Monday, August 21, 2017

Best movie of 2017 so far

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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