Saturday, April 2, 2011

6 guests, 5 were men -- it's Diane Rehm

First, Facebook? I'm here. I left this comment yesterday on the page for the second hour of Friday's Diane Rehm Show:

I did not enjoy the second hour of today's show. As The Common Ills pointed out this evening, this was the tenth Friday in a row that the program ignored the Iraq War. I find that very disappointing and, honestly, shameful.
I also don't enjoy the fact that the program can't manage to provide an equal number of men and women as guests.
I did a study with two other women of Fresh Air in 2010. For all of 2010, women made up only 18.2% of Terry Gross' guests.
I will now be tracking The Diane Rehm Show at my blog. I find gender bias in all of NPR's programming and find it amazing since if the same gender bias were applied to hosts of shows, there would be a Don Rhem Show and Tommy Gross would be hosting Fresh Air. It's past time the female hosts of NPR made a real effort to book women.
And for anyone who has forgotten, 18.2% is a lower percentage than what Alicia Shephard found in her study of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

So let's get started. Friday on hour one of her show, Diane's guests were John Dickerson, Major Garrett and Sheryl Gay Stolberg. On hour two, David Ignatius, James Kitfield and David Sanger. That's six guests. Only one was a woman.

Sexists don't have to be male. Diane's proving that.

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

Friday, April 1, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Diane Rehm continues to ignore Iraq for the tenth straight week, protests continue in Iraq with at least 50 injured in the KRG, a woman attempts to set herself on fire in Baghdad, and much more.
The Great Iraq Revolution reports Iraqi security forces attempted to disperse protesters. As usual and, as usual, barbed wire is roped around to stop mobility and hinder access and the press are being harassed. Alsumaria TV reports that they were "calling for the release of detainees and urging to end unemployment and corruption in Iraq mainly in governmental institutions. Protestors urged to provide them with ration cards." Chanting and carrying banners (video here) what appeared to be thousands occupied Liberation Square. Al Mada reports that many more attempted to join the protesters but Iraqi forces surrounded the scene of the protest and blocked access. As with last Friday, those protesters who had family members imprisoned carried photos of their loved ones. They were easy to spot amongst the crowd with their photos and generally clad in black. On his album . . . Nothing Like the Sun, Sting has a song for the wives and daughters in Chile whose husbands were imprisoned, tortured and murdered under the terrorist reign of Augusto Pinochet and the song, sadly, fits so many regions including Iraq.
Why are there women here dancing on their own?
Why is there this sadness in their eyes?
Why are soldiers here
Their faces fixed like stone?
I can't see what it is that they despise
They're dancing with the missing
They're dancing with the dead
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid
They're dancing with their fathers
They're dancing with their sons
They're dancing with their husbands
They dance alone
They dance alone
-- "They Dance Alone" written by Sting
Kitabat has multiple videos on their home page of today's protest in Baghdad. One woman holds photos of four missing men. She yells out for Allah to help her while others around her note that [Nouri al-] Maliki does nothing. In another video, twenty-one women dressed in black and holding photos gather together chanting while one woman wipes her tears with the back of one hand, displaying the photo of her missing family member with the other hand. A woman, Um Ahmed attempted to set herself on fire, the Great Iraqi Revolution notes. They explain she is "the mother of a detainee" and the other protesters prevented the fire and rescued her.
The two main groups behind this protest were the Youth Movement of Liberty and the Coalition of the Revolution. The Youth Monument of Liberty states, "We are not asking, we are calling for the immediate trial of all detained Iraqis who were not brought before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest because that is a violation of the Constitution's Article 19's thirteenth paragraph." That paragraph reads:
The preliminay investigative documents shall be submitted to the competent judge in a period not to exceed twenty-four hours from the time of the arrest of the accused, which may be extended only once and for the same period.
And they report protests took place in Falluja and in Sulaymaniya. Alsumaria TV notes of the Sulaimaniyah Province demonstration in Kaler (or Kellar) that eye witnesses say Kurdish security forces threw stones at members of the Change Political party. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that the protest in Kellar "started peacefully but then the Kurdish Militias and Assayesh brought in their thugs and fighting started." AFP reports, also in Sulaimaniyah province, but in the city of Sulaimaniyah, approximately 4,000 protesters gathered and chanted slogans agains the two main Kurdih political parties -- the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party -- and that police used batons on protesters who used stones on the police resulting in 35 people being injured. MaximumEdge.com News notes, "City health official Rekard Rasheed said at least 38 of the injured were policemen in the melee of protestors demanding better government services, ending corruption and more jobs in the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq's north." Press TV reports that "at least 50 people" were injured. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) also notes "at least 50 people were wounded". Yesterday on All Things Considered (NPR), Kelly McEvers reported on the protests in northern Iraq, especially in relation to the disputed Kirkuk:
McEVERS: In recent protests that were part of a larger wave of demonstrations around Iraq and the region, intellectuals like Farouk Rafiq said the Kurdish success story is a myth.
Mr. FAROUK RAFIQ: This is a myth that there is economical opportunity. Do you know why? Because political parties, they captured the market. They have their own companies for themselves, for politicians, for those who are on the top.
McEVERS: So far, those politicians don't show any signs of relinquishing power. In fact, it's support from the Kurds that helped Iraq's incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, recently secure a second term. In exchange for this support, the federal government in Baghdad recently agreed to let Kurdistan proceed with agreements to pump and sell its own oil. Now, says analyst Jutiar Adel, the Kurdish leaders see economic growth as a way to continue asserting their autonomy.
Mr. JUTIAR ADEL: (Through translation) The economical presence, the economical strength is very important, and they want to guarantee that there is an economical power for Kurdistan.
McEVERS: That means in addition to ignoring protesters' demands for a bigger piece of the economic pie, other issues might be on the back burner, issues like who will control the area around the city of Kirkuk, where Kurds were the majority until Saddam sent Arabs to settle there.
Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking foreign language).
McEVERS: At a recent conference, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani told followers it's likely his grandson will still be fighting for Kirkuk.
For those who would like more audio of past protests in Iraq, Hamzoz has filed audio reports at Alive in Iraq on the March 11th protest in Baghdad. Rania El Gamal (Reuters) observes, "Iraq's protests have not reached the critical mass of those in Tunisia and Egypt, but Iraqis are tired of shortages of food rations, water, power and jobs, and widespread corruption, eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein." At the Los Angeles Times, the Carnegie Endwoment for International Peace's scholar Maria Fantappie weighs in on Iraq noting:

While the protests in Iraq may not threaten an entire leadership, they could shift the balance of power within the ruling coalition. With both promises and targeted public policies in southern Iraq, the Sadrists could infiltrate Maliki's strongholds -- especially Basra and Baghdad -- consolidate their popular support there, and increase their pull within the new government, most likely at the expense of Maliki's State of Law coalition. As a result, the Sadrists could regain politically what they lost militarily in the 2007 Battle of Basra to Maliki-affiliated armed forces and emerge as a key player in the government.
During the protests, the Sadrists lobbied for the resignation of several State of Law governors and high-ranking officials in Baghdad and Basra, accusing Maliki's administration of being lax in combating corruption. This move may turn the Sadrists from an indispensable ally for Maliki's reelection into his chief competition. Maliki already seems to be avoiding alienating the Kurds over the issue of Kirkuk, possibly to secure them as an alternative ally.
The winners of this period of social unrest will be those who heed the call of the Iraqi street, and hold the potential to respond at the local level. The Sadrists have a golden opportunity to overshadow their past as a sectarian militia and recast themselves as populist policy makers who are receptive to the people's demands. Whether they do so remains to be seen.
And whether Nouri al-Maliki and the other puppets controlling Iraq can stop torturing, remain s in doubt. Wally slid the following over from MADRE:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
MADRE: Rights, Resources and Results for Women Worldwide
CONTACT: Stephanie K√ľng, MADRE (212) 627-0444, media@madre.org


Pro-Democracy Youth Activist in Iraq Tortured and Threatened

Monday, March 28, 2011 -- New York, NY -- Last week, a youth activist organizing pro-democracy protests in Iraq was kidnapped, detained and tortured. MADRE learned of the attack on Alaa Nabil from our partner organization, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). Alaa Nabil and OWFI believe the men who carried out the attacks to be Iraqi security agents. Today, MADRE and OWFI sent an official letter to the Iraqi government condemning the attacks and calling for action to protect Iraqis against such human rights violations.

On March 23, Alaa Nabil was kidnapped from the area around his residence by men who transported him to an unknown location. They forced him to face a wall, and they beat, kicked and whipped him with hoses and cables on his back and his arms. Before releasing him, the men issued direct death threats against him and against his activist colleagues, saying, "We will cut your tongues, you and your organizing colleagues, Firas Ali, Suad Shwaili, and Falah Alwan, if you dare to reach Al Tahrir Square. And if you insist on continuing this work, we will shoot each one of you and throw you where your bodies cannot be found."

Yanar Mohammed, Director of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, said today, "The kidnapping and torture of Alaa Nabil are a violation of his human rights and a violent attack on legitimate calls for democracy in Iraq. Through weeks of protests, I joined Alaa in our demonstrations calling for jobs, for justice and for our human rights, and I stand with him now."

Yifat Susskind, MADRE Executive Director, said today, "In organizing pro-democracy protests, Alaa Nabil exercises internationally recognized human rights that the Iraqi government is legally obligated to uphold, yet he has been tortured and his life threatened. Iraqis have joined with people across the region calling for democracy, and they have been met by repression at the hands of their government, which is heavily supported by the US. We join with our partners in Iraq in raising our voices to denounce the attacks and death threats against Alaa Nabil."

To read the letter submitted by MADRE and OWFI to Iraqi officials, click
here.

The following people are available for comment:

Yanar Mohammed, Director of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), co-founded OWFI after the US invasion in 2003. She set up a series of shelters that served as an underground railroad for women escaping the violence and death threats that escalated dramatically during the occupation.

Yifat Susskind, Executive Director of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization. Yifat has worked extensively with women's human rights activists from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa to create programs in their communities to address violence against women, economic development, climate change, and armed conflict.

###

For more information about MADRE, visit our website at www.madre.org.
Meanwhile Denise Natali (Foreign Policy) also weighs in on the ongoing protests:
Nuri al-Maliki also assured that the opposition would remain localized by keeping the protestors away from each other. During the demonstrations, for instance, he controlled communication services and set up road blocks so that protestors had to walk about five kilometers to reach the central square in Baghdad. These measures may not have deterred the demonstrations, but they shifted them to outlying localities. Residents in Basra, Fallujah, and Ramadi overthrew their provincial governments and burned down public buildings. Gunmen in Tikrit attacked their local government and took hostages. In Anbar, the sheikhs seek to remove the governor, provincial council chairman and operations centers commander.
The unrest has had political fallout in Baghdad. Maliki's power base has been further undermined as Ayad Allawi and Moqtada al-Sadr have threatened to withdraw support from the government. Even some members of Maliki's State of Law party have distanced themselves from the prime minister by forming a 'White Block" in parliament and calling for Maliki's resignation if the situation does not improve in 100 days. Developing alongside these political rifts is the strengthening of the position of Ayatollah al-Sistani, who has taken credit for the non-violent nature of the demonstrations without really having been involved in them.
As expected, Maliki has responded by trying to control and appease his challengers. While clamping down on protestors, he has promised political reforms and strengthened the state's distributive function through increased allocation of revenues for public goods and services. Furthermore, he has attempted to co-opt western Sunni Arab tribes by negotiating an amnesty with the "Jihad Reform Group", an ensemble of five Iraqi resistance groups based in Syria. The tribe's perception (and distrust) of Maliki as a Shi'a with Iranian backing, as well as its lucrative trade along the border area, will hinder Maliki's effort to draw Sunni Arab tribes back into the state and to undermine Ayad Allawi's tribal support base. And even though Maliki has licensed the Sadrists' "Sit in against Occupiers" demonstration planned for April 9, he needs to assure that the event does not become violent or further erode his fragile government.
At the New York Times, the paper can't find the protests already noted today; however, they can go to town for Ahmad Chalabi. Maybe Tim Arango's attempting to show how Chalabi continues to attempt to spin. Chalabi wants to be Minister of the Interior. So many people don't want him to be. He's using unrest in Bahrain to try to make himself appear in touch with 'the people.' And insisting -- as Arango sketches out -- that a near 100% Shi'ite is a mixed turnout. Arango is incorrect when he refers to the Parliament's ten day vacation/holiday as "Parliament briefly suspended its work to protest the Bahrain's crackdown" He's incorrect because ten days is significant. The ten days off came after the body had grandstanded that they were going to put Iraq first and therefore were cancelling their April vacation. It also came when Nouri's one-hundred days 'till reform kicked off. Using a tenth of those reform days is not "briefly." The Speaker of Parliament, Osama al-Nujafi has repeatedly denied it was a vacation or holiday.
In rather striking news, Reuters reports that the number of people killed in Iraq (Iraqi "civilians, police and soldiers") "rose in March" and uses a Ministry of Health count of 136. However, that number is a huge undercount.
Let's review, March 1st 1 person was reported killed. March 2nd 5 people were reported dead and twenty-nine injured. March 3rd 11 were reported dead and twenty-six injured. March 5th 5 people were reported dead and nineteen wounded. March 6th 21 were reported dead and twenty-six wouned. March 7th 2 were reported dead, two were reported wounded. March 8th 4 dead and seven wounded. March 9th 5 were reported dead and ten wounded. March 10th 10 were reported dead and twenty-two injured. March 11th 7 dead and eleven injured. March 12th three were reported injured. March 13th 17 were reported dead and seventeen injured. March 14th 14 were reported dead and forty-two injured. March 15th 1 was reported dead and seventeen injured. March 16th 1 person was reported dead and thirty-three injured. March 17th 5 were reported dead and fourteen injured. March 18th 2 dead and one injured. March 19th 11 were reported dead and twenty-four injured. March 20th 2 were reported dead and fifteen injured. March 21st 7 were reported dead and fifteen wounded. March 22nd 4 were reported dead and thirteen injured. March 23rd 6 were reported dead and twenty-five injured. March 24th 2 were reported dead and three were reported wounded and -1 on dead because Maj Gen Ahmed Obeidi was reported dead the day before but was alive. March 25th 9 were reported dead and thirty-four injured. March 26th 3 were reported dead and five injured. March 27th 12 were reported dead and sixteen injured. March 28th 20 were reported dead and fifty-two injured. March 29th 60 were reported dead and one-hundred-and-three injured. March 31st 7 were reported dead and thrity-one injured. Check my math but that comes to 251 reported dead and 615 reported injured. Those deaths include everything but US service members. So 251. And that's an undercount. All the deaths are not reported and all deaths reported don't get noted in the snapshot.
Alsumaria TV reports the death toll given by the Ministries of Defense, Health and Interior is 247 with 370 injured. Iraq Body Count does the numbers and finds "287 CIVILIANS KILLED" in the month of March. Reuters publishing 136 is laughable. It's all the more laughable when you note this sentence from the report: "Many of the deaths in March were the result of an attack on Tuesday on the provincial council of Salahuddin in Tikrit" -- we counted 58 for that (some counts were 60 and higher but for our 251 for the month, we only counted 58). Subtract 58 from 136 and you end up with 78. Reuters, which does a daily count of violence, seriously thought only 78 people were killed on all the other days this month? Seriously?
If you think that means Iraq gets attention from the media, you don't know Diane Rehm. Each Friday, The Diane Rehm Show offers an hour of discussion on domestic news in the first hour and an hour of discussion on foreign news in the second hour. If you set aside Nadia Bilbassy's two brief sentences on February 25th ("There was demonstration in Iraq. There was two people dead in Iraq today, in Baghdad and in Basra.") as she went over demonstrations in the Middle East, current events in Iraq have not been discussed since January 21st when CNN's Elise Labott was asked about Iraq by Diane. Today continued Diane's pattern of silence.
Grasp, please, that TEN FRIDAYS IN A ROW have found Diane and her guests (or substitute host Susan Page and her guests) ignoring Iraq on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show. Violence has increased, US service members have died in Iraq during this time. Protests have taken place. Journalists have been beaten by Nouri's security forces. This week alone provincial council offices in Tikrit were turned into a hostage scene in which US forces and Iraqi forces stormed in but didn't manage to save anyone and at least 58 people died. Nouri spent all of February denying Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) Human Rights Watch's documentation of the secret prison forces under his immediate command were in charge of. That lie would continue until March 15th -- at which point, oops-we-do-have-a-secret-prison! None of that was news to Diane and her guests. None of it merited discussion.
To listen to The Diane Rehm Show's international hour for the last ten Fridays was to think Iraq must have fallen off the face of the earth and, certainly, the war had ended. Those who sold the Iraq War probably should be working overtime to pay their debt off.
March 3, 2003, Diane could talk about the financial cost of a potential Iraq War, but not about the human costs. Gordon Adams and Loren Thompson were her guests. And Loren Thompson -- of a think tank that's really a lobbyist for the defense industry -- sure did pop up a lot as a guest on Diane's show during the lead up to the Iraq War, didn't he? Such as January 21, 2003. She'd return to "economic implications" February 3rd. Or how about the laughable January 13, 2003 episode billed as an hour on the anti-war movement but included David Corn who was Red-baiting A.N.S.W.E.R. and countless others during that time period. Corn -- opposed to the illegal war but more strongly opposed to the peace movement -- got to be a guest many times -- March 7th, for example. March 17th, she had Robert Kagan as one of her guests. Making the case for war. Somehow, Diane 'forgot' to inform her listeners that Kagan's wife was working for Dick Cheney. Conflict of interest? Not to Diane. How about February 6, 2003 when Colin Powell's lies (The Blot) to the United Nations was 'analyzed' by War Hawk Ruth Wedgwood (Johns Hopkins University, of course) and cave-boi David Corn who insisted, "I give him credit, a very good case from a p.r. aspect." "Far more concrete evidence about these deceptions," Corn insisted were provided by Powell. He couldn't call it out. He could raise a few questions but he couldn't (try "wouldn't") call it out. So you had a weak and uninformed David Corn making a weak, kind of case sort of against the war and War Hawk Ruth Wedgwood insisting that the case was made. Thanks, Dave, you really went out on a limb there, didn't you? Ruth Wedgwood can declare the case has been made and David Corn's idea of offering a 'rousing' refutation was to say, "The question still is what do you do about it?" He repeatedly accepted the premise in his own remarks. (He cited, for example, one person who questioned Powell's presentation in the Washington Post. But in his own remarks he found Powell convincing. Again, thanks, David Corn, for nothing.) Contrast Corn's weak-ass garbage with Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! of the same day Phyllis Bennis "there were no smoking guns, but a lot of smoke and mirrors." Even in headlines, the spin wasn't being accepted the way Corn did on The Diane Rehm Show (which airs several hours later than Democracy Now!). From that day's opening headline.
Amy Goodman: But much of the Powell -- much of the evidence Powell presented is impossible to verify. Powell's speech was peppered with assertions like "Our sources tell us" or "we know that . . . " Defectors and detainees were not named.
Goodman's first segment after headlines was the seventy-plus minute speech Powell gave to the United Nations. Phyllis Bennis and James Paul were the guest offering analysis. (From Iraq, Jeremy Scahill offered the response from Iraq's government.) Via telephone, As'ad Abukhalil noted that the original Arabic recordings -- which Powell was translating to the UN -- "the translations are not really that good." the original Arabic is far more general and could mean a lot of things. By contrast, for Diane and her guests, the original Arabic meant only what Powell said it did.
The Iraq War hasn't ended. And every Friday, US citizen Diane Rehm has a whole hour to discuss world events but doesn't feel that the US war in Iraq is worthy of discussion -- for ten weeks now (that includes today), she's felt that way. It's going to be fun to watch Ann monitor the show to point out Diane's huge gender imbalance among guests.
In some of today's reported violence, which Diane also couldn't be bothered with though it was all in the news cycle before her show went live, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Falluja suicide bombing has claimed the life of the bomber plus that of "at least three Iraqi soldiers." Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that at least six people were injured (and identifies one of the dead as "a passer-by" as well as 2 Iraqi soldiers) and that the suicide bomber passed for "a street cleaner". Reuters states all 3 dead are Iraqi military and notes one man was shot dead in Mosul and a Mosul grenade attack injured two people.
Meanwhile Al Mada reports rumors that Nouri al-Maliki is planning to alter the political scene in Iraq and create "a majority government." What is public is that Sabi al-Issawi attempted to resign as the Secretary of Baghdad but Nouri al-Maliki refused to allow it, Al Mada reports. Al Rafidayn adds this was the second time al-Issawi has attempted to resign.
Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tomorrow I begin monitoring . . .

A number of you have been e-mailing asking what about NPR? Having wasted most of the month with moving into the new house, getting things out of boxes, cleaning and what passes for decorating (I would love to have the time to do so much more -- thank you to my great aunt who is staining a set of chairs for us, she's really talented), it just seemed to make more sense to get a fresh start in a new month.

So tomorrow I will begin covering another radio show. This one will be NPR. I have, in the past, monitored The Morning Show (KPFA, now gone), Fresh Air and Talk of the Nation for a period of time (Talk of the Nation for only one month, that was all I could stand of it). I plan to monitior the new show for the month of April. May? I'll decide in May.

The show will be The Diane Rehm Show. I will be watching to find out how often women are guests. I already know the figures won't be good. That's established each Friday when she usually has four men and only two women as guests on her two hours.

The other big question is if I'm on Facebook? That rumor started awhile back and the answer was no. I have ten e-mails today asking about it and the answer is yes. I'll try to include a link tomorrow. I got on Facebook after I wrote my piece about Isaiah this week ("Isaiah"). Remember he started as the site's cartoon artist because he wanted to do his part. That made me think that maybe one of us with a community site should be on Facebook. So I started an account. It's not much. And I use the same illustration I do here. I know we're not a Facebook community but, for the record, I will friend anyone -- community or not -- that asks.




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

Thursday, March 31, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Human Rights Watch notes the closing of one Iraqi secret prison doesn't end the problems, the US military was on the ground in Tikrit Tuesday storming into a government building despite US military command claims otherwise, Iraqis call for the United Nation to intervene and protect them, more political parties in Iraq express displeasure with Nouri's leadership, NPR airs a factually incorrect and apparently biased (against the Kurds) 'report' that implies they no longer bother to check facts before airing anything, a new study finds burn pits put US service members and contractors at risk, and more.
Human Rights Watch declared today that the announced (March 14th) plan to close the secret Iraqi prison Camp Honor is "only a first step" and that Iraq needs to do much more. 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 whilte 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 the use of secret prisons out while Nouri continued to deny them. In the middle of this month, the world was supposed to forget all the denials and rejoice that (yet again) Nouri had been caught operating a secret prison and that he was saying (yet again) he would close one and saying that (yet again) secret prisons did not belong in the 'new' Iraq and would not be part of it. The lie would continue until March 15th.
Iraqi officials should establish an independent body with authority to impartially investigate the torture that occurred at Camp Honor and other sites run by the 56th Brigade, also known as the "Baghdad Brigade," and the Counterterrorism Service - the elite security forces attached to the military office of the prime minister. The investigating body should recommend disciplinary steps or criminal prosecution of everyone of any rank implicated in the abuse, Human Rights Watch said.
"Shutting down Camp Honor will mean little if detainees are shuffled to other facilities to face torture again," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "There needs to be a genuine, independent investigation and criminal prosecution of everyone, regardless of rank, responsible for the horrific abuses there."
The Justice Ministry announced on March 14 that it would close Camp Honor after members of a parliamentary investigative committee, consisting largely of parliament's Human Rights Committee members, found evidence of torture during a spot inspection of the facility five days earlier. Investigative committee members told Human Rights Watch that they had observed 175 prisoners in "horrible conditions" at the prison, in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. They said they saw physical "signs of recent abuse, including electric shocks" and marks on detainees' bodies, including long scars across their backs.
Detainees described to committee members the torture they endured there and said that more than 40 other detainees had been hastily moved from the facility less than an hour before members of the committee arrived.
Iraq's Minister of Justice Hussein al-Shammari told Human Rights Watch on March 29 that all of Camp Honor's detainees - between 150 and 160 - had been moved to three other facilities under the control of his ministry. According to the parliamentary committee, however, the number of detainees held at Camp Honor was higher. The committee, established by parliament on February 8 after a Human Rights Watch report and a Los Angeles Times article documented the abuse of detainees at Camp Honor, said it had officially requested from prison authorities a list of all the detainees' names, but had received no information as of March 29.
In response to repeated allegations of serious abuse at Iraqi detention facilities, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki issued a statement on March 19 reiterating that "there are no secret detention centers, and all prisons and detention centers are open to regulatory authorities and judicial authorities, which must report any violations found, if any, and notify judicial authorities to take legal action against the perpetrators."
However, the February 1 report by Human Rights Watch described a new secret prison within Camp Justice, a sprawling military base in northwest Baghdad, run by the same forces in charge at Camp Honor - the 56th Brigade and the Counterterrorism Service - both of which report directly to the prime minister's military office. The Counterterrorism Service works closely with US Special Forces.
The issue of prisons and prisoners in Iraq is huge and a major motivator in the protest movement taking place there -- especially the ones featuring attorneys in three cities (Baghdad, Basra and Mosul). However, the shotgun marriage of xenophobia and lazy meant that the protests would be protrayed differently to the outside world which ran with the nonsense that Iraqis were just sitting around, unaware and uninformed until one day, sitting in front of their satellite TVs, they saw what was taking place in Egypt and said, "Hey, that looks fun, let's try that!" Iraqi protests were going on, unreported by the western media, in 2010. The same western media then flocking to Egypt had no interest in the protests taking place in Iraq -- possibly due to the fact that western reporters rarely go anywhere in Iraq other than Baghdad and the KRG. Basra and Mosul aren't spots they frequent let alone other hotbed areas. But the first Iraq protests in 2011 took place far from Baghdad and the issues were the prisons, the families being unable to see their loved ones, the denial of trials, the denial of rights. The calls against corruption and for reform include the prison and justice (or 'justice') system in Iraq. All one ever had to do was listen to the protesters but a narrative got imposed by the press and what was at stake to the Iraqi people mattered far less to the press than its own narrative.
Friday, in Baghdad's Liberation Square, protests again took place but were largely ignored by the western media. Among the groups protesting were the wives, mothers and sisters of prisoners. (See Sunday's "And the war drags on . . ." for some screen snaps of the women from videos which can be found at The Great Iraqi Revolution Facebook page). For those women to be present, they had to overcome physical hurdles such as closed bridges, barbed wire, a ban on traffic and a light rain. They joined with other women protesting to account for the largest female presence at a Baghdad protest so far this year. They carried photos of their imprisoned loved ones and cried out for justice.
Urgent Appeal to the United Nations, represented by the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon because of the suffering of the IRaqi people and the demonstrators were killed, tortured and displaced by the government-proclaimed by the US occupation in 2003, and all participants in this campaign, asking for immediate intervention in the Iraqi situation now.
Among those joining the call is Nabeel Alnabeel who writes, "We are with you all, the heart, soul and body are one for Iraq and for support for the rights of Iraq." Sarah Adeeb adds her support to the campaign and wonders over the the assault in Salah al-Din Province Tuesday (Tikrit's provinical government offices), "Why parliament or provincial councils has not suspended its meetings, even for one day??? Why did not stand a minute of silence for the souls of all those that lost their martyrs in the provinces of Salah al-Din??? Is sectarianism?? Who died or are not Bhranyen??? [. . . .] [Ahmed] Chalabi, who collects donations for Baharain."

Aswat al-Iraq reports
that Osama al-Nujafi has led a moment of silence in Parliament this afternnon to remember the victims of the Tuesday assault on the Salahuddin provincial council building. Sarah Adeeb's point still stands because the Parliament took a ten day holiday (which they only concluded last weekend) to show solidarity with the protesters in Bahrain. Sarah Adeeb is correct to be offended that Iraqi politicians will take ten days off to show solidarity with non-Iraqis but make no time to demonstrate solidarity with the people they are supposed to be representing. The Economist notes the Parliament's response and shut down in a piece today:
Politicians from Iraq's Shia majority, including a former prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, castigated the Saudi intervention. Some Sunni, Kurdish and Christian members of Iraq's parliament also condemned the Saudis, but the speaker, Osama el-Nujaifi, who hails from a leading Sunni family in Mosul, Iraq's strongly Sunni city in the north, decided to close parliament down for ten days. Some Iraqi politicians, including Iyad Allawi, a Shia who leads the main Sunni block in parliament, said that a hiatus was required to stop sectarian tension boiling over in parliament.
But it is still bubbling. Politicians and religious leaders have continued to respond to events in Bahrain along sectarian lines. Muqtada al-Sadr, a populist Iraqi Shia cleric with a big following who leads his movement from a temporary home in Iran, has castigated the intervention too. Members of his political party have called for Bahrain's embassy in Baghdad to be closed, whereas Haider al-Mulla, a Sunni MP, blames the uprising in Bahrain on Iranian interference and says that Iran's embassy in Baghdad should be shut.
No similar outcry from politicians followed the assault in Tikrit (this despite the fact that the assault can be seen as an assault on government itself). Alsumaria TV reports that AP released film of the Tirkit attack: "A soldier on the building's roof shows as pointing to the place of hostages while employees were seen going down the stairs to escape the building". Xinhua has posted video from CNTV of the assault and they note, "Iraqi security force surrounded the building and engaged in heavy fighting with the gunmen. Hours later, US and Iraqi SWAT teams stormed the building and killed the attackers."
Earlier this week, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, "The American military did not participate in the retaking of the building but observed from nearby, according to a military spokesman." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) quoted US military spokesperson Col Barry Johnson stating, "Our assistance has been limited to providing aerial surveillance of the scene and keeping our soldiers on site to receive further requests for assistance if needed."
Xinhua reports, "Iraqi security force surrounded the building and engaged in heavy fighting with the gunmen. Hours later, US and Iraqi SWAT teams stormed the building and killed the attackers." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Witnesses said U.S. troops responded to the attack and entered the building with Iraqi forces trying to rescue the hostages. No U.S. casualties were reported, however, and it wasn't clear how many of the dead were hostages, gunmen or members of the Iraqi security forces. At least three of the gunmen were wearing explosive suicide belts, Iraq's Interior Ministry said."
So which is it? It's Hammoudi and Xinhua's version. The US military command has lied and a functioning press would be all over this story and how US forces -- well after Barack Obama's laughable claim that "combat operations" ended August 31st -- were rushing into a hostage situation with no knowledge of how many assailants were present in the building but knowing that the assailants had guns and bombs and had already demonstrated their willingness to use both. Combat didn't end, the Iraq War didn't end. If it ended, there'd be no need today for Hugh Fisher (Salisbury Post) to report, "Soldiers from Salisbury's National Guard aviation unit are preparing to deploy to Iraq in the coming weeks. About 80 members of C Company, 1-131st Aviation Regiment, will go to Fort Hood, Texas, where they will receive additional training before going overseas."
The Iraqi forces and the US military failed to save any hostage.
Nouri al-Maliki's been forced into promising an investigation -- most of his promised investigations never reveal anything. In fact, you could probably change that to "all of his promised investigations never reveal anything." Dar Addustour reveals the Ministry of the Defense is blaming the assault on the building's security guards. If true, that really doesn't explain the five hour standoff, now does it? And the investigation is not supposed to end with 'how it started' but, most importantly, why Iraqi forces were unable to save a single hostage. Online yesterday, The NewsHour (PBS) spoke with Jane Arraf of Al Jazeera TV and the Christian Science Monitor to get her take on the assault's meaning. (Starting with CNN before the Iraq War, Arraf has a long track record of covering Iraq and is not an insta-expert but someone who can speak with real authority on the topic.)

What's the security situation like in Iraq?

ARRAF: Since the protests started (in February), there actually has been a lull of attacks in Baghdad. Baghdad has traditionally been one of the more violent places -- it's a very target-rich environment with a lot of government ministries and basically all the symbols of not just the Iraqi government, but of the U.S.

One of the things we've seen evolve over the past year or so is a change in tactics. Al-Qaida and other groups seem to have moved away from things like bombings in marketplaces, where they indiscriminately kill civilians, because there's been a huge backlash against that. They're still specifically targeting Shias, because one of their aims appears to be to reignite the sectarian violence that led the country into civil war, and they're still targeting security forces: police, the army and government officials. Government officials are harder to get to in Baghdad because they're in the Green Zone for the most part, and it's very well-protected.

But certainly security officials are out there, and we've seen a lot of targeted assassinations -- things like gunmen using silencers and a lot of sticky bombs, or bombs placed under the carriage of a person's car that explodes when they get in.

The biggest one like (Tuesday's siege in Tikrit) that we've seen is the church attack in October. That was a similar incident -- a coordinated attack involving layers of attacks and then a response by Iraqi forces that led to further deaths. Al-Qaida in Iraq took credit for that one and said it would continue to attack Christians.



Returning to The Economist piece on the ten-day vacation Parliament took to show solidarity with people of another country and its effects within Iraq:
Iraq's parliament has now reopened but the row has weakened a coalition government that is in any case built on a fragile ethno-sectarian power-sharing agreement. More than a year after elections, no defence or interior minister has been appointed. Iran, it is said, has been promoting its own candidate for the interior ministry, whereas the defence ministry was promised to Mr Allawi's Sunni-backed block. But Mr Maliki has rejected several of Mr Allawi's nominees. Although the prime minister has a firm grip on the security services and has been trying to expand his own executive powers, he is looking more isolated as erstwhile allies complain that he has broken the promises he made when he was putting his ruling coalition together.

Today Al Mada reports that the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) has declared, via a MP yesterday, that they feel they are being marginalized in the Iraqi government. Leaving Al Mada, to provide background. ISCI is headed by Ammar al-Hakim who took over when his father Abdul Aiz al-Hakim died in August of 2009. (Ammar al-Hakim assumed leadership after ISCI voted to make him the leader.) During the long stalemate, they sent conflicting messages before finally agreeing to back Nouri al-Maliki. They are a Shi'ite group and one that is frequently at odds with Moqtada al-Sadr and his backers as well as with Nouri al-Maliki. During the stalemate, although the White House had already decided to back Nouri, the administration was regularly lobbied by Americans (including the CIA) who felt ISCI would be a better bet and that al-Hakim would better represent America's interests in the region. Al Rafidayn carries the same story and notes that Iraqiya has also floated a trial balloon about withdrawing support from Nouri's government. Al Rafidayn reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujafi has noted the gulf between the people and the people's representatives in Iraq. He was speaking at a conference attended by the provincial council heads and governors and declared that the errors and doubts were "eating away at the body of this young nation."

Nouri al-Maliki and his Dawa Party (not to be confused with his State Of Law slate) are behind the shutting down of many nightclubs, wedding lounges and alcohol stores, Al Raifdayn notes, and yesterday Nouri was forced into publicly insisting that Iraq was a civil state, not denominational or sectarian but "a civil society and people have the freedome to embrace demnomiations and religions of their choice." Dar Addustour explains the word is that today the Parliament will vote on Nouri's latest Cabinet nominees and that Ali al-Lami, in reference to the nomination of Khaled al-Obeidi, is insisting that Nouri doesn't have the legal power to grant exceptions to "Ba'athists" the Justice and Accountability Commission is investigating or lodging harges against. Ali al-Lami is the Miss Hathaway to Ahmed Chalabi's Mr. Drysdale. The two used the Justice Accountability Commission in 2009 and 2010 to weed out serious rivals with false charges of "Ba'athist!" Nouri didn't complain at the time because he benefitted from the actions.


In other Parliamentary news, Al Mada reports the legislative body is questioning the claim that Iraq has the ability to produce 12 million barrels a day of crude oil. The infrastructure of Iraq's oil industry is only one of the questions being raised. It's also noted that the International Monetary Fund is skeptical of the claim. Tuesday AFP reported that the IMF, citing "infrastructure constraints," expressed grave hesitation over the claim that Iraq could be producing as much as 13 million barrels of oil per day by the year 2017. Reaching 12.2 million barrels per day would be "the very best case scenario" and "huge investments" were needed "in port facilities, pieplines, desalination plants (for water to be injected into oil fields) and storage facilities." Jaafar al-Wannan (Zawya) reminds, "The Oil Ministry announced at the end of last year a five year plan to raise the country's oil production to 12 million bpd from the 2.7 million bpd currently produced."

Moving from Baghdad to the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, the region is claimed by Kurds and by Baghdad. The dispute is not new and, in 2005, Iraqis came up with a solution to resolving the conflict: a census would be taken of the region and a referendum held in the region to determine Kirkuk's fate. They were so comfortable with this decision that they didn't just endorse it publicly, they wrote it into the country's Constitution (Article 140). Approximately a half-year after the Constitution was ratified, Nouri al-Maliki became Prime Minister for the first time (May 2006 he moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister). Despite Article 140 clearly stating that the census and referendum must take place by December 31, 2007 and despite agreeing to the US White House benchmarks which included the resolution of the rights to Kirkuk, Nouri did nothing. He pushed it back and pushed it back and suddenly, during the long stalemate following the March 7, 2010 elections, when he wanted to remain prime minister, he brought out the issue of Kirkuk again in an attempt to sway the Kurds to support him in his bid for prime minister. He even (again) scheduled a start to the census. It would take place in December 2010! But in November, he became prime minister-designate and, no longer feeling he needed Kurdish support, he quickly announced that the December census was (once again) off.
Tuesday's snapshot dealt with the Kirkuk issue and noted International Crisis Group new report entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq and the Kurds: Confronting Withdrawal Fears" which quoted an adviser to Nouri stating, "Some of the prime minister's promises will be delivered in two to three weeks, some in two to three years, and some will take ten years. There are lots of [unimplemented] promises left over from 2006 [when the first Maliki government was formed]. We still didn't finish Article 140, and this will take perhaps ten more years." Wednesday Mike Shuster (NPR's Morning Edition) reported on the issue and, possibly due to time constraints, he didn't do a very good job. He noted that, in February, the peshmerga (elite Kurdish security force) surrounded Kirkuk when they took positions in the east and south -- as well as their positions already in the north and west. It probably would have been a good idea to give the background on why they were already in the north and west because that would have made the report come off less one-sided. They have been there for some time and been there because Baghdad was unable (or unwilling some argued in the early years of the war) to provide security to the region. Does that mean the peshmerga are angels and the Kurdistan Regional Government salvation? No. But it does allow the basic facts to be noted. Shuster notes Arab leaders in the region (the region is ethnically mixed with one of the largest minority groups, the Turkmen, frequently voicing their displeasure at both Kurds and Arabs) felt there was no real compelling danger at the time which forced the peshmerga to take up positions in the east and south. Shuster notes:
Parts of Kirkuk are bristling with weapons. One of the most heavily armed spots in the city is the Kirkuk Provincial Council. The council building and surrounding neighborhoods are crawling with police carrying AK-47s. Each of the 40 members of the council has several bodyguards, and they are all carrying pistols prominently displayed. No demilitarization here. Not surprising, given the political maneuvering that dominated the news in Kirkuk last week. The second move in the latest Kurdish gambit. Kirkuk has not held an election for governor and other positions since 2005. So a back room deal was struck between the Kurds and the Turkmen to divide up key positions. This gave more power to the Turkmen parties, with one of their own, Hassan Toran, promised the chairmanship of the provincial council.
That's more than a little confusing and it's because Shuster can't or won't call out Nouri al-Maliki who has been the obstacle in provincial elections since he became prime minister in 2006. But it's not accurate that no governors have been elected in Kirkuk and I'm really surprised that no one at NPR caught that. (Well, it's not like they have a functioning ombudsperson. But I meant the actual journalistic staff -- not a supposed watchdog who's forever napping under the front porch.)
Earlier this month, the provincial council chief and governor announced their resignations. Shuster's report aired Wednesday. Tuesday, the day before, Alsmaria TV reported, "Kirkuk Provincial Council elected on Tuesday a new governor from Kurdistan Alliance and appointed head of the council from the Turkman Front. Kirkuk Provincial Council voted by unanimity on Kurdistan Alliance member Najmddin Karim as the new governor and named Hassan Toran from the Turkman Front as head of the council, a source from Kirkuk Provincial Council told Alsumaria News." Reuters reported, "A new Kurdish governor and a Turkmen provincial council chief were elected on Tuesday in Iraq's northern Kirkuk, enraging Arab politicians in the disputed city who said they would boycott the council. [. . .] The provincial council elected Najimeldin Kareem, a Kurd, as the city's new governor and Hassan Toran, a member of the Turkmen ethnic minority, as provincial council head on Tuesday. The Arab bloc in the council boycotted the vote."
Again, someone needs to ask how and why NPR allowed Mike Shuster to report "Kirkuk has not held an election for governor and other positions since 2005. So a back room deal was struck between the Kurds and the Turkmen to divide up key positions."? Because that's not accurate. And they need to wonder why the report was filed one day after Kirkuk, in fact, elected a governor. Kirkuk is not California and if Mike Shuster can't understand the difference, NPR might need to send him back to California. I desperately want English-language reporting on Iraq but not so desperately that I'm thrilled with innaccurate and increasingly biased reporting. We've complained about Shuster before, I'd love to stop. But his reports are factually inaccurate before you even get to the slant that he's puts on them. That's nothing for NPR to brag about. A day after multiple outlets are reporting on Kirkuk electing a governor, Shuster takes to NPR airwaves to proclaim that Kirkuk's never elected a governor. Someone want to explain that? Someone want to poke (NPR ombudsperson) Alicia Shepherd in the ribs and tell her to wake up already?
We've covered Kirkuk here from the beginning and back then -- maybe Shuster has the same ignorance I suffered from -- I didn't realize its huge importance to so many or how easily some could assume you were taking a side. The only side I have ever taken is that Constitution needs to be followed or the Constitution needs to be amended. I have repeatedly stated that the US does not need to be involved in this situation which will be, once decided, like the issue of the "lost homeland" elsewhere in the Middle East and causing tensions for decades to come. The US does not need to make this decision both because it is not the US's decision to make and because the US doesn't need more animosity breeding over the coming years. Listening to Shuster's report, it's hard not to detect an anti-Kurdish bias. That goes beyond the fact that Shuster may truly be ignorant that governors in Iraq are not elected in the same manner that they are in California. That goes to this section of the report about the peshmerga moving to the south and east and, therby, encircling all of Kirkuk:
Mike Shuster: Kurdish officials claimed the move was necessary because of threats from Arab insurgent and nationalist groups, who intended to hold protests in Hawijah to the west of Kirkuk. Those protests, on February 25th, resulted in the torching of a government building and the deaths of three people.
But was there any connection in "those protests" -- outside of the city of Kirkuk but still inside the province of Kirkuk (does Shuster understand that) -- and Kirkuk itself? If so, Shuster should report it, right? Because, as it stands, his report makes the Kurds look like liars. They well may be, they well may not be. But Shuster failed to do the work required (and why do I feel that's been on every one of his report cards?). Reporting March 30th on Kirkuk's election of a governor, Hiwa Husamaddin (Zawya) explained:
Rizgar Ali stepped down from the chairmanship of the provincial council March 15, following a wave of public protests that swept through Iraq including Kirkuk. During the protests in the province, protesters in the predominantly Arab-populated town of Hawija set government buildings on fire.
Protesters chanted slogans that called for the abolition of article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. Article 140 sets a roadmap to resolve territorial disputes between Kurds and other ethnic groups in the country over Kirkuk and other disputed areas.


During the protests in the [Kirkuk] province, protesters in the predominantly Arab-populated town of Hawija set government buildings on fire. Protesters chanted slogans that called for the abolition of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution." That would appear to back up, at the very least, concern on the part of the Kurds. al Qaeda in Iraq is a blanket every official (US and Iraqi) appears to grab for security whenever anything goes wrong in Iraq. If the group is truly responsible for everything its credited with, then nothing's ever stopped it, let alone slowed it down. I don't know. My opinion is that it's an easy out, an easy source of blame, when things go wrong. My opinion. But if you're reporting on Kirkuk and especially on Hawijah, you might need to note the bragging at the start of February when Iraqi military -- not Kurdish peshmerga -- were bragging that they had arrested two al Qaeda in Iraq militants in -- where? -- Hawijah. Not doing so allows you to portray the Kurds as big fat liars and maybe that's why Shuster couldn't include that fact -- among many others -- in his report.
Turning to reported violence . . .
Wednesday Reuters reported a Mosul grenade attack which injured thirteen people, a Mosul bombing which claimed the life of 1 person and a Tuesday evening Baghdad roadside bombing which left five people injured. Today Reuters notes a Kalar clash in which five people were injured, 1 corpse discovered in Mosul (gunshot wounds), a Baghdad mortar attack which claimed 1 life and left three more people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured a college student, and, dropping back to Wednesday for both of the following a Baghdad home invasion in which an Iraqi officer was injured and 2 of his brothers were killed and a beheaded corpse (small boy) discovered in Baaj. Reuters also notes today a Tuesday home invasionin Baghdad in which a police officer was killed and three of his family members left wounded. This is not the incident from Tuesday's snapshot in which another police officer's home was invaded -- that one took place in Falluja: " Aswat al-Iraq reports a Falluja home invasion resulted in the death of 1 police officer and his wife and three children left injured."
I forgot to include violence in yesterday's snapshot, my apologies. Today, I had hoped to note . Kelly McEvers' All Things Considered (NPR) report. Didn't happen. We don't have room. And she's already got another report. We'll try to pick them both up in tomorrow's snapshot.
The American Chemical Society is concluding their National Meeting & Exposition in Anaheim, California today. At the conference, a presentation was made on a research study which found that Iraq War service members and contractors have been exposed to air pollution which "could pose immediate and long-term health threats." The multi-year study was explained by the research team's Jennifer M. Bell, "Our preliminary results show that the fine particulate matter concentrations frequently exceed military exposure guidelines and those individual constituents, such as lead, exceed U.S. ambient air quality standards designed to protect human health. [. . .] Coarse particles are large enough to get trapped in the hair-like fibers that line the nasal passages and the trachea preventing them from entering the lungs. Fine and ultra fine particles are so small that they bypass the body's natural defenses. When we take a breath, they travel into the deepest part of the lung where oxygen exchange takse place." She also stressed, "We are especially concerned about fine airborne particles that originate from motor vehicles, factories, open burning of trash in pits, and other sources." Karen Kaplan (Los Angeles Times) adds, "The study is being funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. A summary of the findings is available here. "

There's a summit planned for this issue later this month:

Burn Pit Summit
Monday, April 18 at 9:00am
Location: Washington D.C.

Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.

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