Monday, August 21, 2017

Best movie of 2017 so far

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Hope you guys are enjoying ! The soundtrack is also out now, check out here:

LOGAN LUCKY is the best film of 2017 so far.


I loved it.

Steven Soderbergh is one of the great talents of all time.

In college, our campus bookstore had SEX, LIES & VIDEOTAPE.

I bought that book (of the screenplay) and read the script as well as the making of story over and over.

Steven is a genius.

He's funny when you don't expect it and he's always catching you off guard.

He makes films that are worth watching because they're visual and surprising.

LOGAN LUCKY is a must-see.

Not a big Katie Holmes fan but even she's great in it.






Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 
Monday, August 21, 2017.  Yet another operation to 'liberate' Iraq.


Saturday (in the US, it was already Sunday in Iraq), Prime Minister Hayder al-Abadi announced the start of operations against Tal Afar.

Tal Afar?

Yet another city controlled by the Islamic State.

Like Mosul, it's in Nineveh Province.  Unlike Mosul, it's population isn't in the millions.  The city is estimated to have less than 100,000 or a little over 200,000 depending on the source.  The bulk of the population is said to be Turkmen.



ISIS fired Guided Missile caused considerable damage to Iraqi Forces Abram Tank in outskirts of TalAfar City yesterday, West of Mosul.
 
 


TULSA WORLD explains "surrender or die" is the choice Hayder has presented the Islamic State with.  He did so in televised address where he played dress up.

ALJAZEERA notes, "Thousands of civilians are leaving the Iraqi city of Tal Afar as the army tries to retake it from ISIL."  BBC NEWS also points out that "the UN has warned that thousands fleeing the area are at risk, trekking for hours in extreme heat."

As yet another operation begins in Iraq, this observation is offered.

It's noteworthy that the most effective forces against ISIS have been America's adversaries: Hezbollah, Syrian army, Russia & Iraq PMUs.
 
 


The US Defense Dept announced this morning:

In Iraq, coalition military forces conducted nine strikes consisting of 84 engagements against ISIS targets:
-- Near Asad, a strike suppressed an ISIS tactical unit.
-- Near Qaim, a strike destroyed an ISIS supply cache.
-- Near Qayyarah, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS headquarters.
-- Near Rawah, two strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed a staging area and an ISIS barge.

-- Near Tal Afar, four strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units; destroyed five rocket-propelled-grenade systems, four tunnel entrances, four fighting positions, four vehicle-borne bombs, two tactical vehicles, two weapons caches, two supply caches, a command-and-control node, a medium machine gun and an anti-tank weapon; damaged five supply routes; and suppressed 32 mortar systems.


Ahmed Sami (THE SCOTSMAN) reminds, "Along with Tal Afar, IS militants are still fully in control of the town of Hawija west of Kirkuk, as well as the towns of Qaim, Rawa and Ana in western Iraq near the Syrian border."



In other news, religious issues continue.

Iraqi Christian leader fears rise of ‘new Islamic State’
 
 

Paul Singer (USA TODAY) reports:

Stephen Rasche says the next six weeks will be critical for saving some of the world’s oldest Christian communities from extinction.
Rasche is coordinating a task force trying to return tens of thousands of Christian families to the ancient Iraqi towns from which they were driven by ISIS three years ago.


Last week, the US State Dept issued the 2016 International Religious Freedom Annual Report.  From the report:

The U.S. government estimates the population of Iraq to be 38 million (July 2016 estimate). According to 2010 government statistics, the most recent available, 97 percent of the population is Muslim. Shia Muslims, predominantly Arabs but including Turkmen, Faili (Shia) Kurds, and others, constitute 55 to 60 percent of the population. Sunni Muslims make up approximately 40 percent of the population: approximately 15 percent of the total population are Sunni Kurds, while approximately 24 percent are Sunni Arabs, and the remaining 1 percent are Sunni Turkmen. Shia, although predominantly located in the south and east, comprise the majority in Baghdad and have communities in most parts of the country. Sunnis form the majority in the west, center, and the north of the country.
Christian leaders estimate there are fewer than 250,000 Christians remaining in the country. The Christian population has declined over the past 15 years from a pre-2002 population estimate of between 800,000 and 1.4 million persons. Approximately 67 percent of Christians are Chaldean Catholics (an eastern rite of the Roman Catholic Church); nearly 20 percent are members of the Assyrian Church of the East. The remainder are Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Anglican, and other Protestant. Only 50 evangelical Christian families reportedly remain in the IKR, down from approximately 5,000 in 2013.
Yezidi leaders report most of the approximately 350,000 to 400,000 Yezidis reside in the north. Estimates of the size of the Sabaean-Mandaean community vary. According to Sabaean-Mandaean leaders, 10,000 remain in the country, mainly in the south with small pockets in the IKR and Baghdad. Bahai leaders report fewer than 2,000 members, spread throughout the country in small groups. The Shabaks constitute about 350,000-400,000 people, two-thirds to three-fourths of whom are Shia and the rest Sunni, and are mostly located in Ninewa. According to Kaka’i (also known as Yarsani) activists, their community has approximately 300,000 members, traditionally located in the Ninewa Plains, but also in villages southeast of Kirkuk, as well as in Diyala, Erbil, and Karbala. The Jewish representative in the KRG Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs (MERA) reports 430 Jewish families reside in the IKR. Fewer than 10 Jewish families are known to reside in Baghdad.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq was 3.06 million at year’s end. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the IOM estimate one million citizens remain internally displaced as a result of sectarian violence dating from 2006 and 2008 before ISIS became active. During the conflict with ISIS beginning in 2014, up to 3.5 million persons were internally displaced. Difficulties in gaining access to IDPs in areas of conflict, as well as the government’s limited capacity to register IDPs, means estimates of religious minorities among the IDPs are imprecise. According to international sources, more than 60 percent of Iraqi IDPs are Arab Sunni, approximately 17 percent are Yezidi, approximately 8 percent are Turkmen Shia, approximately 3 percent are Arab Shia and 3 percent are Kurdish Sunni. Shabak, Chaldean, and Assyrian Christians, Turkmen Sunni, and Kurdish Shia account for approximately 6 percent of the IDP population.

[. . .]

National identity cards denote the holder’s religion. The only religions which may be listed on the national identity card are Christian, Sabaean-Mandean, Yezidi, and Muslim, and there is no distinction between Shia and Sunni Muslim affiliation nor designation of Christian denominations. Individuals practicing other faiths may only receive identity cards if they self-identify as Muslim, Yezidi, Sabaean-Mandean, or Christian. Without an official identity card, non-Muslims and those who convert to faiths other than Islam may not register their marriages, enroll their children in public school, acquire passports, or obtain some government services. Passports do not specify religion.

[. . .]

There continued to be reports that local police and Shia militia killed Sunni detainees. International and local NGOs reported the government continued to use the antiterrorism law as a pretext for detaining Sunnis without timely access to due process. Community leaders said forced conversion was the de facto result of the national identity card law. Some Yezidi and Christian leaders continued to report harassment and abuses by KRG Peshmerga and Asayish forces in the portion of Ninewa Province controlled by the KRG or contested between the central government and the KRG. Displaced members of certain religious groups report they were prevented from returning to their homes after their cities were liberated from ISIS. Yezidi groups said the presence of armed affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Sinjar and the imposition of security restrictions on the district by the KRG hindered the return of IDPs. In May KRG representatives revoked permission for Yazda, the largest Yezidi-run humanitarian and political advocacy organization, to operate in IDP camps. Officials restored access in October. In some parts of the country, non-Muslim religious minorities, as well as Sunni and Shia in areas where they formed the minority, faced harassment and restrictions from the authorities. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continued to deploy police and army personnel to protect religious pilgrimage routes and sites, as well as places of worship, during Islamic and non-Islamic religious holidays. The KRG also offered support and funding to some non-Muslim minorities, but other minorities in the IKR, such as evangelical Christians, faced difficulties registering and proselytizing. Because religion, politics, and ethnicity were often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) reported evidence of torture and ill-treatment of Sunni detainees by Iraqi Security Forces (including PMF fighters), as well as the deaths of Sunni men who were in custody, detained under the antiterrorism law.
In October, AI reported that men in Federal Police (a Shia-dominated organization) uniforms carried out multiple unlawful killings of Sunnis suspected of being ISIS militants or sympathizers in and around Mosul. In some cases, AI stated individuals were tortured before they were shot and killed execution style or run over with armored vehicles. In October in the Al-Shora subdistrict, men in Federal Police uniforms reportedly brutally beat and killed Ahmed Mahmoud Dakhil and Rashid Ali Khalaf, villagers from Na’na’a, as well as a third man from the village of Tulul Nasser.
In an October report, AI reported Sunni Arab IDPs from parts of Salah al-Din and Diyala Provinces feared attacks by Shia militias in control of those towns, and said the militias had committed gross human rights abuses against residents. AI documented what it referred to as “war crimes and gross human rights violations,” including extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, torture, and enforced disappearances, committed against Sunnis fleeing Saqlawiya and al-Sijir and accused of being complicit in ISIS crimes or having supported the group. AI stated the violations were committed by Shia PMF militias and fighters wearing military or Federal Police uniforms. For example, AI reported the extrajudicial execution of at least 12 men and four boys from the Sunni Jumaila tribe in al-Sijir by armed men in various security force uniforms. The Iraqi Federal Police denied any involvement in the abuses.
Hundreds of men seized by the PMF on May 27 and June 3 remained unaccounted for at year’s end. According to the testimonies of some survivors, ISF and the Shia militia group Kata’ib Hizballah had been close by when these individuals were captured. Iraqi forces had been stationed near the sites of crimes in Tarek’s Military Camp (Mu’askar Tarek), located along the old Baghdad-Falluja road. On June 5, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi established a committee to investigate the May and June disappearances, vowing to punish those responsible, and announced the arrest of an unspecified number of individuals who had committed the crimes. The prime minister, however, said the abuses were not part of a systematic pattern, and should not overshadow the battlefield successes and the assistance provided by Iraqi forces to Sunni Arab IDPs. In many cases, Shia PMF units reportedly operated independently and without oversight or direction from the government.
International and local NGOs stated the government continued to use the antiterrorism law as a pretext for detaining Sunni men – and their female relatives – for extended periods of time without access to a lawyer or due process. In October courts in Basrah announced 1,251 Sunni detainees had been affected by the new Amnesty Law, which allowed some individuals convicted under the antiterrorism law to apply for judicial review, and 538 had already been retried. The Ministry of Interior’s spokesperson reported that in June, 700 Sunni men were detained following the battle of Falluja based on their confessions of being ISIS supporters. According to the Anbar Police Command, out of 19,400 Sunni men initially arrested under the antiterrorism law for suspected connections to ISIS, 2,046 men were detained, while the remaining individuals were released. AI reported evidence of torture and ill-treatment of Sunni detainees, as well as deaths of Sunni men who were in custody, detained under the antiterrorism law. Religious organizations such as the Association of Muslim Scholars spoke publicly about human rights abuses in prisons in their annual report.

Official investigations of abuses by government forces, armed groups, and terrorist organizations continued to be infrequent, and the outcomes of investigations which did occur continued to be unpublished, unknown, or incomplete, according to NGOs.


There's a lot to discuss and debate in the report.

Sadly few in the press are informed enough to do so as was demonstrated last week (August 15th) when the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor's Ambassador Michael Kozak held a briefing.

Who was the most uninformed?

A difficult question but I'd go with THE NEW YORK TIMES' Gardiner Harris who appeared to have never read the annual report and seemingly was unembarrassed to be so uninformed.

He asked, "Hi. I noticed that – do you not track religious freedom in the United States? And if so, --"

Wait, you noticed it Gardiner?

Did you, because you then asked "do you not" and qualified "And if so . . ."

No, the US doesn't track itself and hasn't for decades.


AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yes, thank you. As is the case with the Human Rights Report, we do not rate ourselves. I – there was an effort to do so – I’m old enough to remember; it was 30-some years ago. And when we all looked at it, people started laughing. It was like writing your own performance evaluation or something. You either were way too modest or you looked like you were bragging on yourself. So that – but that does not mean that the U.S. thinks itself exempt from this kind of rating. There are mechanisms in the United Nations, in the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe and so on that do publish this kind of data. There’s an excellent, for example, in the OSCE, a tolerance unit. We – the U.S. is actually a pretty good model in that the data that you’re citing there comes from FBI reports, and those are all cranked into the OSCE reports at the end of the year. So we actually have, I think, a better record than many of the other member-states in terms of reporting details about performance in our own country. 


Oh, well, Gardiner was probably too busy obsessing over HAIM.








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    Thursday, August 17, 2017

    TCM

    I'm not liking TCM lately.

    TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES.

    Sorry.

    I suffered through John Wayne on Saturday -- well, I just skipped TCM.

    Last night was Elvis.

    I can take an Elvis movie -- not a block of them in a row.

    I also think they need to show more films that aren't available on DVD, BluRay or streaming.

    There are so many wonderful films that they could be showing.


    George Segal alone has THE BLACK BIRD and WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CHEFS OF EUROPE that are not available.



    Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


    Thursday, August 7, 2017.

    Words are easy.

    You'd think most Americans would have grasped that by now.

    The Iraq War, for example, continues.

    This despite Barack Obama promising, as he ran for president in 2008, to end the Iraq War.

    Many are aghast at what US President Donald Trump did or didn't say (the media has also done a lousy job on this -- but they're not doing their job and clearly don't intend to).

    I really don't care what Donald Trump said.  (I do not like Donald Trump.  I have not liked him for years and that's based on my own encounters with him.  Based on those encounters, he's a loud mouth and he's brash, he is not a racist.)

    I do care what he can do.

    Words are easy.

    I don't need him to say this or that.  I need him to do things.

    If we could get over being manipulated -- and we are being manipulated -- maybe we could make demands?

    I do favor reparations.

    Some don't.

    That's fine.

    But there are many things that could be demanded right now.

    I don't need Donald's words, I need some action.



    Words are easy.




    You once said that starving 500,000+ Iraqi kids to death was "worth it".

    You don't have the moral high ground--on racism or anything else.






    1. The men who annihilated Iraq, killed and displaced millions of human beings, are now paragons of "anti-hatred"? Unbelievable.


    2. George W Bush, who hates "hate" killed ONE MILLION people in Iraq. Just think about that for a moment...




    Mad Maddie killed Iraqi children.

    But, hey, let's give her a hug because she said some pretty words.


    Bully Boy Bush and his daddy hate hate.

    They both occupied the Oval Office.

    What did they do?

    The Iraq War and Willie Horton ads?

    I'm confused as to when either of these men offering pretty words today did a damn thing regarding racism when they had the power to make changes?

    Because they didn't do a thing.

    Not a thing to help.

    But now they offer pretty words.

    Words are easy.

    They're often useless.

    On Donald, since I'm weighing in, his lashing out (what I'm calling it) is understandable.  He's got a bunker mentality.  He's always had his ass kissed.



    Dear momma's boy I know you've had your butt licked by your mother
    I know you've enjoyed all that attention from her
    And every woman graced with your presence after
    Dear narcissus boy I know you've never really apologized for anything
    I know you've never really taken responsibility
    I know you've never really listened to a woman
    Dear me-show boy I know you're not really into conflict resolution
    Or seeing both sides of every equation
    Or having an uninterrupted conversation
    And any talk of healthiness
    And any talk of connectedness
    And any talk of resolving this
    Leaves you running for the door 
    -- "Narcissus," written by Alanis Morissette, first appears on UNDER RUG SWEPT.


    Bob Somerby keeps writing about how Donald is "deranged."

    He's not.

    If he were, Bob's not trained to make such a diagnosis.

    Bob slams Maureen Dowd for this or that but Maureen can actually write.

    What is Bob doing but quack work when he starts putting Trump on the couch?

    Donald has lived his life surrounding himself with people who agree with him.

    He's been protected in ways most never are.

    The notion that you can disagree with someone and still get along with them is foreign to Donald.


    The press has been at war against Donald since before he was sworn in.

    He's not 'good enough' for them.  This is about aesthetics, not policy.  (Bill Clinton also was deemed not "good enough" by many in the DC press when he was president.)

    This war is not helpful.

    Donald's reactions reflect a bunker mentality.

    That's not good for democracy.

    At this point, the only hope is that he will learn from this and somehow adapt.

    Is that likely to happen?

    I doubt it but I always prepare for the worst.

    In the meantime, instead of applauding the butchers like Mad Maddie and Bully Boy, let's grasp that words are real easy.  If all you want is Donald Trump to look in the camera and says "sorry," I really don't think you understand institutional (and ingrained) racism at all.

    If you've ever been an employer or in management, you know how easy words are.  There are management programs that stress compliments -- why?  Because they're cheaper than raises.

    Again words are easy.


    In Iraq, AFP reports, "Islamic State (IS) group’s suicide bombers killed seven members of Iraq’s security forces in an attack on an Iraqi police and Army base on Wednesday in Baiji, north of Baghdad, the Interior Ministry and a local official said."

    Yes, the war drags on.

    Meanwhile, UNAMI feels the need to issue a statement regarding the referendum to be held next month in the KRG:

    Baghdad, Iraq, 17 August 2017 - In reference to a misrepresentation by IRNA of the responses of Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Mr. Jan Kubiš, as regards the referendum declared by the authorities of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq that was reproduced by a number of Iraqi media, UNAMI hereby provides almost verbatim the responses of the SRSG as recorded by UNAMI to the questions of a representative of IRNA during a brief interview on 16 August 2017.
    SRSG Kubiš:
    “First of all, the message from the Security Council and the leadership of the Secretariat is to both Baghdad central government and the government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to talk, to negotiate, and to find a solution or solutions that would address all the issues that they have of the agenda through negotiations, including how to deal with the issue of the referendum”. “We always say, because that is the way how we operate on any questions, that the point of departure must be to respect fully the Constitution of the country and the laws of country”.

    For more information, please contact: Mr. Samir Ghattas, Director of Public Information/Spokesperson
    United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Phone: +964 790 193 1281, Email: ghattass@un.org
    or the UNAMI Public Information Office: unami-information@un.org





    And US Special Envoy Brett McGurk announces a new development:


    Visited Iraq-Saudi border at Ar'Ar today. Closed since '90. ISIS attacked in '15. Today: secure, re-open, bustling w/1200 pilgrims per day.

     

    Visited Iraq-Saudi border at Ar'Ar today. Closed since '90. ISIS attacked in '15. Today: secure, re-open, bustling w/1200 pilgrims per day.

     




    ALJAZEERA explains:



    Visited Iraq-Saudi border at Ar'Ar today. Closed since '90. ISIS attacked in '15. Today: secure, re-open, bustling w/1200 pilgrims per day.




    ALJAZEERA notes:

    The border was closed after Baghdad and Riyadh cut ties following former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.
    The announcement follows a decision by the Saudi cabinet on Monday to establish a joint trade commission with Iraq.
    Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are both currently wooing their northern neighbour in an effort to halt the growing regional influence of archrival Iran.
    The Sunni-led Arab Gulf countries have hosted influential Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr for talks with their crown princes in recent weeks, rare visits after years of troubled relations.

    They also note:

    The motivation for Muqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shia Muslim cleric, to meet the Saudi crown prince last month was an attempt to roll back Iranian influence in Iraq, seek a leadership role and tone down sectarianism between the two countries, analysts say.
    Sadr, who is openly hostile to the US, was hosted on July 30 by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    The reason behind the gathering in Jeddah centred on a shared interest in countering Iranian influence in Iraq, Baghdad-based analyst Ahmed Younis said.
    "Sadr's visit to Saudi Arabia is a bold shift of his policy to deliver a message to regional, influential Sunni states that not all Shia groups carry the label 'Made in Iran'."




    The following community sites updated:






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