Friday, July 20, 2012


In April 2009, we did a piece on Greta Garbo at Third.  Largely, we did it because Ava, C.I. and Elaine had been to the Library of Congress and found some public domain photos of Greta Garbo (by Arnold Genthe).

Greta Garbo

I knew who Greta Garbo was.  I think even if you haven't seen her films, you know who she is.  The only Greta film I had seen more than once was "Grand Hotel."  Joan Crawford steals that movie out from under everyone.  "Anna Christie" is probably a very good film.  But I watched it once and saw it enough then (it's a drama).

Garbo usually plays a tragic and lonely character.

And that's probably why "Ninotchka" works so well.  The 1939 film was directed by Ernst Lubitsch but it's the script by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch that really uses Greta's talents in a new way.

The film is set in Paris.  And a group of Russians are there to sell jewels that were a countess's jewels before the revolution.  They don't do a very good job, this trio of Russians (who are very funny).  And so the Soviet Union sends Yakushova.  They find out the day she's arriving at 5:00 pm and it's 5:00 pm.  They quickly tell the hotel to switch them to the smallest room and give this suite to Yakushova.

They rush to the train station to meet him and mistake a Nazi for him until the Nazi does the Nazi salute.  Where can he be?

He is Ninotchka, Greta's character.  They say they'd have brought flowers if they'd known that it was a woman and she tells them not to make a fuss over her gender ("Don't make an issue of my womanhood.")  Then a man tries to grab her bags.  She's confused why and asks him as her comrades explain he's a porter.  "That's no business," she tells him, "that's social injustice."  He says, "That depends on the tipe."  

This is funny in every way -- the way a great Billy Wilder film usually is.  For example, at the train station, Greta declares news from Rusisa, "The last mass trials were a great success.  There are going to be fewer but better Russians."  :D  I can't believe they got away with that in 1939.  (They're referring to show trials -- the Great Purge of 1938 and 1939.)

But the best thing is probably how they illustrate Ninotchka falling in love with a Count and with the west.  When she first arrives in Paris, she sees a ridiculous hat and comments on just that.  Then she sees it again.  Then, when she's finally ready to admit her love for Melvyn Douglas, she's wearing it and has just bought it.

She has to return to Russia and she gets a letter from him but it's all censored except the greeting and the salutation.

Then she's called in because the trio she vouched for (and saved) is now in Turkey and doing an awful job.  She has to go.  She begs off.  She doesn't want to go.  (Mainly because she fears what she'll do if she leaves Russia again.)  She's given no choice.  And she goes and the trio were screwing up on purpose as part of the Count's plan to get Ninotchka out of the Soviet Union.

So that's the happy ending (plus one of the trio kicked out of the eatery they've started and outside protesting).

It's a very funny movie.  I watched it four times and could have watched it over and over because it's so rich with detail.

This is a film that really knows how to use Greta Garbo.  She really shines in this film.

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

Friday, July 20, 2012 (and, yes, today is the 20th, not yesterday).  Chaos and violence continue, a document -- a secret document -- Nouri wrote in 2009 just emerged, Ramadan starts Saturday Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declares, Iraqis struggle with obtaining basic food stuffs, we continue covering the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy Martin Kobler's report on Iraq, we wonder when he'll stop being so squirmy when it comes to LGBT issues, US Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's running a questionable and ineffective campiagn, and much more.
This morning there were many interesting articles about Martin Kobler's presentation on Iraq to the United Nation's Security Council yesterday.  Kobler is the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq.  And the few articles this morning about the presentation were nothing like what Kobler delivered yesterday.  (This afternoon, UPI produced a report that demonstrated their correspondent saw the actual presentation.)  But the reports this morning were a lot like the press conference Kobler held after -- about an hour after -- the Security Council presentation.  You have to wonder how editorial boards ever pretend to have an ethical stature to call others out from when their reporters lie?  A press briefing is not the report Kobler presented to the UN Security Council. 
Kobler's report was interesting for what it said.  It was even more interesting for what it didn't say but you probably needed to hear the report to know that and you probably needed to have heard the April report to be able to offer context in July. 
April 10th was when he made his previous presentation and we covered that in the April 10th snapshot and the April 11th snapshot.  His Thursday report we covered yesterday and we'll continue that coverage now.  When we left off yesterday, he was talking about 12 acts of violence a day and over 1,300
UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler:  Each victim is one victim too many.  The Iraqi authorities must continue to make every effort to identify the perpetrators of these acts of violence and bring them to justice.  These attacks are intended to ignite further violence.  Despite the sufferings, Iraqis from all walks of life and religious backgrounds must turn their backs on past divisions and unite for a peaceful future.  Mr. President, human rights are a cornerstone of Iraq's democratic future and are at the core of United Nations mandate  in Iraq. To this end, UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq] continues to support activities of the Ministry of Human Rights in ensuring that Iraq meets its international humanitarian rights obligations.  As I informed the Council members last April, the Council of Representatives endorsed the appointment of the Commissioners of Iraq's first Independent High Commission for Human Rights.  And I am pleased to further report the commissioners have now met and started their work.  UNAMI and UNDP [United Nations Development Programme]  are supporting the Commission in this process.  The findings of the 2011 United Nations report on the Human Rights Situation in Iraq published in May underlined the fragility of human rights situation in Iraq.  The report's conclusions largely coincided with the  Ministry of Human Rights own findings.  While it is recognized that the government of Iraq has made progress in implementing measures to protect and promote human rights, the impact on the overall human rights situation remains limited.  The UN is assisting the Iraqi authorities in strengthening the rule of law and boosting protections for human rights in Iraq to bring an end to abuses like arbitrary arrests and detentions.  The economic, culture and social rights of Iraqis are also a matter of real concern.  Poverty, high unemployment, economic stagnation, environmental degradation and a lack of basic services continue to effect large sections of the population.  It is vital that Iraqis -- in particular, vulnerable groups -- be provided with better access to basic services, social welfare and community development programs and opportunities for education.  Nothing less is required in order to provide for the success of future generations.  The rights of all Iraqis -- including minorities -- must be protected as stipulated in the Iraqi Contrib -- Iraqi Constitution.  Mr. President, Iraq retains the death penalty for a large number of crimes.  I therefore reiterate the call by the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] and the High Commissioner of Human Rights for the government of Iraq to establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to their abolition.  I welcome that the authorities of the Kurdistan Region continue to implement a moratorium on carrying out executions which has been in place since 2007. 
That's not the end of his report.  We'll continue noting from there in order but we're breaking parts up.  It was interesting how in both the written report (July 11th) and the oral report Kobler gave yesterday, the Russian bikers were ignored.  5 men threatened with the death penalty, 5 men arrested and beaten.  An international incident and not a word on it.  But Kobler wasn't very interested in words.  There was time to whine about his budget taking a 20% cut next year but not time to note, as the written report did:
Journalists and media professionals in Iraq continue to face arbitrary arrest and detention and to suffer from intimidation and attacks as a result of their profession.  During the reporting period, UNESCO and UNOPS [United Nations Office for Project Services] trained 240 media professionals in Basra, Erbil and Baghdad on security, self-protection, risk management and trauma first aid to enable them to cope with existing professional threats and risks.
The issue so bothered Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that he raised it twice in the written report (the first time is quoted above).  When Kobler states he's repeating the Secretary-General's point about stopping death penalty, he's referring to the written report (it's the 72nd paragraph in the written report). 
Iraq being discussed before the UN.  That means what topic gets touched on that the US media usually ignores?  Chapter VII.  Iraq was placed in that status by the UN as a result of Iraq's war on Kuwait. 
Speical Envoy Martin Kobler:  Let me now turn to some of the regional and international developments pertaining to Iraq.  As you know, Prime Minister Maliki's visit to Kuwait in March was followed by the historic visit of the Emir of Kuwait [Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah] to Baghdad to attend the Arab League Summit.  These two visits have markedly improved bi-later relations between Kuwait and Iraq and facilitated the resumption of the meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee. Iraq has also taken decisive steps to finalize the Iraqi-Kuwait border maintenance project in accordance with Resolution 833.  At the request of both parties, the United Nations is preparing now for maintenance work to start by 31st of October provided that key prerequisites -- like the removal of obstacles on the borders -- are met bringing all Chapter VII obligations pertaining to Kuwait to a satisfactory close will boost prospects for bilateral trade, investment, promote regional cooperation and lead to the restoration of Iraq's rightful standing within the international community.  In this regard, I would also like to take the opportunity to welcome the adoption of on 28th of June by the Council of Representatives of a law ratifying the additional protocol to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and encourage the government of Iraq to take the remaining steps to ensure its entry into force as soon as possible.   Mr. President, the intensity and frequency of sand and dust storms mainly generated from inside Iraq has increased in recent years.  They have significant impact on public health in Iraq and in the wider region --  especially for the most vulnerable --  and they effect transport and trade. During my visit to Kuwait in June and following an offer by the Emir of Kuwait to invest a portion of Iraq's outstanding war compensation funds back into Iraq, I proposed an environmental fund to combat sand and dust storms.  If Iraq and Kuwait agree, the fund could be used to undertake activities to reduce this health hazard which is impeding daily life in the region.  Such activities might include improving water resource management, anti desertification, re-forestification and agricultural projects.  Mr. President, needless to say that the ongoing violence in Syria is a source of deep concern given the potential for the spread of instability and violence, humanitarian fall out and political repercussions.  The UN system in Iraq is putting in place contingency plans for possible humanitarian emergency.  In this connection, I recently visited a refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region for those displaced by the conflict in Syria.  So far, with 7,000 refugees, their number are manageable.  On 10th of July, the United Nations and League of Arab States Joint-Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Kofi Anan, visited Iraq and met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  The government of Iraq was very clear on the policy of a political transition that is Syrian-led and Syrian-owned and ensures that the legitimate and democratic aspirations of the Syrian people are fully realized.
So there's a refugee camp in the KRG.  And the KRG has a moratorium on the death penalty.  Wonder how much bleaker the state of Iraq would be reported to the Security Council as being if the Special Envoy didn't keep including the semi-autonomous KRG region?
As he continues, he'll note some basic numbers.
Special Envoy Martin Kobler:  Mr. President, the United Nations in Iraq also continues to support the development of effective, accountable and transparent state institutions.  My new deputy and resident humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Ms. Jacqueline Babcock, took up her duties on 13th of May.  She has already shown her determination and leadership in coordinating the UN country team to deliver as one.  I have asked her to ensure that the country team  strengthens its presence and activities across the country.  This is taking shape in Basra. There, the UN funds and programs can assist in bringing the quality of life in this oil rich province to those levels found in other oil rich countries in the region.  Mr. President, let me briefly highlight two of the priority areas with important political, security and development implications where the UN system in Iraq is working together.  Iraq is one of the most youthful countries  in the world with 50% of the population under the age of 18.  At the same time, the unemployment rate for youth is more than double the domestic average with 23%.  The UN system is supporting programs aimed at increasing youth participation in social, political and economic spheres.  Building on the International Year of Youth 2011, the UN is supporting civil-society groups to strengthen their role in ensuring democratic spaces and freedom.  The third UNDP National Development Report focuses on youth and will be published later this year.  As with youth, women are important actors in Iraq's development. Yet the illiteracy rate among Iraqi women is more than double that of Iraqi men.  In my meetings with the Iraqi governmental interloculators, as well as women's civil-society organizations, I advocate for the adoption and implementation of the proposed National Strategy on the Advancement of Women.  The UN family is working to support women take up their role also in political and economic life.  The UN is also continuing to implement Security Council Resolution 1322 and to encourage the government to fulfill its committment in this regard. 
Now we're getting to Camp Ashraf.  Camp Ashraf were approximately 3,500 residents who were Iranian dissidents.  They came to Iraq in the 80s and had protection up to the Iraq War.  When the US-launched war toppled the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the US government -- largely via US military officers -- began a dialogue with the residents which resulted in their surrendering their arms and becoming protected persons under the Geneva Agreement and international law.  Though never legally revoked, that protection would be ignored once Barack Obama was sworn in as US president.  Nouri would twice attack the camp resulting in multiple deaths and a large number of wounded.  Humanitarian organizations -- Amnesty, for example -- would decry the attacks but the US government would remain silent.  When you read over Kobler's remarks in a second, focus on what's really harming Camp Ashraf right now.
UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler:  Finally, Mr. President, I still remain very concerned by the lack of progress in resolving the issue of Camp Ashraf. 2,000 residents of Camp Ashraf have relocated to Camp Hurriyah [Liberty] in the last months.  Approximately 1,200 remain in Camp Ashraf.  The several deadlines set by the government of Iraq have been extended. I thank the government of Iraq for their flexibility in this regard and I appeal to the Iraqi authorities to continue the process to resolve the relocation peacefully. Our committment is strictly humanitarian, to facilitate a voluntary, temporary relocation of residents to Camp Hurriyah as the first step of resettlement to countries outside of Iraq; however, the success of a facilitator depends at least on good will. Their can be no facilitation without constructive and practical dialogue.  We are faced with three main challenges.  First, recent weeks have witnessed difficulties in maintaining dialogue between UNAMI and the residents and between the residents and the government of Iraq reinforcing a perception that the residents lack genuine will to participate in the process faciliated by UNAMI.  Second, responsiblity also falls on the many international supporters.  It is of great importance that they contribute to positively influence the residents' position.  And third, to  date almost no memeber-state has stepped forward to offer resettlement to eligible, former Ashraf residents.  There must be a way out of Hurriyah in the foreseeable future.  Without prospect for resettlement, the ongoing process runs the risk of collapsing.  The tempoary transit location at Camp Hurriyah has the capacity to accomodate the remaining 1,200 residents and meets acceptable humanitarian standards.  Both UNAMI and UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] have devoted substantial energy and resources to resolving this issue.  More than 100 staff are dedicated to the project in the meantime.  I appeal to the government of Iraq to be generous -- particularly in terms of humanitarian needs like water and electricity and to avoid violence under any circumstances.  I also appeal to camp residents to abide by Iraqi laws and avoid provocation and violence.  Time is running out to find a sustainable solution.  The government's patience is wearing thin. I would therefore like to echo the Secretary-General and urge Camp Ashraf residents to cooperate with the Iraqi authorities and to relocate from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriyah.  It is also imperative that third countries step forward to accept eligible residents for resettlement as soon as possible without which there can be no durable solution. 
The residents have stopped moving to Camp Liberty.  They want to take items such as generators.  Why? 
Nouri doesn't want them to take items such as generators.  Why?
Because both sides don't believe that the Camp Ashraf residents will soon leave Camp Liberty.  Why don't they believe it?
Because no one's left so far and that's because other countries aren't willing to take them in.  In Nouri al-Maliki's view, Camp Liberty is just a place to store Camp Ashraf residents for another lengthy period.  In his view, he's being conned and then in a year or two, he'll be told they'll be moved somewhere else in Iraq.  It's a view Camp Ashraf residents can share.  Because both they and Nouri have seen 1200 moved and not resettled anywhere.  They're just remaining in Camp Liberty, the same way they remained in Camp Ashraf.   If Nouri (or the government in Tehran) is to believe that the residents are being resettled, they're going to have to see some resettled.  It's not that complicated.
Why are so many nations so reluctant to take them?  Because the US government refuses to do their job.  Camp Ashraf residents are part of the MEK.  The MEK is considered a terrorist group by the US government -- the Clinton administration put them on that list in the late 90s in an effort to make an overture to the government of Iran.  Though ordered by a federal court to resolve the MEK status quickly, the State Dept refused and now has until October to do so or the court will impose a punishment.  (Whether Barack Obama is re-elected president or not, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already stated she will not serve a second term in her post.  An October deadline from the court is a joke because the administration will treat it as such -- either because they will quickly become a lameduck one or because they will be looking for a new Secretary of State.)   Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and those under them have repeatedly and falsely equated MEK and Camp Ashraf residents as one grouping.
The US government does not recognize the MEK as protected persons.  The US government does recognize Camp Ashraf residents as protected persons.  This issue should have been resolved a long time ago, the US government made promises and needs to keep them.  The easiest way is to create an excpetion for the Camp Ashraf residents.  That's 3,200 people currently.  They are all in Iraq.  Those in Iraq transferring out would not be considered "terrorists."  This is due to where they were located, due to the stationary aspect of their location and due to the fact that the US government already gave them protected persons status.  That status expires only when they are out of Iraq so it is in the US government's best interests to get them out of Iraq quickly.  The State Dept could easily create a subgrouping of those residents in Iraq to allow other countries to take them in.
The refusal to do so means the Barack Obama administration will likely have blood on their hands because one side will likely explode in a very short time.  This has been going on too long and neither Nouri nor the residents are seeing any progress.  If the US government can not seriously assist the Camp Ashraf residents by creating a subgrouping/classification for them and violence takes place, those deaths -- Iraqis or Ashraf residents -- will be the responsibility of the US White House.
There was a lot mentioned in the report.  A lot overlooked as well.  As he winds down, Kobler makes the decision that UNAMI itself -- and its budget -- is more important than any Iraqi topic that he could include in the final moments.
Special Envoy Martin Kolber:  Mr. President, in my introduction, I posed the question of whether the people of Iraq still need UNAMI?  I am convinced that UNAMI is needed more than ever to help Iraq complete its transition to a stable and prosperous democracy.  UNAMI has the legitimacy and the standing to represent the international community in Iraq.  Iraqis from all communities look to UNAMI to protect their aspirations and to ensure their needs are met.  With Security Council support, UNAMI will continue its efforts to address the many outstanding issues crucial to securing Iraq's future.  The substantial cut of 20% of UNAMI's budget in 2013  requires that we do more with less.  In this context, the mission may need to reconsider some areas of operation.  Mr. President, I should like to sincerely thank the members of the council for their continued support, the government of Iraq and the wider membership of the United Nations as well as the staff of UNAMI for their unrelenting commitment and dedication to implement our mandate.  Thank you very much.
And that was it.  Last April, in his presentation to the UN Security-Council, he refused to note the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community.  In the written report (written in March), there was a passing reference ("perception of their sexual orientation") with the promise that the UN was in the process of corroborating the reported deaths and would address it when they had.  It's months later, presumably the UN has been able to corroborate those reports in some fashion by now.  So why can't Martin Kobler talk about it?  It's not even in the written report (which was published July 11th).  There is no mention made of it.  If Martin Kobler wishes to represent Iraqis, he needs to represent all Iraqis.  He needs to find it in his comfort zone to use the terms "gay" and "lesbian."  If that's too much work for him, if it's too much of a stretch, he needs to find a new position.  The United Nations was silent as young Iraqis were targeted -- males and females -- because they were believed to be gay or to be Emo or both.  Rolling Stone and NME covered it.  But the United Nations stayed silent.  The US State Dept covered it in their own human rights report.  But the United Nations stayed silent.  That's unacceptable.
It's especially unacceptable considering the United Nations' supposed position on this issue.  As we noted when Kobler gave his last report to the Security Council:
Last month, Igor Volsky (Think Progress) noted (March 7, 2012), "Earlier today, the UN Human Rights Council held the first hearing 'to discuss discrimination and violence against LGBT people."  UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon issued a special message to the council, decrying violence against the LGBT community as a 'monumental tragedy' that is a 'stain on our collective conscience' and a 'violation of international law' [. . .]" and he quotes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stating, "To those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, let me say -- you are not along. Your struggle for an end to violence and discrimination is a shared struggle.  Any attack on you is an attack on the universal values the United Nations and I have sworn to uphold."
Is Kobler not part of the UN?  Has he sworn to do the same.
We got a little talk about women in this presenation.  That is new.  Previous presentations to the Security Council by the Special Envoy to Iraq frequently left women out.  But apparently, something more "gross" and "disgusting" than women has been found by the office of Special Envoy: Iraq's LGBTs.
It was really disgusting to hear Kobler prattle on about violence and minorities and never once note the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community.  It was disgusting.
You may remember that Kobler silence on LGBT was an issue that continued past the two snapshots on the April report.  You may remember my noting UN friends swore he'd include it when the figures were verified.  The figures were verified -- I've 'verified' that with UN friends this morning.  And still Kobler said nothing.  There was time for budget and shout-outs, but no time for Martin Kobler to find his comfort level with gays and lesbians.
Martin Kobler better start representing all of Iraq or become the leading face of homophobia in the United Nations.  On that last possibility, he's already well on his way.
As the Washington Post notes, the holy day of Ramadan is arriving. Alsumaria reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has declared Saturday to be the first day of Ramadan.   Al Mada carries a Ramadan greeting congratulating all Iraqis and asking for their blessing in the coming year with God Almighty strengthening their path to justice, freedom and security.   Kitabat notes that there are calls for the government to grant leave for employees on days when the temperature reaches 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).  While the sun is up, those observing the Muslim holiday are supposed to fast.  Before sunrise and after sunset, those observing the holiday can eat.  However, food prices are rising in Iraq.  Alsumaria is the latest this week to report on the sharp increase in prices for basic items such as lentils.  The Ministry of Commerce is insisting that they got materials to the stores in time so any increase in prices is not their fault.  The article also notes that the high prices might make Ramadan slowly disappear as a part of Iraqi life -- as other habits have been forgotten in Iraq.  It seems unlikely that Ramadan could disappear from Iraq but then come reports about how hard it is for some to observe it.  
Al Mada notes that unemployment is also a huge issue during the holy month and only more so when the food prices increase.  They speak with Hani Rseg who is a construction worker and tells the paper that he didn't get any wages for four months because contractors rarely get paid on time and when money did come in, there was electricity, gasoline, water and other things to pay for and only now is he able to shop for Ramadan.  Police officer Ahmed Radhi al-Hleaj states that he's paying a car loan and wouldn't be able to afford Ramadan except that he's taken on a second job working as a taxi driver.

Rahim Ruhayem (BBC News -- link is video) reports on Iraq's ration systems.
Rahim Ruhayem:  In distribution centers, few complain about waste or abundance.  Dawood is a construction worker in central Baghdad and he's come to collect his monthly share.  He told me the distribution system is gradually fading away. 
Dawood: It's getting less and less, year by year, month by month.  And there is no variety.  We get cooking oil.  Sometimes rice, flour.  No tea, no washing powder, no salt.  Many things have been scrapped.  And they will probably cancel the rest too.  The whole thing will be finished soon.  We better get used to it. 
Rahim Ruhayem:  The government insists it has no plans to end the system, it only talks of reform over the coming years. At a cost of about five billion dollars a year, the Iraqi state hands out food to its people. But some of these people need it a lot more than others.  23% of Iraqis live below the poverty line.  If the government wants to reform the system, it has a delicate balance to strike between encouraging productivity and less reliance on the state on one hand while making sure on the other not to jeopardize the food security of those most in need.  Rahim Ruhayem, BBC News, Baghdad.
Census numbers might change the ration-card numbers but, as Al Mada points out, Iraq has not had a census since 1997 and both the 2007 and 2009 censuses were postponed (by Nouri).  Today, Al Mada reports, a member of Parliament's Finance Committee told the paper that the government does not know the actual population in Iraq and depends upon a random and inaccurate figure based on indicators and that their is a wide difference between the Ministry of FInance's figure and the ration card number and between the Ministry of Plannin's figure and the ration car number. 
Earlier this week, as continued unemployment was met with soaring food prices,  Al Mada reported that there are accusations in Hilla that food merchants are intentionally introducing small amounts of food to the markets in order to artifically pump up the prices by creating scarcity.  This comes as Babylon Province sees less and less items for sale that can be purchased with ration cards.  True or false, the federal government should be addressing this item though they will most likely ignore it.  If it isn't true, the rumors will still take root because food prices are increasing, ration items are becoming scarce and hunger isn't something people can overlook the way they might endure electricity outages.  So as the hunger and anger builds, even if the rumors are false,  a need to hold someone accountable can build and, if it does, it could leave food merchants targeted.  If the rumors are true, the federal government needs to deal with it (a) to show that it can deal with something, (b) the economy cannot take higher prices (unless Nouri intends to expand the ration card system) and (c) the federal government still has the power to set controls on various aspects of retail within the country. In addition, Nasiriyah reported that in an effort to try to reach 12 hours of electricity a day for the holy month of Ramadan, Iraqi is increasing energy imports from Iran.

Alsumaria notes that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is calling on Iraqi Muslims to watch the crescent moon this evening to determine whether Ramadan is starting.
Yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki attempted to seize control of the news cycle but, as is so often the case with Nouri, lost instead.  He insisted that the White House had conveyed, in a letter, their support for his attempts to cancel the October contract the Kurdistan Regional Government signed with ExxonMobil.  No such thing happened.  But some outlets live to be sucker-punched.  Let's note one of the few who realized that journalism involves skepticism of official statements.  Here's Kristin Deasy (Global Post) on those claims:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki claimed late Thursday to have received a message from US President Barack Obama indicating that the US sided with Baghdad in its deepening row with Kurdistan over the management of the northern region's oil resources, reported Reuters.
The message from Baghdad -- which did not quote the alleged Obama letter directly or provide any copy of it -- welcomed the "positive" US position on the matter, which it said was "in the same manner as the Iraqi government is seeking," said Reuters.

To repeat, in the United States, there is no state control over oil companies.  In Iraq, Nouri's lies can fly somewhat because that country has a history of nationalized oil companies.  As a result, a casual news consumer would hear of Nouri's claim and think nothing of it.  But in the US, where it's far more likely that a multi-national oil company will control the government than the goverment ever control an oil company, that claims is laughable on its face.

In October, ExxonMobil and the KRG signed their contract.  Nouri's Baghdad-based government played angry, spurned lover sending one letter after another to ExxonMobil, each basically screeching, "How could you!  After all we've been through!"

As Iraq's Minister of Oil confirmed in early 2012, ExxonMobil elected to ignore those letters and not respond.  And Nouri had nothing else to offer.  So last month he began making noise that the US government -- specifically the White House (Nouri has always been hugely unpopular in the US Congress) -- should break ExxonMobil's contract.

Which again demonstrates how stupid and not ready to be prime minister Nouri actually is.  The White House has no control over ExxonMobil.  And this was conveyed to Nouri -- as the Iraqi press noted.  But with US Vice President Joe Biden's National Security Adviser Antony Blinken in Iraq, Nouri decided to spin the visit.  It would have been laughable on any day but it was especially laughable yesterday when another major multi-national oil corporation elected to bypass Baghdad and sign with the KRG.  David R. Baker (Fuel Fix) notes:

Chevron Corp. will hunt for oil in northern Iraq's Kurdish region — the company's first major effort in the volatile country since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
The deal, made public Thursday, lands Chevron squarely in the midst of post-war Iraq's bitter oil politics, with rival regions and ethnic groups fighting over how to develop the country's vast petroleum reserves. Chevron faces significant risk, and the potential of great reward.
In Iraq where safety has never been secured, Alsumaria reports a Yezidi girl was burned alive in her Mosul home -- some are saying it is suicide, no finding has been established yet.  Alsumaria notes that 2011 saw 6 confirmed cases of murder and ten case of confirmed suicides by burning -- in addition there were 85 who were injured by burning.  Yesterday NINA reported 1 Peshmerga died in a Kirkuk sticky bombing and two more were injured.
No emergence of security, no end to the political stalemate.   Al Mada reports the National Alliance (again) discussed their Reform Committee paper.  They've discussed it so much that they must know it by heart.  NINA reports that Iraqiya's Hani Ashur has declared "the reforms paper prepared by the National Alliance on its way to failure, where there is no agreement upon [it] even within the National Alliance and it became a mean to buy time and not for the reforms, it will not see the light or [be] put on the table of dialogue.  The reform paper is not more than an attempt to melt the crisis and the government is not serious in dealing with it, and the crisis may [be] back to the first square."
In what may end up being the most explosive political news out of Iraq this week, Al Mada reports the existence of a document signed by Nouri from October 2009 in which he secretly asked then-House Speaker Ayad al-Samarri not to question Hussain al-Shahristani.  al-Shahristani is currently Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy.  Starting in the spring of 2006 (with Nouri's becoming prime minister), al-Shahristani became the Minister of Oil.  Despite enjoying a great deal of soft press -- from The National Newspaper, Iraq Oil Report and pretty much everyone else -- al-Shahristani has no major successes to point to and Nouri conveyed in the letter that asking al-Sharistani about corruption or violence would be harmful to the government's interests.  (al-Sharistani is a member of Nouri's State of Law political slate.)
Let's do an update to last Friday's snapshot:

Kim Kelly (The Atlantic) focuses more on the present [art scene] and the emergence of what is thought to be a musical first in Iraq:
She says her name is Anahita, the 28-years-old voice and vitriol behind Janaza, which is believed to be Iraq's very first female-fronted, black-metal band. Allow that notion --Iraq's very first female-fronted, black-metal band -- to sink in for a moment. Her first recording, Burn the Pages of Quran, boasts five distorted, primitive tracks that altogether run just shy of an unlucky 13 minutes. She, along with a handful of other acts hailing from the Middle East, are repurposing black metal's historically anti-Christian ferocity to rail against Islam. In doing so, these bands are serving up another example of how art and dissent can intersect in a region where dissent can sometimes have deadly consequences.

Saturday  Anna Breslaw (Jezebel) reports that The Atlantic article might be a hoax and that the photos accompanying it have been used in publications previously for other metal bands.  I meant to include that Monday (we noted it Saturday) but kept running out of space.
I'd also hoped to cover Jill Stein's campaign this week and, at the very least, run a press release from it.  Not doing it. Not interested in the pretense of Bain and how it just can't be understood!  That's b.s. and Bob Somerby's rightly called it out (Somerby most recently called out the nonsense today).  If Jill and her campaign think repeating those rumors qualifies as running for office, they're kidding themselves.  And if they think spending three paragraphs on this rumor and then tossing in one paragraph on Barack is going to make people think they'll hold both accountable, consider it again.  We already saw 2008 when Rosa Clemente -- Cynthia McKinney's running mate -- was trashing Hillary Clinton with lies long after she was out of the race but Rosa never could find the courage or strength to call out Barack.  We're not in the mood for it.  If the Green Party thinks inflating their criticism of Barack a tiny bit after three and half years of non-stop failures by Barack qualifies as 'strong,' they're crazier than they think the voters are.  Run a real campaign or get out of the damn race. 
Mitt Romney as president is a question mark.  Barack Obama is not.  If Dr. Jill can't call out -- on a daily basis -- the treatement of Bradley Manning, assissinating American citizens, killing due process and Barack's war on whistle blowers and the Constitution, she's not fit for office or, for that matter, for the campaign trail.  Green Party needs to beef up their game and Jill's campaign?  It's been 7 days since she gave the speech in Baltimore.  Her campaign is still unable to post video or a transcript of that speech to her website?  Someone's not looking like a real candidate.