scandal: any questions

'scandal' airs on abc thursday nights.  when the hell does this season end?

next week is another new episode.  i thought it wrapped up in april.

that's just a question, not a complaint.

it was another great episode - and according to the news release abc e-mailed me, it was the highest rating for 'scandal' ever in the 18 to 45 y.o. age group.  overall, it was the 2nd most viewers this season for the show.

let me again thank c.i. because i was not watching the show.  she told me before the 1st season started, 'you are going to love the show.'  i did not believe her.  if she hand't sent me the 1st season on dvd right before the 2nd season started, i probably wouldn't have watched this season.

that said, as good as season 1 was, season 2 is the greatest.

so what happened?

olivia and the president dealt with grief over their relationship.  harrison wanted olivia to figure out a plan for when she was exposed as the mistress.  she said no repeatedly.  she gave him, at 1 point, two folders.  the 1st was people who owed her favors and she told him to read through it and to call as needed.  the 2nd was sealed and only for an emergency.  i wasn't clear if this was about her scandal coming out and for how to deal with it or if she was handing off to him since she and the president were going to be together.  but she told him to put them back in her safe when he was done with them.

when she first arrived at work, she was greeted with the news that the mole wasn't cyrus.  it was, however, some 1 who wanted to know about defiance.  that's the town that the presidential vote was rigged in to allow fitz to carry ohio.  remember that was hollis' plan and he got mellie (1st lady), cyrus (white house chief of staff) and verna (supreme court judge) to go along with it but they all said they'd only do it if olivia agreed.  she did.  so that's how every 1 knew the mole wasn't cyrus.  he had no need to get charlie to get the court transcript for the grand jury hearing --

back when david was an attorney general and charging the election was stolen and calling  james to the stand - james is cyrus' husband and lied to save cyrus from prison.  to defeat david, abby stole the disc he had proving the vote rigging, remember?

well when they explain to olivia that it's about defiance, she runs to her office, opens the safe and checks to make sure the disc is still there.

every 1 follows her.  it is there.

david for the 1st time sees it proving he was right to accuse abby of stealing it.  abby admits it because what is there left to say?

so while olivia's working out her personal life, harrison, quinn, huck, abby and david are supposed to be working on the mole.  (david does not know olivia is the president's mistress.  whenever it's noted on the t.v. that the president has had an affair, david will make comments about the woman and how she better be lucky and get olivia to handle the press for her.)

their suspect?  the vice president.  olivia's skeptical of that.  but they decide to send a trojan e-mail that will allow them to piggy back into the white house computers since they can't break in.  that's huck's idea and when people are confused, quinn explains it leading abby to call her 'baby huck.'

david's the 1 who realizes they'd be better off targeting the daughter of the vice president and he comes up with a way to do so.

instantly she opens the mail.  instantly, they are in.

and they're short tempered and on edge.  leading olivia to tell them to take a break for an hour.

so let me now catch up on the other storylines that happened during this.

jake (scott foley) has the boss.  remember? that we know nothing about.

he's furious that jake didn't tell him that the president was at olivia's and spent the night.

jake tells him about charlie.  charlie's the other rogue cia agent, remember.  he's been all over the show and too much to recap.  but jake was ordered by president fitz to protect olivia.

and by this 'real boss' (that's when i'm going to call the other guy) to spy on her and so he recorded everything in her house.

last episode, he comes on and turns on his tvs and sees charlie, sitting in jake's chair, in jake's living room.

so now jake tells real boss about that.  real boss gives the order to kill charlie and tells jake he wants the footage of olivia and jake sleeping together.

cyrus is freaking out and he's blowing up at every 1. at the white house press briefing he gives, he faces an angry press and 1 of the 1s yelling the loudest was james.

this i didn't buy.  let me tell you why in a 2nd.

after the press conference, james and cyrus have it out.  cyrus tells him off for the way he was grilling him and james says he had to this is his big break, the network hired him and he has to deliver.  cyrus gets real nasty and tells him he's a fool.  the network only wanted him because mellie told the network she'd give an interview to james.  he tells james that basically he was led around with a ring in his nose.

james is reduced to tears as soon as cyrus leaves.

what i didn't buy?

that james would be at the press conference.

what network would allow james to question his own husband?

andrea mitchell wasn't hollering questions at her husband when he was in government - alan greenspan (former fed chairman).

i also felt like james should have hit back against cyrus when cyrus was calling him a fool.

on that, i'll agree james just taking it and crying is james. it was completely in character and completely believable for james to respond that way.  but i was thinking, 'c'mon, he's yelling at you and calling you a fool.'

cyrus then goes to olivia.  they meet in the park and he tries to strong arm her into leaving fitz.  he tells her that it's for the good of the country.  she tells him they already did somthing 'for the good' of the country (rigged the election).  cyrus tells her if she'll break up with fitz, fitz will run for a second term.  otherwise he's a lame duck with no legacy.

olivia just repeats how she's not going to discuss this with cyrus.

no sooner than she leaves than real boss shows up.

cyrus is alarmed by that but relieved to learn it's a talk.  who is real boss?

i have no idea but he scares every 1 who knows him.

so he wants cyrus to change fitz's mind.

mellie hires a publicist (john barrowman) to help her.  he tries to tell her what to do and she lets him know she doesn't need a beautician to hold her hand, she got where she is by telling the truth when she needed to and lying when she needed to.

he wants to know who the mistress is and even guesses at 1 point that it might be a man.  she's not saying.  he'll note during the episode that she's keeping it under wraps because it's her 'nuclear option' and once she names the mistress, there's no going back.

she wants him to find out what fitz is going to say in his address tonight?  he doesn't know fitz is going to speak.  mellie can feel that her husband is going to address the american people.

remember last week when olivia and company were tracking charlie?  they found out about the bookstore and the book club and the bakery he visited every thursday?

jake some how knows at least about the bakery.

a new woman (jake's co-worker) is at the counter and hands charlie his order.  he asks about beverly (the regular clerk) and the new woman says she's sick and out today.  he goes into the bathroom and sees that the sack at the top glows and so does his hand.

he quickly leaves.

the woman tells jake (over a comm) that they've been made.  jake's in a car with a gun and ipad. he's tracking charlie on the ipad.  the man driving is heading towards charlie.

charlie's going up the street wiping his hands on every 1, getting dirty looks.

suddenly, jake's got 10 people on his ipad.  they've lost charlie.

charlie goes to the white house and calls cyrus saying to clear him and let him in.  but real boss already made it clear to cyrus that he was not to have contact with charlie anymore.

upset, charlie leaves.

where's charlie?

the gang resumes after their hour break.  they walk in to find charlie holding a gun on david.

charlie wants them to be olivia's client.

huck wants to question charlie - using the methods he and charlie were trained in (torture) - and find out who the mole is.

let me short hand this.  huck finds out who the mole is.

but no 1 ever really finds out why charlie was there.  he came for help.

the mole is ...

let's flip to the white house.

fitz has his speech ready.  cyrus isn't happy.  fitz tells him they drove the car as far as they could. cyrus laughs and says that the backseat saw a lot of action.  cyrus actually was accepting fitz's decision. (blowing off real boss who wanted them broken up and told cyrus to do it and stop being scared of getting his hands dirty.)

cyrus leaves and goes to a white house aid and tells her to pull fitz's re-election papers.

she can't.

he tells her he appreciates the sentiment but fitz isn't running for re-election so - no, she tells him fitz never signed the papers, they're still on fitz's desk and have been for months.

cyrus has an insight moment.

he calls olivia.

olivia shows up at the white house.

she accuses fitz of having decided, some time ago, not to run for re-election.

he tells her he really made the choice to be with her.

she says she believes him on that.  but she also believes that the reason he's not running for re-election is her fault.  because of the vote rigging, he doesn't believe in himself.  she says she robbed him and she'll feel that way.

when she gets back, she is called in about the mole.

and we learn it is ...

sally's computer.

but not sally.

they can prove that while she's looking up stuff on her computer, she's actually sitting behind fitz as he speaks.  so it's some 1 on her computer.  who?

billy chambers.


1st season. he was vice president's sally's chief of staff.  he was furious when sally got the v.p. slot instead of the presidential 1.  he hates fitz.  he had his girlfriend announce she'd had an affair with fitz and was pregnant.  (cyrus had charlie kill the woman.)  billy's been gone since that scandal.

jake gives the disc of him and olivia having sex to 'real boss.'

olivia goes to the white house for fitz' speech.

she stands in the back with cyrus.

fitz tosses his prepared speech (which mellie did get a copy of) and instead announces that his personal life is no 1's business and that he'll be running for a 2nd term.

olivia and cyrus are happy.

but not for long.

after they got the name of the mole from charlie, huck let him go at quinn's urging.

and harrison went to the safe to put those folders up (remember that) and discovered the computer disc was gone.

charlie set them up!

did he?


david gets into a limo.  he hands the disc to billy chambers.

david is a turncoat.

unless you see it as david evening the score.

olivia destroyed him.

he was an attorney general.  and then came defiance and he looked like an idiot when james lied on the stand and david couldn't produce the disc.

then when the president was shot, he went after hollis on olivia's say-so.  but hollis didn't hire the would-be-killer.  it was supreme court judge verna. though david doesn't know it was verna, he does know the case against hollis exploded in his face and was the last straw.

david was reduced to teaching esl classes to adults.  this after being a star attorney.  he couldn't get a decent job.  he was a public joke.

there's also season 1.

this is where it gets tricky.

i'm giving david the benefit of the doubt so far.

but season 1 was his first embarrassment and when he turned on olivia.

in season 1, quinn was at her boyfriend's apartment and he was dead.

olivia had every 1 clean up the crime scene.  why?

this is so complicated.  quinn is actually lindsay.  she lived in california and was happy and in love.

her boyfriend?

he rigged defiance for hollis.

for a million dollars.

then he read about how much money hollis was going to get via government contracts and he wanted more or he'd go public.  hollis hired an assassin (same woman verna hired to try to kill fitz).  the boyfriend was killed and it was made to look as if lindsay did it.

but somehow - we still don't know how - olivia learned of the plan.  she dispatched huck who drugged lindsay and took her on a plane - supreme court judge verna's plane.  and lindsay woke up in a dc hotel where every 1 called her quinn.  olivia offered her a job and allowed her to move in.

quinn was already wanted for murder (as lindsay).

so they had to clean the scene and did and then called in the murder.

and david still charged quinn.

and was winning the case.

the verdict was about to be announced the next day and quinn was going to get it.

olivia called in a favor.  she had supreme court judge verna call the d.c. district judge and he ended up ruling in quinn's favor.

david has hated olivia ever since.

but here's where we have to question david.

'scandal' is an intricate show.  remember the murder of the 2nd boyfriend, the 1 quinn had.  (not in california, that's the 1s boyfriend killed.)

who killed the boyfriend?

billy chambers.

if david is now working with billy chambers, the real question is, was he working with billy chambers in season 1?

do we even know david at all?

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Friday, May 10, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Turkey responds to Nouri's nonsense regarding the PKK, protests continue in Iraq, Ned Parker and Niqash take a look at realities on the ground post-Hawija, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani wants the government to speed up relief payments, Senator Patty Murray applauds Washington's governor's move to help veterans, Military Families Speak Out mourn the passing of Charlie Richardson, The Drone War continues and Benghazi causes further embarrassment for the administration.

Today Military Families Speak Out notes the passing of Charlie Richardson "on May 4th, 2012 at home after a six-year battle with cancer".  They note:

The seeds of MFSO were sown in the summer of 2002 when Charley’s son, a U.S. Marine, was being deployed and it became clear he would most likely be ending up in Iraq. As life-long peace and labor activists, Charley, and his wife Nancy Lessin, knew they couldn’t sit by silently while their son was being sent into harm’s way, to a war that should not be happening, an illegal and immoral war of aggression. They brought a sign to anti-war protests with their son’s picture on it that said, “Our Son Is A Marine – Don’t Send Him to War for Oil!” Charley and Nancy were overwhelmed by the response they received to the power of their voice as a military family protesting the war.
At one of these rallies they met another a father whose son was facing deployment to Kuwait. Together, they formed Military Families Speak Out to organize and amplify the voices of military families in opposition to an invasion of Iraq. Just months later, Nancy and Charley spoke at a press conference, offering their home phone number for MFSO; within days, two hundred families from around the country joined the organization.
In February, 2003 Charley and Nancy were lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit against then-President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, calling for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the U.S. from invading Iraq until there was a congressionally mandated declaration of war. Three active-duty service members, other MFSO members and twelve Members of Congress were part of that lawsuit. The case went two rounds in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and finally failed on March 18, 2003. The bombs dropped on Baghdad the next day.
For the next two years MFSO existed in Charley and Nancy’s living room. On top of their day jobs as prominent labor activists, Nancy and Charley wrote grant proposals, helped members start chapters, trained families on how to speak to the media and pushed tirelessly to create a home for families like them, who had loved ones in the military and were opposed to the war. Families came to them with the same story. “Thank God I found you. I thought I was the only one! What can I do to be a part of this?”

Staying with the topic of peace, Yavuz Baydar (Al-Monitor) notes, "Sticking to its promises, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) appears to have started pulling out from Turkey as agreed with Ankara. At least 50 militants are said to have crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan since May 8." At her site last night, Betty continued the conversation about how ridiculous Nouri looked for declaring Thursday that the PKK could not come into Iraq.  World Bulletin News quotes Turkey's Foreign Ministry, "This announcement seems to result more from the contestations between Baghdad and Erbil.  It is obvious that the PKK withdrawing from Turkey will not be a threat to anyone, and that they will leave behind terror.  We are not sending terrorists to another country to organize attacks.  Therefore there is no reason to worry.  The PKK came from Iraq anyway and would enter and exit periodically.  Why are they now a problem?"

Background.  Turkey has been the part of many histroical empires -- including the Hittite, Byzantine and the Ottoman Empire.  From 1918 to 1922, Constantinople was occupied by the French, British and Italians.  The native population fought back, expelled the occupiers and the Republic of Turkey was created.  That's a very brief and incomplete history of Turkey.   Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."  May 8th saw the start of a process the two sides had spent some time negotiating.

While the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in the north is where the PKK will go, it has been the central government out of Baghdad which has spent the week complaining.  Along with Nouri, you've had his Cabinet members launch various verbal attacks on Turkey.  How bad is it?  So bad that Nouri's government figured they better make nice with another neighbor.  Al-Shorfa reports, "Iraq has re-opened its land border crossing with Jordan two weeks after closing it for security reasons, Anbar's local government said Friday."

Jordan, like Turkey on Sunday and Syria previously, has been accused by Nouri and his Cabinet in the past of being responsible for the ongoing protests in Iraq which kicked off December 21st and continued today.  Iraqi Spring MC reports that a Reuters reporters has been detained in Anbar while attempting to cover a protest.  In related news, the National Iraqi News Agency reports, "Police forces prevented the media and journalists from entering the Mosque of Muhammad Rasoolollah in the city of Kirkuk to cover the unified Friday prayers."  Falluja is in Anbar and the sit-in continues thereIn this Iraqi Spring MC video, the speaker in Falluja rejects the division of Iraq.  Today's protests were about unity and dignity and a unified Iraq.  Alsumaria notes the Ramadi protest  saw tens of thousands turn out to celebrate dignity and choose peace.  They called on the United Nations and the religious authorities to curb Nouri's lust for power.   NINA reports that the Ramadi and Falluja protesters "demonstrated after Friday unified prayers on The international road condemned the double standard policy of Maliki government in dealing with Iraqi people component and demanded to bring down such a government."

It was another bad day for prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki.  Alsumaria reports that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr declared his sympathy for the Iraqis who've lost family members as a result of the purchase and use by Nouri's government of 'magic' wands -- which have been known not to work since 2009.  Moqtada urged the families who lost loved ones and those who were injured as a result to sue the person who purchased the items. (That would be Nouri.)  April 23rd (see the  April 24, 2013 snapshot), James McCormick, the man who made and sold the wands, who was on trial for those wands, was pronounced guilty on three counts of fraud.  And still Nouri has allowed -- no, insisted that the wands be used.   May 2nd, McCormick was sentenced to a maxium of 10 years.  Jake Ryan (Sun) quoted Judge Richard Hone stating, "The device was useless, the profit outrageous and your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category.  Your profits were obscene.  You have neither insight, shame or any sense of remorse." And yet last Friday, Ammar Karim (AFP) reported that the 'magic'  wands to 'detect' bombs (and drugs and, no doubt, spirits from the other world) are still being used in Iraq.  He spoke with a police officer in Baghdad who admits that everyone knows that they don't work but that the police are under orders to use the wands.

Last Saturday,   NINA reported,  "Leader of the Sadrist Trend, Muqtada al-Sadr, demanded Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to apologize and stand before Parliament to answer about the deal of the explosives detection instruments."  Moqtada suspects some Iraqis were bribed in this deal and wants names he also demands that the 'magic' wands stop being used immediately stating that they are "an insult to the Iraqis' intelligence."  Moqtada and Iraqiya have called for Nouri to appear before Parliament and explain why the wands were purchased, who profited from them and the various details of the deal that was made for them.

Al Mada reports that the Ministry of the Interior claimed today that they would recover all the money spent on the magic wands.  Ministry of the Interior Inspector General Aqeel Turaihi states that they have known and acknowledged since October 2010 that the magic wands do not work.

Regardless of whether money is recovered for the purchase, as Moqtada al-Sadr points out, lives have been lost and people have been injured.  The violence continues today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports Mohammed al-Rawi (Director of the Statutes Civil Dept in al-Qaim) was shot dead in Anbar Province, a Diyala Province car bombing left a wife and husband injured, and a Babil Province sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured.   All Iraq News reports an armed clash in Mosul that left 1 police officer and 3 rebels dead and, in southern Mosul, police shot dead 1 rebelAl Jazeera notes a bombing targeting the al-Sultan mosque in Mahaweel.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports 3 people were killed in the bombing and seven more injured.

Alsumaria reports that Sayed Ahmed Safi, speaking on behalf of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called for the government to speed up the release of monetary compensation to those victims of the ongoing floods.  Yesterday,  Alsumaria noted that the dams in Gazzanh and Mandall are reaching their max with an estimated two million cubic meters of water having been added in the last days.  Also yesterday a helicopter attempting to evacuate families trpped by the floods has crashed in Wasit ProvinceKUNA noted that the helicopter "hit a communication tower." Wednesday the Iraqi Red Crescent Society announced that in addition to food, over 1200 hot meals, and other forms of relief including putting up 650 tents for families in the provinces of Maysan and WasitIn this video, Alsumaria reports on the flooding and that fifteen villages are trapped by the floods.  Dhi Qar's government announced that 300 homes have been destroyed.

Along with the immediate impact of the floods, there are other impacts that we'll be felt in the coming weeks and months.  Alsumaria notes that Diwaniyah Province asserts that the floods are leading to the loss of 150,000 acres of wheat and barley.  All Iraq News explains Iraiqya MP Raad al-Dahlaki is stating that all sides of the government are responsible, "All sides hold the responsibility over damaging the crops due to the lack of the real infrastructures. The floods are expected to happen and their should be plans to face such a disaster."

Wednesday All Iraq News reported that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's medical team insists that there has been no change in his condition.  Talabani suffered a stroke.  The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  As I stated earlier this week, I had no idea what the medical team's announcement ment.  Generally, when a statement like that is issued, it's to quell talk (real or false rumors) that a patient has taken a turn for the worse.  The Iraqi press has not had any such rumors about Jalal.  Why the medical team has elected to issue a statement that Jalal's condition remains the same is a mystery.  That was Wednesday.  Today in Iraq there are rumors that Talabani has passed away.  All Iraq News notes that the PUK's Najm al-Din Karim declared today that the rumors are false and that "Talabani enjoys good health and has continuous improvement" and "Talabani's health continues to improve day after day."

Monday, All Iraq News reports, "The delegation of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by the Iraqi President's wife Hero  Ibrahim Ahmed Talabani, met with the Secretary General of the Iranian National Security, Saeed Jalili,  [to discuss] the latest political developments in Iraq."  Wednesday, ,  National Iraqi News Agency reported that she has no designs on the presidency and that there was no "talk, during her visit to Tehran, about replacement for the presidency of the Republic of Iraq" or even for someone else to head the PUK (Jalal currently is the Secretary General of the party).  She stated that her visit was nothing more than honoring a formal request for a meeting which the Islamic Republic of Iran had made.

In the months Jalal has been out of Iraq, the political crises have only worsened and tensions increased further.  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports:

Usama Nujaifi, a Sunni who is speaker of the parliament, said the government was pushing Sunnis to the brink. "The conditions for a civil war are present now," Nujaifi said. "The first person responsible is the prime minister."
A former Sunni fighter who goes by the name Abu Selim said Hawija and subsequent violence had given new life to armed groups that had been less active in recent years, including the Iraqi affiliate of Al Qaeda, the Baathist-inspired Naqshbandi Army and the Salafist-led Islamic Army.
"The Islamic insurgent groups had lost their mission … they were just waiting for an instance to take over again under an attractive banner," he said. "Hawija was the zero hour they were waiting for."


The site of a massacre last month.  Dropping back to the May 7th snapshot:

The Australian carries a wire service report which quotes UNICEF's Iraq representative Marzio Babille stating that  "all boys between the ages of 14 and 17 -- several were said to have received severe gunshot wounds."  What's Babille speaking of?  The April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija when Nouri's federal forces stormed it.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP has been reporting 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover. Over the weekend, UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured)AKI notes that the youngest killed at the protest was a 13-year-old and that all who were killed died from gunshot wounds.  Yassin al-Sabawi (Kirkuk Now) reports, "The administration council of Hawija has halted their duties as a tribute to the violence but the schools and service establishments are open."  Ali Abel Sadah (Al-Monitor) notes another response, youths are arming themselves in Anbar, Kirkuk and Mosul "to protect protesters, should they be subjected to an attack similar to the one that occured in Hawija."  Sadah adds that "carrying weapons is necessary, according to tribal traditions in Iraq.  After tribal members are killed, their relatives believe they have to avenge their death and defend their peers."

Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) reports on the realities in Iraq post-Hawija:

Tensions spread into other provinces but after some further fighting, the conflict is officially supposed to be at an end. This may be so but according to confidential documents sighted by NIQASH, significant numbers of well-equipped peshmerga forces have moved into troubled areas like Hawija, Tikrit and Yayji. Many of these places are part of Iraq’s disputed territories here – that is, terrain that Iraqi Kurdistan says belongs to its semi-autonomous state but that the government in Baghdad believes is part of Iraq proper. The peshmerga appear to have taken the opportunity afforded them by incidents in Hawija to move into some of these areas.

Meanwhile the commander of the controversial Tigris Operation Command, part of the Iraqi army here, wants the peshmerga to withdraw. And his memos appear to indicate that he is ready to confront the peshmerga if they do not move out of areas that he feels his Tigris Operation Command is supposed to oversee. The documents sighted by NIQASH say that the Iraqi army’s 12th brigade was instructed to watch what the peshmerga were doing and that if they did anything out of the ordinary, the brigade was to stop them.

Speaking anonymously, one officer from the Tigris Operations Command told NIQASH that, “we asked the peshmerga to withdraw from where they’ve recently deployed to, in order to ease tensions. We’ve received information that peshmerga have come into areas like Tikrit, Hawija and Yayji, dressed as local police and with the cooperation of local security forces,” he explained. “And that concerned us because it means they’ve exceeded their powers.”

Since it was formed in July last year, the Tigris Operations Command has been controversial, as Iraqi Kurdish forces accused it of being another way that the Iraqi government was trying to take power in disputed territories like Kirkuk.

 In the past, these flashpoints between Nouri's forces have been difficult to resolve, to say the least. 
  We're dropping back to the July 26, 2011 snapshot for more on this issue:
Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's  report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."  The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer.  If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report.  CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.  (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.)  Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years.  And had outside actors.  The authors acknowledge:
Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.  While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.
As you read over the report, you may be struck by its failure to state the obvious: If the US government really wanted the issue solved, it would have been solved in the early years of the illegal war.  They don't want it solved.  The Kurds have been the most loyal ally the US has had in the country and, due to that, they don't want to upset them.  However, they're not going to pay back the loyalty with actual support, not when there's so much oil at stake.  So the Kurds were and will continue to be told their interests matter but the US will continue to blow the Kurdish issues off over and over.  Greed trumps loyalty is the message.  (If you doubt it, the Constitution guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by December 31, 2007.  Not only did the US government install Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006, they continued to back him for a second term in 2010 despite his failure to follow the Constitution.)
Along with avoiding that reality, the report seems rather small-minded or, at least, "niche driven."  Again, the authors acknowledge that as well noting that they're not presenting a solution to the problems or ways to reach a solution, just ways to kick the can further down the road and, hopefully, there won't be an explosion that forces the issue any time soon. ("Regional and local CBMs have the potential to keep a lid on inter-communal tensions that will, without question, boil beneath the surface for a long time.  They cannot, however, resolve what is, at its heart, a strategic political dispute that must be resolved at the national level.") Hopefully? Page nine of the report notes that the consensus of US military, officials, analysts, etc. who have worked on the issue is that -- "given enough time -- Arab and Kurdish participants will eventually have a dispute that leads to violence, which will cause the mechanism to degrade or collapse."
The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq."  It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.

When that report was written, it should be noted, the Tigris Operation Command did not exist.  Nouri created it last year -- and did so without the approval of Parliament.

As Ann noted last night, this week's reports from Niqash also include an in-depth look at the provincial elections last month in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces. Daoud al-Ali explains:

The results of Iraq’s provincial elections are in – and they are far from conclusive. While the ruling State of Law bloc still leads, it’s clearly not as popular as it was. And various alliances are being built to challenge it further.

The initial results of Iraq’s recent provincial elections were announced by the country’s Independent High Electoral Commission or IHEC, the body responsible for conducting and overseeing the elections, on May 4.

And while the actual voting involved a fairly lacklustre polling day it seems the results may make for more interesting politics as major parties must seek coalition partners for local government. 

The results have yet to be finalized as various appeals have yet to be heard. But it seems clear that there will some changes ahead in provincial government. Provincial authorities are influential in their own areas, having some control over security, economic development – and thereby, jobs – and how federal funds are used.

Let's move over to the US.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office issued the following today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                      
Friday, May 10, 2013      
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Senator Murray’s Statement on Governor Inslee’s Executive Order to Support Veterans
(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, former Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released the following statement applauding Governor Jay Inslee’s Executive Order promoting the hiring of veterans in Washington state.
“Far too many of the brave men and women who have served our country return home without receiving the benefits and help they deserve, so I applaud Governor Inslee for his leadership to support veterans here in Washington state.
“Veterans have the leadership ability, discipline, and technical skills to thrive in our 21st century workforce, but too many remain unemployed for months and years after they return home.
“This Executive Order will ensure that our state agencies support the hiring of veterans for key positions, and thanks to the newly formed Washington Military Transition Council, veterans in Washington state will have better access to the federal resources available to them.
“Governor Inslee has taken the lead to support our veterans, and I encourage businesses across our state to take advantage of the incredible skills that these brave men and women have to offer.”
Sean Coit
Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

There will be a lot of veterans in the coming years and not just because of the drawdown in Iraq (not withdrawal) and the expected drawdown in Afghanistan.  There are a lot of wars the US is engaged in including The Drone War.

Sherwood Ross (Veterans Today) reported on The Drone War this week explaining:

U.S. drone strikes are creating cadres of anti-American fighters, furious over the killing and wounding of thousands of civilians.

Far from the drone attacks being “on a very tight leash,” as President Obama claimed, they have generated widespread terror across Muslim populations in the attack regions as they disrupt civilian lives and activities, literally driving people mad, reliable authorities state.

According to an article in the UK Guardian, the Pakistani ambassador to the UN Zamir Akram charged that more than 1,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes. The use of drones, he said, “leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them.” Other estimates put the Pakistan death toll from drone attacks as much higher---between 2,000 and 3,500 killed.

Author Gregory Johnsen told McClatchy News Service the drones attacks in Yemen are “exacerbating and expanding” resistance. “We have seen AQAP (al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula) expanding from 200-300 fighters in 2009, when the U.S. bombing campaign began, to more than 1,000 fighters today.” Johnsen is author of The Last Refuge, a new book on Yemen and al-Qaida.

And retired Marine General James Cartwright told The Nation magazine the drones cause anger, bitterness, and resentment among Muslim populations and predicted their use will cause “blowback” attacks against America.

Today on Morning Edition, listeners got a chance to sort of hear former Air Force pilot Brendan Bryant talk about The Drone War:

We fired the missile, and 1.2 seconds after the missile fires, it sonic booms. And so the sonic boom gets there before the missile does. And the guy in the rear hears this, and he runs forward to the two guys in the front, and then the missile hits. And after the smoke clears, there's a crater there. You can see body parts of the people. But the guy who was running from rear to the front, his left leg had been taken off above the knee, and I watched him bleed out. The blood rapidly cooled to become the same color as the ground, because we were watching this in infrared. Then I eventually watched the guy become the same color as the ground that he died on. In my own mind, I thought these guys could've been local people that had to protect themselves, and I think we jumped the gun.

Sort of hear? While you can understand and follow the above very easily, on the broadcast it -- and every other remark from Bryant -- was repeatedly broken up with 'commentary' from David Greene and Kelly McEvers.

No one interrupted Kelly -- or corrected her -- when she offered this false information as a 'conclusion' to the 'report', "I think if you ask people, well, would you rather have boots on the ground or would you rather have something that does it with such low risk, they would probably choose the latter."

It's a false choice.  It's as if saying that we can address a crime by killing the person with the electric chair or by killing the person with lethal injection.  There are many other options.  And that's true of The Drone War as well.  It can be -- and should be -- ended.  But Kelly McEvers sells war.  She sells war on Syria, she sells The Drone War.  And that's what got her the current audition spot to be a weekend anchor on NPR.

Early today Jonathan Karl (Good Morning America, ABC News -- link is text and video) revealed that despite White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisting that the talking points Susan Rice would use on five different Sunday morning programs came from the CIA, this is not true.  The talking points were regarding the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012 which claimed the lives of Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Chris Stevens and Tyrone Woods.  Karl reports ABC has 12 different drafts of the talking points and that it appears that "edits were made with extensive input from the State Department."  These including deleting references to terrorists including past threats on Benghazi.

It's worth now dropping back to the House Oversight Committee hearing on Benghazi Wednesday.  The hearing was covered in  that day's snapshotAva covered it with "Crazies on the Committee (Ava)," Kat with "If today were a movie . . .,"  Wally with "Biggest Coward at today's Committee hearing" and Ruth, who's owned this topic from the beginning in this community, covered it with "An order to stand down." The biggest coward in the hearing, according to Waly, was US House Rep John Tierney who was not only cowardly but dishonest as he insisted that "The Fact Checker" (the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler) had named Committee Chair Issa "The Whopper." No, that didn't happen but honesty and facts aren't John Tierney's strong suit.  Let's drop back to Wednesday's hearing.  Gregory Hicks is the Foreign Service Officer.  James Clapper is the Director of National Intelligence.  Though Princess John Tierney insists upon calling him "General," he's not a general.  He was one.  He's retired.  He's taken the job of Director of National Intelligence and if that job -- and its title -- is beneath him, he needs to resign.  Barring that, his title is Director (not general). 

US House Rep John Tierney:  But the mention of the demonstration was put into talking points by the intelligence committee -- not the White House or the State Department.  So I want to play a little video here if we can of General Clapper where he specifically addresses the attacks on Ambassador Rice.  We have that cued up.

Footage of Senator Carl Levin: And when she was highly for following them what was your feeling inside?  Your own personal belief.  Did you think it was fair that she was criticized --

Footage of  Director James Clapper:  Well I thought it was, uh, I thought it was unfair because, uh, uhm, you know the hits she took, I-I didn't think that was, uh, appropriate and-and she was going on what we had given her and, uhm, the -- that was our-our best judgment at the time of what-what should have been said.

Footage of Senator Carl Levin: Thank you.

US House Rep John Tierney: So General Clapper says he thinks the attacks on, uhm, Ambassador Rice run fair, she was using exactly what the intelligence community gave her.  Mr. Hicks, do you have an argument with his veracity when he made those statements?

Gregory Hicks:  There was no report from the US mission in Libya of a demonstration --

US House Rep John Tierney:  The difficult question I have for you is, you're good enough to come forward, is do you contest General Clapper's veracity?   Is he lying or is he telling the truth of what information he gave Ambassador Rice?

Gregory Hicks:  I don't know anything about the development of those talking points.

US House Rep John Tierney:  So look, we-we haven't investigated this issue yet.  You know, it would be interesting to know.  But the House Intelligence Committee has.  They got all of the draft talking points.  They got the briefings and the testimonies from CIA officials.  According to Adam Schiff, one of the representatives that's on -- part of that investigation, he said, and I quote, "General Peteraeus, the former head of the CIA, made it clear that the change was made to protect classified sources of information, not to spin it, not to politicize it, and it wasn't done at the direction of the White House."

Tierney wanted to make Hicks look stupid.  Hicks doesn't look stupid today, does he.  He admitted he knew nothing about the talking points.

Tierney couldn't shut up about them.  Adam Schiff (who infamously didn't want then-CIA Director David Petraeus to testify before Congress about Benghazi) says that there was no effort to politicize it.  And that's good enough for Tierney.

Too bad Adm Schiff's 'evaluation skills' don't stand up to reality.

Jonathan Karl quotes from an e-mail State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland (who's supposed to be promoted shortly to be over Europe) e-mailed the White House that if the information was left in it "could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?"

So the American people were lied to repeatedly because Victoria Nuland decided that the truth was embarrassing to the State Department.  How did US House Rep Adam Schiff miss that?

Tierney looks like a bigger idiot today than he did on Wednesday -- and who would have thought that was possible?

Kelly O'Donnell and Carrie Dann (NBC News) explain they've backed up ABC News' claims, "On Friday, NBC News confirmed that the White House, with input from State Department officials, had edited talking points about the Benghazi attacks 12 times in the hours following the incident. Those edits included a scrubbing of references to terrorist warnings as well as to the al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia."   Oren Dorrell (USA Today) reports:

A top State Department official pressed the CIA and the White House to delete any mention of terrorism in public statements on the Benghazi terror attack to prevent critics from blaming lax security at the consulate, according to documents obtained by ABC News.
The information "goes right to the heart of what the White House continues to deny," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told USA TODAY. "For eight months they denied there's any manipulation, but this continues to shed light on something that was never true."

Donna Cassata (AP) explains, "Deleted from the final talking points were mention of al-Qaida, the experience of fighters in Libya and Islamic extremists, according to the congressional official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the emails that have not been released."  Sharyl Attkisson (CBS News) provides a detailed time line of the various drafts of the talking points.  It's worth pointing out that Susan Rice received the early versions so, yes, she lied when she went on TV.  Attkisson's story makes it clear that Rice wasn't the victim of bad information.  She was privy to the editing that was taking place and she still went on five networks and told a cute little story that wasn't accurate.  Ruth calls out one of the Rice apologists/excusers at her site tonight so look for that.  Jim Acosta, Jessica Yellin and Elise Labott (CNN) also note that Rice received the very first draft and was advised on Saturday about deletions.

"Why is this important?" asks Peter Grier (Christian Science Monitor).  "It’s important because the White House has long denied that administration officials made anything other than cosmetic changes to those talking points."  Or as Alex Koppelman (New Yorker) puts it:

It’s a cliche, of course, but it really is true: in Washington, every scandal has a crime and a coverup. The ongoing debate about the attack on the United States facility in Benghazi where four Americans were killed, and the Obama Administration’s response to it, is no exception. For a long time, it seemed like the idea of a coverup was just a Republican obsession. But now there is something to it.

Mark Mardell (BBC News) concludes:

As Ms Nuland puts it, such a report "could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?"
However you read the motives, the state department and apparently the White House did get the CIA to change its story.
This is now very serious, and I suspect heads will roll. The White House will be on the defensive for a while.

As CBS News notes White House spokesperson Jay Carney insisted today that the White House wasn't hiding anything.  Of course that's not true.  For example, the White House press briefing today started over an hour late.  Why?  Because the White House was providing what was supposed to be an off the record background briefing.  They were telling reporters their 'version' of 'the truth' but doing so in a format that prevents reporters from quoting them. In other words, they were a creating a template for the press to use.  You only do that when you're hiding something or, as Justin Sink (The Hill) puts it, "Carney's efforts to assure reporters that the White House had nothing to hide were partially undercut by a background briefing conducted with just 14 news outlets earlier Friday afternoon."  David Martosko (Daily Mail) reports that 14 reporters were part of the off the record background briefing.   As Keith Koffler (White House Dossier) points out, the meeting was supposed to be a secret:

But the White House apparently also asked reporters to keep the meeting itself secret.
The White House should not hold large, secret meetings with reporters, and reporters should not agree to do them. The White House should not attempt to hide that it is trying to influence the press. And reporters should not be engaging in secret meetings at the White House. It’s just too contrary to the press’s mission of openness.

Lesley Clark (McClatchy Newspapers) notes the background briefing delayed the scheduled press briefing, "The White House has said it's editing was minimal, but the briefing was originally scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Then it was 1:45 p.m. -- and now, it's 3:15 p.m."  The revelations were raised at the US State Dept press briefing today.  We'll note part of the exchange CNN's Elise Labott had with State Dept spokesperson Patrick Ventrell.

Elise Labott: Just to finish that, to close the loop on the first question --

Patrick Ventrell: Yep.

Elise Labott: -- but when Victoria Nuland, in the email – and she said “leadership,” who does that refer to when she was, like, we need changes because of the leadership?

Patrick Ventrell: I mean, again, I can’t speak to every word that’s been cherry-picked from these emails, but I can tell you as a spokesperson myself and the way that we do interagency talking points --

Elise Labott: They’re full quotes; they’re not really necessarily words that are cherry-picked. I mean, the emails are out there themselves. I mean, it’s not --

Patrick Ventrell: Well, again, excerpts of various emails have been taken --

Elise Labott: And you feel that – do you feel that if we were able to read the emails in their entirety, they would show some kind of context that we would understand?

Patrick Ventrell: Well, of course, the emails were only one piece of the wider interagency discussion of this. And so when you take them, and snippets of them, it can be taken out of context.

Elise Labott:  Well, why don’t --

Patrick Ventrell: And let me clarify, Elise. The things that I made clear, and one of the things that doesn’t necessarily come across in the snippets that have been out there, is specifically that we in the Spokesperson’s Office were looking at them as talking points for members of the House at that time. There’s a wider interagency discussion about how they were developed and how the intelligence community makes their assessments. That’s a different question. So --

Elise Labott:  I mean, does it matter if they were for Ambassador Rice or if they were for Congress? I mean, talking points are pretty much just like your basic knowledge of the situation and how you want to message it, right?

Patrick Ventrell: Again, I think that’s part of the point of – in terms of us at the spokesperson’s level, some of the tactical assessments are made about who’s speaking and what’s been said prior, and when we’re preparing to go to the podium after we haven’t been for a weekend, sometimes what’s going to be said out there will affect how we’re going to brief later. So those are the kind of tactical concerns we raise at a Spokesperson’s Office, and when you say you’re raising it up, that means that some of the policy makers are also going to be taking a look at it.
I can’t speak in this specific case to the exact context of who’s being referred to, but in general terms, when we as public affairs officers or spokespeople inside of an organization are negotiating online, sometimes we make additional reference to other individuals or other policy makers. So that’s the context that I can provide in general terms about how we operate as press spokespeople. And we very frequently have discussions, whether it’s over email or other format, about what are the – not only the best language to use but the best tactics in terms of explaining what we’re talking about to journalists and to others and to the American people.

Elise Labott: You seem to suggest that the emails that – just reading snippets of the emails don’t really fully and accurately describe the concerns that you had. So why not just release the full emails, that the full emails will show that this wasn’t about some kind cover-up?

Patrick Ventrell: Well, first to say on that, Elise, we’ve shared these emails with the Congress --

Elise Labott: I know --

Patrick Ventrell: -- but let me finish – and that’s been part of their concern, was to see a number of these documents, which we’ve shared – thousands of documents, indeed, including these. In terms of any redaction that would be necessary in an entire email chain in terms of sensitive or personally identifiable information or other things that go through the standard redaction process to make public release, that’s a separate process that goes through the lawyers and I can’t speak to that on an individual document. But suffice it to say, to be transparent with the Congress who had – who wanted some of this information, we shared it with the Congress. Okay?

 more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/05/10/2635689/facing-questions-on-benghazi-the.html#storylink=cpy
So the takeaway from the State Dept press briefing?  To quote the e-mails is to "cherry pick" from them.  To release the e-mails?  The State Dept then insists that there were these conversations going on around the e-mails that aren't captured in the e-mails so even that wouldn't provide an accurate picture.  The State Dept appears to have a huge problem with accuracy.

Ed Pilkington (Guardian) points out, "The media swirl around the talking point emails puts Carney himself into a tight spot. In a press briefing last November, he told reporters that the extent of White House and State Department involvement in editing the talking points was a "single adjustment" to change the word 'consulate' to 'diplomatic facility' as the building in Benghazi that came under attack was not a US consulate."

Yesterday, John Glaser (Antiwar.com) offered his guess on the cover-up:

I can only speculate, but my best guess is that they wanted to avoid the political costs of another terrorist attack on American interests that was only made possible because of the U.S.-NATO bombing war in Libya aimed at toppling the Gadhafi regime. The decision to change the regime in Libya and excite the civil war had long-ranging consequences, from destabilizing the entire north African region to bolstering the presence and influence of al-Qaeda affiliated groups.
According to a book written by former Navy SEAL Jack Murphy and former Army Ranger Brandon Webb, the Benghazi attack was retaliation for the secret raids Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan directing on militias in Libya at the time.

Last night on Erin Burnett OutFront (CNN), US Senator Rand Paul told Erin:

I never have quite understood the cover up or if it was intentional or incompetence.  But something went on.  I mean they had talking points like they were trying to make it out to be about a movie when everybody seemed to be on the ground telling them it had nothing to do with a movie. I don't know if this was for political reasons.  I've always actually suspected although I have no evidence that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria. In the week preceding this, the New York Times has reported that  there was a Turkish ship taking Libyan arms and giving them to Syrians. And they interviewed the commander of the boat, the captain of the boat talked about the supplies. I don't know were they trying to obscure that there was an arms operation going on the CIA annex? I'm not sure exactly what was going on but  I think the questions ought to be asked and answered.

the associated press
sameer n. yacoub 





bad news

bad news for tv watchers.  last night, marcia noted that nbc had axed 'deception' and:

I checked and checked but couldn't find any other shows axed by the big four today.

They're supposed to be announcing their schedules shortly so there's going to be a lot of announcements about shows getting the axe -- announcements coming out all at once.

today 5 shows got the axe.  maybe more, i just found 5.

'touch' got the axe.  that's fox.  the others were nbc: 'whitney,' 'guys with kids,' '1600 penn' and 'up all night.'

the article notes ratings.  'whitney's are printed. that show should have continued based on its ratings.  not only are they higher than some shows nbc is bring back, it's also true that whitney was a hitter, it led the night.  it didn't get a lead-in.  so it brought its own audience and thursdays on nbs this season could have used 'whitney's audience.

it was a huge mistake.

'up all night'? the huge mistake was bringing it back for a 2nd season after they decided to change everything people loved from season 1.

i liked '1600 penn.'  i know i was probably the only 1 who did but i did like it.  'guys with kids' was okay.


i'm trying to think if i saw the season finale or if it's not aired yet.

they really need a wrap up episode.

if any of the 5 were your favorites shows or show, you have my sympathies.  sorry to be the 1 bringing the bad news.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Thursday, May 9, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri stomps his feet over the possibility of peace to the north, the counterinsurgency practice in Iraq gets evaluated by a US colonel, we look at WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning and Lynne Stewart, service organizations offer testimony at today's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing and more.

Lynne Stewart is a US political prisoner.  For the 'crime' of issuing a press release, she was eventually tossed in prison.  The'crime' happened on Attorney General Janet Reno's watch.  Reno has her detractors who think she was far too tough as Attorney General.  She also has her supporters who see her as a moderate.  No one saw her as 'soft.'  Reno had her Justice Department review what happened.  There was no talk of a trial because there was no crime.  No law was broken.  The Justice Department imposes guidelines -- not written by Congress, so not laws -- on attorneys.  Lynne was made to review the guidelines and told not to break it again.  That was her 'punishment' under Janet Reno.  Bully Boy Bush comes into office and the already decided incident becomes a way for Attorney General John Ashcroft to try to build a name for himself. He goes on David Letterman's show to announce, after 9-11, that they're prosecuting Lynne for terrorism.

Eventually tossed in prison?  Even Bully Boy Bush allowed Lynne to remain out on appeal.  It's only when Barack Obama becomes president that Lynne gets tossed in prison.  It's only under Barack that the US Justice Depart disputes the judge's sentence and demands a harsher one (under the original sentence Lynne would be out now).  Lynne's cancer has returned.

Her husband Ralph Poynter  and Mya Shone and Ralph Schoenman provide an important update this week:

A major milestone has been reached in the struggle for Lynne Stewart's freedom. Lynne Stewart wrote on April 26 to confirm that the Warden at FMC Carswell recommended Compassionate Release to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
“So Happy that the Compassionate Release was granted at Carswell and we are on the road!!!
"Who DID It? --- The People Yes – and we certainly deserve a VICTORY and this is one for sure!!”
With this dramatic development, the International Campaign to Save the Life of Lynne Stewart crossed a critical threshold. We directed our attention immediately to Charles E. Samuels, Jr., the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Following two expedited communications from former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a probation officer charged with inspecting the residence designated for Lynne Stewart's recovery was dispatched to the home of her son, attorney Geoffrey Stewart. Soon afterwards, we were notified that the residence was approved.
Thus, another hurdle has been overcome, paving the way for Lynne Stewart's Compassionate Release.
There is no time to lose. Lynne Stewart has been in quarantine for several weeks at FMC Carswell since her white blood count dropped precipitously. As Ramsey Clark wrote to BOP Director Samuels:
"Further medical tests reveal that the cancer that had metastasized rapidly to her lungs, lymph nodes and shoulder remains aggressive. If the series of chemotherapy treatments slowed its spread in certain areas, it has not attenuated in her lungs. … The sustained treatment and preparations by the medical team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City are critical to her survival.”
This is the moment to intensify our global mobilization. We must prevail upon the director of the Bureau of Prisons to file the motion for compassionate release with Judge John Koetl, the sentencing judge.
Among the latest signers are: Fr. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, Bianca Jagger, Margaret Ratner Kunstler, Mark Lane, Noam Chomsky, Medea Benjamin, Rosa Clemente, Kathy Kelly, James Ridgeway and William Blum. 

On Law and Disorder Radio last month, Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) provided the work address for BP Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr.:

Charles E. Samuels Jr.
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534

Lynne's been there when people have needed her -- everyone from so-called 'respectable' people to people no one else would help.  That's how she earned the title of "The People's Attorney."  She never should have been put in prison in the first place and she needs to be out now to get the treatment she needs, to have the support system of her family and her friends (and a support system is very important when you're being treated for cancer).  She turns 74 this year.  She's not a threat to anyone and she needs to be home.

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.  I referred in the Tuesday snapshot to how Julian loses his case.  A number of people want clarification.  If the goal is to get Julian Assange out of London to Ecuador, then they're again bungling everything.

Julian Assange is a divisive figure.  You may not like that fact if he's your hero or someone you support but the ugly truth needs to be told and it needs to be recognized.  What his legal team wrongly thinks is that they can 'humanize' Julian Assange.  No.

That will not happen.  Assange is not an unknown where the problem is people just don't know him.  He's not a cypher that you can write a new pattern over.  He is a known.  And he pisses a number of people off.  If you want him out of the Embassy in London, you need to quit lying and start recognizing reality.

Before the rape allegations emerged, Julian Assange were already divisive.  Long before they emerged, South Park was mocking him (he was a rat).  He's also seen as an ego maniac.  We can list all of his negatives but, if you're honest with yourself, you know how he's seen.

The key to Assange's freedom is not Celebrity Profile Assange!

And every time one of those appears, he looks stupid (and trivial) to all but his small fan base.  That's not enough support.  To garner more support, his legal team needs to grasp that WikiLeaks is more popular than Julian.  When he gives interviews, he needs to be talking about WikiLeaks.  No one needs his thoughts on today's 'hot topics.'  He needs to give interviews where he talks about what WikiLeaks has done but, most importantly, what WikiLeaks can do, what's up next.

Julian Assange's value is limited.  He's one person and not someone who polls well.  (As his legal team knows from repeat polling but they keep kidding themselves that they're just one soft feature away from convincing the people that they actually love Assange.)  WikiLeaks is where the value is -- provided WikiLeaks is publishing.  WikiLeaks as a curio from the past?  Not going to motivate people.  WikiLeaks still active today (which it is) and that the focus of any Julian Assange interview is what lets his issues become issues that matter.

You tie him into WikiLeaks, you make the case for WikiLeaks.  He doesn't become more likable in the process but he's off the table.  It's no longer bout what Julian does as Julian Assange it's about what WikiLeaks does.  I've made this argument repeatedly.  People nod (I'm thinking of two of his attorneys) and claim insight.  But then we get the nonsense like the Chris Hedges interview.  Chris is going to softball Julian.  He's going to fluff.  He's the best (most favorable) interviewer Julian could have.  And Julian and Michael Ratner wasted that interview with crap like what Julian Assange thinks about gay people in the military.

No one cares.  Leave aside that the repeated use of "homosexual" at a time when most say "gay and lesbian" made it seem as if Julian was ridiculing gays and lesbians, there was no need for the topic and it had nothing to do with WikiLeaks.  Every time he goes off topic, he risks saying something offensive and his favorables are so low he can't afford to turn off any more people.

The topic has to be WikiLeaks.  By hard selling its past impact, its current work and, most important, where the future leads for WikiLeaks, you're suddenly on the issues that more people care about and you're making a case for extraditing Assange by sketching out something much more important than one person.

Matt Sledge (Huffington Post) reports, "Fed up with the military's limits on access to the court martial of Bradley Manning, the Army private who has admitted to sending hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents to the transparency organization WikiLeaks, a nonprofit group announced Thursday that it is crowdfunding a court stenographer to create daily trial transcripts." That's a topic that should have been raised with Chris Hedges.  That's the sort of thing that WikiLeaks needs to be doing.

Vivienne Westwood revolutionized fashion beginning with the punk movement in the 70s so she was a natural for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's gala this week celebrating the exhibit PUNK: Chaos To Courture (which runs through August 14th).  Karen Dacre (Evening Standard) reports, "The inimitable Vivienne Westwood -- a vision in a pale pink kimono and grey ruched waist dress from her own label -- led the charge.  And rightly so, the British designer is the godmother of the era this whole evening was devised to celebrate." But not everyone was impressed.  Lucy Waterlow (Daily Mail) explains that, on the red carpet, Vivienne was questioned by Vogue's Billy Norwich on a live feed and Norwich quickly cut her off.  Norwich was bothered by her brooch and her discussing it.  Michael Dickinson (CounterPunch) explains Vivienne's brooch was a large photo of Bradley Manning with the word "TRUTH" on it and that Norwich cut her off after Vivienne said:

The most important thing is my jewelry, which is a picture of Bradley Manning.  I’m here to promote Bradley.  He needs public support for what’s going on with secret trials and trying to lock him away.  He’s the bravest of the brave, and that’s what I really want to say more than anything. Because punk, when I did punk all those years ago, my motive was the same: Justice, and to try to have a better world. It really was about that. I’ve got different methods nowadays.

The background on whistle blower Bradley Manning.  Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions.  Independent.ie adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

Counterinsurgency is war against a native people.  WikiLeaks' counterinsurgency folder is here.  Anthropologist David H. Price is a professor at St. Martin's University.  He is the author of several books, most recently 2011's Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State.  WikiLeaks released the US military's "Army Stryker Brigade Initial Impressions Report on Operations in Mousl, Iraq" and they feature Price's analysis of the document which includes:

The "lessons learned" component of this section provides a clear view of the military's expectations of how anthropological or cultural knowledge is to be used to meet military needs. In observing that "cultural understanding is an endless endeavor that must be overcome leveraging whatever assets are available," the military's choice of "leveraging," beautifully clarifies how the military conceptualizes anthropologists and others providing occupying troops in Iraq with cultural information: they are seen as priers of knowledge; tools to be used for the extraction and use of knowledge ("assets") in ways that military commanders see fit.
It was concerns over this sort of "leveraging" (the functional use of anthropologists as pry-bars deployed to act upon human and cultural "assets" used by the military) that recently led the American Anthropological Association's Executive Board to declare its disapproval of the military's Human Terrain Systems as "an unacceptable application of anthropological expertise."
Obviously, the limited scope of this 2004 Center for Army Lessons Learned report precludes addressing fundamental issues raised by the Bush administration's reliance on false pretenses to illegally invade Iraq. Such issues are not among those included with the designated "Lessons Learned"-because at this level, the army follows rather than sets policy. But the same cannot be said for the free-agent anthropologists and other social scientists who are not part of the military and are now working as contractors on Human Terrain Teams "leveraging" culture in service of the military occupation of Iraq. These individuals willfully choose to ignore the ethical alarms being sounded by their peers as they voluntarily surrender their disciplinary skills to better "leverage" cultural "assets" for whatever ends the military dictates.
Given the problems identified in this 2004 report, it makes sense that the army would strive for a more culturally nuanced occupation; after all, it is the nature of occupying armies to seek to subjugate and occupy nations (legally, or illegally) with as little trouble as can be arranged. But anthropology's abetment of this cause slides it askew from any central ethical principles of the field, and it reveals something of the lesser demons of the field's nature. Granted, anthropology's past has plenty of shameful instances of anthropologists applying their skills to leverage occupied peoples in colonial and neocolonial settings, but the common contemporary understanding that such manipulative leverages are part of a shameful past does not influence those seeking their fortune outside the ethical standards of their discipline's mainstream.

That's counterinsurgency.   Lawal Tsalha (Peace and Conflict Monitor) speaks with Iraq War veteran, Col Gian Gentile, about his time in Iraq.

[Lawal Tsalha:] The idea of counterinsurgency is to protect the population…

[Col Gian Gentile:] Yes, that’s the idea.

[Lawal Tsalha:]  Can you call the Iraq counterinsurgency a success?

[Col Gian Gentile:]  No!

[Lawal Tsalha:]  Why?

[Col Gian Gentile:] [pause] Counterinsurgency is a tactical method, right? And in war, tactics are never ends in themselves. Tactics are supposed to achieve some political goal, some higher good, right? What has United States has achieved in Iraq? Let’s just look at the numbers – not just for the United States, also Iraq, but first the United States: the government has spent close to $3 trillion dollars for 8.8 years of occupation and war in Iraq, has had 4,883 soldiers killed, tens of thousands with life changing wounds, that many more thousands suffering from PTSD, right? Then let’s look at the Iraqi side: close to a quarter of a million killed, close to a million displaced from their original homes, only a few of them returning. And then, back to the American perspective, we’ve replaced one dictator, Saddam Hussein, with arguably another, Nouri al-Malaki, who is allied closely with USA’s regional adversary, Iran. So looking at all of that, to say the counterinsurgency as a tactical method has worked – I don’t see how one can justify that based on what it cost the United States and what outcome has been achieved there.
And then, the other question you’ve asked: did counterinsurgency work in terms of protecting the population, well, it’s hard to say that counterinsurgency worked to protect the population if close to a million Iraqis have been killed. And then, further with that, if you look at the narrative that tries to show that, once General Petraeus took over in February 2007, he instilled new, better counterinsurgency methods, the fact is that in 2007, the number of Iraqi civilians that died at the hands of American operations and firepower tripled during the surge as compared to previous years.
So that’s why I say, with all of that: no, counterinsurgency has not worked.

On a possible planned-use of violence in Iraq, Murtaza Hussain (Al Jazeera) offers this:

Away from the focus of major news media - numbed as it has become to stories of unconscionable Iraqi suffering - Iraq this past April recorded its deadliest month in five years, with over 700 killed in sectarian violence throughout the country. Describing the aftermath of a deadly car bombing in his neighbourhood, school teacher Ibrahim Ali gave voice to the dread and foreboding felt by many Iraqis for their country:

"We asked the students to remain inside the classrooms because we were concerned about their safety… [they] were panicking and some of them started to cry…. We have been expecting this violence against Shiites due to the rising sectarian tension in the country."
The unacknowledged truth behind the past decade of bloodletting in Iraq is that the country itself effectively ceased to exist after the 2003 US invasion. The northern province of Iraqi Kurdistan is today an independent country in all but name and is increasingly moving towards formal recognition of this fact - while Sunni and Shia Iraqis have come to see themselves more as distinct entities than as part of a cohesive nation. Iraqi Sunnis, a once-empowered minority, have taken up arms in recent months against the Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki and have staked their terms in a manner which acknowledges the irredeemable nature of a continued Iraqi state. In the words of Sunni cleric Mohammad Taha at a rally in Samarra:
"Al-Maliki has brought the country to the abyss... this leaves us with two options: Either civil war or the formation of our own autonomous region."
There is evidence to suggest that this state of affairs was not an unintended consequence of the 2003 invasion. The American architects of the Iraq War - while couching their justifications for war in the rhetoric of liberation - had for years previously openly acknowledged and predicted that an invasion would result in the death of Iraq as a cohesive state. In a follow-up to their 1996 policy paper"A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" - a report published by leading neoconservative intellectuals, including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, which advocated a radical reshaping of the Middle East using American military power - the report's authors acknowledged the inevitability of Iraq's demise post-invasion.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 136 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  Today?  National Iraqi News Agency notes 1 rebel was shot dead in Mosul, a Mosul armed clash has left 1 bystander dead and another injured, Iyad Khalil Ismael was shot dead in front of his Mosul home (he was the director of a polling center), Ziyad al-Hamdani was shot dead inside a Mosul barbershop (he was the manager of the National Alliance in Mosul),a Baji roadside bombing claimed 3 lives (one was a police officer),  a Hawija bicycle bombing claimed the life of 1 child and left eleven people injured,  and Nouri's forces shot dead a Mosul suicide bomber. Alsumaria notes the suicide bomber claimed 3 lives (plus his own).  Alsumaria also notes a Tuz Khurmatu cafe bombing which left at least fifteen people injured.  All Iraq News adds that a Mosul car bombing left one child injured. Not all the violence succeeded in its goals/aims.  NINA notes Duraid Hikmat survived an assassination attempt by bombing in Mosul today (he is the adviser on Christian Affairs to Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi).  That's 12 dead and twenty-eight injured -- and that's just some of the reported violence today.  Earlier this week, another journalist was killed in Iraq.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization issued the following today

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova today deplored the death of radio journalist Muwaffak al-Ani, who was killed in an explosion in west Baghdad on Monday 6 May.

“I am saddened and deeply concerned to hear of the murder of Muwaffak al-Ani,” said the Director-General. “He was one of Iraq’s best known media voices; a man dedicated to his profession and determined to pass his knowledge and skills to a new generation of journalists. He will be sorely missed, in a country emerging from many years of conflict and trying to rebuild itself.
“In such situations, the media has a special role to play.  Journalists must be allowed to work in safety - to fulfill their duty of informing the public, and to uphold the right of freedom of expression. Impunity for crimes against them must not be tolerated, and I trust the Iraqi authorities will do everything within their power to bring those responsible for this attack, which also claimed several other lives, to justice.” 
Muwaffak al-Ani was one of Iraq’s longest-serving broadcasters. He began his career in radio and television in 1962 at Radio Baghdad and had worked for several of the country’s major networks since then. He also taught radio journalism. 
According to media reports he was killed, along with his brother and several others, when a bomb exploded outside the Mansour Mosque in west Baghdad during evening prayer on Monday.
Muwaffak al-Ani is the third journalist killed in Iraq over the past 12 months. He is remembered on the dedicated web page UNESCO Condemns the Killing of Journalists

While the United Nations was mourning the loss of one Iraqi journalists today, they were also celebrating the work of three Iraqi journalists:

9 May 2013 – Three Iraqi women journalists have been selected as the winners of a United Nations contest which seeks to highlight the everyday challenges faced by women living in the Middle Eastern country.
The stories submitted by Suha Audah, Enas Jabbar and Shatha al-Shabibi were selected by an independent panel for their depiction of women’s situation in Iraq.
Suha Audah’s article describes the pressure of traditional values on women practicing sports in Mosul, Enas Jabbar relates the suffering of women subjected to abduction and Shatha al-Shabibi addresses the sensitive issue of honour crimes, widespread in traditional Iraqi society.
“The selection was difficult since the quality of the articles received was high; most stories portrayed brilliantly the challenges faced by women in Iraq,” said the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs, Gyorgy Busztin, who was a member of the jury.
The three winners received their prizes during a special ceremony organized at the UN Compound on 1 May, as part of a roundtable discussion on women and media to mark World Press Freedom Day.
Ms. Audah, a freelance journalist from Mosul, highlighted the importance of such awards for Iraqi women journalists who are facing several difficulties in their daily work. “Women should be able to impose themselves,” she said. “However, when I claim women’s rights, some people label me as sexist.”
The winning stories were anonymously selected by an independent panel composed of Mr. Busztin, the head of the Public Information Office (PIO), Eliana Nabaa, the Senior Political Advisor to UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and former journalist Hussain Hindawi and the representative for the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women, Frances Guy.

Still on journalism, BBC News notes, "Already being described by some as the 'forgotten war', America's fraught military expedition into Iraq now rarely captures news headlines."  The link goes to a video about the new book Photojournalists on War: The Untold Story from Iraq.

Yesterday a historic moment took place.  Ayla Jean Yackley noted it with "Kurdish rebels begin Turkey withdrawal, fueling peace hopes" (Saudi Gazette).  A decades long conflict between the PKK and the Turkish government had a chance of ending and that's all it took to upset the insane thug Nouri al-Maliki.   AP reports that Nouri is insisting no members of the PKK will be coming into Iraq.

The PKK's already in Iraq and the whole world knows it.  That's why Nouri's whines about Turkish war planes bombing were never taken seriously -- he whined in 2006 and then tabled it for two years before he began whining nonstop, as though he were a baby that had missed a feeding.  Most western media outlets -- CNN, the Times of London, the Telegraph of London, CBS News, etc -- took their tours of PKK headquarters by 2006, if not sooner.  That meant that traveled to the mountain area of northern Iraq.

That's the area that the Turkish warplanes would target and they did that based on intelligence from the US CIA -- a CIA base was set up on Turkey's southern border as part of the 2011 drawdown.  Surveillance drones fly over Iraq from that  location.  Raheem Salman, Isabel Coles and Jon Hemming (Reuters) observe, "The central government's ability to intervene directly in the northern enclave is therefore extremely limited, but Baghdad's statement is the first indication of its stance on the process that has raised hopes of peace."  Denise Natali (Al-Monitor) offers a look at the PKK and how Natali feels it fits into the KRG:

The last six months, however, have seen a shift in PKK tactics inside the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Whereas the PKK leader in Kandil, Murat Karaliyan, had previously indicated his willingness to work with [Massoud] Barzani in 2009, he now opposes electing him to a third term as president. The PKK is using its networks and social media to incite local opposition against Barzani and the Iraqi Kurdish parties. For instance, it is encouraging local populations in the Iraqi Kurdish-Iranian border town of Halabja to criticize the KRG and Barzani for lack of services. One of the PKK websites has inflammatory photos and remarks about Barzani's leadership, as well as other KRG political party leaders.
This shift reflects a reaction to Barzani’s growing power — including his close ties to Erdogan — and his claims or ambitions to become a leader of all the Kurds, expressed in Kurdish as “president of Kurdistan,” which the PKK rejects. More specifically, the PKK shift coincides with the illness of Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq and leader of the PUK, which has further weakened the PUK and limited any serious competition for the KDP and Barzani's power. In fact, the rump of the PUK — known as the "Gang of Four" — may have called for a separate list in the planned September elections to reflect its differences and attempts to challenge the KDP. Yet the PUK leadership continues to support and depend upon Barzani as president, particularly as a financial patron.
This is why the PKK is now calling for a “Kurdistan supported by Goran.” Goran remains the only secular Kurdish nationalist party that seeks to remove Barzani from office while pressing for a parliamentary and not presidential system for the region. Goran also has indicated its support for the PKK and affirmed the PYD as the representative of the Kurds in Syria, posing another direct challenge to Barzani and the KDP. The PKK-Goran alliance also is based on shared concerns about Turkey’s regional power and the need to check Erdogan’s influence over Iraqi Kurds and in Syria.

I have no idea whether Natali missed it or just doesn't believe KRG President Massoud Barzani on the topic, but we've noted this before and we'll note it again, Saturday NINA reported that Barzani issued a statement declaring he had no interest in seeking a third term and that he had not asked either that the KRG's Presidency Law (which limits people to two terms as president) or that his term be extended.

Yesterday, we noted the House Oversight Committee's hearing on Benghazi.   Ava covered it with "Crazies on the Committee (Ava)," Kat with "If today were a movie . . .,"  Wally with "Biggest Coward at today's Committee hearing" and Ruth, who's owned this topic from the beginning in this community, covered it with "An order to stand down." This morning we attended the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on   The first panel was the VA's Dr. Robert L. Jesse accompanied by Susan Blauert (Deputy Assistant General Counsel).  The second panel was Vietnam Veterans of America's Rick Weidman, Samueli Institute's Dr. Wayne B. Jonas, VetsFirst's Heather Ansley, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans' Matt Gornick and the VA's former Chief of Staff Thomas Bowman.   We're focusing on the second panel.

Rick Weidman raised an important issue early on.  The Vietnam Veterans of America classifies a homeless veteran as a veteran without a permanent home; however, the VA defines a veteran as homeless only if they are on the street.  Weidman pointed out that the first definition is more accurate and that veterans going from couch to couch to avoid being on the street are already homeless.

Dr. Wayne Jonas is calling for true integrated health care that would integrate alternative medicine into the process. 

Chair Bernie Sanders: Dr. Jonas, let me start with you, if I might.  As you may or may not know, your statement is fairly revolutionary.  As I hear it, what you are suggesting is that what in recent years has been called "complimentary medicine," alternative medicine, really should be integrated into our health care system.  What you are suggesting is that if we move aggressively in areas like meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic care, I suspect nutrition,  and other areas, we can ease suffering for veterans and we can save the system substantial sums of money because many of these things have limited side effects.  Is my characterization correct and, if so, what would you suggest that we do with the VA?  How aggressive should we be?  The VA has already made efforts in all these areas.  They've been probably ahead of the curve when compared to the medical health care system in general.  What would you like to see the VA do and is my characterization correct.

Dr. Wayne Jonas: [. . . Microphone not on]  could be correct provided that these processes are integrated in the proper way, they're not simply tagged on as if they were another treatment for another condition and a specialty is created.  So my first suggestion is that the VA -- and they have made a lot of progress in these areas -- get outside help.  And what I mean by that is that by definition these things are not part of the mainstream system -- that's why they're called complimentary, alternative medicine.  They're outside of the way things are normally done.  That means the skills that are part of them are not normally part of the educational part of the practitioners that are in the VA.  They're not integrated into medical records, for example, they're not part of the benefit system  and they're not tightly linked to the priorities such as the personalized person-centered care center.  So we'll go into a patient centered medical home -- in the VA that's a PAC -- and we'll look for whether these practices are even on the radar screen.  In most cases they're not.  Or they're on the side -- they're not fully integrated.  We'll go into the distribution system for primary care enhancement, for example, called the scan system.  That infrastructure is there to do it but you don't see interactive practices as part of that.  There needs to be a retraining program and an evaluation and quality assurance program that's coordinated with current existing practices so that they're systematically designed and evaluated as they're put in to the systems.

Chair Bernie Sanders: Are there any health care systems in this country which are doing a better job than the VA that we can learn from?  

Dr. Wayne Jonas:  In these areas, there are.  And I suggest that the VA really look at some of those care systems that have demonstrated improvements in pain, improvement in function, reduction in cost in those areas. There's a number of them.  The Alliance Center for example up in 

Chair Bernie Sanders:  I'm sorry?

Dr. Wayne Jonas:  The Alliance Center for example up in Minnesota has a wonderful in-patient example of how to integrate complimentary practices into mainstream in a systematic way.

Chair Bernie Sanders:  And there results have been positive?

Dr. Wayne Jonas:   Very positive, yes.  Reduction in pain, anxiety, costs, length of stay in the hospital, this type of thing.  There are some examples within the VA also but they tend to be champion driven so if you have a passionate person in the VA, it's done.  Salt Lake City had a wonderful one, for example, that showed documented and published major improvements in outcomes, reductions in costs --  including an impact on homelessness and that type of thing -- through a whole person integrated practice.  But when the medical director of that retired and left, it largely went away.  What happened wasn't embedded into the system, into the benefits, for example, into the training and the education of the entire system.  So these are the kinds of things that need to be coordinated.

Chair Bernie Sanders: My impression, scientific impression, is that all over the country, people are gravitating more to these type of procedures.  My impression also, having visited a number of VA centers, is that many veterans look forward and want to access these types of alternative treatments.  Is that accurate?

Dr. Wayne Jonas:  That's absolutely right.  Surveys done, at least on the DoD side, and also on the VA side, show that the use of these practices tends to be even higher in those populations than they are out in civilian populations.  Especially for stress-related pain and those types of conditions, mental health conditions.

Chair Bernie Sanders:  The VA and all of us are wrestling with the epidemic of PTSD, it's a huge problem.  You touched in your testimony that you think there are treatments, alternative treatments. Say a word on that.

Dr. Wayne Jonas:  Well I mentioned two.  One, a relaxation treatment that we tested out at Camp Pendleton that was delivered by nurses.  It induced a deep relaxation.  It actually involved training skills -- in other words, training veterans and their families how to do that.  We're doing another one of those programs down at Fort Hood and some VAs that show improvement in that.  Those are the kind of practices that they're skill based practices.  They're not treatments, per se.  They're not something where you have a pill or you have even a needle or a manipulation where you call a professional.  They're self-care practices. 

Chair Bernie Sanders:  We've done that within the DoD but there's no reason, I presume, that it couldn't be done in the VA?

Dr. Wayne Jonas:  There are mind, body and relaxation practices going on in the DoD.  Very few of them have been evaluated.  There have been some that have had impact in those areas.  They need to be designed with experts from the outside that get involved, subject matter experts, and done in coordination with the VA practitioner so that they learn how to actually deliver them because they're the implementation experts.  That's why a team approach is required in those areas.

Ava will note Committee Chair Bernie Sanders at Trina's site tonight and Kat will report on Ranking Member Richard Burr at her own site.

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