Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Stop persecuting Julian Assange

I ag

ree 100%.

  1. Paul Craig Roberts: The Persecution of Julian Assange Is the Persecution of Truth

Stop persecuting Julian Assange.

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019.  The UN finds herpes in Iraqi fish, Bernie Sanders will do what exactly to end endless wars?, a pledge is non-binding (sh, don't wake THE INTERCEPT) and much more.

We spend more on our military than the next 10 nations combined. American troops have been in Afghanistan for nearly 18 years, Iraq since 2003 and in Syria since 2015. We're going to invest in housing, public education and infrastructure, not never-ending wars.

I don't know what that means, Bernie.  You didn't make ending wars a real strong talking point last time you sought the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  Are you this go round?  I don't know.

I'm having the same problem Trina noted at the bottom of her "Thrown in jail for medical debt."

Basically, you're a greedy ass who wants our information and/or money before we can know what you stand for.

I gave just now at his official campaign site.  And I still couldn't get in to see what he's got to say about the wars.  Maybe because he doesn't have anything to say?

I don't know.

I know he declared last week and his campaign site is his online office.  If I go to a candidate's physical office and they won't let me in without my handing over my address and/or money, I'm not going in.

But Bernie -- friend of the working class, right? -- doesn't want to know you online unless you're forking over.

That's ridiculous.

And if he thinks a Tweet here and a Tweet there is going to cover 'addressing' the ongoing wars, he's insane.

American troops have been in Afghanistan for nearly 18 years, Iraq since 2003 and in Syria since 2015. The American people do not want endless war. Congress must reassert its Constitutional authority over the use of force and responsibly end these interventions.

From THE INTERCEPT's really bad article (let's blame Ryan Grimm, he's always been a Christopher Columbus type, falling down on something and insisting he's discovered it):

All of the signatories so far are members of the Democratic caucus, and most of them are associated with the left wing of the party: Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; Omar and other freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ro Khanna, and Rashida Tlaib; and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan. Common Defense is also courting more moderate lawmakers, particularly those in swing districts and Democrats. So far, the group has also gotten the support of Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who was first elected in the heavily Republican state in 2006 after bucking advice from Washington consultants and running a populist campaign that condemned the Iraq War.
Signing the pledge was not a hard call for Omar. “War has been so much a part of the American culture. It’s so normalized,” she said. “We only talk about vets when we talk about the kind of resources they need; we never really have a conversation with vets on what defense should look like, and where our engagements are appropriate and when they’re not. And the ones we often talk to are people who might have led and might not be the ones getting shot at every day.”
The progressive insurgents in Congress have built name recognition around domestic policy ideas like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. By lobbying members to sign the pledge, organizers for Common Defense are hoping to make U.S. military commitments a part of that conversation. The pledge by Sanders and Warren, who’ve previously been outspoken against endless U.S. military interventions, could have an impact on the 2020 Democratic primary. In an appearance on MSNBC in January, Warren broke with top Democrats by saying that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan was “right,” and characterizing the Pentagon policy as “stay forever.” Sanders, meanwhile, has said that Trump is right to pull troops out of Syria, but added, “I don’t know that you can pull out tomorrow.”

Whether members of Congress sign the pledge or not, foreign policy is going to be a big issue in the election.  We've already noted that.  Polling has already noted that. But, hey, if Ryan Grimm couldn't show up late to the party, empty handed and boasting about himself, what would he do?  Look in the mirror and face what a massive failure he is?

I'm not really sure what the pledge is supposed to accomplish.  And having the historical knowledge here that Ryan doesn't, the true answer is: Nothing at all.

But for new members signing on, maybe the public can wait and see.  For Bernie and Elizabeth and other re-elected several time members, what have you done?  Where is your hearing on these endless wars?  Even when they were the minority in the House, John Conyers was able to hold hearings.  So where are the hearings?  Where are the big speeches?

Oh, let me guess, "I signed a pledge" was really to get a listing of 'against the wars' on the ON THE ISSUES page?

That's really not going to cut it.  There's a wealth of choices and if Bernie thinks he's going to coast to the nomination, he's kidding himself.  I've never been greatly impressed with Bernie -- Our Great Do Nothing Senator.  We made excuses for him when he was in the House.  Ryan Grimm-cakes probably can't remember that.  But the excuse was always that he had to be elected every two years.  If only he were a senator . . .

What's been the excuse since we backed that first Senate campaign?

He was a complete waste as Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  We had veterans dying due to lack of health care and he holds a hearing on . . . 'alternative' approaches to 'medicine'?  And announces at the start of that hearing -- I was there, we covered it here in real time -- that the hearing is not going to waste  time on the scandal but instead explore holistic approaches.

That was sweet.  That was novel.  Wasn't very helpful to those in need.

And there's the reality that Bernie's 'big' legislative accomplishments are getting post offices named.

As Hillary cleared her path in 2015 -- a lot of intimidation was used to keep qualified candidates from running, we finally dropped our criticism of Bernie but we didn't praise him either.

It's time for people to get real about Bernie.  Either he's going to take strong stands or he's not.  And that goes beyond this run.  He's done nothing but offer talk as a member of the House and the Senate.  I know I'm speaking heresies to some but that's actually the reality of his record.

And if that reality hurts your feelings, two things.  A) Yes, he would have been better than Donald Trump.  But I'm not really sure who wouldn't have been.  B) Back when he was in the House and people used to note how weak he was, I would be offended.  And I was one of the strongest voices saying, "But it's because he has to run every two years for re-election."

This election does matter.  And we shouldn't allow anyone to coast to the lead.

There are serious issues and I'm not worried about 'tone.'  But for all the pearl clutchers who think the candidates need to play nice, one way they can is by distinguishing themselves on real issues.  Focusing on real issues would allow them to back off from what some see as 'personal attacks.'  I'm in the Naomi Wolf camp on that, if you believe you are the best candidate, you're not doing a 'personal attack,' you're fighting -- see her writing on the attacks Elizabeth Holtzman endured for 'daring' to run against 'sister' Geraldine Ferraro.

I also don't credit him for Medicare For All.  He didn't popularize it.  Many of his supporters did.  Many others did as well like Dr. Margaret Flowers and her husband and our own Trina to name but three.  And many candidates for president previously -- including the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney -- have raised Medicare For All.

This issue has been bubbling up for some time and as a result of the work of millions.

Bernie wants to be the leader of 'the free world'?  Then show some leadership.  Has he, for example, offered any defense to US House Rep Ilham Omar?  That would be real leadership.

Why is Congress Freaking Out about Rep Omar's "Allegiance Remarks"? We found out why. They all took oaths foreign influence violates. Not to mention what happens if you "aid and comfort" a country defined as an enemy. via

Today, Human Rights Watch notes:

Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities have charged hundreds of children with terrorism for alleged Islamic State (also known as ISIS) affiliation, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The prosecutions are often based on dubious accusations and forced confessions obtained through torture.  
The 53-page report, “‘Everyone Must Confess’: Abuses against Children Suspected of ISIS Affiliation in Iraq,” shows that Iraqi and KRG authorities often arrest and prosecute children with any perceived connection to ISIS, use torture to coerce confessions, and sentence them to prison in hasty and unfair trials. International law recognizes children recruited by armed groups primarily as victims who should be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. 
“Children accused of affiliation with ISIS are being detained, and often tortured and prosecuted, regardless of their actual level of involvement with the group,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “This sweeping, punitive approach is not justice, and will create lifelong negative consequences for many of these children.”
Iraqi children who have been arrested for suspected ISIS involvement say that once released, they are afraid to go home because their arrest automatically brands them as ISIS and makes them vulnerable to revenge attacks. Children detained by the KRG said they feared re-arrest by Iraqi federal forces if they return to Baghdad-controlled territory. This stigma can lead to permanent separation from their family and community.

Iraqi and KRG authorities have arrested thousands of children for alleged ISIS involvement. Many are tortured to coerce confessions and convicted of terrorism in unfair, hasty trials. New research from :

Lastly, AFP reports:

The sudden death last year of millions of Iraqi carp, used in the country’s signature dish, was caused by a strain of herpes harmless to humans, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Iraqi fish farmers south of Baghdad were left reeling in late 2018 after piles of dead carp were found washed up on the banks of the Euphrates River or floating in their cages.

Rumours swirled over whether the fish were sick or the river had been poisoned, and Iraqi politicians put the issue at the top of their agenda.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said a months-long international investigation had pinned down the slippery source: the Koi Herpes Virus.

UNAMI notes:

• Test results from international laboratories confirm that the death of millions of farmed carp in Iraq in late 2018 was caused by fish disease, not pollution.
• The carp suffered from the Koi Herpes Virus (KHV), a lethal disease known to cause almost 100 percent mortality rates in carps.
• Based on these results, we can therefore rule out that chemical contamination played a role in the fish kill, which should reassure the public that the farmed carp is safe to eat
5 March 2019 – On 26 October 2018, a major fish kill episode that wiped out millions of mostly caged farmed carp in Iraq’s central Euphrates region sent the country into major panic. Fear spread that the fish kill was caused by a mysterious pollution that could also poison people, whilst fish farmers agonized over their losses as the source of their livelihoods abruptly vanished.
Deeming the fish kill a national security issue, Iraq’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Dr. Adel Abdul Mahdi, immediately assembled a crisis team led by the Ministry of Health and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture to investigate its causes and take appropriate remedial measures.

“The scale of the fish kill was so huge, we had excavators working for four days clearing the fish from the river,” affirmed Dr. Ala Alwan, Iraq’s Minister of Health and Environment, who personally inspected the situation on the ground once news of the incident broke out. “We also used oil spill booms to contain and prevent the fish from drifting downstream, especially as many fish farmers rashly dumped the dead carp into the Euphrates River,” he added.
Faced with this unprecedented massive fish mortality, the Iraqi Government decided to request emergency technical assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment to help determine the cause of the sudden die off.
Fish and environmental samples were collected by the Ministry of Health and Environment based on UN Environment’s advice from the epicentre of the fish kill incident near Al-Musayab, Babel governorate, approximately 70 kilometres south of Baghdad. Since 2011, this area had become a thriving hub for Iraq’s growing fish farming industry where a rapid expansion in the use of floating river cages to grow common carp (Cyprinus carpio) became established. At the same time, “the high density of fish cages almost back-to-back for kilometres, coupled with extreme overstocking, contravened national regulations,” cautioned Minister Alwan.
UN Environment, WHO and FAO rapidly organized for the fish, water, sediment and fish feed samples to be shipped to internationally-accredited laboratories. Comprehensive chemical and microbiological tests were carried out by three different laboratories, including in Switzerland, Jordan and Italy.
For all the samples taken by the Ministry of Health and Environment, test results showed no significant contamination from heavy metals, hydrocarbons or pesticides. “Unlike water, which only gives a snapshot of environmental conditions at a specific point in time, sediment acts as a storage reservoir for contaminants,” explained Dr. John Pote, Head of the Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology at the University of Geneva, who coordinated the laboratory study commissioned by UN Environment.
“Based on these results, we can therefore rule out that chemical contamination played a role in the fish kill, which should reassure the public that the farmed carp is safe to eat,” he added. These conclusions were also shared by Mr. Ahmed El-Olimat, Deputy Head of Quality and Laboratory Affairs in Ministry of Water and Agriculture in Jordan, who coordinated the test of the water samples sent by WHO to Jordan.
DNA tests run by the Swiss National Fish Disease Laboratory and Reference Laboratory for Notifiable Diseases found the presence of the Cyprinid herpesvirus (CyHV-3) in all fish samples examined, confirming Iraqi scientists’ suspicions that the fish kill was caused by a disease outbreak. They had observed white or brown patches on the gills of afflicted fish as critical clinical signs of an infection. Furthermore, the mortality only affected farmed carp and not wild fish. Virologic analysis commissioned by WHO and FAO – in Jordan and Italy respectively – also confirmed the Swiss laboratories’ findings.
“WHO was very concerned about this incident which could have posed a public health risk to communities in Babylon governorate and beyond. However, after confirming that the outbreak is due to a viral infection, WHO is confident that fish consumption has no effect on human health,” confirmed Mr. Mohamed Hamasha, Senior Environmental Health Expert and Mr. Soren Madison, Food Safety Adviser at WHO.
“High loads of Cyprinid herpesvirus DNA in the gill, kidney and brain fish tissue revealed that the carp suffered from the Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) disease,” affirmed Dr. Thomas Wahli, who heads the Swiss Reference Laboratory for Notifiable Diseases. “KHV is a very serious and lethal disease that is known to cause almost 100 percent mortality rates in carps,” he added. The Principal Virologist at the UK’s International Centre of Excellence for Aquatic Animal Health (CEFAS), Dr. Richard Paley, also agreed that “while overstocking and transient water quality issues such as low dissolved oxygen levels may have stressed the fish and helped propagate the virus, given the current information, one can reasonably conclude that the root cause of this mass fish kill episode is KHV disease.”
With Euphrates River water temperature dropping to 23-25°C in November, an optimal environment was created for the CyHV-3 virus, which flourishes between 16-28°C. Reports of similar small-scale fish kill incidents in multiple pockets in western and central Iraq further validated the occurrence of a wider epidemic.
“The outbreak may represent development of the disease in latently infected fish due to stressor events or perhaps more likely, based on the size of the event, introduction of infected animals into naïve stocks with no previous exposure or immune protection, indicating a recent introduction”, reckoned Dr. Paley.
“This is the first case of Koi Herpes Virus disease in Iraq, and it is a significant case report which will need to be notified to the World Organisation for Animal Health,” underlined Minister Alwan.
“We are pleased to have been able to get to the bottom of this difficult case and intend to build on this experience to improve our environmental surveillance and diagnostic capacity, particularly for viral diseases, so that we can properly investigate such events. Meanwhile, we need to control fish farm numbers and raise farmers’ awareness on the appropriate procedures to follow to prevent and rapidly contain similar outbreaks in the future,” he asserted.
About UN Environment
UN Environment is the leading global voice on the global environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Hassan Partow, Programme Manager, UN Environment
Dr. Adham Ismail, Acting WHO Representative in Iraq
Dr. Melba Reantaso, FAO

The following sites updated: