Tuesday, September 26, 2023

David McCallum led a long life



Above is  Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS  "Bo Ho?" She is so trashy.  The joke writes itself when you're dealing with Lauren Boebert.

There will be no third seasons for comedies Blindspotting and Run the World, as well as the pro wrestling drama Heels on Starz.

Variety and The Hollywood Reporter reported the cancellation news Monday.

The cable network also has decided not to continue filming the original drama, The Venery of Samantha Bird, when the ongoing Screen Actors Guild strike ends.

I'm not surprised about HEELS.  Stephen Anell pissed a lot of people off with his remarks about the strike.  His weak attempt to walk the remarks back didn't help either.  Unless they're casting a TV movie in hell, I don't expect him or Drew Barrymore to get any good offers in the coming months.  They're seen as backstabbers -- for good reason. 

Their careers may be dead but, sadly, 

David McCallum, a Scottish-born actor who became a surprise sensation as the enigmatic Russian spy Illya Kuryakin on “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in the 1960s and found television stardom again almost 40 years later on the hit series “NCIS,” died Monday in New York. He was 90.
“NCIS” announced his death in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. The announcement did not include any further information.

Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Mr. McCallum was an experienced character actor who could use an accent or an odd piece of clothing to give depth to a role. He played a wide range of parts across theater, film and television, from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Central Park in 2000 to the voice of Professor Paradox on the animated television series “Ben 10: Ultimate Alien,” a decade later.

He was hired in 1964 to play Illya Kuryakin, the Russian-accented sidekick of Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo, on “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” a tongue-in-cheek series about secret agents working for the fictional United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. His part was meant to be small; he had just four lines in the first episode. He suggested that Illya be made more interesting by having him be closemouthed about his personal life (“Nobody knows what Illya Kuryakin does when he goes home at night,” he told one interviewer) and somewhat antagonistic to Solo.

Back in the sixties (I wasn't born then) the four biggest spy shows were probably I SPY (Bill Cosby and Robert Culp), THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (Greg Morris, Peter Graves, Lynda Day George, Barbara Bain, Martin Landau, Lesley Ann Warren, Peter Lupus and Leonard Nimoy -- among others) and THE WILD WILD WEST (Robert Culp and Ross Martin).  They were hugely popular shows -- and all later became films.  MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, of course, is a Tom Cruise franchise (the best film is the first one directed by Brian de Palma -- after that, I'd say the one where Henry Cavill is the bad guy, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE -- FALLOUT).  Henry Cavill also starred with Armie Hammer in the film of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. I thought that was a great film, by the way, Guy Richie did a great job directing.  I SPY was a bomb with Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson and THE WILD WILD WEST was a bomb starring Will Smith.  Of the four TV shows, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. actually had 'movies' in the 60s.  WIKIPEDIA notes:

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. rated so highly in America and the UK that MGM and the producers decided to film extra footage (often more adult to evoke Bond films) for two of the first season episodes and release them to theaters after they had aired on TV. The episodes with the extra footage that made it to theaters were the original pilot, "The Vulcan Affair", retitled To Trap a Spy and "The Double Affair" retitled as The Spy with My Face. Both had added sex and violence, new sub-plots and guest stars not in the original TV episodes. They were released in early 1966 as an U.N.C.L.E. double-feature program first run in neighborhood theaters, bypassing the customary downtown movie palaces which were still thriving in the mid-1960s and where new movies usually played for weeks or months before coming to outlying screens.

A selling point to seeing these films theatrically was that they were being shown in color, at a time when most people had only black and white TVs (and indeed the two first-season episodes that were expanded to feature length, while filmed in color, had only been broadcast in black and white). The words "in color" featured prominently on the trailers, TV spots, and posters for the film releases. The episodes used to make U.N.C.L.E. films were not included in the packages of television episodes screened outside the United States.[2][page needed]

Subsequent two-part episodes, beginning with the second season premiere, "Alexander The Greater Affair", retitled One Spy Too Many for its theatrical release, were developed into one complete feature film with only occasional extra sexy and violent footage added to them, sometimes as just inserts. In the case of One Spy Too Many, a subplot featuring Yvonne Craig as an U.N.C.L.E. operative carrying on a flirtatious relationship with Solo was also added to the film; Craig does not appear in the television episodes.

The later films were not released in America, only overseas, but the first few did well in American theaters and remain one of the rare examples of a television show released in paid theatrical engagements. With the exception of the two-part episode "The Five Daughters Affair", shown as part of Granada Plus's run of the series, the episodes which became movies have never aired on British television.

The films in the series:

1967's THE KARATE KILLERS featured Joan Crawford and Telly Savalas as part of the cast. Yvone Craig (TV's Batgirl) starred in ONE SPY TOO MANY as well as ONE OF OUR SPIES IS MISSING -- playing two different characters.  Only THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. got a spin-off.  For 29 episodes, Stefanie Powers starred as THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. (this was pre-HART TO HART, obviously).  In addition to the 105 episodes of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., it returned in 1983 on TV for the TV movie RETURN OF THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.:  THE FIFTEEN YEARS LATER AFFAIR. 

In the '00s, he'd find big success again on American television.  AP notes:

McCallum returned to television in 2003 in another series with an agency known by its initials — CBS’ “NCIS.” He played Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, a bookish pathologist for the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, an agency handling crimes involving the Navy or the Marines. Mark Harmon played the NCIS boss.

McCallum said he thought Ducky, who sported glasses and a bow tie and had an eye for pretty women, “looked a little silly, but it was great fun to do.” He took the role seriously, too, spending time in the Los Angeles coroner’s office to gain insight into how autopsies are conducted.

Co-star Lauren Holly took to X, formerly Twitter, to mourn: “You were the kindest man. Thank you for being you.” The previously announced 20th anniversary “NCIS” marathon on Monday night will now include an “in memoriam” card in remembrance of McCallum.

The series built an audience gradually, eventually reaching the roster of top 10 shows. McCallum, who lived in New York, stayed in a one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica when “NCIS” was in production.

“He was a scholar and a gentleman, always gracious, a consummate professional, and never one to pass up a joke. From day one, it was an honor to work with him and he never let us down. He was, quite simply, a legend, said a statement from ”NCIS" Executive Producers Steven D. Binder and David North.

Between the two huge hit series?  WIKIPEDIA notes:

McCallum never quite repeated the popular success he had gained as Kuryakin until NCIS, though he did become a familiar face on British television in such shows as Colditz (1972–1974), Kidnapped [] (1978), and ITV's science-fiction series Sapphire & Steel (1979–1982) opposite Joanna Lumley. In 1975, he played the title character in a short-lived U.S. version of The Invisible Man.

McCallum appeared on stage in Australia in Run for Your Wife (1987–1988), and the production toured the country. Other members of the cast were Jack SmethurstEric Sykes and Katy Manning.

McCallum played supporting parts in a number of feature films, and he played the title role in the 1968 thriller, Sol Madrid.

McCallum starred with Diana Rigg in the 1989 TV miniseries Mother Love. In 1991 and 1992 McCallum played gambler John Grey, one of the principal characters in the television series Trainer. He appeared as an English literature teacher in a 1989 episode of Murder, She Wrote. In the 1990s, McCallum guest-starred in two U.S. television series. In season 1 of seaQuest DSV, he appeared as the law-enforcement officer Frank Cobb of the fictional Broken Ridge of the Ausland Confederation, an underwater mining camp off the coast of Australia by the Great Barrier Reef; he also had a guest-star role in one episode of Babylon 5 as Dr. Vance Hendricks in the Season 1 episode Infection.

In 1994, McCallum narrated the acclaimed documentaries Titanic: The Complete Story for A&E Networks. This was the second project about the Titanic on which he had worked: the first was the 1958 film A Night to Remember, in which he had had a small role.

In the same year, McCallum hosted and narrated the TV special Ancient Prophecies. This special, which was followed soon after by three others, told of people and places historically associated with foretelling the end of the world and the beginnings of new eras for mankind.

He had a long and impressive career and worked with people like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Hayley Mills, Patty Duke, Shirley Eaton, Gary Merrill, Richard Harris, John Huston, Montgomery Clift, Susannah York, Melvyn Douglas, Terrence Stamp, Peter Ustinov, Steve McQueen, James Garner, Dorothy McGuire, Charlton Heston, Harvey Korman, Lew Ayres, Carroll Baker, Turhan Bey, Tobey McGuire, Susan Strasberg, Jayne Seymour, Jackie Cooper, Sandra Bullock, Lori Singer, Anthony Head, Will Patton, Louise Fletcher,  Regina Taylor, Marcia Gay Harden . . . 

Imagine the stories at dinner time that he was able to share.  

 Lastly, I did write last night.  I just forgot to his "Publish."  When I logged on to write the above tonight, I saw I hadn't published last night so immediately posted "Weekend box office."  So you get two posts from me tonight.

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


Tuesday, September 26, 2023.  Donald Trump appears to have lost his mind, Joe Biden gets caught in another tall tale, Human Rights Watch notes the US government never took accountability for Abu Ghraib and never made amends, and much more.

Starting with former US President Donald Trump. As noted in THIRD's  "The Trump Crazies," "Adam Kinzinger thinks Donald Trump is going insane,  we think Trump's flock is."  And further proof that Donald is going insane?  William Vaillancourt (THE DAILY BEAST) notes:

While recalling his 2016 campaign for president during a speech Monday in South Carolina, Donald Trump mixed up his Bushes, referring to Jeb Bush as the one who “got us into the Middle East,” despite the fact that it was former President George W. Bush who ordered the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq two years later. According to Trump, “everyone thought Bush was going to win” the South Carolina primary in 2016. “They thought Bush because Bush supposedly was a military person. Great,” he said. “He got us into the Middle East. How did that work out, right? But they all thought that Bush might win—Jeb. Remember Jeb?” Bush, the former governor of Florida, ended up receiving just under eight percent of the vote in South Carolina, while Trump won the primary against five other major candidates with a plurality of about 32 percent. In his speech, Trump also knocked Bush’s campaign logo—“Jeb!”—for omitting his last name.

For the record, Jeb Bush never served in the military.  He didn't enlist and then go AWOL like Bully Boy Bush, he just didn't serve.  Why would Donald make those statements?  Again, it's very strange.  Far less strange, a report from Tori Otten (THE NEW REPUBLIC):

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday completely—and hilariously—destroyed one of Republicans’ main arguments to prove that Joe Biden is corrupt.

Republicans launched an impeachment inquiry into Biden, after months of insisting that the president is guilty of criminal wrongdoing. The GOP has yet to produce any actual evidence of their claims. But one of their main talking points is that Poroshenko fired former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin after Biden pressured him to do so.

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade played Poroshenko a clip of Shokin saying Biden wanted him fired because he had been investigating the oil company Burisma Holdings while Hunter Biden served on the board.

“First of all, this is [a] completely crazy person,” Poroshenko replied without hesitation, referring to Shokin. “This is something wrong with him. Second, there is not one single word of truth.”

Where did the GOP get this talking point?  Tori Otten seems unaware.  From Joe Biden's own mouth.

If Poroshenko is telling the truth -- I have no idea -- it actually makes even more sense.

If Poroshenko is telling the truth, Joe made another baseless brag which is totally in keeping with so many of his other statements.

Biden later publicly disclosed that on another trip to Kyiv he told Ukraine’s new leadership that Shokin needed to be removed, warning that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees until Shokin was replaced. (Biden did not say when he made the threat, but he addressed the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv on Dec. 9, 2015, and dangled the prospect of future U.S. aid if the country rid itself of the “cancer of corruption.”)

“I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,” Biden recalled in remarks at an event hosted in January 2018 by the Council on Foreign Relations. “Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.”

So another tall tale from Joe?

  • The US government has apparently failed to provide compensation or other redress to Iraqis who suffered torture and other abuse by US forces at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons in Iraq two decades ago.
  • Iraqis tortured by US personnel still have no clear path for receiving redress or recognition from the US government though the effects of torture are a daily reality for many Iraqi survivors and their families.
  • In August 2022, the Pentagon released an action plan to reduce harm to civilians in US military operations, but it doesn’t include any way to receive compensation for past instances of civilian harm.

(Baghdad) – The United States government has apparently failed to provide compensation or other redress to Iraqis who suffered torture and other abuse two decades after evidence emerged of US forces mistreating detainees at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.

After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US and its coalition allies held about 100,000 Iraqis between 2003 and 2009. Human Rights Watch and others have documented torture and other ill-treatment by US forces in Iraq. Survivors of abuse have come forward for years to give their accounts of their treatment, but received little recognition from the US government and no redress. Prohibitions against torture under US domestic law, the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the United Nations Convention Against Torture, as well as customary international law, are absolute.

“Twenty years on, Iraqis who were tortured by US personnel still have no clear path for filing a claim or receiving any kind of redress or recognition from the US government,” said Sarah Yager, Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “US officials have indicated that they prefer to leave torture in the past, but the long-term effects of torture are still a daily reality for many Iraqis and their families.”

Between April and July 2023, Human Rights Watch interviewed Taleb al-Majli, a former detainee at Abu Ghraib prison, in addition to three people with knowledge of his detention and his condition after his release who wished to remain anonymous. Human Rights Watch also interviewed a former US judge advocate who served in Baghdad in 2003, a former member of Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights, and representatives of three nongovernmental organizations working on torture. Human Rights Watch also reviewed media and nongovernmental reports, as well as US government documents including US Department of Defense investigations into alleged detainee abuse.

In May, Al-Majli told Human Rights Watch that US forces subjected him to torture and other ill-treatment, including physical, psychological, and sexual humiliation while detaining him at Abu Ghraib prison between November 2003 and March 2005.

He said he was one of the men in a widely circulated photo at Abu Ghraib that shows a group of naked, hooded prisoners on top of one another in a human pyramid, while two US soldiers smile behind them. “Two American soldiers, one male and one female, ordered us to strip naked,” al-Majli said. “They piled us prisoners on top of each other. I was one of them.”

Al-Majli said that US forces detained him while he was visiting relatives in Anbar province in 2003.

“On the morning of October 31 [2003], US forces surrounded the village my uncle lived in,” al-Majli said. “They took boys and old men from the village. I told them I’m a guest from Baghdad, I live in Baghdad and just came to visit my uncle. They put a cover on my head and tied my wrists with plastic zip ties, then loaded me into a Humvee.”

After a few days at Habbaniya military base and at an unknown location in Iraq, US forces moved al-Majli to Abu Ghraib prison. “It was then the torture started,” he said. “They took away our clothes. They mocked us constantly while we were blindfolded with hoods over our heads. We were completely powerless,” he said. “I was tortured by police dogs, sound bombs, live fire, and water hoses.”

While Human Rights Watch is unable to conclusively verify al-Majli’s account, including whether he was one of the men in the “human pyramid” photo, his story of detention at Abu Ghraib is credible. Al Majli presented corroborating evidence, including a prisoner identity card with his full name, inmate number, and cell block, which he said US forces issued him at Abu Ghraib after taking his photo, iris scan, and fingerprints. Al-Majli also showed Human Rights Watch a letter he obtained in 2013 from the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, a governmental body with the mandate to protect and promote human rights in Iraq, confirming his detention at Abu Ghraib prison, including his date of arrest (October 31, 2003), and listing the same inmate number as his prisoner identity card.

He said he has kept them all this time as proof of what he endured.

During the US occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2011, authorities held thousands of men, women, and children at Abu Ghraib prison. A February 2004 report to the US-led military coalition by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that military intelligence officers told the ICRC that an estimated 70 to 90 percent of people in coalition custody in Iraq in 2003 had been arrested by mistake.

Al-Majli said that after 16 months at Abu Ghraib, he was released without charge. Though he gained his freedom, he said he found himself physically ailing, penniless, and traumatized. While he was detained, he said, he began biting his hands and wrists to cope with the trauma he was experiencing, and has continued ever since. Raised, purple welts were clearly visible across his hands and wrists.

“It became a mental health condition,” he said. “I did it in jail, and after I left jail, and I keep doing it today. I try to avoid it, but I can’t. Until today, I can’t wear short sleeves. When people see this, I tell them it’s burns. I avoid questions.”

More than the pain he suffered himself, al-Majli laments the negative effect it has had on his children: “This one year and four months changed my entire being for the worse. It destroyed me and destroyed my family. It’s the reason for my son’s health problems and the reasons my daughters dropped out of school. They stole our future from us.”

For two decades, al-Majli has sought redress, including compensation and an apology, for the abuse he suffered. Unable to afford a lawyer or access the US embassy in Baghdad, al-Majli sought help from the Iraqi Bar Association, which turned him away, telling him it did not handle cases like his. Al-Majli then went to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, but all it could do was issue him a letter confirming he is in their records as a former detainee at Abu Ghraib. He said he did not know how to contact the US military and raise a claim.

Human Rights Watch wrote to the US Department of Defense on June 6, 2023, outlining al-Majli’s case, providing the research findings, and requesting information on compensation for survivors of torture in Iraq. Despite repeated follow-up requests, Human Rights Watch has not received a response.

“I didn’t know what else I could do or where else to go,” al-Majli said. Human Rights Watch was not able to find any legal pathway for al-Majli to file a claim seeking recompense.

“The US secretary of defense and attorney general should investigate allegations of torture and other abuse of people detained by the US abroad during counterinsurgency operations linked to its ‘Global War on Terrorism’,” Yager said. “US authorities should initiate appropriate prosecutions against anyone implicated, whatever their rank or position. The US should provide compensation, recognition, and official apologies to survivors of abuse and their families.”

20 Years of US Silence

In 2004, then-US President George W. Bush apologized for the “humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners” at Abu Ghraib. Soon after, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress that he had found a legal way to compensate Iraqi detainees who suffered “grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the United States armed forces. It’s the right thing to do, and it is my intention to see that we do.”

Human Rights Watch has found no evidence that the US government has paid any compensation or other redress to victims of detainee abuse in Iraq, nor has the United States issued any individual apologies or other amends.

Some victims have attempted to apply for compensation using the US Foreign Claims Act (FCA). The law allows foreign nationals to obtain compensation for death, injury, and damage to property from “noncombat activity or a negligent or wrongful act or omission” caused by US service members. However, it includes a so-called combat exclusion: claims are not payable if the harm results from “action by enemy or U.S. forces engaged in armed conflict or in immediate preparation for impending armed conflict.” Furthermore, for al-Majli and other survivors of detainee abuse during the invasion and occupation, filing a claim under the Foreign Claims Act is not an option because claims must be filed within two years from the date of the alleged harm.

Human Rights Watch was unable to find public evidence that payments have been made under this law as compensation for detainee abuse, including torture. In 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents detailing 506 claims made under the Foreign Claims Act: 488 in Iraq and 18 in Afghanistan. The majority of claims relate to harm or deaths caused by shootings, convoys, and vehicle accidents.

The only case of a Foreign Claims Act payment relating to detention in those documents was for a claimant who was paid US$1,000 for being unlawfully detained in Iraq, with no mention of other abuse. Five other claims were for abuse in detention, but they are among eleven claims that do not contain the outcome, including whether payment was made.

The US Defense Department did not respond to repeated requests for information as to whether the US government made Foreign Claims Act or other compensation payments to survivors or families of those who died of detainee abuse in Iraq.

Jonathan Tracy, a former judge advocate who handled claims of harm in Baghdad in 2003, told Human Rights Watch he did not know of any Foreign Claims Act payments to torture survivors by the Army. “If any of the survivors received a payment, I would doubt the Army would have wanted to use Foreign Claims Act money because it could be interpreted as an admission on the government's part,” he said.

A US submission to the UN Committee Against Torture from May 2006 reported that 33 detainees had by that date filed claims for compensation to the US Army, 28 of which were from Iraq.

The submission stated that “no compensation has been provided to date, however, compensation has been offered in two cases.” Subsequent submissions to the Committee Against Torture do not contain updates to these figures, nor specify whether those payments were made. Notably, according to the document, neither of the two recommended payments was listed as compensation for torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Other Iraqis have attempted to find justice in US courts. But the US Justice Department has repeatedly dismissed such cases using a 1946 law that preserves US forces’ immunity for “any claim arising out of the combatant activities of the military or naval forces, or the Coast Guard, during time of war.”

So far, the only lawsuits able to advance have targeted military contractors. Those cases, too, face considerable obstacles. One such case, Al Shimari et al. v. CACI, has been slowly making its way through courts since June 2008. The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a US-based nongovernmental organization, on behalf of four Iraqi torture victims against CACI International Inc. and CACI Premier Technology, Inc. The lawsuit asserts that CACI, which the US government hired to interrogate prisoners in Iraq, directed and participated in torture and other abuse at Abu Ghraib.

CACI has attempted to have the case dismissed 18 times since it was first filed. On July 31, 2023, a federal judge refused CACI’s most recent motion to dismiss the case, which finally appears to be heading to trial.

Criminal Investigations into Detainee Abuse in Iraq

The US Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) opened at least 506 investigations into alleged abuses of people in the hands of US and other coalition forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2005, according to a US Department of Defense document reviewed by Human Rights Watch. The document details investigations into 376 cases of assault, 90 cases of deaths, 34 cases of theft, and 6 cases of sexual assault allegedly committed by US and coalition forces.

These US Army criminal investigations paint a stark picture of the scale and range of abuse that was alleged inside US-controlled prisons in Iraq. The most high-profile cases – like the killing of Manadel al-Jamadi – and hundreds more cases of abuse that never made headlines are outlined with clinical descriptions of violence.

The investigations concerned 225 allegations of assault and sexual assault in US-controlled detention facilities, involving at least 318 potential victims and 426 alleged abusers.

38 of those investigations upheld the allegations or found the accused guilty.

In 57 cases, investigators were unable to find sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation or were unable to identify the suspect. In 79 cases, investigators declared the allegations unfounded. However, cases reviewed by CID highlighted several shortcomings in investigative processes, including a failure to identify and follow leads, failure to locate and interview witnesses, over-reliance on medical records without corroborating evidence, and failure to photograph or examine crime scenes. For example:   

In cases in which Army officials interviewed the victims and knew their identities, it appears that no attempt was made to couple punishments of abusers with compensation or other forms of redress.

Nineteen allegations of abuse were written off as standard operating procedure, leading the CID to conclude that the “offenses were unfounded” or “did not occur as alleged”:

Figure 2: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006
Figure 2: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006.
Figure 3: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006
Figure 3: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006.

Finally, 16 cases involved allegations of abuse committed by forces other than the US Army. Such cases were referred to investigators of the alleged abuser’s branch of the military, such as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), for further investigation. For example:

Figure 4: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006
Figure 4: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006.

A Climate Enabling Torture

When the photos of detainee abuse in Abu Ghraib went public, then-President Bush sought to minimize the systemic nature of the problem by calling it “disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values.” But investigations including by Human Rights Watch have found that decisions taken at the highest levels of government enabled, sanctioned, and justified these acts. Abu Ghraib was but one of several US military detention centers and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “black sites” worldwide where US forces, intelligence agents, and contractors carried out torture and other ill-treatment, or so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

When the first detainees arrived at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from Afghanistan in January 2002, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld labeled them “unlawful combatants,” seeking to deny them protections under the Geneva Conventions. The same month, the Bush administration intensified its efforts to circumvent domestic and international prohibitions on torture, with the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issuing memos that sought to legally justify torture and protect those engaging in it.

Denying detainees these protections enabled Rumsfeld to expand the list of interrogation techniques for use against prisoners at Guantanamo between December 2002 and April 2003.

Subsequent US government investigations, including the 2004 Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations (also known as the Schlesinger report), found that “the augmented techniques [approved by Rumsfeld] for Guantanamo migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq where they were neither limited nor safeguarded.”

The use of these techniques violated the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of prisoners under the laws of armed conflict and international criminal law.

The Bush administration limited the scope of these policies and practices in subsequent years, including by reducing the list of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but stopped short of banning torture. In January 2009, then-President Barack Obama rescinded all Bush-era memos allowing torture. However, he stated that his administration would prosecute neither the authors of the memos nor those who carried out the acts described in them in the belief that they were legal.

The Legacy of Abu Ghraib

Ninety-seven US soldiers implicated in 38 cases of abuse that the US Army Criminal Investigation Division investigated in Iraqi detention centers between 2003 and 2005 received punishments.

Just 11 of these soldiers were referred to a court martial to face criminal charges, where they were found guilty of crimes including dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault, and battery. 9 of the 11 served prison sentences. Fourteen others received nonjudicial punishments (e.g., a fine, reduction in rank, letter of reprimand, or discharge from the service). Reports of disciplinary action were pending for 72 individuals as of the document’s publication date, January 13, 2006.

There is no public evidence that any US military officer has been held accountable for criminal acts committed by subordinates under the doctrine of command responsibility.

Human Rights Watch reports in 2005 and 2011 presented evidence warranting substantial criminal investigations into high-level government officials for the roles they played in setting interrogation and detention policies following the September 11, 2001 attacks, including former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (now deceased), and CIA Director George Tenet. Additional Human Rights Watch research outlined the systematic nature of torture in Iraq, and the high level of command at which it was condoned.

Every US administration from George W. Bush to Joe Biden has rebuffed efforts for meaningful accountability for torture.

Some steps have been taken to change policies and introduce stricter controls on the treatment of people in US custody abroad. Congress passed new laws, including the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits subjecting anyone in US custody or control, “regardless of nationality or physical location,” to “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” as defined by the Senate reservation to Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture. The Defense Department also established various offices and positions related to “Detainee Affairs,” and initiated a department-wide review of detainee-related policy directives.

In August 2022, the Pentagon released a 36-page action plan aimed at reducing risks to civilians in US military operations. The plan directs the Defense Department to incorporate civilian harm issues into its strategy, planning, training, and doctrine; improve and standardize investigations of civilian harm; and to review and update guidance on responding to civilian harm. However, the plan fails to include a mechanism for reviewing past instances of civilian harm that have gone unaddressed, uninvestigated, and unacknowledged for 20 years.

See, that's the thing about attention seekers like Sy Hersh.  They follow someone else's work on the issue (in the case of Abu Ghraib, Charles J. Hanley of the ASSOCIATED PRESS) and refuse to credit them.  Make it all about themselves.  Take up all the oxygen in the room.  Then moving on to stealing credit for the work of someone else instead of ever taking the time to write an update on the story they (falsely) claim to have owned.  But if Sy had done a follow up, he never would have had time to barnstorm the country with that pedophile at his side.  

On NPR's MORNING EDITION today, Ruth Sherlock reports on the US government's refusal to keep its word to the survivors of Abu Ghraib.  

As long as we're noting some of the damage done by the US government to Iraq, let's note this from an article ASHARQ AL-AWSAT published an hour or so ago:

Iyad Allawi was not pro-American. He did not recognize their right to tailor the new Iraqi political scene as they wanted. Moreover, his meetings with a number of US officials were not fruitful. In parallel, no language of understanding was found with Tehran. He did not accept its terms, while the Iranian capital failed to tolerate his approach.

On March 7, 2010, general elections were held in Iraq. The “Iraqiya” list, led by Allawi, won 91 seats, while the State of Law coalition, led by Nouri al-Maliki, obtained 89 seats.

According to the applicable interpretation of the constitution, Allawi was supposed to be entrusted with the task of forming the new government. Al-Maliki was able to get from the Federal Supreme Court another interpretation of the article that talks about the largest bloc. A severe political crisis erupted that lasted about nine months, and ended in Al-Maliki’s favor.

I asked Allawi about the parties that prevented him from forming the government, he replied: “We achieved victory in the elections despite everything we were exposed to. Five hundred people were subjected to procedures under the pretext of “de-Baathification.” Among them were a number of our candidates. They assassinated nine persons. They closed entire regions to prevent our supporters from voting, and yet we were ahead of them by three seats. In fact, I was surprised by what happened. I did not expect the American and Iranian stances to reach this point. America and Iran prevented me from forming a government. They worked together.”

Allawi continued: “During that period, then-US Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad about three times a month. His concern was that I would give up in favor of Al-Maliki. He asked me to assume the presidency of the republic, and I told him that the people elected us to form the government, so how could I become president of the republic without a job or work (the nature of the position is quasi-protocol)... Biden repeated his demand, and I replied: “By God, if you do not allow me to become prime minister, terrorism will grow stronger... as will hatred for the regime...”

“During that period, US-Iranian negotiations were taking place in Muscat. The American delegation was headed by Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor under then-President Barack Obama. The Iranian side conveyed to the Americans a threat, stating that Iran will stop negotiations and cause problems in Iraq if Iyad Allawi becomes prime minister.”

“The truth is that I met Biden about 20 times. I’ve known him since he was in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His personality is shaky, and he is a liar and a hypocrite,” Allawi stated.

I asked the former premier whether the US destroyed Iraq, he replied: “Yes, America ruined Iraq.”

The multiple visits by Joe to Iraq during this time ended up producing The Erbil Agreement which overturned the March 2010 election results and gifted Nouri al-Maliki a second term as prime minister.  To get the various political leaders to agree to that, The Erbil Agreement also contained promises from Nouri such as he would implement Article 140 of the Constitution (which would determine whether Kirkuk was part of the KRG or part of the Baghdad-based government).  Nouri used the legal contract to get a second term as prime minister and then, two months later, had his spokesperson state publicly that the contract was illegal and he was not bound to it.

Back in 2010, parts of the following paragraph used to appear regularly in the snapshots and we'd add to it as needed:

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, twenty days and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positins that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."

The November 10th power sharing agreement is The Erbil Agreement.   Dropping back to the November 25, 2010 snapshot:

Thug Nouri brokered a deal with -- among others -- Moqtada al-Sadr to remain as dictator of Iraq.  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The Mahdi Army has also in effect seized control of cellblocks at one of Iraq's largest detention facilities, Taji prison.  Within months of the U.S. hand-over of the prison in March, Mahdi Army detainees were giving orders to guards who were either loyal to or intimidated by them, Iraqi and U.S. officials say  [. . .] Senior Sadr supporters are being brought into the Interior Ministry at high-level positions, according to Mahdi Army members and Iraqi officers. One Sadr commander who is being given the rank of brigadier general said he knew of 50 others who were being recruited for officers' positions."  And if there's anything more frightening than the current Iraq prison system it's grasping that the Mahdi Army is more or less in charge of some of them. Paul Walsh (Minneapolis Star Tribune) reports that the Minnesota National Guard is sending 80 members to Iraq and the question should be why?

The government in Iraq is nothing but exiles installed by the US. It's not a real government, it's not of the people -- easily demonstrated when the people's voice was rejected this month. So why is the US military being used to prop up this corrupt regime? And when does it end?

The 'government' lacks the consent of the governed. So to keep these exiles in place, the US military will have to stay on the ground in Iraq for years to come?

That's not democracy, that's thwarting the will of the people.

And it did real damage.  Iraqiya was not the party that was supposed to get the most votes.  It was brand new.  It wasn't built around one sect.  It had a woman as its primary spokesperson.  It had Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Muslims, it was about unity and pulling together.  And the voters responded to that.  Iraq would be on a different trajectory today if the US had honored the votes of the Iraqi people. 

New content at THIRD:

The following sites updated:

Weekend box office



Above is Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Bad News: He's A Floater" which went up Sunday.  Also going up Sunday, Kat's album reviews "Kat's Korner: Pretenders are RESTLESS and Alive" and "Kat's Korner: Tyler Childers' RUSTIN IN THE RAIN and living through the pain."


Now, via THENUMBERS.COM, here's the weekend box office:

1 (1) The Nun II Warner Bros. $8,550,110 -41% 3,536 -207 $2,418 $69,372,130 3
2 N Expend4bles Lionsgate $8,039,021   3,518   $2,285 $8,039,021 1
3 (2) A Haunting in Venice 20th Century… $6,302,782 -56% 3,305 n/c $1,907 $25,355,511 2
4 (3) The Equalizer 3 Sony Pictures $4,752,441 -34% 3,270 -258 $1,453 $81,288,684 4
5 (5) Barbie Warner Bros. $3,201,442 -16% 2,634 -378 $1,215 $630,451,529 10
6 (4) My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 Focus Features $3,038,370 -36% 3,078 -600 $987 $23,841,600 3
7 N It Lives Inside Neon $2,607,665   2,005   $1,301 $2,607,665 1
8 (-) Dumb Money Sony Pictures $2,425,706 +998% 616 +608 $3,938 $2,735,581 2
9 (6) Blue Beetle Warner Bros. $1,805,468 -28% 1,953 -433 $924 $69,818,235 6
10 (9) Oppenheimer Universal $1,626,480 -22% 1,459 -340 $1,115 $321,209,425 10



Observations.  I don't think THE EQUALIZER 3 is going to make it to $100 million.  I could be wrong.  But in it's fourth week, it didn't even make $5 million.  Now movie attendance is down unless you're BARBIE.  But I just don't see the film hanging in the top ten for four more weeks.  And if it couldn't make $5 million this past weekend, I don't see it doing so next. 

BARBIE's probably also winding down but it's raked up $1,427,551,529 in ticket sales.  It is the hit of the year.  It's doubtful anything coming out before the end of the year will match it.  OPPENHEIMER was never BARBIE and it was never fair to act like it was.  It took a lot of BARBIE's thunder in the press with reporters pretending otherwise.  It will not reach $1 billion.  It's dropping here and overseas. It will not make it to $927 million.  It's dying as we speak. Worldwide, A HAUNTING IN VENICE (number 3 in the US) is at $71 million in ticket sales.  It could make it to $100 million.  

I'm hoping MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 3 is not completely released worldwide because it's not doing very well overseas. 23.4 million in North America; however, only 7.2 million overseas.  If that's due to some holdback on releasing in foreign countries, it still has a chance but, otherwise, this is for the franchise.  There just wasn't any 'new' about this one.  If they'd added some younger actors to the cast, maybe people would have been interested.



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


Monday, September 25, 2023. Australian MPs visited Iraq to talk about Julian Assange, US Senator Bob Menendez got indicted (again), Australians rallied for a free Kurdistan, and much more. 

Starting with Julian Assange who is being persecuted for the 'crime' of journalism.  Julian Assange remains imprisoned and remains persecuted by US President Joe Biden who, as vice president, once called him "a high tech terrorist."  Julian's 'crime' was revealing the realities of Iraq -- Chelsea Manning was a whistle-blower who leaked the information to Julian.  WIKILEAKS then published the Iraq War Logs.  And many outlets used the publication to publish reports of their own.  For example, THE GUARDIAN published many articles based on The Iraq War Logs.  Jonathan Steele, David Leigh and Nick Davies offered, on October 22, 2012:

A grim picture of the US and Britain's legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.
Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.
The new logs detail how:
US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.

A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.
More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.

The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent deat

The Biden administration has been saying all the right things lately about respecting a free and vigorous press, after four years of relentless media-bashing and legal assaults under Donald Trump.

The attorney general, Merrick Garland, has even put in place expanded protections for journalists this fall, saying that “a free and independent press is vital to the functioning of our democracy”.

But the biggest test of Biden’s commitment remains imprisoned in a jail cell in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been held since 2019 while facing prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act, a century-old statute that has never been used before for publishing classified information.

Whether the US justice department continues to pursue the Trump-era charges against the notorious leaker, whose group put out secret information on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, American diplomacy and internal Democratic politics before the 2016 election, will go a long way toward determining whether the current administration intends to make good on its pledges to protect the press.

Now Biden is facing a re-energized push, both inside the United States and overseas, to drop Assange’s protracted prosecution.

Julian remains persecuted.  Last week, a group of Australian MPs traveled to the US to meet with government officials regarding Julian.  Binoy Kampmark (AUSTRLIAN INDEPENDENT MEDIA NETWORK) notes:

It was a short stint, involving a six-member delegation of Australian parliamentarians lobbying members of the US Congress and various relevant officials on one issue: the release of Julian Assange. If extradited to the US from the United Kingdom to face 18 charges, 17 framed with reference to the oppressive, extinguishing Espionage Act of 1917, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks risks a 175-year prison term.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, Labor MP Tony Zappia, Greens Senators David Shoebridge and Peter Whish-Wilson, Liberal Senator Alex Antic and the independent member for Kooyong, Dr. Monique Ryan, are to be viewed with respect, their pluckiness admired. They came cresting on the wave of a letter published on page 9 of the Washington Post, expressing the views of over 60 Australian parliamentarians. “As Australian Parliamentarians, we are resolutely of the view that the prosecution and incarceration of the Australian citizen Julian Assange must end.” 

What's at stake?  Press freedom in the general. Specifically for Julian?  THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD notes, "The charges relate to WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of cables detailing war crimes committed by the US government in the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan. If found guilty, he is facing a maximum jail sentence of 175 years." 

Assange’s family and close supporters were no doubt pleased that the visit occurred. It did have the benefit of again raising Assange’s plight, which has been subjected to frequent and extended media blackouts in Australia, Britain and the US itself.

To be uncritical, though, would be a mistake. The tour by the career politicians had nothing to do with combining the support for Assange with developing public opposition to social inequality, war or the broader assault on democratic rights.

Needless to say, these representatives of big business did not address meetings of American workers about the need to defend Assange. They would not have had anything to say to such an audience, or any basis upon which to make an appeal.

Instead, the tour was framed in generally right-wing terms. The importance of the “friendship” between the US and Australia was repeatedly emphasised. That is a reference to the militarist alliance between the two countries, which currently centres on advanced preparations for a catastrophic war against China.

Notably, the Greens MPs, Shoebridge and Whish-Wilson, were as fulsome as anyone in their praise of this “friendship.” That underscores the fraudulent character of their occasional nationalist posturing against aspects of the alliance, especially the $368 billion AUKUS agreement for Australia to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines from the US and Britain.

Rather, the MPs pitched Assange’s persecution as a potential barrier to the deepening of the war drive. They warned that it could incite popular hostility to the alliance in Australia, and be used by China and other US rivals to expose Washington’s fraudulent invocations of human rights and democracy.

The references to a supposedly broad “cross-party delegation” cannot obscure the fact that this group was a rather motley crew.

The Labor government claims to have made representations in private to the US for an end to the prosecution of Assange. To the extent that those assertions are true, the limited representations have clearly been rebuffed. Labor, whose commitment to Assange’s liberty was always very tenuous and expressed in the most tepid form, has simply dropped the matter. Albanese and other leaders of the government have not mentioned the WikiLeaks founder publicly for months.

It is no surprise that the only Labor representative was Tony Zappia, a backbencher with a very limited public profile.

The complicity of the Labor government in Assange’s persecution has helped right-wing figures pose as defenders of Assange and democratic rights. Alex Antic is on the far-right wing of the Liberal Party. Joyce is also a reactionary, whose political record is associated with the persecution of refugees and other vulnerable layers, as well as aggressive support for the interests of the country’s largest corporations. Both figures, in other words, have nothing to do with the fight for civil liberties.

The implications were made clear by two incidents.

In at least one interview, Joyce used the Assange case to pursue a bizarre vendetta against US actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. He has, for years, denounced the pair for allegedly bringing two dogs to Australia without declaring them to customs. Joyce said that just as the US would not accept the extradition of Depp and Heard for that purported wrongdoing, Australians should not accede to Assange’s dispatch to Washington.

The comments only served to lower the tone and downplay the implications of the US pursuit of Assange.

More significant was the fact that the six parliamentarians, including the Greens MPs, held a private meeting with Marjorie Taylor Greene who has nothing to do with defending democratic rights. The Republican was a key backer of Donald Trump’s attempted coup on January 6, 2021. Her other credentials include denouncing Black Lives Matter as a “domestic terrorist organisation” and declaring that Jewish-controlled space lasers were responsible for wildfires in California.

The MPs, in other words, sought to tap into the sewer of the American fascistic right. This is clearly not the constituency for defending the democratic rights of an anti-war publisher.

7NEWS AUSTRALIA offers this video report.

Former Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop said the Australian politicians are “wasting their time” trying to release Julian Assange.

“I mean the Americans, there’s no way they’re going to give into a group of Australians who come by for a chat, it’s got no more standing than that,” she told Sky News host Sharri Markson.

“So, I think it’s a waste of time.” 

Update time.  In Thursday's snapshot, we noted that US Senator Bob Menendez was yet again under federal investigation.  Friday, after the snapshot posted, the Justice Dept announced Menendez was indicted (we posted the press release here).  Kevin Reed (WSWS) reports:

New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez was indicted on Friday by federal prosecutors in New York, along with four others, including his wife Nadine Menendez, on multiple charges of bribery.

The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York brought the charges against Menendez, a senior senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for using “his official position” to provide favors to three businessmen and the Egyptian government “in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars” for himself and his wife which included “gold bars, cash and a luxury convertible.”

In a Department of Justice press release Friday, US Attorney Damian Williams said a grand jury charged the Menendezes for engaging in “a corrupt relationship” with New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes and unnamed Egyptian government officials between 2018 and 2022.

Williams’ statement went on to say the businessmen “collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes, including cash, gold, a Mercedes Benz, and other things of value—in exchange for Senator Menendez agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the Government of Egypt.”

Responding eight hours after the indictment, leading Democratic Party leaders in the Garden State, including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, called on Menendez to resign. Murphy said the allegations are “deeply disturbing” and “implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system.” The governor continued, saying the “facts are so serious they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state.”

Clearly, the stench of corruption surrounding the longtime federal legislator from New Jersey—Menendez held a seat in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2006 and has been in the Senate since 2006—was so strong that the Department of Justice was forced to shut him down.

Senator Menendez was implicated in ethics violations in 2006 for renting property he owned to a non-profit agency that received federal funding. In 2015, he was indicted on bribery and fraud charges involving requests that the State Department pressure the Dominican Republic to enforce a government contract that benefited a Florida businessman, who gave the senator money and paid for his expensive vacation trips on a private jet.

At present, the senator is refusing calls to resign from his seat.  He has announced a press conference later today.  He is not expected to announce his resignation but instead to announce that he is seeking re-election.  41-year-old House Rep Andy Kim announced over the weekend that he was going to run against the 69-year-old (and indicted) Menendez for the Senate seat:

In other news, "Stop killing Kurds!"  In Australia, a demonstration on Saturday included that chant.

A protest on September 23 called on the Australian government to break its silence about Turkey's ongoing war on the Kurds and its recent deadly attacks in the south Kurdistan region of Iraq.

On September 18, three peshmerga (Kurdish freedom fighters) affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) were killed and three others wounded in a drone strike on an airport in Sulaymaniyah/ Silêmanî.

At around the same time, Deniz Cevdet Bülbün, the representative the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) — Kurdish umbrella organisation — was killed in an armed attack on the KNK's Erbil (Hewlêr) office.

"This was an attack on the unity of the Kurdish people," Kurdish community representative Brusk Aeiveri told the rally.

He accused the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities of collaborating with the Turkish state to facilitate attacks like these.

The protest called for a free Kurdistan.  On the KRG, Azhi Rasul (RUDAW) reports:

Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court on Sunday ruled to dissolve the Kurdistan Region’s provincial councils “due to the end of their electoral cycle,” after declaring an amendment for their extension as “unconstitutional.” 

The court stated that Article No. 2 in Law No. 2 of 2019, which amended the provincial councils for the provinces of the Kurdistan Region, was “unconstitutional,” it said in a statement. 

According to provisions from Article 2 of the Iraqi constitution, the amendments went against the principles of democracy and infringed on basic rights and freedoms. 

Elections for the Kurdistan Region’s provincial councils were last held in April 2014, and members of the council were sworn in on June of the same year to serve for four years, until June 2018. 

ALMAYADEEN notes, "It is worth noting that in July 2019, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq's Parliament passed a proposal to amend the law governing provincial councils in the region, including extending the terms of the existing councils to bridge the legal gap created by the expiration of their mandates."  MEDYA NEWS adds, "Journalist Fehim Işık told Medya News that the Kurdistan Regional Government is now considering how to respond to the court’s decision. However, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has been left without a functioning legislative body since May due to disputed parliamentary elections. This impasse has prevented the parties from taking collective decisions or convening parliament."

Australia's Saturday protest follows last week's visit to the US by Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani who addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.  The UN notes:

MOHAMMED SHIA' AL SUDANI, Prime Minister of Iraq, said that his country has always believed in the principles the UN was founded upon.  The spirit of consensus has prevailed in Iraq.  “We now have a Government that enjoys a widespread political coalition that covers all aspects of society,” he added.  It has adopted a programme with crucial priorities that reflect issues that must be implemented without delay and that benefit the people of Iraq. These priorities include employment opportunities, poverty eradication, fighting corruption and enacting economic reforms.  “Iraq has become a safe environment” for investors as well.  A pivotal State in the global oil market, Iraq is also working on a regional corridor that will make transport and trade easier.

Turning to corruption, he said, indeed, his country faced a “corruption pandemic”.  The Government is focused on eradicating “this disease”, he stressed.  It is vital to pursue those who spread corruption.  “We must return the money they have stolen because we believe there is a symbiotic relationship between corruption and terrorism,” he went on to say.  “We want Iraq part of the solution to any international and regional problem,” he added. Iraq is committed to international law and respects all United Nations resolutions.  That is why Baghdad rejects any interference in its internal affairs “regardless of the excuse”.  He stressed that “Iraq will not be a launching point of aggression against any other State.”  To its neighbours, his country extends the hand of friendship.  “We hope to achieve regional integration.”  Iraq’s place in the field of international cooperation must be bolstered.

On the holding of local elections, after a 10-year hiatus, he said the Federal Government is working with the region of Kurdistan and all other regions of Iraq on “equal footing”.  Turning to climate change, he noted that “the land of Mesopotamia” is suffering from a drought, also cautioning:  “The cradle of civilization must not be allowed to die of thirst.” Iraq is working on exerting more efforts between relevant regional States to form a negotiating bloc and to manage cross-border water resources.  He stressed the need to mobilize international efforts to ensure the sustainability of water sources.  On a national level, Iraq has taken steps to lower emissions and combat pollution.  However, institutions are needed to deal with mounting climate challenges.

Further, he underscored Iraq’s “intensifying” efforts in combating drugs and any related activities.  “It is no secret that there is a direct relationship between terrorism and drugs,” he said.  Young people constitute 60 per cent of the country’s population.  “They are the best investment,” he continued, underscoring the many programmes that aim to support students and youth so that they can find employment opportunities.  Students and young people must be empowered with skills that can allow for innovation.  He also recognized the role of women in helping Iraq achieve victory against terrorism. Pledging support to the Palestinian people, he called for an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and stressed that they must be allowed full control of their territory.  “Burning the holy Qur’an is a hate crime,” he went on to say, warning also:  “We, in Iraq, know the bitter taste of religious extremism.”

Lastly, Amr Salem (IRAQI NEWS) is one of the few reporting on a change in Iraqi oil:


Iraq is about to enact an oil and gas law that would give international corporations a part in the nation’s oil output after more than ten years of discussions and delays.

This important step may take place after the municipal elections in December, according to Al-Sabah newspaper.

Despite the most recent developments, there are still outstanding issues between the federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil.

A planned federal oil and gas council’s proposed leadership is one of the main points of conflict, Ali Mashkour, a member of the Parliament’s Oil and Gas Committee, told Oil & Gas Middle East.

So the goals of the Iraq War finally reach fruition and do so with little comment or attention from the international community?  Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani spent last week in the US where he met with many leaders -- business and government -- and addressed the United Nations' General Assembly.   John Lee (MENAFN) reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister, Mr. Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, held a meeting with members of the American Chamber of Commerce in New York on Thursday evening (local time). The meeting was attended by businessmen, investors, and representatives of major American companies. During the meeting, he praised the efforts of Mr. Steve Lutes, the Deputy Head of the American Chamber of Commerce, for organizing the meeting to inform investors about the business environment in Iraq."

Sunday, Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Bad News: He's A Floater" and "Bo Ho?" went up and Kat's album reviews "Kat's Korner: Pretenders are RESTLESS and Alive" and "Kat's Korner: Tyler Childers' RUSTIN IN THE RAIN and living through the pain" went up.   The following sites updated: