SOFA was written. Go back to DoD reports as early as 2007 and you will see that the problem with Iraq's air force was noted as was the long time lag it would take to provide aircraft and training.) In other security news, Dar Addustour reports that allegedly Solomon Yousef, chief security advisor in Salahuddin Province, has been arrested in a raid on his home by forces Nouri sent in from Baghdad.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The ever-changing story






Between the US counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, not telling the truth about this bin Laden death and the UN human rights head demanding from the US details of the bin Laden death, the official story is being changed.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay wants "precise facts surrounding his killing" made public to ensure it adhered to international law.

"The White House suggested that pictures of bin Laden’s body were too 'gruesome' to be made public due to risk of them being 'inflammatory," reported Gordon Rayner and Toby Harnden in Washington for the Telegraph.

"The about-turn left the US open to accusations of a cover-up."

Human rights workers expressed their belief that the Bin Laden death announcement was cover-up propaganda, more of the same 911 cover-up that the nation has faced almost ten years.


The White House on Wednesday declined to shed more light on the special forces operation that killed Osama bin Laden, a day after it was forced to correct explosive details of the undercover raid.

Adjustments to the story, which began to be told late on Sunday, have seen the narrative embroidered with corrections and new details and left a sheaf of unanswered questions.

On Wednesday, however, the White House and the Pentagon called a halt to the disclosures, saying operational techniques that might be used in future raids needed to be protected.

"We have gotten to the point where we cannot cross lines," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "We've gone to the limit of our ability to do that and still maintain some of the things we need to maintain and be kept secret."

Factual errors concerning some of the most explosive details of the raid related by top officials on Monday had to be publicly fixed.



We're starting with the US Congress because a hearing took place and it does matter. It especially matters because it's part of a move to gut health care for active duty military and retirees. It especially matters because I looked around and couldn't believe the lack of press interest (based on attendance of the hearing).
Today the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel met to figure out how to slash health coverage. That is what they were doing. If veterans had any real pull in Congres, they'd demand Senator Jim Webb be pulled from committee assignments -- especially after his temper tantrum over the VA's efforts to provide benefits for the victims of Agent Orange.
The subcommittee heard from DoD witnesses Clifford Stnaley, Robert Hale, Dennis McCarthy and Jonathan Woodson. Unlike the House, it heard from no representatives for active duty, retirees or veterans. That wasn't an error, Webb didn't forget to include them. They were intentionally shut out.
Webb chairs the Subcommittee. Senator Lindsey Graham is Ranking Member -- as disclosed many times before, I know Lindsey, I like Lindsey and I have no problem calling him out. We're going to ignore Webb's remarks because after his attack on Vietnam veterans (the Agent Orange issue), he didn't just ensure that he couldn't run for re-election (he can't and has already announced he won't), he gave up the right to be considered even remotely trust worthy. Ranking Member Graham joined the hearing late, noting he'd "just met with Gen [David] Petraeus wife [Holly Petraeus] who now is in charge of protecting our men and women in uniform from predatory lending practices." When he did join it, he delivered these opening remarks:
Ranking Member Lindsey Graham: On the health care front, this is really a difficult situation. You're talking about 16 and 1/2% of the DoD's budget by 2028 being health care cost -- and that's doubling in less than 20 years. I know -- [to Webb] Are you retired?
Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: I am a retired Marine, yes.
Ranking Member Lindsey Graham: Okay, he's a retired Marine. I one day hope to be retired Air Force officer. And I guess what I'm going to say is that I understand what the administration is trying to do. We have to move this debate forward on sustainability. We haven't had a premium increase since 1989. Some of the fees to be increased proposed by the administration, I think, is something we should all consider. I respect the House. But eventually you're going to have to make some very draconian choices between health care and operational needs. And that's not where we want to find ourselves. So, Mr. Hill -- Secretary Hill, your idea of trying to get a better bang for our buck, looking at programs to make them more efficient, improving the quality of care while lowering costs is absolutely essential.
These are serious issues, these are real issues. Instead of functioning journalism in the US, we have a bunch of a partisan hacks. Chief among them David Weigel. Weigel -- who was let go by the Washington Post (forced out) -- landed at Slate. He didn't learn to be a better journalist there either. Instead of covering something of value or use like what Graham is attempting with the health care issue, Weigel only nows how to score partisan points -- he learned so very well from Journo-List. Today he's red faced over a mistake he made. Mistake?

And Now, the Search for the Obama Death Photo

Slate Magazine (blog) - David Weigel - ‎3 hours ago‎
Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who had been conflicted about the quick sea burial of bin Laden because it wouldn't satisfy doubters, put out a statement today criticizing the photo decision. I respectfully disagree with President Obama's decision not to release ...
Slate's now changed the headline to "And Now, the Search for the bin Laden Death Photo" -- Weigel meant "Osama" -- but what he should really be embarrassed about is this bulls**t approach to 'reporting' wherein he looks for gotcha moments of insignificance instead of doing something of substance. He is paid to do a job he's never done.
Hardly anyone from the press showed for today's hearing and this is not a new issue. I believe we last covered it when the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee held their two hearing on the issue in March (see the March 15th and March 16th snapshots). You want to call out Lindsey Graham? By all means do, but how about for something important and not phrase and words? How about for efforts to gut the health care of active duty personnel. What's being proposed is outrageous. And in the House, members were more than willing to note their distress. One example.
US House Rep Chellie Pingree: I just want to say again, I understand how well you are all doing your job and the importance of all of you looking for cost efficiencies in what you do as we face a difficult time with the budget deficit and, uh, also where there's a lot of examination of the military budget and looking for places where we can cut. And maybe my first comment is more to my fellow Committee members then to all of you but I might see more places to cut the fat in the military budget than others of my colleagues but I am deeply concerned that we're going after medical care for both our active duty personnel and our retirees when I think there are other places to make more effective cuts. So I know you have to do your job and look for those cuts but almost everything that's before us today, either myself or one of my colleagues has mentioned a concern about, whether it's the changes to TRICARE, how we're going to deal with some of our Sole Community Hospitals I have two in my district, there are four in our state of only 1.2 million people, in a state where we have almost a fifth of our citizens are either active duty or retired military. So there's a very big dependance on this system in our state and I'm worried about that particular program. So for me, many of the efficiencies that you're talking about are going to reduce the level of medical care to people who have served us to whom we have made a huge promise. And there is going to be a -- I think -- a reduction in the services that they receive so I just -- I know you have to do your job but I don't like it and I don't think it's all necessarily good.
But Lindsey Graham and the outgoing Jim Webb have bi-partisan agreement to slash and burn active duty and retirees health care (Hale declared active duty was safe -- no, it's not as evidenced by the testimony of all the witnesses, their prepared statements and Stanley's admission -- in his prepared remarks, not delivered -- that they have proposals that they are not yet ready to make public but they had help with from the same crew Barack's appointed for the Cat Food Commission). And the sparesly attended hearing (by Subcomittee members) did not include anyone who was outraged by the efforts to slash health care. That's all the more reason that the press needs to be paying attention. And 50 years from now, what Lindsey Graham said about Osama bin Laden one day and what he said two or thee days later won't mean a damn thing. But if they gut the health care, it will still be effecting active duty and retirees. So how you about you grow the hell up, sit at the adult table and start doing some of the heavy lifting?
As we saw during the House hearings, DoD's Clifford Stanely's the (mis)leader on this issue. After the hearing, I grabbed a copy of his prepared statement thinking, before I picked it up, that I would read it through quickly. That notion fell apart the minute I picked it up. Stanley presented the Subcommittee with a prepared statement that is over 70 pages long.
For those unfamiliar with the workings of Congress, the prepared statements generally run five to six pages. For important issues -- such as when then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and then-top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus repeately testified to Congress in April 2008 about Iraq -- they may run as long as 12 to 21 pages. But over 70 pages? Many witnesses who appear before Congress merely read their prepared remarks aloud. There's no reason to do so. By it being prepared and presented to Congress (long before the hearing), it becomes part of the Congressional record. So Stanely made part of the Congressional record today something that most people will never see or know about in this news cycle.
On page 19 of his prepared remarks, he begins noting the need to 'review' an alternative (in past testimony, "alternative" translates as "cut" when used by Stanley) "to the current Imminent Danger/Hostile Fire Pay structure." Equally disturbing is that while Hale spoke of the need to consider what the future role of the National Guard and Reserve should be (with regards to overseas deployments), Stanley, on page 26, informs, "Future planning envisions an era of persistent conflict where some type of RC [Reserve Component] activation authority will be required to augment the AC [Active Component] to maximize effectiveness efficiency of the Total Force." According to Stanley's written statement quoted -- and what follows in his prepared remarks -- that decision's been made and the US government "envisions an era of persistent conflict" requiring the US military to be deployed repeatedly. Might that not be something the American people should be consulted on? On page 38, he finally begins addressing the health care issues. We'll go into some of that tomorrow or Friday. We don't have space or time today.
So let's leave his prepared statement and note his reaction to Webb's asking who is in charge of contractors.
Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: So who hires, fires and pays?
Clifford Stanley: It would be the commanders --
Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: How many -- how many contractors are we paying
Clifford Stanley: [Snickering] I only laugh because we are much pilloried for lack of full accounting of contractors. We're getting better.
Oh, yeah, that's funny. (That was sarcasm.) He wants to slash the health care for active duty and retirees but he thinks it's funny that his department still can't provide an accounting of contractors. "We're getting better" doesn't cut it. He did allow that there were 300,000 contractors ["contractors funded by Operation and Maintenance account"] they're doing a pretty good job of accounting for; however, "there are others working on other accounts but we haven't got a full count yet." Apparently, there's no real rush. Stanley noted that this full count was "something Congress directed us to do years ago and we're working on it." Maybe a full count would allow for cost overruns to be caught? And maybe if that happened you wouldn't need to gut the health care of active duty forces. And maybe DoD needs to sit down their future witnesses and tell them snickering about your inability to do your job in public doesn't instill trust in your department.
Subcommittee Chair Jim Webb: We hear widely varying numbers of how many contractors are being paid each year by DoD, by whom and how much. Do you know how much of the DoD budget goes into independent contractors?
Clifford Stanely: You know, Mr. Chairman, if you want to look at [. . .] about 40% of our money pays for all of our employees -- that's military and civilian. The rest goes to contractors in some way. That would include all the weapon costs. But most of that is contracted out eventually to private companies. But many people when they think of contractors are thinking more of what you alluded to -- KBR contractors in Afghanistan that are performing those services. That would be more for those funded by Operations and Maintenance, that 300,000. [Laughing] Am I helping? Apparently not.
He was so tickled by it all. 60%, using his figures of DoD money goes out to contractors -- in one form or another -- but the 'cost saving' Stanley wants to focus on will mean attacking the 40% of the budget that goes to active duty. DoD's Woodson wanted the Subcommittee to know that a benefit of hiring contractors was that you didn't have to pay them health benefits in "perpetuity."
Transitioning from Congress to Iraq . . . US House Rep Ron Paul has formed an exploratory committee to consider a 2012 run for the GOP presidential nomination. Yesterday on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane asked him why and he stated he was encouraged to "By thousands and thousands of people who are just really writing to me and talking to me, the many websites, the contiuation of what happened in the last go-around [his 2008 run]. I was rather shocked to find out what kind of reception I got, especially on the universities. And I've continued to speak at the university. The crowds get bigger, more enthusiastic. They don't like the war. They don't like the Patriot Act. They like personal liberties. They like to be left alone. They don't wan the government to be taking care of them from cradle to grave. And they're enthusiastic." Jordan Fabian (The Hill) reports, "Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), a possible Republican candidate for president, said Tuesday that the U.S. should brings its troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan now that Osama bin Laden has been killed." Others in his political party do not necessarily feel the same. Take the Speaker. Yesterday's snapshot noted:

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives doesn't appear to wonder. AP reports that Speaker John Boehner has declared that the US should keep a small (undefined number) of US troops on the ground in Iraq past 2011. Reuters quotes him stating, "I think a small, residual force should remain."

Carl Hulse (New York Times) reports, "Mr. Boehner said he had no recommendation on the size of the contingent that might remain or how long the troops should stay, but the military has been exploring the idea of a force of about 10,000, people briefed on the plan said. At the end of April, there were 47,000 American troops in Iraq."

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Barry's latest fairy tale






"I'd like to pretend that I'm looking forward to today's hearing," declared US House Rep Bob Filner this morning as the House Veterans Affairs Committee, "but I'm not. These are not easy questions. And frankly, Mr. Chairman, the issues go beyond just the-the incidents themselves. They go to the communication within the VA. It took a long time for the right people to know what was going on in each of these incidents. It goes to communication with our VA patients. Sending a letter that says basically, 'You may have HIV,' is not the way to deal with these issues." Filner is the Ranking Member on the Committee but what was he talking about? HIV?
The VA's had several problems of contaiminating and infecting patients they were supposed to be treating. In his opening remarks, Filner noted several such incidents.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: In December 2008, we were notified of improper reprocessing of endoscopes which put thousands of veterans in Murfreesboro, Mountain Home Tennessee and Miami, Florida at possible risk of hepatitis and HIV. In February 2009, another 1,000 veterans in Augusta, Georgia received notifcations that they were at risk for hepatitis and HIV because of improper processing of ear, nose and throat endoscopes. In July 2010, this Committee held a field hearing in St. Louis, Missouri, a hearing you attended Mr. Chairman, along with many of our colleagues today after we had learned of lapses in protocol with the cleaning of dental equipment which put at risk 1,800 veterans.
Background, June of 2009, attorney Mike Ferrara (Cherry Hill Injury Board) was stating, "Since April, we've been letting people know about the medical errors at VA hospitals that have caused at least five patients to contract HIV from contaminated endoscopic equipment." Last June, CNN reported, "John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis has recently mailed letters to 1,812 veterans telling them they could contract hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after visiting the medical center for dental work, said Rep. Russ Carnahan." A field hearing took place (Congress holds a hearing outside of DC, they call it a field hearing -- think field trip) July 13, 2010 and Betsy Bruce (KTVI-TV) reported, "Petzel promised he would have a rapid response procedure for future medical concerns ready in a month. Chairman Filner interrupted telling him, 'Why not right now?'"
In the 2010 November mid-terms voters gave Republicans the majority in the House and Bob Filner became Ranking Member instead of Chair. At at the start of the hearing today, he would point out, "As far as I know, and maybe the panel can correct me, with all these incidents, we have never been told -- I don't think so, Mr. Chairman -- of any -- of any personnel changes as a result. The only way to send a message is firing or whatever."
Appearing before the Committee were two panels. The first panel was composed of VHS' Dr. Robert Petzel, Dr. John Daigh, Jr. (Assistant Inspector General for Healthcare Inspections, VA) and Randall Williamson, US Government Accountability Office's director of health care). The second panel was HHS's Dr. Michael Bell and HHS' Anthony Watson. Petzel began the hearing (reading his opening statement word for word) appearing combative. From that first panel, we'll note this exchange with Petzel and Committee Chair Jeff Miller and Ranking Member Bob Filner.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Let me -- and my time is run out -- but comments in your opening statement: continuous improvement, dozens and dozens of reviews annually, careful assessments, you talked about levels of oversight, I think GAO talked about inability to follow guidelines, the need for unfettered input for employees, they found disturbing deficiencies in systematic problems, you said you've begun a process of certification -- If you do all of those things, and your managers don't follow the rules, what do you do with those people?
Dr. Robert Petzel: We would discipline them.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Have you?
Dr. Robert Petzel: We have.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Have you fired anybody?
Dr. Robert Petzel: We have proposed removal in a number of instances and almost invariably the individual has resigned or retired as a result of the proposed removal.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Can you give us a number, I mean, of individuals that you've proposed removal of?
Dr. Robert Petzel: There are, I believe, 3 physician or dental level people that that's occurred with. Several chiefs of SPD where that's happened. We've also reprimanded individuals, suspensions and letters of counseling.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: And I think one of the dentists was in his eighties, is that correct?
Dr. Robert Petzel: Close. Yes.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Mr. Filner.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Dr. Petzel, you're here as the representative of the VA. We've gone through this before, sir. It seems to me your job here should have been -- and we have Congress people from all the districts that have been effected -- was to begin to restore some trust and confidence in your institution. I'd hate to take a poll. If I did, and I said, "How many people now have confidence everything is fine in your VA hospital?," I doubt if anyone would raise their hand. You said everything is fine. It's not true. Simply not true. You talk about all of these transparent procedures and these-these Journal --
New England Journal best practices, and yet every time something happens, we have disaster. We don't have a way of communicating. We don't have a way of dealing with the personal concerns. We don't have any knowledge that anybody's been reprimanded. Now you've got three. We've been going over this for years and now we've got three. And we still -- You have never told this committee those figures before as far as I know. But, Dr. Petzel, we've gone through this before. We've raised concerns in our opening statements. You read your opening statement as if we never said anything. So you never addressed issues of accountability, you never addressed issues of communication -- whether within your agency or with veterans or with this Committee.
I-I-I-I've gone through the time lines with almost every one of these [Congress] members here and their hospitals. You say panels get together to decide "should we disclose, what should we disclose, who should we --?" It looks to many of us like they get together to decide "What do we keep secret from our" -- You know, you keep shaking your head "no." But why did it take 8 weeks at St. Louis -- where Mr. Carnahan will raise the issues -- why did it take 8 weeks for that panel to decide, we're going to tell people that we have almost 2,000 people infected -- possibly infected with HIV? It took two months before you guys decided that. I would have -- And the Secretary [of the VA, Eric Shinseki] wasn't notified, as far as I know, in his words to me, in that whole period of time. So it sounds like you're sitting there deciding, "What's the minimal amount of information that we can give out so people don't get upset with us?" Rather than the maximum. I would have -- that first day -- I would have had the Secretary had a press conference that said, you know, "We have a possibly of X-hundred or thousands of people, we're going to get to you right away, we want to make sure this is happening." And put pressure on yourselves to become public. Because there's no pressure for you to do anything. We didn't know anything. The Secretary didn't know anything. I don't know if you knew anything. Because these guys are going, "How do we keep this secret for as long as possible? Maybe we don't have to disclose at all?" Because your question was: "Should we disclose?" Not how to do it. And then, as I said, your whole disclosure process is as if everybody knows all your acronyms and your-your initials for everything, all these SPDs and RMEs, as if the patients know what's going on. They get a letter. I've seen these letters. It says basically -- it's not this bald, but almost -- "You may have HIV." They get a letter. It may have even gone to a wrong address. For 1500 people, as I said to you earlier at a hearing, you should have had 1500 of your 250,000 employees, assigned each one to somebody, call them, call them, go visit them, find out where can they come back, when can they get their blood tests, treat them as if they may have HIV. And they're scared to death they're going to die and you send them a letter. And there's no one there necessarily to answer a phone call when they call back cause you don't have people working this like case managers and one person to five people. I think you should do one-on-one. But what you described as this open, transparent process does not come through. And everyone of these people [points to members of Congress] has constituents which I bet confirm what I just said. And even if it's perception and not reality, that, that's just as bad. That you took forever, you weren't very personal in your notification, you weren't very clear about what it is that they might have, you didn't follow up in a way that was very quick and then we don't know anything about accountability. We know nothing from basically what you said today. And you guys have got to develop a new system. Whether it's talk -- You know, we just killed Osama bin Laden and they notified 8 members of Congress and the Committee and they kept that. Well maybe you should notify all the Chair and Ranking Member of the Veterans Committees about what you're doing about your personnel. But there is no sense that you have done anything. And we don't know -- Nobody in Dayton, nobody in St. Louis, nobody in Miami, nobody in New Jersey, nobody in Tennessee knows anything about that accountability. And I doubt anybody in the system knows anything about it, so they don't think there's any accountability. So I wish you would address these issues. We've gone over them for several years. You and I have gone over these exact issues several times in hearings and you do the exact same thing. You give me a prepared statement. 'Everything's fine.' You move the discussion into these arcane things about SPDs and RMEs and you neglect the basic issues of communications and accountability that are at the heart of the confidence that our people have in your system. You may comment in any way you want.
Dr. Robert Petzel: Uh, thank you, Mr. Filner. The, uhm . . . What I want to do is, uh, first talk about our, uh, notification process. The, uh, the process by which we determine who ought to be notified or who might be at risk, as I said before, is an industry standard. I will stand by that process under any circumstance. It takes some time but it is transparent and it is weighted heavily in the favor of --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Nobody knew about St. Louis for 8 weeks.
Dr. Robert Petzel: I'm --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Eight weeks.
Robert Petzel: Sir.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: And I'm if that's industry standard, we shouldn't be following industry standard.
Dr. Robert Petzel: Sir, I'm not talking about the communication, I'm talking about the process that we go through. It is very thorough and it's weighted on the side of being abundantly cautious to be sure that we take into account every possible risk. The process by which we disclose to patients involves letters, phone calls and case managers. Particularly in the instance of St. Louis, every single individual that was effected was called, they were offered a case manager, there was a case manager that involved -- in fact, in some instances, the leadership of the medical center. I will admit that we've learned figuratively since --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Sir, that conflicts exactly with what you said to me at St. Louis. The Chairman was there, Mr. Carnahan was there, Mr. Lacy -- Clay [US House Rep William Lacy Clay] was there, sorry, sir. Mr.[John] Shimkus was there. You never mentioned the word case manager, you never mentioned mentioned that they were called. Is that right, Russ? [Carnahan nods his head in agreement.] We-we went through this discussion with you. The first word I said to you was case manager. I said to you, "Why don't you have case managers?" You said, "Yeah, we'll look at that." We're both going to review your testimony in St. Louis because it's contrary to what you just said now.
Petzel never grasped it -- or never showed any indication that he did. He came in combative and remained that way throughout leading to the larger question of why VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has not either asked for Petzel's resignation or relieved him of his duties? Even when Committee Member US House Rep Phil Roe -- also Dr. Roe, and that's medical or we wouldn't note the "Dr." -- attempted to walk through reality with Petzel, Petzel refused to budge, refused to see the light. He wanted to bicker and dicker and bluster. "I can assure you that in the private sector, had this occurred," US House Rep Roe noted, "like this just occurred, and a medical legal case had resulted out of it, you just get your pencil out and start writing commas and zeroes, I can tell you, and get the check book out because this private system would not tolerate this." It went beyond Petzel's apparent grasp.
US House Rep Phil Roe: One of the things that we have to sell in medicine is trust. Our patients need to trust us. They need to trust the VA that that's where the quality of care and transparency, Mr. Filner is absolutely 100% correct. I can assure you that when I had a problem go wrong in my shop when I practiced medicine, not the clerk that answered the phone made the call to the patient, I made the call to the patient. I called them up. I explained to them. I had them come in and tell them what was going on. And I can tell you, with 1500 people, that could have been in a large institution with multiple people, I would have had the highest level people contacting someone when they think they have HIV or a potential life threatening condition.
Petzel wanted the Committee to know that they'd learned a lot since 2008. These are not steps you learn late in your career. What Rep Roe was referring to is learned early in your medical career. That Petzel and the VA have to play catch up is an indictment of the lack of leadership and accountability. And let's talk about the three Petzel thinks they 'forced out' -- resigned or retired. Is there anything following them around? Since they weren't fired, it's doubtful. The nearly 80-year-old is presumably retired; however, he may be doing some part-time work. Is there anything following him or the other two around alerting other medical facilities to the problem at the VA that resulted in the person leaving the VA? The answer's no. By allowing them to resign or retire, the answer is no. So not only did they put veterans at risk, but who knows who they're putting at risk currently.
If you're not getting how combative Petzel was, we'll note US House Rep Bill Johnson. Johnson, a Republican from Ohio, is always very low key in the Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Quoting Petzel's own words to him, to ask a question, Johnson was greeted with Petzel insisting he hadn't said that (he had) and cutting Johnson off repeatedly. When Petzel came up for air, Johnson noted his time was up, that he agreed with Filner and, "If there's anything that it appears the VA is expert in it's talking around these problems and kicking the ball down the stream."

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011








Starting with rumors. Press TV reports that a "prominent Iraqi cleric [in] Muqtada al-Sadr's group" states he saw "Israeli jet fighters" drilling on a US base in Iraq for the last week at night. The source states the base was al-Asad Airbase. That base is in Al Anbar Province and before the start of the Iraq War was Qadisiyah Airbase. Global Security notes, "Qadisiyah Airbase is named after the great battle of May 636 at Al Qadisiyah, a village south of Baghdad on the Euphrates. The Iranians, who outnumbered the Arabs six to one, were decisively beaten. From Al Qadisiyah the Arabs pushed on to the Sassanid capital at Ctesiphon, enabling Islam under Caliph Umar to spread to the East. During the 1980s, Baathists publicly regularly called the Iran-Iraq War a modern day 'Qadisiyah' exploiting the age-old enmity in its propaganda and publicizing the war as part of the ancient struggle between the Arab and Persian empires." During the first Gulf War in the 90s, the CIA says, housed alcohol bombs and HD bombs. Since the start of the ongoing Iraq War, the base has been used (first) by the Australians and (now) by the US. Global Security notes it is Iraq's "second largest airbase." In 2008, Eric Talmadge (AP) reported the base was "big enough to support 20,000 troops), was also called "Camp Cupcake" and housed "a Burger King, a Pizza Hut, and round-the-clock Internet access." The Jerusalem Post picks up on the story and adds, "Officials in Iraq were not notified of the military drill, which was reportedly conducted in coordination with US armed forces." Reuters notes the Israeli military's denial of the story and also notes, "Washington's ally Israel accuses Tehran of using its declared civilian nuclear reactor programme to conceal a plan to develop atomic bombs that would threaten the Jewish state. Israeli leaders have not ruled out military action against Iran."
Turning to deaths. The Dept of Defense issued the following on Thursday, "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Spc. Andrew E. Lara, 25, of Albany, Ore., died April 27, of a noncombat related incident, in Babil province, Iraq. He was assigned to F Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion, attached to the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment. For more information, please contact the Oregon National Guard public affairs office at 503-584-3885." Friday another US soldier died in Iraq. AFP notes he was killed in southern Iraq, according to the US military, and that this "made April the deadliest month for US forces in Iraq since 2009, according to figures compiled by AFP." Sunday the Defense Dept issued the following, " The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Pfc. Robert M. Friese, 21, of Chesterfield, Mich., died April 29 in Al Qadisiyah province, Iraq, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with a rocket propelled grenade. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas. For more information, the media may contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at 254-287-9993 or 254-449-4023." The 11 dead for the month of April include 25-year-old Pfc Antonio G. Stiggins who was killed in an attack which also claimed 25-year-old Lt Omar J. Vazquez April 22nd. Steve Ramirez (Las Cruces Sun-News) notes, "Funeral services for Stiggins, a cavalry scout with the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who was killed in Iraq on April 22, will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Christ's Church, 2200 N. Sycamore St., in Roswell. Stiggins will be laid to rest at South Park Cemetery, 3101 S. Main St., in Roswell." The day before, Wednesday, there will be a public viewing at the Anderson-Bethany Funeral Home from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. Amanda Goodman (KRQE, link has text and video) reports his body arrived in Roswell Saturday and a military procession followed to the funeral home. His survivors include his parents Angel Mayes and Luke Stiggins and Angel Mayes states, "There wasn't anything couldn't throw at that kid he wouldn't take on. With a sense of humor, I must add." US House Rep Steve Pearce notes the passing, "I offer my deepest sympathy and condolences for the family of Pfc. Antonio Stiggins. Our nation is profoundly thankful for the sacrifices made every day by the members of our armed forces and their families. Pfc. Stiggins will always be remembered for what he gave in defense of our freedoms. His family will be in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."

April ended Saturday and it's time to do the monthly count of Iraqis killed in the ongoing war. April 1st 5 people were reported dead and 55 injured. April 2nd 8 were reported dead and 12 injured. April 3rd 3 were counted dead and 29 injured. April 4th 17 were reported dead and 23 injured. April 5th 8 were counted dead and 14 injured. April 6th 19 were reported dead with 28 injured (we're not including the 8 dead from the collapsed brick plant). April 7th 1 person was reported dead and 1 wounded. April 8th 9 were reported dead and 9 injured. April 9th 3 were reported dead and 4 injured. April 10th 5 were reported dead and twelve injured. April 11th 23 were reported dead and 45 injured. April 12th 12 were reported dead and 15 were reported injured. April 13th 2 were reported dead and 21 injured. April 14th 38 were reported dead and 19 wounded (34 dead at Camp Ashraf on April 8th are included in this day's count because April 14th is when the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths). April 15th 9 people were reported injured. April 16th 2 were reported dead and 7 injured. April 17th 10 were reported dead and 52 injured. April 18th 9 were reported dead and 35 injured. April 19th 8 were reported dead and 17 injured. April 20th 4 were reported dead and 6 wounded. April 21st 7 were reported dead and 8 injured. April 22nd 5 were reported dead 3 injured. April 24th 1 person was reported dead and 13 injured. April 25th 3 were reported dead and 15 injured. April 26th 4 dead 36 injured. April 27th 1 was reported dead and 12 injured. April 28th 19 were reported dead and 49 injured. April 29th 15 were reported dead and 31 injured. April 30th 22 were reported dead and 27 injured. That's 262 deaths and 598 injured (as always, check my math).
Salman Faraj (AFP) notes that the Iraqi "ministries of health, interior and defence and released on Sunday showed that a total of 211 Iraqis -- 120 civilians, 56 policemen and 35 soldiers" -- died as a result of attacks in April" that's a total of 211 and they state 377 were wounded. Now let's move over to Girlie In The Green Zone, to read her bad reporting for Reuters is to always be uninformed. Serenes tells you that the number of wounded has decreased because only "190 civilians were wounded in April." Does Girlie just make up her figures? Or do her handlers give her them? She credits the Ministry of Health. Who knows. She's worthless. The reality is that every outlet that reports deaths on a daily basis should be doing their own count. Iraqi Body Count does their own and counts 283 civilians killed in the month of April. AFP mixed the count with an actual report on another topic. Reuters just tossed out a partial figure. No one offered any analysis. April 24th, Ammar Karim (AFP) noted an emerging trend: "In recent days, however, three top officials have been shot dead with silenced guns in the Iraqi capital, leading to tighter security at checkpoints, with officers checking pistols to see if they can be fitted with silencers." Silencers have been used in many attacks throughout the month but the big trend has been the targeting of officials -- with guns or, as with Baghdad provincial council member Jasim Mohammed, with bombings. Jasim Mohammed survived the bombing with injuries. Some targeted officials were lucky enough to survive without even injuries (though in at least one case, four body guards were injured) and of course some (like Judge Tuma Jabar Lafta) were killed in the bombings (also killed was Lafta's wife and their two daughters). Academics were targeted through out the month (school and college). And another common theme was home invasions tended to be carried out by people wearing Iraqi military uniforms. Today New Sabah notes a Parliamentary Committee has lodged an accusation that the Iraqi military is "responsible for the security violations in areas they control" surrounding the capital. The committee notes that repeatedly reports find the assailants are wearing Iraqi military uniforms and that the assailants are able to move freely throughout the areas, through checkpoints, and without arousing suspicion.
When not possibly raiding homes, the Iraqi military can be found attacking peaceful protesters. Yesterday in Mosul, the Great Iraqi Revolution reports, the military used live ammo on the protesters. The military also attacked the protesters on Friday. Dar Addustour reports "hundreds" turned out in Tahrir Square (Liberation Square) in Baghdad Friday to protest and demand reforms and the end to the occupation. The demonstration, the paper notes, is a continuation of the protests which began February 15th. The protesters carried banners which they unfurled in Tahrir Square. The banners called for imporved services, the release of detainnees and more. The paper also reports that people turned out in Ramadi, including tribal elders, demanding that the US occupation end and that Iranian interference in internal affairs be blocked, detainees be released and expressing solidarity with the protesters in Mosul. The Great Iraqi Revolution adds that the call in Ramadi was for an end to "the occupation and demand its immediate departure as well as the immediate departure of Maliki and his gang and the immediate release of all the detainees." Al Sabaah also reports on the Baghdad and Ramadi protests Friday. They note the Baghdad protest also included a cry for investigations into the many Iraqis who have gone missing in the last years while also stressing Ramadi's solidarity with Nineveh Province residents. In Mosul, the Iraqi military has been dispatched by Nouri al-Maliki to attack the protesters. While protests take place calling for an end to the US occupation of Iraq, Al Sabaah reports that Kurdish leaders of Diayla Province and Kirkuk are calling for the US to remain in those regions due to disputes over who has rights to the areas.

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