Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Tonight, we're doing a theme post.  We're picking what we think is the best cover version of a song.

For me, there's no debating it.

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell took Ashford & Simpson's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" onto the lower reaches of the top 40 with their jaunty and superficial version.

It's a nice song but not one of their better performances.

And if that's how it had ended, no one would probably care about the song.

But Ashford & Simpson produced Diana Ross' debut solo album.

She had fronted the Supremes (including on 12 number one hits) and was now a solo.

They worked with Diana on a radical re-working of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

That song was not just huge (number one), it broke all the rules.

Berry Gordy didn't even see it as a single due to the spoken parts, among other things.

Diana owns that song to this day and it would make my top five for best songs of the 1970s.

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, even the UN's undercount of deaths finds June's death toll the highest since last September, Margaret Griffis ( reports nearly 5,000 deaths for the month of June, the refugee crisis continues, Matthew Hoh and Jesse Ventura take on Barack's Iraq War spin, and much more.

Yesterday's snapshot focused basically on an e-mail Hillary Clinton sent and how the New York Times' lazy 'reporting' was distorting the e-mail.

Did it matter that they distorted?

Wouldn't most people have the brains to realize the distortion?

It did matter and clearly most people don't have the brains needed.

Presumably an outlet calling itself "Pink News" wants to accurately report on LGBT issues.

Yet Joseph Patrick McCormick kicks off his nonsense with:

Newly released emails show Hillary Clinton discussed Saddam Hussein’s treatment of LGBT people, calling it “sad and terrible”.

No, you are wrong, you are grossly incorrect.

You should be embarrassed and ashamed of yourself for writing such stupidity.


Two were released.

The first is Cheryl Mills forwarding to Hillary a news report: Ashley Byrne's "Saddam's rule 'better' for gay Iraqis" (BBC News).

The second is Hillary replying:

So sad and terrible.  We should ask Chris Hill to raise this w govt.  If we ever get Posner confirmed we should emphasize LGBT human rights.

The news report is that things were better for Iraq's LGBT community under Saddam.

Bynre writes in the report:

All the LGBT Iraqis interviewed for Gay Life After Saddam maintained that life was easier for them when Saddam Hussein was in power, from 1979 to 2003. 

So if you write, as McCormick does at Pink News today:

Newly released emails show Hillary Clinton discussed Saddam Hussein’s treatment of LGBT people, calling it “sad and terrible”.

You are flaunting your ignorance in the public square and really need to sit your tired ass down.

Hillary did not discuss Saddam's treatment of LGBT people and the article she was commenting on was noting that in the post-Saddam era, life had become very dangerous for Iraq's gay community.

This is what happens when 'reporters' like Peter Baker and Steve Eder get away with lazy and inaccurate work -- it quickly spreads and the truth is distorted.

Today, UNAMI announced the figures for Junes death toll in Iraq.  They go with 1,466 dead and 1,687 injured and those are the number you'll see.  Add 801 deaths for 2,488 deaths from violence (that includes security forces) and  2342 for the injured (includes security forces).

After over a year of criticism, they've made some attempt to include Anbar Province in the body of the report (136 killed and 163 injured).

This is an undercount.

They do not include the civilians in Falluja killed by the Iraqi military bombings of residential neighborhoods, for example.

Even so, AP notes, "The monthly death toll was the highest since last September, and the rise from last month appeared to be almost entirely due to higher casualties among security forces."

Margaret Griffis ( reports, ", using news reports, found at least 3,311 militants were killed and 287 were wounded. Many of these deaths were reported by the Iraqi government, which could be exaggerating its successes. On the other hand, many of the wounded might not have fallen into government hands and therefore are uncountable. In total, 4,777 were killed and 1,974 were wounded during June."

The violence takes place in a populated country with a very young population.  The United Nations notes:

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today said that over the past year in Iraq, it has seen a 75 per cent increase in grave violations against children that include killing and maiming, abduction, recruitment as soldiers, sexual violence, attacks against schools and denial of humanitarian access.
“We could never have predicted that one year on we would be looking at a violent crisis that has affected more than eight million people,” said Colin MacInnes, UNICEF’s Acting Representative in Iraq briefing the press in Geneva from Irbil. This month marks the anniversary of the beginning of the widespread violence across the country.
This time last year, many communities in Iraq, particularly in locations such as Mosul and Tikrit, witnessed violence that displaced people on a scale that caught everyone by surprise. It led to the collapse of the healthcare system, the education system the public safety net. The situation for children in particular was desperate. In the 2014-15 school year more than 650,000 children had received no schooling whatsoever and over three million did not attend a regular school cycle.
“For those children not in school and who did not have services the situation continued to worsen,” said Mr. MacInnes.

The speed and scope of the crisis has been very severe, he continued, affecting both national and international actors. The ability of families to access even basic items was also harshly impacted. Recently nearly 3,000 people from Anbar were being displaced every week. 

The refugee crisis is so great that even the Iraqi government has to acknowledge it in some form.  Andolu Ajansi reports the Ministry of Migration and Displacement is stating that the last 12 months have seen 493,990 Iraqi families displaced within Iraq.  Those numbers are an undercount and they do not include the number of families who have fled Iraq in the last 12 months due to the ongoing violence.

On the internally displaced, Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reported last week:

Al-Monitor met with people who had been displaced from the towns of al-Alam, al-Dor and Tikrit in Salahuddin governorate who refuse to return for other reasons. Samer al-Douri, a civil engineer from al-Dawr who was displaced to the city of Sulaimaniyah, said that returning to al-Dawr is now impossible in light of the Popular Mobilization Units imposing their control over the areas that were recently liberated.
He added, “We will not be safe even though we ran away from al-Dawr when IS invaded it. The government and the Popular Mobilization Units still deny the return of our families.”
Iqbal al-Ojaili, who was displaced with her family from Tikrit to Sulaimaniyah, told Al-Monitor, “I refuse to return at the government's discretion. I have three boys and their lives are in the hands of a security member. If the latter decides that they are terrorists, it will be over for them.”
Ali Issam, who also fled to Sulaimaniyah, told Al-Monitor that his house in Tikrit had been completely looted. He owned a food store that was burned to the ground. “How do I get back, and where and how will I live?” Issam asked.

Last week, Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) reported on a refugee camp in Kirkuk:

Omar Sabbah has not left the displaced persons' camp where he is now living for two whole months. Originally from Tikrit, he says that if he wanted to leave, he'd have to walk a long way on an unpaved road. There are no easy ways to get out of here, he complains. “Life in the camps is another kind of prison,” he says. “We can only hope conditions improve in our own home towns soon so we can return there.”
Sabbah is one of around 8,500 people living in 1,800 tents in the Laylan camp for displaced people, about 20 kilometres out of the northern city of Kirkuk.
When he managed to escape the extremist group known as the Islamic State that had control of Tikrit until recently, Sabbah said he'd never expected to end up living in such a remote area.
Although the Islamic State, or IS, group was pushed out of Tikrit Sabbah doesn't think he can go back to the city anytime soon. The city was liberated by a mixture of pro-government Iraqi forces, which also included a large number of fighters from Shiite Muslim militias. These have been both celebrated for their victories and controversial because of bad behaviour after the fighting ended.

Omar knows this only too well. He has already changed his first name to Ammar. In Iraq, it is possible to tell which sect or tribe any person is from because of their names. “The Shiite militias hate the name Omar, which is why I changed mine,” Sabbah explains. “It's going to make it easier for me to return home in the future.”

The above and so much more should result in the US State Dept spearheading a diplomatic mission which would include making a sizable donation to the United Nations' aid programs in Iraq and encouraging other nations to do the same.

Instead, the UN has to repeatedly note that their aid programs in Iraq are in danger due to serious shortfalls in the budget.

They could also foster an environment which would allow for reconciliation and a political solution.  Instead, the State Dept mistakes itself for the Pentagon and when Iraqi officials take tentative steps, there's no encouragement or support from the White House.

For example, National Iraqi News Agency reports that the three presidencies (Iraqi Preisdnet Fuad Masum, Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jubouri and Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi) were supposed to meet tonight:

 A source told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / "The meeting will deal with a number of issues in the forefront will be the national reconciliation and the political agreement document as well as some of the bills that are still waiting for legislation."

He noted that "the three presidencies perhaps, will call to convene a meeting for the political blocs, explaining that there is a consensus among the three presidencies on the need to come out of usual routine meetings and reach clear decisions on the files that are discussed."

Salim al-Jubouri, House Speaker held a meeting yesterday evening with MPs and ministers of the Iraqi forces coalition to discuss a number of important files, particularly the political file and what was achieved from the terms of the political agreement, in addition to the bills that await to be approved in the House of Representatives during its legislative term and laws sent by the Council of Ministers. "/ 

This news is apparently so unimportant to the administration that it can't even get a Tweet from the State Dept's Brett McGurk -- McGurk who Tweets daily on US airstrikes on Iraq.

Were Barack Obama and the White House not being held hostage by the government of Iran, maybe they could address issues in Iraq?

Instead, the wasted time continues.  We were told that all the focus would end in March when a deal was arrived at.

There was no deal.

The White House insisted that by the end of June, they'd have a deal.

June has ended.

Currently, they've tacked on another week.

As former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has repeatedly noted in the last weeks, Iran is not helping Iraq, it is assisting in the hardening of divisions among Iraqis and in inciting ill will.

But that can't be addressed when Barack is held hostage by Tehran.

Some news reports today made the laughable claim that Barack knows how to walk away from the bargaining table.

No, he doesn't.

And when you demonstrate that, and he did last March, you have no power.

That's why tacking three more months to the 'talks' did not result in a deal.

Tehran knows Barack will do anything to avoid walking away.

Tehran knows they're calling the shots.

It's not a debate among equals, it's one group insisting on what they want (Tehran) and another party too scared to end the talks.

And while he continues to allow Iran to take center stage, Iraq suffers every day.

Barack Obama's 'plan' for Iraq doesn't stem the violence, it only adds to it.  The US Defense Dept announced today:

Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted nine airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
-- Near Baghdadi, three airstrikes struck land features, denying ISIL a tactical advantage and destroying two ISIL excavators.
-- Near Fallujah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL tunnel system.
-- Near Haditha, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying two ISIL vehicles.
-- Near Mosul, two airstrikes struck an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL mortar firing position, destroying an ISIL building.
-- Near Waleed, an airstrike destroyed three ISIL armored personnel carriers.

None of that steers Iraq towards a political solution.

None of that addresses the very real grievances of the Sunni population, a population targeted under the (mis)leadership of Nouri al-Maliki for years and still targeted by the man who replaced him as prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

In January 2014, Nouri began bombing civilians areas in Falluja (Sunni-dominate Falluja).  These bombings continue under Haider al-Abadi (they are collective punishment which is legally defined as a War Crime).

On Falluja, Rudaw reports:

Airstrikes carried out over the last two weeks by the Iraqi Army against the Islamic State, or ISIS, have been causing heavy collateral damage on the civilian residents of Fallujah, the city's top health official reported Wednesday.

“The random airstrikes carried out by the Iraqi air forces against Daesh [ISIS] gunmen have killed 71 people and wounded 90 others,” Ahmad Shami, head of physicians in Fallujah Hospital, told Rudaw.

Iraqi Spring MC notes today's Iraqi military bombings of Falluja's residential area left 4 children dead and their mother and father injured.

Falluja is only one city in Anbar Province.  Middle East Monitor reports:

The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq denounced what it described as "crimes and flagrant human rights violations" committed in the city of An-Nukhayb in the Anbar province, adding that the area is being emptied of its indigenous people as part of a systematic policy of demographic change carried out by the Popular Mobilisation Forces with the support of the government.
In a statement released yesterday, the association quoted eyewitnesses from the area as saying that on Monday "members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces started to burn dozens of safe homes and houses inhabited by the people of the area. They also attacked the inhabitants by beating them and yelling obscene and sectarian insults at them."

Iraq War veteran Matthew Hoh appeared on Jesse Ventura's Off The Grid today.  Excerpt:

Jesse Ventura:  What do you think of this latest troop deployment?  We already have 3,100 troops in Iraq and now we're sending in at least 450 more to "train local security forces" -- whatever that means.  What do you make of it, Matt?

Matthew Hoh:  Oh, it's completely absurd, Governor.  You know, it's -- What does anybody expect to come out of this?  Except more violence in Iraq, more violence in Syria, more violence where ever we put our troops into the middle of a civil war.  It only benefits groups like the Islamic State or Shia militias that get all riled up because of the presence of foreign troops and basically us trying to pick winners and losers again in someone else's civil war that we had a lot to do with starting, of course. But also too, the other people that make a ton of money off of this, the only other people that benefit, are the defense companies.  And the amount of money that goes into these conflicts is-is just obscene -- particularly when you look and compare it to the declining states of our nation -- how our own schools are failing, our infrastructure is failing, etc. But we are more than willing to send troops overseas to fight in foreign civil wars.  And most of that -- or a good deal of that -- has to do with American defense companies making billions and billions of dollars of it.

Jesse Ventura:  Now Obama said, Matt, that these are not combat troops, they're "trainers."   What the hell does that mean?

Matthew Hoh:  You're talking about putting American troops into the middle of Iraq.  More American troops into the middle of Iraq where we had already lost 4,500 troops, 4,500 Americans in the Iraq War, tens of thousands wounded, 100,000 or more with mental issues, homeless issues, etc. But this notion that they're just going to be trainers is just -- is just a politician trying to sound both tough and safe at the same time.

Lastly,, Trevor Timm explores the topic of civilian deaths at the Guardian.  He's noting the calls for more civilian deaths in Iraq.  We noted this when we reported on the House Armed Services Committee hearing on June 24th.  And you can also refer to the June 4th snapshot as well as in "Iraq: Failed follow ups and whining that bombs aren't being dropped quick enough"

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