Monday, May 17, 2010
Pollution of our world, pollution of our bodies
That's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Gulf Coast Drilling Disaster 2010" from yesterday. That's something to be concerned about. And another topic -- pollution but pollution of the body -- that's important is covered in Jay Stanley's "Getting Naked with Strangers May Be More Dangerous Than Suspected" (ACLU Blog of Rights):
In a post about body scanners last month, I noted that the health effects of these machines has been a "muted part of the debate." The issue just got less muted. NPR is reporting that a group of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, has raised concerns over the health effects of backscatter X-ray body scanners, which is one of the two types being deployed (the other being millimeter wave). The scientists' concerns over backscatter are disputed by the TSA and others, and we at the ACLU do not pretend to be scientists. But, the scientists' brief letter (PDF), which they sent on April 6 to President Obama's science advisor John P. Holdren, is worth looking at.
The scientists' concerns are:
The majority of the energy directed by these scanners "is delivered to the skin and the underlying tissue. Thus, while the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high." For that reason it is "misleading," the scientists say, to compare these scanners' radiation dose to those of airplane travel or a chest X-ray.
The fact that "real independent safety data do not exist" — particularly what the scientists describe as the "key data": the volume of photons delivered per skin area and time.
A certain proportion of individuals (5 percent, or one in 20 people) are particularly susceptible to genetic damage from X-rays.
"Because this device can scan a human in a few seconds, the X-ray beam is very intense," the scientists write, and warn that a hardware glitch with one of these scanners could shower a traveler with "an intense radiation dose to a single spot on the skin."
That's really disturbing. Think about Ava, C.I., Wally and Kat who hit the road each week and take several planes each week. People like that could be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation over and over and over. This is a very important issue.
Radiation causes cancer.
Bill Ritter of WABC (New York) notes both topics in a column and I'll go back to the ocean for my excerpt:
One of the large plumes of oil found by scientists in the Gulf measures 10 miles long, 3 miles wide, and 300 feet thick.
Not coincidentally, the Interior Department official who oversees offshore oil and gas drilling, is resigning, although the administration calls it "retiring."
3 miles wide, 300 feet thick. And the administration still hasn't gotten ahold of this.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Monday, May 17, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, an 'antiwar' type praises George W. Bush, in the real world peace actions are being planned, tell the world it turns out Turkey is the model neighbor Iraq wants more of, no fraud found in Baghdad voting, two imans are targeted in today's violence, Janet Napolitano reveals a previously unknown desire to perform stand up, and more.
Starting with the Shame of the Movement. Little Raed Jarrar -- the Jar Jar Blinks of the Peace Movement. Today Jar Jar declares of the Status Of Forces Agreement, "It is very important to understand how we've managed to reach to the the current plan, which is a good plan aimed at ending the occupation completely." Note, "the the" is his typo. Didn't we always picture Jar-Jar as Eva Braun? Someone fly him to Highland Park ASAP so he can hop into the bunker with Bully Boy Bush. It's "a good plan." Gushing is second nature to Raed. No, it's a lousy contract. And the dope doesn't understand the US Constitution so he probably should sit his ass down, open a book and try to learn. It's clear he's never going back to Iraq. Fine, learn about this country or don't speak. Raed knows nothing about the law or the Constitution. He wastes his time -- when not posing as a Quaker (he's not a Quaker) -- and he wastes everyone else's. David Swanson, for all his many faults, grasps that the SOFA is unconstitutional. It flies right over Raed's head, so busy is he pulling his pud and exclaiming, "It's a withdrawal!" It's nothing of the sort. Raed's pimping Peace Action which ridiculously still brags on its website that they are "a leading member of the United for Peace and Justice and Win Without War coalition" -- yeah, the backstabbers who sold out the peace movement, hijacked it, turned it into a Get-Out-The-Vote action for the Democratic Party (which has not ended the Iraq War). You'll note how Peace Action ranks their goals by what gets listed first:
Peace Voter Campaign
How sad. Jar-Jar's an idiot. Ava and I gave up on educating him (he really seems to have some developmental issues) and I know Dona's had it with him as well. In Friday's snapshot we were noting Nouri al-Maliki's summer of 2009 remarks about US forces remaining in Iraq after 2012. It doesn't matter whom you cite or what, Jar-Jar doesn't deal in reality. There is something seriously wrong with his head. In the real world William Rivers Pitt (Truthout) offers:
President Obama will not get the United States out of Iraq in his first term. If he wins a second term, it is highly unlikely he will get us out of Iraq before he finally leaves office.
Print that out and tack it to your wall. Six years from now, it will still be hanging there, yellow and curled, but entirely correct. We're not going anywhere.
[. . .]
Whether President Obama is a prisoner of this situation, or is actively continuing the policy, is entirely irrelevant at this point. He may hate this war, or he may love it, but at the end of the day, he will continue in the manner of his predecessor.
We're there, and unless this country erupts in a frenzy of furious protest and civil disobedience, we're staying. Even that may not make the nut, but it would be awfully nice to see this country shake itself out of its stupor and do what needs to be done.
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan and Peace of the Action (not to be confused with Peace Action which just wants you to vote) are preparing for a Sizzlin' Summer Protest with a "Rethink Tyranny" 4th of July to kick things off at one in the afternoon in Lafayette Park. Monday through Friday (July 5th through 9th), Lafayette Park will be a meet up spot each morning and late in the afternoon. Afternoon protests will be in front of the White House during the day at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle display. The first week of summer protests will be celebrated that Saturday with a bash for Cindy Sheehan (July 10th is her birthday) and for the spirit of protest. There are many more July actions being planned and some are announced (click here). If you'd like to participate, they ask that you e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org because they are attempting to get a head count.
Turning to Iraq and the post-election madness. Sunday, Anthony Shadid (New York Times) reported that the results of the Baghdad recount (of the March 7th elections) have been released and there was no evidence of fraud, nor did the outcome change. Ayad Allawi's political slate remains 91 seats in the Parliament to Nouri al-Maliki's 89. al-Maliki's spokesperson declared no objections further indicating that the recount was always intended to be a stalling technique to question the legitimacy of Iraqiya's win allowing the raised doubts (and fears that al-Maliki would get his way) to sideline any attempts by Iraqiya to form a coalition-sharing alliance. Meanwhile Alsumaria TV informs, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki told Alsumaria that the State of Law Coalition has no other candidate than him for Premiership." Nouri also instilled the fear that backing Iraqiya was a lost cause because his 'helpmates' Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami were ensuring that various members of Iraqiya would not be seated. Today Anthony Shadid and Riyadh Mohammed (New York Times) report that a court issued a ruling today stating no elected candidate would be prevented from serving in the Parliament: "The decision Monday was handed down in the same obscure and capricious fashion that has plagued the entire de-Baathification process. It was not made public; that was left to Mr. Lami. Even as he promised to abide by the court ruling, he warned that he might open more cases against sitting members of Parliament. Electoral officials acknowledged being unclear over precisely what the decision said Monday." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) adds, "The attempted disbarment of the candidates -- now newly elected members of parliament -- for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party was among the factors that prevented Iraqi officials from certifying the results of the election. [. . .] Maliki tacitly supported the disqualification process and was the driving force behind the recount in Baghdad. In the end, neither effort affected the seat distribution."Nouri played it very well. He knew Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq, was both inept and a living failure. He knew he could make threats and bully and not even worry about Hill calling for a face-to-face talk over any of it. He knew that while Allawi, Iraq's Foreign Ministers and others called for US and UK involvement to ensure the post-election period was fair, the idiot Hill would continue to issue his 'everything is fine on the ground' reports to DC. He knew he could rob the store and burn it down and Hill would tell DC the 'real news' was that the store would be reopening. If you still haven't grasped what happened, try to do so now. Despite Nouri having all the power of the office, despite him tossing around bribes and election year promises, despite the press covering for him, despite the press insisting he (they should have said his party) was a shoe in and that it would win 100s of seats, the Iraqi people rejected him. Many Shi'ites rejected him by not voting. Others joined Sunni voters in voting for Iraqiya. Still others voted for the National Alliance. The big winner whom the press told you would dominate the elections barely came in second. The Iraqi people spoke. They wanted something different, they wanted something new. They were willing to risk an unknown in Iraqiya just because they knew they didn't want more of what Nouri had to offer. They did their part. They voted (or stayed home to register their objection). The election observers did their job. And yet despite that stunning upset, despite that huge rejection, thanks to Chris Hill, it now appears Nouri will remain in power. Something the majority of Iraqis did not want.
There may still be a challenge. Waleed Ibrahim, Serena Chaudhry and Michael Roddy (Reuters) report, "Iraq's Sunni vice president [Tariq al-Hashemi] said on Monday that the cross-sectarian Iraqiya coalition he belongs to was more determined than ever to claim the right to form the next government after a recount maintained its election win." And that may be it because Saturday Hassan Abdul Zahra (AFP) reported that Moqtada al-Sadr's spokesperson was insisting al-Sadr no longer had any objection to Nouri being prime minister. (For life?) Reuters offers a breakdown on the basics once the results are certified. Reuters also notes, "After the last parliamentary election in 2005, violence erupted when politicians took more than five months to negotiate a new government." Elizabeth Palmer (CBS News) ponders whether a civil war is on the verge of breaking out.
And on that front, Reuters reports Sheikh Abdullah Shakoor al-Salhy was beheaded today by assailants "wearing Iraqi military uniforms" and the iman's head was then put atop an electric pole in his Diyala Province village. AFP adds, "According to the Diyala military officer, in the village of Al-Bushaheen, 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Baquba, gunmen burst into the home of Sheikh Hashim Arif at about 3:00 am (0000 GMT), dragged him to his garden and shot him dead in front of his family." And Press TV reports that a US helicopter crashed in Nasiriyah on Saturday.
Last week, Turkish press was still noting that Turkey had invaded Iraq's airspace (that's the way the Turkish press billed it) as they chased after people they suspected of being PKK. Despite that (because of it?), Today's Zaman interviewed with Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh who made a surprising assertion, "Turkey is a very close friend of Iraq. We are proud that we have achieved this level in the relationship. Mr. [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-]Maliki and [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan have that [shared] vision, and we at the different levels of the Iraqi government, most of us are sure that Turkey is our real partner, our strategic partner. And I think that our counterparts in Turkey feel the same. Iraq is a very important country for Turkey -- this understanding, this vision has spurred the relations to the level that they're at. It's a model partnership between two neighboring countries; we want to promote this model with Iran, we want to promote it with Saudi Arabia." Turkey should be the model for Iraq's interaction with other neighbors, according to Nouri's spokesperson.
Turkey's attacks are in northern Iraq -- which bothers Nouri very little and he'd most likely encourage more of them. Northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, was the topic of the most recent Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) which began airing Friday.
Jasim al-Azawi: To discuss what lies behind the proposal of Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan government, I am joined from Baghdad by Mohammad Ihsan, The Kurdistan Regional Government representative in Baghdad, and from London by Kurdish affairs analyst Fereydum Hilmi. Gentlemen, welcome to Inside Iraq. Fereydum Hilmi, this proposal as outlined by Massoud Barzani, the president of KRG in his interview to the New York Times, is a carbon copy of what [US] Vice President Joe Biden proposed almost two, three years ago and was rejected completely by the Iraqis as well as by Arab nationals and they called it the sectarian politics. So what makes Massoud Barzani go over an old ground?
Fereydun Hilmi: Well, Jasim, the proposal is not workable unfortunately -- of fortunately. Mr. Barzani has obviously taken the Joseph Biden proposal and he's trying to make a dream out of something which is not practical. I mean, he says that a united Iraq is a dream, but the proposal that he's come up with, and Joseph Biden has come up with, is also a dream. It cannot last. It may be possible to have three different heads or three different parts of Iraq, each ruling itself, with hardly anything between them to keep them together. And, of course, that would last for a very short length of time and it would disintegrate in the same way that a united Iraq is supposed to be disintegrating. The whole system, right from the start, was flawed. I said so right from the beginning. In this country we have had recently an election which has ended up in a hung Parliament. And this has been regarded as a disaster as far as Britain's concerned. Every body's very unhappy about it. They're trying to solve the problem. And yet in Iraq, they actually started with this disaster and they want to maintain such a sort of coalition whereas in Iraq, the differences are much greater, the conflict is much higher and the hatred between the two different --
Jasim al-Azawi: You used two words. Let me use them and throw them at Mohammad Ihsan. He called it a dream and he called it a disaster. The question begs itself again, why would the president of KRG go back to an idea that has been rejected by the Iraqis.
Mohammad Ihsan: First of all, good evening to you and good evening to your guest in London and your audience anywhere. First of all -- Second, it's not a proposal coming from President Barzani. Nor is it a photocopy or a copy coming from Biden. Iraq by itself now is a federalism. It's a federal state. And still we are discussing which sort of federalism we can adopt. One region or multiprovinces or two blocks or three blocks or four provinces or four regions or five regions? Still this is discussable among Iraqis and the idea of federal Iraq is not coming from Biden. It goes all the way back to [June] 1992 when the first INC conference in Vienna, then in Salahuddin [October 1992], then in London where most of the Iraqi opposition groups at that time adopted that system and currently Iraq is a federal state. It's not a propo -- It's not something new. But just Mr. Barzani, he stressed -- as has been -- as has been cleared through the article, Mr. Barzani, that he believed that the only hope left for stability -- which means for security -- to keep Iraq secure, divide it into three entities. Sunnis can be responsible for their security, Shia can be responsible for their securities and Kurds, they are now in charge of their security. If we look at the Kurd example, it's one of the best examples, so far Kurdistan, compared to other parts of the country, is secure. That was his intention, not dividing the country.
Fereydun Hilmi: Can I just say hello to you as well, Mohammad. I would like to ask you a question. You're saying we've got a federal state in Iraq. But, in fact, we don't have a federal state. We have a region that is governing itself and we have the rest of Iraq . . .
Mohammad Ihsan: That's it!
Fereydun Hilmi: There is no -- Yes, but it's not a federal state because a federal state has to have specific rules and regulations and it has to have specific laws to govern the various parts. You can't have just one federal state, which is Kurdistan, and a lot of Iraq, which is completely un - uncharted. There's no rule there. There's no rule of law. There's no government. You can't call it a government.
Mohammad Ihsan: Now-Now, Mr. --
Fereydun Hilmi: Can I just finish?
Mohammad Ihsan: Okay.
Fereydun Hilmi: The point is you can't -- you can't -- you can't build a room and then build a house to suit the room. Well that is what has happened here. We had a feder -- We had a state that was ruling itself and governing itself for 12 years. And then, suddenly, we are part of Iraq again and we want Iraq to be the same as us and we want to divide up Iraq into two other parts that will be similar to us. And that's not possible because the people of Iraq are different people. They have different relationships with their surroundings ---
Jasim al-Azawi: Let him answer that [crosstalk] But before he answers, let me just remind Mohammad Ihsan that federal law has never passed the Iraqi Parliament. Basically it's dead on arrival.
In other neighbor news, Saturday Hassan Abdul Zahra (AFP) reported on the remarks of Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al-Faisal, "Adding to the brutal mayhem taking place there, we are watching a deliberate effort on the part of the incumbent prime minister, Mr al-Maliki, to hijack the results of the election and deny the Iraqi people their legitimately elected government. The consequences of that are more bloodshed and potential civil war." An AFP story on the remarks themselves and their potential meaning notes, "Turki's comments reflected Riyadh's clear displeasure with Maliki since he became prime minister, with the Saudis refusing to open a full embassy in Baghdad and expressing suspicion of Maliki's relations with arch-rival Iran." With regards to the Palestinian issue, Turki states, "The Arab world has given Obama until Septemember to get things done. It is not enough to talk the talk. He has to walk the walk." Dow Jones provided the prince's full speech yesterday and these are his remarks on Iraq:On Iraq, I have consistently called for a United Nations Security Council Resolution, under Chapter 7 of the United Nations' Charter, guaranteeing Iraq's territorial integrity. With American forces due to leave Iraq next year, this is the only option that will meet the challenge posed by several Iraqi political factions whose main ambition is to partition Iraq. Equally sinister are the designs of some of Iraq's neighbors to take advantage of impending Iraqi internal conflict to advance their acquisition of Iraqi territories. We have already seen Iranian encroachment on Iraqi land at the beginning of the year. Imagine what will happen, once internal strife and fighting escalates. American withdrawal is nigh unto us, and, judging from the spike in bombings and killings that accompanied the recent election process in Iraq, the forces of evil are alive and well, and still, very much active. Adding to the brutal mayhem taking place there, we are watching a deliberate effort on the part of the incumbent Prime Minister, Mr. Nuri Al Maliki, to hijack the results of the elections and deny the Iraqi people their legitimately elected government. The consequences of that are more bloodshed and potential civil war. Hence, there is a vital need for a mechanism to protect Iraq from these developments and an international guarantee of its survival as a functioning sovereign state. The alternative is regional conflict on a scale not seen since the Ottoman-Safavid wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.As the actions of the US administration antagonizes Saudi Arabia, it's worth noting this from Richard Javad Heydarian (Asia Times):This century has witnessed China's emergence as the main challenger to the superpower status of the United States. In dramatic fashion, China is beginning to establish its foothold in the highly strategic, energy-rich region of the Middle East by forging strong ties with regional powers and gradually challenging US-Israel regional dominance. Thanks to decades of double-digit economic growth and accelerating military modernization, China now has both the need for and the capability of engaging the Middle East.
WikiLeaks knows no national boundaries. By providing the people with information that governments and corporations attempt to hide away, the organization has angered the Defense Dept. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. As Isaiah noted last month in "No Lasting Consequences," a cabinet official apparently gave the administration's response: "Appearing on ABC's This Week today, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates weighed in on the July 12, 2007 assault in Baghdad in which 12 Iraqis were killed by US forces, 'But by the same token, I think-think is should not have any lasting consequences'." It's rather amazing and telling that Barack Obama has never been pressed by journalists to comment on the WikiLeaks video but apparently everyone works over time to keep the Killer-in-Chief's hands clean. Gates of course has many reasons to lash out including the fact that he was Secretary of Defense when the July 12, 2007 assault took place. This is far from the first time WikiLeaks has been targeted. On their website, in March, they published a US Defense Dept study by the Army's Counterinellgience Center which was prepared by Michael D. Horvath and [PDF format warning] entitled "Wikileaks.org -- An Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorists Groups?" From the paper's opening:(S//NF) Wikileaks.org, a publicly accessible Internet Web site, represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security (OPSEC), and information security (INFOSEC) threat to the US Army. The intentional or unintentional leaking and posting of US Army sensitive or classified information to Wikileaks.org could result in increased threats to DoD personnel, equipment, facilities, or installations. The leakage of sensitive and classified DoD information also calls attention to the insider threat, when a person or persons motivated bya particular cause or issue wittingly provides information to domestic or foreign personnel or organizations to be published by the news media or on the Internet. Such information could be of value to foreign intelligence and security services (FISS), foreign military forces, foreign insurgents, and foreign terrorist groups for collecting information or for planning attacks against US force, both within the United States and abroad. (S//NF) The possibility that a current employee or mole within DoD or elsewhere in the US government is providing sensitive information or classified information to Wikileaks.org cannot be ruled out. Wikileaks.org claims that the -- leakers‖ or -- whistleblowers‖ of sensitive or classified DoD documents are former US government employees. These claims are highly suspect, however, since Wikileaks.org states that the anonymity and protection of the leakers orwhistleblowers is one of its primary goals. Referencing of leakers using codenames and providing incorrect employment information, employment status, and other contradictory information by Wikileaks.org are most likely rudimentary OPSEC measures designed to protect the identity of the current or former insiders who leaked the information. On the other hand, one cannot rule out the possibility that some of the contradictions in describing leakers could be inadvertent OPSEC errors by the authors, contributors, or Wikileaks.org staff personnel with limited experience in protecting the identity of their sources. (U) The stated intent of the Wikileaks.org Web site is to expose unethical practices, illegal behavior, and wrongdoing within corrupt corporations and oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East. To do so, the developers of the Wikileaks.org Web site want to provide a secure forum to where leakers, contributors, or whistleblowers from any country can anonymously post or send documentation and other information that exposes corruption or wrongdoing by governments or corporations. The developers believe that the disclosure of sensitive or classified information involving a foreign government or corporation will eventually result in the increased accountability of a democratic, oppressive, or corrupt the government to its citizens.WikiLeaks is in the news again due to efforts to target WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Last night on Australia's Dateline (link has text and video, SBS), featured a report by Mark Davis.Mark Davis: Communications minister senator Steven Conroy, is preparing a growing list of internet sites that Australians will not be able to access and it's a list that cannot be seen or published. It's illegal to do so but of course WikiLeaks did and in turn earnt itself a place on the list.
Julian Assange: You know, it's a black list. How can we get off the black list? There is no procedure to get off the black list. I mean, it's a Soviet style system.
Mark Davis: The threat of you being served with legal papers, indeed the threat of you being arrested as you enter a jurisdiction has escalated dramatically.
Julian Assange: There are places, Dubai, who is trying to have us arrested, Switzerland under the bank secrecy laws, Cayman Islands. Australia had the Federal police in relation to its censorship list so there are some jurisdictions that from time to time it wouldn't be sensible to go there.
Mark Davis: Sensible or not, Assange entered Australia several days ago. He says immigration officials at the airport advised him that his passport was being cancelled on the premise that it was looking worn. Then at his mailing address he was greeted by this letter from senator Conroy's office, stating that the disclosure of the black list 'has been referred to the Australian Federal Police'. And that the media authority 'continues to liaise with the AFP on the matter'. As we go to air, the department of foreign affairs claim that his passport status is normal, but no one has yet advised Assange of that and no word yet whether the AFP have been able to contact him to help with their enquiries.
Nick Farrell (TechE) reports:
Wikileaks published a confidential Australian blacklist of websites to be banned under the government's proposed internet filter. It can only be assumed that the Australian government has moved prevent its dissidents from travelling to foreign parts and spreading rumours about the glorious Aussie regime.
Julian Assange told The Age his passport was taken from him by customs officials at Melbourne Airport when he entered the country last week after he was told ''it was looking worn''.
Iraq was briefly noted at the White House today when veteran correspondent Helen Thomas attempted to clue spokesperson Robert Gibbs in on a few basic facts.
Helen Thomas: What's the difference between your foreign policy and Bush's foreign policy?
Robert Gibbs: In what respect? In what issue?
Helen Thomas: In terms of the rest of the world -- Afghanistan, Iraq and so forth.
Robert Gibbs: Well, in Afghanistan, we committed three times the number of troops that were there during the Bush adminstration because we believe that was the central front on the war on terror.
Helen Thomas: Do you still think so?
Robert Gibbs: Absolutely.
Helen Thomas: Eight Americans killed on Saturday [in Afghanistan] and so forth; we keep killing and dying there.
Robert Gibbs: I don't think there's any doubt that Afghanistan and that region of the world present the most significant danger to our homeland in terms of possible planning of attacks and the possible providing of a safe haven if the Taliban were to come back in control as they were before 2001 and 9-11 --
Helen Thomas: You're in their country.
Robert Gibbs: I'm sorry?
Helen Thomas: Who's the enemy when you invade a country?
Turning to service member and veterans issues, David Martin (CBS News) reports that the US army is recalling 44,000 combat helmets made by ArmorSource and that the army is not saying why they are being recalled but that the Justice Department has launched an investigation. Jeff Schogol (Stars and Stripes) states, "The Army has recalled 44,000 helmets because they failed ballistic tests, but it doesn't know where the helmets are, officials said Monday."
In England, Laura Pitel (Times of London) reports on UK Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry who was highly decorated during the Iraq War and attempted to take his own life after returning to civilian life. David Willetts (The Sun) landed the interview with Iraq War veteran Johnson Beharry and link has text and video as well as Robert Marsh weighing in:Johnson's experiences must have been very difficult to come to terms with and this shows there is a huge need amongst veterans which isn't being met.Many former soldiers being looked after by Combat Stress say without our help they would either be dead or in prison.We launched the Enemy Within Appeal this year. The target is to raise £30million to develop the treatment in our three short stay residential centres and to expand by deploying 14 outreach teams.Robert Marsh works with Combat Stress which notes:Over the last five years the number of ex-Service men and women seeking our help has risen by 66% and we have a current caseload of more than 4,300 individuals. This already includes 94 Veterans who have served in Afghanistan and 390 who served in Iraq.Paul Bentley and Katherine Faulkner (Daily Mail) cover the story here. Meanwhile Benedict Carey (New York Times) reports on a new study published by The Lancet which states that mutliple deployments have less of an effect on British troops than they do on US troops and that "British troops who have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer far lower rates of post-traumatic stress than Americans do". The Lancet's created a special online folder to highlight and explore the new study:Concerns have been raised about the psychological effect of continued combat exposure and of repeated military deployments. For the first time, an Article assesses the mental health of those deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan from the UK perspective. An Editorial highlights several important messages arising from the study and key findings are discussed in an accompanying Comment and Podcast.
From the podcast:
Richard Lane: This week we're focusing on a study published online on Thursday May, 13th. It was funded by the UK Ministry of Defence and it concerns the health, particularly the mental health, of service personnel deployed in action to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This follows up research from the same team who are at Kings College London in the UK in 2006. Let's now hear from two of the main investigators involved in the study from a press conference held in London this week, introduced by The Lancet's editor, Dr. Richard Horton. After that you'll hear first from Professor Simon Wessely from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. And then from Dr. Nicola Fear who is at the Academics Center for Defense also at Kings College.
Dr. Richard Horton: Welcome this morning. My name is Richard Horton from The Lancet. And, uh, very glad that you were able to come to launch a paper that we're publishing online tomorrow on the consequences of deployment of UK armed forces to Iraq and Afghanistan and looking at the mental health consequences. There are three of the authors of the study this morning and there will be questions afterwards. So let's start off with the principal author of this study, Professor. Simon Wessely from the Institute of Psychiatry.
Professor Simon Wessely: Thanks very much. Thanks for coming. You'll be amazed to know that we did actually plan to do this today because we thought, a week after the election, people would be fed up with politics and ready for some new stories and the room would be crowed out. This study began actually in 2003 with the start of the Iraq War and for the first time the UK MoD started to really take the concept of carrying out health surveillance on the armed forces seriously -- partly as a result of [. . .] Gulf War syndrome. And we were asked to carry out a study run from Kings, looking at a large random sample of those who were going to Iraq in 2003 and a large sample of those who weren't. And the idea was that this would be a rerun of the Gulf War kind of short shock as it were. One of the main questions at that time was would there be a rerun of the Gulf War Syndrome. So we did the study. We reported in 2005 that there hadn't been a Gulf War Syndrome. There hadn't actually been a deterioration in the mental health of our regular forces who had been in Iraq since 2003 to 2005 but there had been an impact on the mental health of reservists and we also reported that contrary to what many people might expect, one of the main problems that they had in the mental area was actually alcohol misuse rather than Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And that we published in 2006 in Richard's journal. And of course since then, as you might say, the script didn't go exactly according to plan. The Iraq War continued and, indeed, by the time it had finished [for the UK] in 2009, it seemed to run on for as long as the Second World War. Casualties mounted. The south became much more dangerous to our forces than it had been previously and our rates of causalities started to mirror those of the US. And of course Afghanistan became a principal theatre of war as well, which it had not been up to that point and many of the forces now found themselves going back to Iraq or Afghanistan once or twice sometimes more than that. It will be common knowledge to you that issue around the mental health of the armed forces became a very, very hot media topic. Great concern was shown to individuals who clearly had returned from war with mental health problems including alcohol, homelessness and so on. And there was also talk that we might be facing in the future an epidemic of such problems. Not an unreasonable view because that was precisely what was happening over in the United States. And so it was -- We were asked to continue with the study which, in fact, had not been the original plan to reflect the changing circumstances and so what we did was, as you'll hear, we followed up, first of all, every single person that had been in the original study. And this is the first time ever that this has been done in the UK armed forces -- to have a prospective cohort study, as we call it, too look at what had changed in their health. But that group, of course, were getting older and many of them had left and we continued to trace them if they had left the forces but in order to make sure that the current study reflects what was going on at the moment, we introduced a new group of people, those who've joined the forces since 2003 and since then had had the opportunity to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. Finally, we introduced a third group of people to oversa -- to look at what was happening in Afghanistan. So the purist among you will realize that does make the paper a little bit complicated if you actually do get down to the methods which I'm sure you will. But that's just the way it is. Stuff happens.
A professor who quotes Donald Rumsfeld does not enstill trust but the more he speaks of that study, the more it fails to as well. So you're tracking a group of people since 2003 -- some who saw deployment and then, for a control group, some who did not -- except when you're not tracking them. Except when you're spoiling in the results by bringng in a new group?
They might qualify as biggest laugh of the day were it not for Janet Napolitano. Appearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs this afternoon, she declared -- straight faced -- regarding the Gulf Coast Drilling Disaster 2010, "Since day one, the Administration has engaged in an all-hands-on-deck response to this event." That was approximately one month ago and the ocean continues to have oil pouring into it. In fact, it was NPR, not the government, that informed us Friday that the amount pouring into the ocean "may be at least ten times the size of official estimates" (click here for Richard Harris' Morning Edition report). A month later and as many 84,000 barrels a day may be pouring into the Gulf waters and Napolitano wants to claim that the administration has been on the job since day one?
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