Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Paul Walker

barack talks to barbara walters

From last night, that's  Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack Talks To Barbara."  Normally, I write about "The Good Wife."  It was a very good episode (thank goodness) but I'll write about it tomorrow.

Instead, I'm going to write about Paul Walker.

Paul Walker
Walker in 2009 at the Fast & Furious premiere in London's Leicester Square
BornPaul William Walker IV
September 12, 1973
Glendale, California, U.S.
DiedNovember 30, 2013 (aged 40)
Santa Clarita, California, U.S.
Cause of deathTraffic collision
EducationVillage Christian School
Years active1985–2013
ReligionThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

He died over the weekend.

The actor made a lot of movies.  I remember him in "Pleasantville," however, only because he was famous later on.  In his next film, "Varsity Blues,"  he stood out and then he did "She's All That" and he came into his own.  As Freddie Prinze Jr.'s best friend, he has to be a dick in the movie.  And he could have done it in a Jake Busey kind of way where you can't relate to him at all.  But Walker made the character real and multi-dimensional.  He and Joshua Jackson had a nice believable relationship in "The Skulls."  You had to believe that they were friends or all the suspense and drama that ensues does not work.

And then came 2001.  This is when his talent was officially recognized and he got lead roles.

2001 found him in "The Fast and the Furious" which was his franchise -- his and Vin Diesel's.  There were five sequels released and he co-starred in all but the third one.  In fact, he was currently working on "Fast & Furious 7."

Along with making him an action star, 2001 allowed him to show a large range in "Joy Ride."  He starred in that with Leelee Sobieski and Steve Zahn.

Steve Zahn is a lousy actor but was a critic's favorite for many years.  He ruined many movies.  This was the film where his shot at a leading career finally came to an end.  Why?  Because a real leading man was in the film.  This is a variation on "The Hitcher" and the characters have to become ever more worried as the film goes along.  Zahn pitched way too high at the start of the terror and had no where to go for the rest of the film.

But Walker shaped his performance to pull you in (Sobieski was also incredible in this film).

I thought 2005's "Into The Blue" was a good popcorn film.  It satisfies and he's got good romantic chemistry with Jessica Alba.  In 2006, he would be part of the cast of the critically acclaimed "Flags of Our Fathers."

The success of the F&F franchise let him take more experimental films like "The Lazarus Project" and "The Death and Life of Bobby Z."

He was 40-years-old and really coming into his own.

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

Monday, December 2, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the totals for November's violent deaths vary, Ahmed Chalibi shares thoughts on Nouri, Moqtada al-Sadr notes Iran's position on Nouri, protesters want someone who speaks for them, and much more.

Let's start with violence.  Last night, Kim Gamel and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reported, "U.N. envoy to Iraq Nickolay Mladenov singled out an increase in the number of bodies found, including some that were beheaded, and urged the Iraqi government to move quickly to find the attackers and hold them responsible." Mladenov is new to the job and he goes on to show off some stupidity that will hopefully burn off after he's got six months under his belt.  His stupidity?  Fretting over 'execution-style killings.'

Who gives a ___?

Seriously.  The foreign media likes it because it's 'sexy.'

But it doesn't mean a damn thing.

What he should be especially offended by is when children are the targets of violence.

Which happened today.

National Iraqi News Agency reports the corpse of an 11-year-old boy was discovered today in Kut, three days after the boy had been kidnapped.

And the UN's special rep in Iraq is worried whether bullets went through the chest or the back of the head?

Someone seriously needs to grow up.

Cosmetics are not the issue.

Yesterday,  the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following:

Baghdad, 1 December 2013 – According to casualty figures released today by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), in November a total of 659 Iraqis were killed and another 1,373 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence. 

Some 565 civilians (including 120 civilian police) were killed last month, while some 1,186 persons (including 239 civilian police) were injured. A further 94 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed and 187 were injured. 
“While indiscriminate bombings and other attacks continue to take a terrible toll on Iraqis every day, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent surge in execution-style killings that have been carried out in a particularly horrendous and unspeakable manner,” said the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov. “As a matter of urgency, the Iraqi authorities should take immediate steps to find and hold accountable the perpetrators of these crimes and to implement effective measures to ensure the protection of all citizens,” he added.
Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 623 civilian casualties (224 killed, 399 injured), followed by Nineva (107 killed, 224 injured), Salahuddin (88 killed, 230 injured), and Diyala (82 killed, 151 injured). 
Anbar, Kirkuk, Babil, and Wasit, also reported casualties (double digit figures). 
 The entire figure of civilians killed between January and November 2013 is 7,157 in addition to 952 Iraqi Security Forces.

Yesterday AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted AFP's count of 692 deaths:

  • In November, at least 692 people killed, 1,339 people wounded by Iraq unrest - tally:

  • Iraq Body Count has been keeping a count throughout the war.  They know what they're doing.  And their count for November?  903 violent deaths.

    That's at least 721 deaths.   At least?

    We're not counting this one:

  • AKE documented 129 fatalities and 368 injured in violence last week.
  • At least 144 people were killed and 360 injured in violence last week according to our figures.
  • At least 188 people were killed and 433 injured in violence last week.

  • I counted almost 260 dead and almost 400 injured in violence last week.

  • That's at least 721 violent deaths.

    At least?

    We're not counting the numbers in this Tweet:

  • At least 136 people were killed and 317 injured in violence last week according to AKE figures.

  • 5 of the days are October, only two are November.

    IBC has 25 deaths for the first two days of November which would bring the AKE total to 746 violent deaths (but minus one for 745, see below).

    AKE's John Drake (at Global IntAKE) notes another feature of the violence, "According to AKE figures last week was one of Iraq‘s most violent since 2007. At least 259 people were killed and 399 injured in nationwide incidents.  In 2012 the average weekly number of fatalities was 60. Last week’s total number of deaths was over four times this."

    NINA also reports 2 Baquba bombings left seven people injured, a Mosul bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left six more injured, an armed attack in al-Qaiim left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and two more injured, Aadil Mohsen (adviser to Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi) was assassinated in Mosul, a Mosul sticky bombing killed 1 person, a Tikrit roadside bombing left one police officer injured, a Tikrit attack left  1 police officer dead and three more injured, 2 Sulaymaniyah sticky bombings left to Asaish officers injured, and men in "military uniforms, abducted Mukhtar of Seetah village Mahalabiyah county west of Mosul."

    Sunday,  World Bulletin observed, "Turkey's courtship of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has infuriated the central government Baghdad, which says it has sole authority to manage Iraqi energy resources."  This was the day after he stamped his feet on the world stage while crying.  World Bulletin noted, "After it was revealed that a deal was signed between Turkey and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government of northern Iraq, it was reported that the central Iraqi government in Baghdad closed air space to private Turkish jets in protest of the deal."  AFP added, "Baghdad has barred Turkish private jets from flying to Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, officials said Nov. 30, ahead of an upcoming energy conference that Ankara's energy minister was expected to attend."  World Bulletin also notes the denial, "Director of the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority Naser al-Bandar has denied reports about closing the airspace of northern Iraq to Turkish planes."  But Nouri's pouting was such that it didn't matter whether it was closed or only thought closed, to the world was just another tantrum from the spoiled brat Nouri.  Today,  Humerya Pamuk (Reuters) reports, "Turkey said Monday it stood by a bilateral oil deal with Iraqi Kurdistan that bypassed central government but sought to appease Baghdad by drawing it into the arrangement."

    Also over the weekend,  All Iraq News reported cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr declared today that Iran refuses to back Nouri for a third term.  Today Ahmed Chalabi offered harsh words for Nouri al-Maliki.  NINA quotes him denouncing a third term for Nouri, stating it "will lead to a further deterioration in security and corruption as well as continuing foreign interference."  He further stated, "The policy of the country is moving towards authoritarianism and dictatorship and our future role is to put Iraq on the path of real democracy through a comprehensive process of change, not only at the political level, but in all areas."

    Let's stay with political news out of Iraq.  All Iraq News reports today that arrest warrants have been issued against two members of Moqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc -- MP Jawad al-Shihaili and Baha al-Araji.  al-Araji is charged with "damaging general properties" and al-Shihaili is charged with "stealing state's revenues."  These warrants come only after Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports MPs are accusing Nouri al-Maliki of misuse of state resources on his recent trip to Basra -- including, Moqtada's bloc pointed out, Nouri offering up land plots.  MPs see the visit as typical Nouri trying to bribe for votes but the difference this time is that a law's been passed to make this illegal.

    Nouri refuses to follow the laws which is one of the reasons protests have been taking place in Iraq since December 21st.  They've continued to protest despite multiple attacks on them by Nouri al-Maliki's forces, the worst being the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).  They haven't given up despite Nouri's empty words.  Monday, Nickolav Mladenov, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, addressed the United Nations Security Council.

    Nickolay Mladenov:  Protests continued in Anbar, Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Kirkuk and Diayala governorates in the form of unified Friday prayers.  Compared to the past reporting period, the protests assumed a lower profile, owning in part to increased attention to the protesters' demands by newly elected local administrations. Indeed, the Anbar Governorate Council elected Sabah Karhout, a member of the Arab Iraqiya party, as its chair, and Ahmed Khalif al-Dulaimi, a member of the Muttahidoun party, as Governor.  In Ninewa, the Governorate Council re-elected Atheel al-Nujaifi, a known supporter of the protestors and brother of the Speake of the Council of Representatives [Osama al-Nujaifi], as Governor.  On 5 October dialogue between the Government and the protestors resumed following a meeting between the Prime Minister [Nouri al-Maliki] and the Governor of Anbar, who was nominated by the demonstrators to represent their interests.  While the meeting was described as positive and fruitful by the Prime Minister's office, no progress has been announced to date in addressing the demonstrators' demands.  

    This month, the protests hit the one year mark.  19 days from now, in fact.  The protesters have been attacked, arrested and murdered.  And still they protest.  Speaking to Patrick Cockburn (Independent) last week, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr shared his thoughts on Nouri and the protests:

    Mr Sadr is particularly critical of the government’s handling of the Sunni minority, which lost power in 2003, implying they had been marginalised and their demands ignored. He thinks that the Iraqi government lost its chance to conciliate Sunni protesters in Iraq who started demonstrating last December, asking for greater civil rights and an end to persecution.
    “My personal opinion is that it is too late now to address these [Sunni] demands when the government, which is seen as a Shia government by the demonstrators, failed to meet their demands,” he said. Asked how ordinary Shia, who make up the great majority of the thousand people a month being killed by al-Qa’ida bombs, should react, Mr Sadr said: “They should understand that they are not being attacked by Sunnis. They are being attacked by extremists, they are being attacked by external powers.”

    December 21st, the protests will have hit the one year mark -- that's twenty days away.  Today, All Iraq News reports:
    The Coordination Committees of the Sit –In yards in Ramadi city announced on Monday withdrawing their authorization for the Governor of Anbar to negotiate with the Central Government over the demands of the demonstrators.
    The demonstrators and chieftains in Anbar announced on September 3rd authorizing the Governor of Anbar Ahmed Khalaf to negotiate with the CG to implement their demands. 

    They're not pleased with the talks Governor Ahmed Khalaf has had with Nouri -- which have produced no results.  But they're especially bothered by the fact that the Governor is not working for them.  Some feel he's working for the United States' government.

    Where did they get that idea?  Who knows.  But Sunday, these remarks from Brett McGurk were posted repeatedly on Arabic social media:

    In the Sunni majority provinces of Ninewa and Anbar, provincial elections had been delayed due to security concerns. We were clear from the outset that this decision was unwise, and pushed to ensure the elections took place, which they did on June 20. The outcome led to a status quo in Ninewa, with the brother of Speaker Osama Nujaifi retaining the governorship; but new leaders emerged in  Anbar, and these new leaders, with our encouragement, are engaging the central government. 
    Prime Minister Maliki met the new Anbar Governor, Ahmad Khalaf al-Dulaimi, before traveling to Washington, and we expect to see additional meetings soon, with a focus on coordinating security and political efforts. 

    McGurk is the US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and, last month, he testified to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.  We covered his testimony in the November 13th "Iraq snapshot," the November 14th "Iraq snapshot" and in the November 15th  "Iraq snapshot."  And the statements that were so popular on social media yesterday are from his opening statement which you can read in full here.

    Lukman Faily is the Iraqi Ambassador to the US.  Today, he Tweeted:

    1. An Iraq tradition, like football,that cuts across ethnoreligious identities.It reflects hospitality, social cohesion
    2. A key cultural aspect of Muharram festivities is cooking of rice and qaema on the streets.

    What is Muharram?  Islamic Finder explains:

    Allah's sacred month of Muharram is a blessed and important month. It is the first month of the Hijri calendar and is one of the four sacred months concerning which Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

    "Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein." [al-Tawbah 9:36]
    Abu Bakrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "The year is twelve months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Dhu'l-Qa'dah, Dhu'l-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab Mudar which comes between Jumaada and Sha'baan." (Reported by al-Bukhari, 2958).
    Muharram is so called because it is a sacred (Muharram) month and to confirm its sanctity.

    Allah’s words (interpretation of the meaning): "so wrong not yourselves therein." mean do not wrong yourselves in these sacred months, because sin in these months is worse than in other months. 

    It began on the evening of November 3rd and tomorrow, 30 days later, it ends in the evening.

    Shmuley Boteach (Jerusalem Post) has an important column which opens:

    I saw something amazing today. The National Archives of the United States, which houses the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, hosted an exhibition of more than 2,700 Iraqi Jewish artifacts – including Torah parchments and ancient prayer books – from a Baghdad synagogue that was looted at gunpoint by Saddam Hussein in 1984. The treasures were discovered in 2003 by US troops in the basement of the Baghdad Intelligence Agency.
    The saving of the treasure was orchestrated by former Pentagon analyst and orthodox Jew Harold Rhode, whose name is on the metal boxes that were shipped from Baghdad but who is curiously not mentioned once in the exhibit. I’m told it’s the first time the National Archives has hosted a collection that is not native to the United States.
    The US spent approximately $3 million to restore the badly damaged documents and did a spectacular job. But there’s a catch. Our government made a commitment to the government of Iraq that it would return the collection once it was restored. America’s Iraqi Jewish community is now asserting ownership.
    Let’s be clear. This is not something that belongs to the Iraqi government. It was looted by Saddam Hussein and should be returned to its rightful owner, the Jewish community of Iraq, who now find themselves mostly in Israel (between 250,000- 400,000) and the United States. That the US is even considering returning the collection is incredible. Our government contends that it made a commitment to the Iraqis before they took the documents to restore them.
    But you can’t make any commitments about property that doesn’t belong to you, so the US is not bound by its commitment.

    Thank you.  We have pointed out repeatedly that stolen property cannot be the subject of a legal contract that fails to include the owners.  The contract is not valid.  Until this point is made repeatedly so that most people can grasp it, the trove is lost.  It will go back to Iraq.  The only chance it has of staying is for the ownership issue to be raised.  (And, I will repeat, those who see their own records in these archives need to file in a US court to prevent the archives from returning to Iraq.)  David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reports on Harold Rhode's efforts to prevent the stolen property from being shipped to Iraq:

    Rhode has launched a campaign to halt the transfer, joined by a growing number of American Jewish groups and members of Congress, who argue that the materials belong to the Iraqi Jews they were taken from and their descendants, not to Iraq's government.
    For years, intelligence operatives working for Hussein and his predecessors apparently seized papers from synagogues and Jewish families, in periodic crackdowns or before the families would be allowed to emigrate.
    Why the materials, most of which document relatively mundane activities of Iraq's Jewish communities, were kept for decades in the security service headquarters is a mystery. Rhode attributes it partly to Hussein's mania for getting back at Israel.
    "By Saddam taking this material, it was like he was personally humiliating the Jews of the world and Israel," Rhode says. "So now are we going to return it to them?"

    Lastly,  David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.  This is from his "Iraqi Union Leaders In Danger, Call For A New Labor Law" (Equal Times):

    Trade unions in Iraq may gain real legal status for the first time in decades, if a proposed new labor and trade union law is passed by Parliament, and if it truly abolishes the anti-labor restrictions of the eras of Saddam Hussein and the U.S. occupation.  But even as this possibility seems within reach, the situation of trade union leaders in the country's most important economic sector - oil - seems as tenuous as ever.
    " The government wants to destroy our union," said Hassan Juma'a Awad, president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, in a recent interview.   "They will not allow us to work as a union.  Law 150, passed under Saddam Hussein, is still being enforced, and the Iraqi government uses this law to prohibit the operation of Iraqi unions.  Another law, special to our union, doesn't allow the workers in the general labor department to join. "
    On November 10 a court in Basra dismissed, for the second time, charges against Hassan Juma'a.  But Ibrahim Rhadi and sixteen other union activists are still being prosecuted, and face fines totaling more than $600,000, an impossibly large sum for oil workers to pay.  Rhadi's fine alone is $30,000.  " If Ibrahim doesn't pay, he'll be fired from his job," Juma'a says.  "Then they will put him in jail."

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