Okay, it is Friday. And I am warning you right now if you want a smile-on-your-face post, leave now. I will not have given you a smile but I will not have depressed you either.
NPR's Morning Edition had a very important story today:
JOE PALCA: Geneticist Craig Venter thinks big. He didn't hesitate to take on the federal government in the race to sequence the human genome. Now he's working on life itself. And yesterday at a news conference in Washington, he was able to claim an initial success.
Dr. CRAIG VENTER (Geneticist): We're here today to announce the first synthetic cell.
PALCA: The synthetic cell contains DNA Venter and his colleagues made in the laboratory. The lab-generated DNA has all the instructions for running the cell - a remarkable feat. By doing different things with that DNA, Venter predicts he'll be able to make cells that do useful things, such as speed up vaccine production.
Dr. VENTER: We think we can shorten that process quite substantially.
PALCA: And create new biofuels.
Dr. VENTER: We have a program with Exxon Mobile to try and develop new strains of algae that make normal gasoline and diesel fuel out of CO2.
PALCA: But Venter's approach is labor-intensive. Harvard University Geneticist George Church says Venter has achieved a milestone, but...
Dr. GEORGE CHURCH (Geneticist, Harvard): This is really the tool of one particular group. It's kind of out of the price range of everybody else.
I have two reactions to the above.
First, how impressive is the above? It is certainly nothing I would have ever expected when I was a young girl in elementary school. (Yes, we had schools back then.) And it is a testament to science. So that part is wonderful.
Second, how scary is the above? For many people, the answer would be, "Not at all." For others? It is scary. Which is why I am pretty sure the world will change even more after I pass on because I can barely contain myself over the above. It is just really scary to think of how these cells are being used and how ____ it could all become.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Friday, May 21, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, another broken promise from Barack, co-dependents rush to enable him, the refugee crisis continues and more.
Today Barack Obama worshiper E.D.Kain (Truth/Slant) reminds (before excusing), "The potentially big viral video of the day is this one. It's of Barack Obama promising, 16 months ago, that by today -- May 21st, 2010 -- we'd be out of Iraq." As noted, he quickly excuses the broken promise. That's it, E.D., keep suckling on your golden calf. Those man boobs of Barack may yet bear milk. But make room for Jamelle Bouie who wants to go even further in minimizing Barack's broken promise. He says it's not a broken promise because Barack wasn't president!!!! What a stupid ass. "I don't know as much as I should about our Iraq policy" confesses Dumb Ass Jamelle. He doesn't know much about anything. Barack broke his promise. And it's not even a surprise. Samantha Power said he would, that's what she told the BBC in March 2008. From the Friday, March 7, 2008 snapshot:
Obama still lacks the leadership to take control of his campaign -- that would have required firing Power. Instead she resigned indicating that he's unable to run a campaign as well as unable to tell the truth. Power -- who also went to work for Obama in 2005 when he was first elected to the US Senate (November 2004) -- also had to deal with the BBC interview she'd given. Barack Obama has not promised to pull ALL troops out of Iraq in 16 months. He has promised the American people that "combat" troops would be removed. But promises, promises (as Dionne Warwick once sang) . . .
Stephen Sackur: "You said that he'll revisit it [the decision to pull troops] when he goes to the White House. So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months, isn't a commitment is it?"
Samantha Power: "You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in March of 2008 about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009. We can'te ven tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator."
Which would mean Mr. Pretty Speeches has been lying to the American people.
In a bit of good news for Jamelle, Barack has two nipples. That's one for Jamelle and one for E.D. Suckle on your golden calf, boys. And be sure to wipe the floor down when you leave -- maybe even disinfect it. In the real world, Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes:
In all seriousness, everyone who has been following the story even a little knows that just two days after his inauguration, President Obama was already talking about the promise as "aspirational" and a month later the "16 month plan" was formally replaced with the so-called 19 month plan, which would involve having some American troops leave Iraq by August 2010, declaring combat over, and keeping 50,000 troops "indefinitely."
At the time that pledge seemed a terrible betrayal of a campaign promise that was made the center of his foreign policy in debates. Now, even the "19 month plan" is looking pretty good by comparison, as officials admit it too is being "reconsidered."
Xinhua reports a car bombing in Diyala Province's Khalis. CNN notes it was "just outside a coffee shop" and resulted in 22 dead and fifty-three injured. BBC adds, "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad said a car containing explosives was set off in a busy market in front of a coffee shop where crowds were enjoying the cool evening." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) quotes Mohammed Ahmed stating, "The explosion was so big I thought for a minute I was in hell." Waleed Ibrahim, Jim Loney and Charles Dick (Reuters) report the death toll has climbed to 30 with eighty injured. AFP reminds, "Khales itself was last struck with a major attack on March 26, when twin bombings in front of a cafe and a restaurant in the city killed 42 people and wounded 65 others."
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing which injured four police officers. Waleed Ibrahim, Jim Loney and Charles Dick (Reuters) report a Nimrud car bombing which left seven people injured. Reuters notes a Kirkuk Thursday roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 militia member and a Mussayab Thursday night car bombing which left six people wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Abu Zaid armed clash which claimed 4 lives and left a fifth wounded and dropping back to Tuesday a Mosul attack which claimed the lives of 2 police officers. Reuters notes a Baquba home invasion (by assailants "wearing military unifornm") in which 4 family members were slaughtered and a fifth was left injured.
Iraqis continue to die while in 'custody' and Hannah Allam and Jamal Naji (McClatchy Newspapers) report families of six Sunni men who died this month while imprisoned are planning to sue the Iraqi government, that "at least three of the six [. . .] showed signs of torture and they quote the late Salah al Nimrawi's brother Talib al Nimrawi stating, "I blame the Iraqi government, which bears responsibility for the death of my brother, and the American forces hold even more responsibility for handing him over to the Iraqis. The Americans should exert pressure on the Iraqi government to hand over the criminals who did this. Otherwise, (our) tribe is not a small tribe."
Yesterday's snapshot noted the Turkish military bombing northern Iraq. Reuters notes that the Kurdistan Regional Government issued a statement today regarding that bombing and the shelling the Iranian military has been doing on northern Iraq: "The presidency of the Iraq Kurdistan region condemns these attacks on the border regions, and at the same time considers this a violation and aggression on the sovereignty of the Iraqi state and demands its immediate cessation." Iran is in the news for other topics as well including influence. Marjorie Olster and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report that unattributed 'chatter' portrays the US government concerned with Iran's alleged backing of Nouri al-Maliki to remain as prime minister of Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki's political slate, State Of Law, came in second in the March 7th elections winning 89 seats in the new Parliament. Ayad Allawi's slate, Iraqiya, came in first with 91 seats. Al-Ahram Weekly quotes Allawi stating, "I really don't know how it will end but what I know is that we are not going to accept that the will of the Iraqi people is going to be confiscated."
The Iraq War created many things but democracy wasn't one of them. Refugees? The illegal war created a huge number of refugees internally and externally. This week the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre released [PDF format warning] "Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2009." Findings in the report include:
* This internally displaced population -- equivalent to one in ten Iraqis -- had been displaced in three phases. Since February 2006, around 1.5 million people had fled sectarian and generalised violence including military operations by multinational, Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian forces in northern Iraq. Approximately 190,000 people had been displaced by military operations and generalised violence from 2003 to 2005, and close to a million by the policies of the former government of Saddam Hussein, including the "arabisation" of Kurdish areas, destruction of marshlands in southern Iraq, and repression of political opposition.
* Iraq's many minority groups faced particular threats, including Christian Assyrians, Faeeli Kurds, Yazidis, Palestinian refugees, and also Sunni and Shia people where they were in the minority. Children and women faced recruitment by armed groups, sexual and gender-based violence, and labour exploitation. Despite the decline in violence, the UN and the humanitariancommunity continued to report human rights abuses and violations against civilians by militias, criminal gangs, and security forces, with perpetrators generally avoiding prosecution.
* Over half of the world's internally displaced people (IDPs) were in five countries: Sudan, Colombia, Iraq, DRC and Somalia.
* Internally displaced women and children were particularly exposed to rape and sexual violence in many countries including Chad, Colombia, DRC, India, Iraq, Kenya, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan.
* In Iraq, displaced women heading households on their own faced higher risks of sexual exploitation than women who were accompanied by men.
*In many countries, returns were not voluntary and IDPs' involvement in planning the process was limited. In countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Columbia, Iraq and Sudan, IDPs were encouraged or forced to return before it was safe or sustainable for them to do so.
* In Iraq, most displacement in 2009 was caused by the actions of militant groups targeting members of other communities.
* In Iraq, the number of returnees increased but remained a small percentage of the number displaced.
* In Iraq, despite the overall decline in violence, returnees and IDPs continued to face endemic violence and threats on the basis of their religious, sectarian or ethnic origins, or simply for being displaced or a returnee.
All starred statements above are direct quotes from the report. Iraq makes the list of countries with the most internally displaced people (Iraq comes in third with an estimated 2.76 million IDPs). That's the internally displaced. There are also the external refugees.
Monday on Australia's ABC Radio (link has video), the refugee crisis was discussed on Radio National Breakfast with Fran Kelly:
Fran Kelly: . . . Michael Otterman, a freelance journalist and human rights consultant. He is the author of a new book called Erasing Iraq: The Human Cost of Carnage. Michael, thanks very much for joining us again on Breakfast.
Michael Otterman: Thanks for having me in.
Fran Kelly: The premise of your book, Erasing Iraq, is the litany of wrongs that Iraqi people have suffered at the hands of foreigners. It's seven years since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, there's still plenty of violence going on as we hear every day or every week at least. But there is now some political stability. They're have been elections recently -- although they're still being resolved. Is Iraq a better place than it was under Saddam Hussein in 2003?
Michael Otterman: Well you have to look at the wider costs. Things are more stable today certainly as they were right after the invasion. The rates of violence relative to the worst days of the post-invasion chaos are down but what my book is about is the human costs. The costs have been tremendous. As part of this book's research, I've spent time in Syria and Jordan speaking to Iraqi refugees and they were very quick to point out the trauma they've experienced -- obviously it endured under Saddam Hussein. And I include narratives of life under Saddam and torture that some people endured under Saddam. But they're -- in terms of US aggression in that country -- they pinpoint 1991, during the first Gulf War, and the UN sanctions and then, finally, 2003 and the post-invasion chaos as this real continuum of suffering. The costs have been tremendous. Over five million displaced. Millions killed. So it's really hard to compare apples to oranges -- what's better, what's worse? Iraqis I spoke to -- Look, some supported the toppling of Saddam Hussein but I didn't meet any Iraqi that supported this prolonged occupation.
Fran Kelly: Okay. Just the title itself, Erasing Iraq. What do you mean?
Michael Otterman: Well we talk about the concept of sociocide in the book and sociocide is a term which -- essentially it reflects the killing of people and displacement but also reflects the larger cost. And we argue that includes the destruction of society. And sociocide's an apt term to describe the level of destruction in Iraq. And-and is akin to erasing Iraq because not only do you have millions killed and millions displaced, but you have destruction of very basic and central elements of Iraqi life coming through, say, if you look at the religious and minorities in Iraq. We talk about the Mandaeans which is a religious group that have lived, well, for centuries in Iraq. They numbered about 50,000 strong before 2003 and after 2003 they've just been obliterated by Sunnia, Shia fundamentalists. Their numbers are about four or five thousand today, down from fifty thousand. And they've had this almost global diaspora. They've been killed, kidnapped within Iraq. So this is a religious group that's unique to -- or was unique to Iraq -- which has been completely obliterated in the post-invasion chaos. Sociocide, erasing Iraq, also refers to the destruction of cultural elements in the country, the destruction of shared artifacts. Things like the Baghdad museum which was sacked after the invasion. Over 9,000 artifacts are still lost and presumed destroyed. This reflects the wider costs of this war which the term sociocide describes.
Fran Kelly: I suppose no one really thinks any war has no costs. And here, sitting in the West, perhaps we think it's worth it, Saddam is gone, these people are now holding relatively free and fair elections, it seems to be moving forward. I think one statistic that I read in your book that I hadn't really focused on much was the displacements, the displaced people, the amount of refugee people living -- well, homeless in Iraq but outside of Iraq. It numbers in the millions, as you said,
Michael Otterman: Yeah, I mean, it's an incredible number. It's an incredible movement of people. It's the largest refugee crisis in the region since 1948 and the establishment of Israel. But it's almost an invisible crisis because, like I said, there's almost 2 million externally displaced refugees. Most of them live in Syria and Jordan. But unlike other refugee crises that come to mind, these people aren't living in tents. They live in the outskirts of Damascus and Amman in kind of the rougher neighborhoods and in ramshackle buildings. Interestingly, these are mostly middle-class Iraqis, many professionals and school teachers. These are actually the people that Iraq needs certainly right now to rebuild -- to rebuild its society. But they remain displaced and, despite relative drops in violence, they choose not to return because they don't see a country that (a) is stable and (b) that - that has water, power, basic sewage, the services --
Fran Kelly: So life is better in sort of some kind of refugee situation in Syria or Iran or Jordan than it is in Iraq?
Michael Otterman: That's right. I mean, there hasn't been massive returns. Actually, there's only been a trickle of returns.
Moving over to England. HXA is the name the British legal system is using to refer to an Iraqi refugee whose identity is not being publicly disclosed. He entered England in 2000 and was allowed to remain through the fall of 2005; however, he was instead 'detained' and then released only to be arrested and accused of aiding 'terrorists' in Iraq on a 2004 visit. Channel 4 News (link has text and video) reports that, in 2005, there was an attempt by Tony Blair's government (specifically Home Secretary Charles Clarke) to set up a prison in Iraq ("a Guantanamo-Bay style camp") in Basra that HXA could be sent to: "The High Court ruled today that such attempts were a breach of the man's rights, and that he was detained illegally in the UK while the Home Office plotted to deport, and detain him, in Iraq." BBC notes Judge Justice King found today that he was falsely imprisoned and that damages will be set at a later date.
Turning to the US where Iraqi refugees and other immigrant populations could depend on the East Couny Refugee Center in El Cajon, California. Anne Krueger (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports Joseph Ziauddin has been funding the center himself "but his funds are running short. He's applying for government grants, but money for the bills is getting tight while he waits to hear if any of the requests for funds have been approved." Diana Nguyen (Southern Maryland Headline News) speaks with Iraqi refugee Sawsan al-Sayyab who left Iraq due to violence and went to Jordan. Of those refugees in Jordan, she was one of the few to be granted admission to the US. She states, "I never left the country after all these years of wars and embargoes. I didn't want to leave even in 2006, but when there's a certain moment when your life is in danger, you have to step up."
Back to England. Ignore the jabbering idiots (or do like Rebecca and call them out), Iraq had an impact on the UK elections this month. If you still don't get that, take a look what's going on currently. Labour is no longer the majority party in Parliament and there is huge competition to lead the party. Ed Balls is among those vying for the leadership slot. Mary Riddell and Andrew Porter (Telegraph of London) interviewed Balls:
His greatest criticism is reserved for the Iraq war, which still saps Labour support. Mr Balls today becomes the first former Cabinet minister unequivocally to condemn the invasion, claiming the public were misled by "devices and tactics".
"People always felt as if the decision had been made and they were being informed after the fact." Though not yet elected as an MP, Mr Balls -- as Mr Brown's adviser -- was party to top level discussions after attempts to get a second UN Security Council resolution failed.
"I was in the room when a decision was taken that we would say it was that dastardly Frenchman, Jacques Chirac, who had scuppered it. It wasn't really true, you know. I said to Gordon: 'i know why you're doing this, but you'll regret it'. France is a very important relationship for us."
Although Mr Balls concedes that, had he been an MP at the time, he would have voted for the war on the basis of the facts provided, he now concedes that not only was the information wrong but the war unjustified.
"It was a mistake. On the information we had, we shouldn't have prosecuted the war. We shouldn't have changed our argument from international law to regime change in a non-transparent way. It was an error for which we as a country paid a heavy price, and for which many people paid with their lives. Saddam Hussein was a horrible man, and I am pleased he is no longer running Iraq. But the war was wrong."
Ed Balls is only one vying for the position and talking Iraq. Patrick Wintour and Allegra Stratton (Guardian) report, "Labour's divisions over Iraq broke out into the open tonight as Ed Miliband became the first contender for the leadership to make it an issue during the campaign. He said UN weapons inspectors were not given enough time in 2003 before coalition troops invaded the country, and asserted that the way in which Britain decided to go to war led to 'a catastrophic loss of trust in Labour'." Miliband's position is much weaker than Balls and that may be intentional (right now no one seriously believes Ed Miliband would challenge his brother David Miliband for the leadership post -- everyone could be wrong, but no one believes it's happening). If it is intentionally weak, he's there to siphon off potential support for Balls while not making such a strong statement against the illegal war that it might potentially force his brother to make a comment/rebuttal.
In the US, Barack is set to deliver an address at West Point tomorrow and this from Debra Sweet's "Obama Readies Troops: Protest Needed Now!" (World Can't Wait):
Saturday, May 22: President Obama speaks at West Point. Anti-war Protest 10:00 am Memorial Park in Highland Falls, NY. Rally and march to the West Point Gate. Call 866 973 4463
Help publish Crimes are Crimes - No Matter Who Does Them again, in another national publication.
Listen to former C.I.A. analyst Ray McGovern, advisor to War Criminals Watch, on the history of U.S. government assasination, and Obama's order to kill al-Awlaki.
ACLU Letter Urges President Obama To Reject Targeted Killings Outside Conflict Zones
May 13, the New York Times front page: U.S. Decision to Approve Killing of Cleric Causes Unease
This is exactly the moment are voices are needed! Please take a moment to circulate this statement, and ask your friends to sign it!
Cindy Sheehan's Peace of the Action announces a Sizzlin' Summer Protest in Washington DC July 4-17. Join in!
4th of July in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 1pm to pass out Peace Literature to the people who flock to DC for the Nation's Birthday.
The Wars Drone On and On Monday, July 5th -- Friday, July 9th
Hands off our Kids! Monday, July 12 to Friday, July 16
This week, Debra Sweet was a guest of Scott Horton's on Antiwar Radio:Scott Horton: Well, you know, Ehren Watada said, "I will not lead men into battle to commit war crimes. I will not do it, put me in prison. I will not --" Well, he tried to stay out of prison, but he said I would rather go to prison and it wasn't just I don't want to commit War Crimes. It was, "Look, I'm an officer. I'm responsible for the men under me. How can I give them illegal orders to invade and murder people in their own country? I will not do it. And [yet] this is what Barack Obama's asking of these young officers graduating from West Point: To bring young men into battle and order them to commit atrocities.
Debra Sweet: You're right. And we're going to be out at the gate with hundreds of people. Not thousands and not tens of thousands but hundreds who, I'm sure, are going to be giving a counter message to this. This is an immoral, unjust, it's an illegitimate occupation. It has to stop. And we are going to be reading the names of the civilians in Afghanistan killed and also the US military killed. We want there to be an accounting.
David Bacon is an independent journalist who covers the labor and immigration beat -- one of a tiny number of actual labor reporters remaining in the US -- and we'll note this from his "Hundreds of Union Janitors Fired Under Pressure From Feds" (Truthout):
Federal immigration authorities have pressured one of San Francisco's major building service companies, ABM, into firing hundreds of its own workers. Some 475 janitors have been told that unless they can show legal immigration status, they will lose their jobs in the near future. ABM has been a union company for decades, and many of the workers have been there for years. "They've been working in the buildings downtown for 15, 20, some as many as 27 years," said Olga Miranda, president of Service Employees Local 87. "They've built homes. They've provided for their families. They've sent their kids to college. They're not new workers. They didn't just get here a year ago." Nevertheless, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security has told ABM that they have flagged the personnel records of those workers. Weeks ago, ICE agents sifted through Social Security records and the I-9 immigration forms all workers have to fill out when they apply for jobs. They then told ABM that the company had to fire 475 workers who were accused of lacking legal immigration status.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).
TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Dan Balz (Washington Post), John Dickerson (Slate) Susan Milligan (Boston Globe) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times). And Gwen's column this week is "When Washington Insiders Become Outsiders." Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quicker). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Cari Dominguez, Nicole Kurokawa, Leticia Velez-Hudson and Patricia Sosa on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week it's Laura Bush's book where she states she pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
Are They Safe?Chemicals called phthalates found in soft plastic products we use everyday are so ubiquitous, that traces of them can be found in everybody. The government has banned some of them in children's toys for fear they may be harmful, but are they? Lesley Stahl investigates.
The SEED SchoolThere's a unique school that's giving kids from an inner-city neighborhood that only graduates 33 percent of its high school students a shot at college they never had before. Byron Pitts reports on Seed School, the first urban, public boarding school.
Marty's Big IdeaHear the story of the invention of the cell phone from the man whose team came up with it at Motorola. The inventor, Martin Cooper, is still at it, improving the gadget he came up with 37 years ago. Morley Safer reports.
60 Minutes, Sunday, May 23, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
abcradio national breakfastfran kellymichael otterman
the telegraph of londonpatrick wintour
mcclatchy newspapersjamal naji
debra sweetthe world cant wait
antiwar radioscott horton
60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbe