Friday, July 21, 2017

That awful press

Reality that people avoid:

The seven (7) US bases in Syria are illegal and the Russians just reminded the world....



That is worth knowing.

So why doesn't the US press ever cover it?

Because they're co-opted and corrupted.

Yet they want to whine about how unfair it is that people call them fake news.

These are the same people who sold the Iraq War.

They lie because they're not really journalists.

They're stenographers who cover up more than they ever share.

Forgive me if Donald Trump talking smack about them doesn't upset me.

They've earned that -- and so much more.


Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Friday, July 21, 2017.


Let's pretend that the fighting in Mosul really is over, what next?

Susan E. Reed (WBUR) offers:

ISIS did not rise up the minute U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011. It had been long fermenting in weakly governed communities marked by sectarian strife where Sunnis were routinely persecuted under the leadership of Iraq’s former Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
The country’s current Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has made progress in cultivating a more integrated society, starting with the military. The Obama Administration urged Abadi to develop more inclusive security forces under the command of the central government. In fact, Kurdish forces worked alongside Iraq’s army in liberating Mosul. This kind of cooperation must continue so that former ISIS-occupied areas don’t devolve into fratricidal cesspools when survivors seek to quench their thirst for revenge.
As Congress tied Iraq military aid to integration, it should tie development aid to the establishment of diverse, cooperative community groups that will rebuild and govern these delicate, violence prone areas. Prime Minister Abadi has talked about decentralizing control of Iraq, but this should only occur if minorities will have a voice in government.

Iraq, which defines itself as a democratic Muslim state, has the potential to become a model of integration of different Muslim sects, religions and ethnicities. While it faces many obstacles —  such as corruption, a weak judiciary and significant influence from Shia Iran — making progress on integration would help stabilize it while providing a protocol for other countries struggling with internal strife.



Hayder al-Abadi has not done a good job.

Nouri was an outright thug.

Compared to him, anything looks better.

But let's not mistake Hayder not digging the hole even deeper for actually addressing the problem.

Let's again note Human Rights Watch from earlier this week:




International observers have discovered an execution site in west Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. That report, combined with new statements about executions in and around Mosul’s Old City and persistent documentation about Iraqi forces extrajudicially killing men fleeing Mosul in the final phase of the battle against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), are an urgent call to action by the Iraqi government.
Despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held a single soldier accountable for murdering, torturing, and abusing Iraqis in this conflict.


“As Prime Minister Abadi enjoys victory in Mosul, he is ignoring the flood of evidence of his soldiers committing vicious war crimes in the very city he’s promised to liberate,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Abadi’s victory will collapse unless he takes concrete steps to end the grotesque abuses by his own security forces.”



That is but one example.

But if there is no justice in Iraq under Hayder, let's not pretend he's accomplished anything.

He is ineffectual at best.

Zaid al-Ali (ALJAZEERA) explains:



As if reading from a script, a stream of soldiers, federal police officers and popular mobilisation fighters have engaged in mass arrests, torture, and summary executions of suspected ISIL fighters. 
Increasingly, the perpetrators record every detail of their gruesome acts and post them on social media for all to see, including videos in which captives are thrown from the top of buildings and showered with bullets after they land on the riverbank. Just as seriously, individuals who are thought to be related to ISIL fighters, colloquially referred to as "ISIL families", are imprisoned in horrific conditions, many of them left without sustenance and medical care. 

For the sake of clarity, the perpetrators include people of all faiths and races and are members of almost every security agency imaginable. In fact, just about the only security force that has not been accused of human rights abuses is the Counter Terrorism Service, which has been leading the fight against ISIL since 2014 (because the CTS is not politicised, it has not received anywhere near as much attention as other groups, such as the Popular Mobilisation Forces and the Peshmerga). Its commander, Lieutenant Abdel Ghani al-Saadi, is rumoured to have unsuccessfully challenged his counterparts from other agencies, as he learned of the abuse that was taking place, before storming out of the city. 
Senior interior ministry officials have noted that torture and unlawful killings will be investigated and prosecuted in all cases, but it is common knowledge that prosecutors and judges are largely powerless to move against the security forces, despite a few token arrests. In fact, some of the worst perpetrators of abuse have argued that courts are so corrupt that any ISIL fighter who is arrested could bribe their way out of prison. 


So let's stop the pretense that Hayder al-Abaci is a leader to rally behind or support.

This we-have-to attitude led to the silence from so many during the reign of the butcher Nouri al-Maliki.



And the desperation for him to be better than he is or can be is leading a number to look the other way.


Replying to 
: Video shows |i soldiers abusing an old man and walk him on a leash in Western .




Let's stop the pretense -- the US military brass also needs to stop pretending.

MARINE TIMES spoke with US Brig Gen Robert Sofge:



Q: The U.S. military has faced some criticism for a spike in civilian casualties in Mosul. Did the coalition change any policies or rules of engagement in the latter months of the fight to make it easier launch air and artillery strikes?

Our process for strikes has remained the same and is as stringent as it has always been. We do everything in our power to avoid civilian casualties while precisely and effectively killing the enemy. I can speak with some authority: There was no change in the rules or the very strict criteria required to release ordnance in this country. 

The idea that we’ve loosened the ROE in order to more aggressively fight the enemy is not an accurate statement. There have been a couple of unfortunate incidents, but zero civilian casualties is our goal each and every day. We haven’t loosened that up in any way, shape or form. 




We do everything in our power to avoid civilian casualties?

Or do everything our power to avoid acknowledging civilian casualties?

There's a difference.

Patrick Cockburn (INDEPENDENT) reports:

More than 40,000 civilians were killed in the devastating battle to retake Mosul from Isis, according to intelligence reports revealed exclusively to The Independent - a death toll far higher than previous estimates.

Residents of the besieged city were killed by Iraqi ground forces attempting to force out militants, as well as by air strikes and Isis fighters, according to Kurdish intelligence services.



Nehal Mostafa (IRAQI NEWS) reports:

Three civilians were wounded in an IED blast northern Baghdad, a police source has said.
“A bomb, placed on the side of the highway at al-Taji region, north of Baghdad, exploded on Friday leaving three civilians injured,” the source told AlSumaria News.

“Security troops arrived at the accident spot and transferred the injured to a nearby hospital for treatment,” the source, who asked to be unnamed, added.


We are closing with this,

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
07/20/17
CONTACT: JENNIFER V. KURLAND
(248) 252-5973


MEET AND GREET FUNDRAISER FOR DETROIT GREEN PARTY-ENDORSED CANDIDATES TO INCLUDE APPEARANCE BY JILL STEIN
Green Party 2016 Presidential Candidate Campaigns For Green Wayne County Slate

The Wayne County Green Party is set to host a fundraiser and meet-and-greet for a slate of local candidates for office. Each candidate has received the endorsement of the Wayne County Green Party and are hard at work on the campaign trail, speaking with voters, making appearances around the community and conducting issue-based workshops to help educate the public about some of the most pressing concerns of Wayne County residents.

Set to be held at Bert’s Warehouse, 2727 Russell St, Detroit 48207, the event will get underway with a press conference with the slate of candidates at 5pm and will feature five Green Party-endorsed candidates including Ingrid LaFleur, who is a write-in candidate for Mayor of Detroit. “Detroiters must not be left out of the future of this city, “ LaFleur states. “I am fighting for the right to equal representation for all Detroit residents.” LaFleur faces several other candidates in the primary race for the seat, including incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan and State Senator Coleman Young II. LaFleur has been hosting a set of “Co-creation” workshops in the area to raise awareness about specific issues in the area including cryptocurrency and cannabis reform.

The event will include the Green-favored choice for Detroit City Clerk, Attorney D. Etta Wilcoxon. Wilcoxon has zeroed in on the issue of election integrity, vowing as Clerk to “...fight for every vote to count.” Wilcoxon believes election integrity is a top issue. “The integrity of our elections is the key to democracy.” Wilcoxon explains.

Also running on the Green slate are a trio of candidates for City Council, including At-large candidate Beverly Kindle-Walker, James Eberheart Jr., a write-in candidate in Detroit City Council District 1 and Joanna Underwood, who is running for the Detroit City Council seat in District 7. Kindle-Walker recently was quoted as saying, “As a public and civil servant, I am dedicated to Detroit. Together, we can bring accountability back to our city.” Eberheart belives in having a close relationship with fellow members of the community, stating, “I am a community organizer working in Detroit every day.” He looks to secure prosperity for the residents of the city, explaining, “Together, we can empower our youth and bring a renewed excitement and fortune to black businesses. For Underwood, recent foreclosures in the city are of serious concern. “I will work as hard as I can to save Detroit homeowners from foreclosures,” said the candidate. As councilwoman, Underwood would strive to make the city a safer place for residents, and plans to bring the entire community together in order to achieve such a goal. Underwood offers, “Join me in my quest to represent you on Detroit’s City Council. Together, we can make Detroit a safer place to live.”

2016 Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein will join the event as a special guest at 7pm. Stein is slated to appear in Flint earlier in the day to speak with residents affected by the Flint Water crisis before travelling to Detroit for the fundraiser. “These candidates exemplify the future of Detroit politics,” Stein remarked. “We need to elect fresh faces to local government in Detroit who will portect residents from foreclosures and water shutoffs. These five candidates are leading the way toward a brighter future for the city and are deserving of strong support from Detroit voters. I look forward to standing in support of these fine candidates Friday night in the Motor City.


FYI: Press conference with the slate of Detroit candidates begins at 5:30pm sharp at Bert’s Warehouse, 2727 Russell St, Detroit 48207. For further information, please contact WCGP Chairperson Jennifer Kurland at (248) 252-5973



The following community sites -- plus PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated:



















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    Wednesday, July 19, 2017

    A bigger loser than even I thought

    Lisa Rein (Washington Post) reports:


     
    The U.S. Postal Service engaged in widespread violations of federal law by pressuring managers to approve letter carriers’ taking time off last fall to campaign for Hillary Clinton and other union-backed Democrats, investigators said Wednesday.
    High-level postal officials had for years granted employees’ requests for unpaid leave, leading last year to an “institutional bias” in favor of Clinton and other Democrats endorsed by the National Association of Letter Carriers, one of the largest postal unions. The Postal Service’s Office of Special Counsel and inspector general found that the agency violated the Hatch Act, which restricts federal employees from working for or against a political candidate or party during election season.
    “The culture and practice was, ‘It’s mandatory, it’s the directive’ ” to ensure employees got time off, Adam Miles, acting director of the Office of Special Counsel, told Senate lawmakers at a hearing.
    The investigation found that 97 letter carriers took time off, sometimes weeks, to take part in the union’s Labor 2016 program, canvassing, making phone calls and working on other get-out-the-vote efforts to help elect Clinton and other pro-labor candidates. The workers were dispatched to battleground states, including Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
    Wow.

    I read this and I just think, "All of that cheating and lying to put her ahead and yet Hillary Clinton still couldn't win.

    What a loser.

    Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

     
    Wednesday, July 19, 2017.  Oh, look, it's another 'turned corner'! -- let's all try to pretend we don't remember where this leads to.


    Joseph Pennington sees a 'turned corner' in Iraq.

    Yet another one.

    We've been here before, many times before.

    Has Pennington?

    From his US State Dept bio:

    Joseph S. Pennington
    Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq
    BUREAU OF NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS
    Term of Appointment: 12/2015 to present
    Joseph Pennington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, began his current assignment as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq, in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, in December 2015. He also served as Director of the Office of Iraq Affairs after returning from a two-year assignment (2013-15) as Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
    Mr. Pennington served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic (2010-13) and held the same position in Yerevan, Armenia (2007-10). He worked as the U.S. Embassy Spokesman in Ankara, Turkey (2002-06), political-economic officer in Naples, Italy (2001-02), and headed the U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina (2000-01). He served as an economic officer at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo (1999-2000), and as political-economic officer at the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey (1995-98). Mr. Pennington has also worked in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
    Mr. Pennington is a graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where he earned a B.A. in political science. He subsequently earned an M.A. from Columbia University in New York City.


    It would appear he should know better.

    Then you read his column for USA TODAY and are left scratching your head.

    Everything is coming up roses in Mosul, Pennington repeatedly insists -- apparently the State Dept doesn't subscribe to any news feeds.

    And, goodness, everyone worked together.

    Strange, the list Pennington offers does not include Iran.

    This despite Shi'ite militias -- now folded into the Iraqi forces -- insisting in one interview after another that they take their orders from Iran.

    Pennington's helped by an inability to grasp or maintain facts.

    He shows no awareness of what led to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq.

    And he concludes:


    Optimism about Iraq’s future shouldn’t blind us to the considerable challenges it faces. The country needs to heal and overcome sectarian divisions. Iraq’s economy, after years of war and low oil prices, needs reform. Corruption discourages private sector initiative. ISIS will persist as a terrorist threat long after it no longer controls territory.
    But these problems can be addressed now that the ISIS “caliphate” has been defeated. Iraq boasts the world’s second largest oil reserves and has shown itself to be a resilient democracy.
    With the continued support of the United States and international community, Iraq is positioned to emerge in the post-ISIS era stronger and more unified than ever before.

    These problems can be addressed now?

    Now that ISIS has been defeated?

    Now?

    I sat through the 2007 and 2008 Congressional hearings on corruption in Iraq.

    Including when a Congress member attacked a witness' character and stormed out slamming a door behind him.

    They thought they could address the corruption then.

    They didn't though.

    And the Islamic State was no where around.

    Sectarian differences?

    As 2011 ended, the US government agreed to look the other way as the Iraqi government -- then headed by Nouri al-Maliki -- terrorized Sunnis of all walks of life -- up to and including targeting the then-Vice President of Iraq (Tareq al-Hashemi).

    This gave rise to the Islamic State.

    But the persecution was ignored.

    Hell, it was tolerated by Barack Obama whose 'big move' as president while Nouri was prime minister was fobbing a phone call from Nouri off on Joe Biden (Nouri was calling after the 2012 elections took place to congratulate Barack on being re-elected).

    The problems that Pennington is convinced can now be addressed have gone unaddressed under two previous administrations.

    Is that going to change now?

    FIRST POST reports:

    Iraq's prime minister has acknowledged that human rights violations were committed during the battle to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group, but says they were "individual acts."

    Hayder al-Abadi is a lot like Nouri al-Maliki.  Not just because they're friends, from the same political party (Dawa) and the same political coalition (State of Law) but also because, like Nouri, he's always promising to investigate some crime or punish the criminal but it never happens.


    Human Rights Watch just issued a press release which opens:

    International observers have discovered an execution site in west Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today. That report, combined with new statements about executions in and around Mosul’s Old City and persistent documentation about Iraqi forces extrajudicially killing men fleeing Mosul in the final phase of the battle against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), are an urgent call to action by the Iraqi government.
    Despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held a single soldier accountable for murdering, torturing, and abusing Iraqis in this conflict.
    “As Prime Minister Abadi enjoys victory in Mosul, he is ignoring the flood of evidence of his soldiers committing vicious war crimes in the very city he’s promised to liberate,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Abadi’s victory will collapse unless he takes concrete steps to end the grotesque abuses by his own security forces.”
    International observers, whose evidence has proven reliable in the past, told Human Rights Watch that on July 17, 2017, at about 3:30 p.m., a shopkeeper in a neighborhood directly west of the Old City that was retaken in April from ISIS took them into an empty building and showed them a row of 17 male corpses, barefoot but in civilian dress, surrounded by pools of blood. They said many appeared to have been blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their back.
    They said the shopkeeper told them that he had seen the Iraqi Security Forces’ 16th Division, identifiable by their badges and vehicles, in the neighborhood four nights earlier, and that night had heard multiple gunshots coming from the area of the empty building. The next morning, when armed forces had left the area, he told them, he went into the building and saw the bodies lying in positions that suggested they were shot there and had not been moved. He said he did not recognize any of those killed.
    The international observers also saw soldiers from the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) in the area. They contacted Human Rights Watch by phone from the site and later shared five photos they took of the bodies.
    On July 17, another international observer told Human Rights Watch they spoke to a senior government official in Mosul who told them he was comfortable with the execution of suspected ISIS-affiliates “as long as there was no torture.” The observer said a commander showed their group a video taken a few days earlier of a group of CTS soldiers holding two detainees in the Old City. They said the commander told them that the forces had executed the men right after the video was taken.
    Salah al-Imara, an Iraqi citizen who regularly publishes information regarding security and military activities in and around Mosul, published four videos allegedly filmed in west Mosul on Facebook on July 11 and 12. One video, posted on July 11, appears to show Iraqi soldiers beating a detainee, then throwing him off a cliff and shooting at him and at the body of another man already lying at the bottom of the cliff. Human Rights Watch had verified the location of the first video based on satellite imagery. Other videos showed Iraqi soldiers kicking and beating a bleeding man, federal police forces beating at least three men, and Iraqi soldiers kicking a man on the ground in their custody.
    A third international observer told Human Rights Watch on July 18 that they witnessed CTS soldiers bring an ISIS suspect to their base in a neighborhood southwest of the Old City on July 11. The observer did not see what happened to the suspect next, but said that a soldier later showed them a video of himself and a group of other soldiers brutally beating the man, and a second video of the man dead, with a bullet to his head.

    “Some Iraqi soldiers seem to have so little fear that they will face any consequence for murdering and torturing suspects in Mosul that they are freely sharing evidence of what look like very cruel exploits in videos and photographs,” Whitson said. “Excusing such celebratory revenge killings will haunt Iraq for generations to come.”


    Let's emphasize one paragraph from above:

    Despite repeated promises to investigate wrongdoing by security forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has yet to demonstrate that Iraqi authorities have held a single soldier accountable for murdering, torturing, and abusing Iraqis in this conflict.


    Exactly.

    AP reports, "Speaking to The Associated Press, four Iraqi officers from three different branches of the military and security forces openly admitted that their troops killed unarmed and captured ISIS suspects, and they defended the practice. They, like the lieutenant, spoke on condition of anonymity because they acknowledged such practices were against international law, but all those interviewed by AP said they believed the fight against ISIS should be exempt from such rules of war because the militants' rule in Iraq was so cruel."

    War Crimes are War Crimes.

    And ISIS's brutality was the same as others before who have terrorized and occupied cities.


    Daniel R. DePetris (HUFFINGTON POST) offers:

    Even with a weakened and beleaguered ISIS, Iraq is far away from being a nation cured of problems. Like as the period immediately after the 2007-2008 U.S. troop surge provided Iraqi political leaders with breathing space to heal the chasm that separated Iraq’s multiple communities, the immediate stretch of time post-Mosul is a chance for the Iraqi government and parliament to begin touching upon their economic and political disparities.
    It is very likely that the U.S. Congress will continue to sustain the Iraq stabilization and counter-ISIS accounts that have been included in annual authorization and appropriations bills for the last several years (the House Armed Services Committee included approximately $1.76 billion for the counter-ISIS train and equip fund). Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford has suggested that a long-term U.S. and NATO training presence in Iraq is an option the Trump administration is seriously considering.

    But leaving aside whether a long-term American military presence in Iraq is desirable, none of it will matter if Iraq’s own are derelict in their responsible of ensuring that the Iraqi people are given an opportunity to rebuild their lives after years of subjugation from a barbaric and brutal terrorist organization. Violence can be decreased, buildings can be rebuilt, and refugees can come home, but economies can’t be fully restored and domestic security can’t be expanded beyond the immediate unless all of Iraq’s political officials — including those in the fractious Iraqi parliament and the provincial councils dotted throughout the country — put serving their constituents above their personal ambitions or sectarian power contests.

    They're all guilty, is that the argument?

    When all are guilty, none are innocent?

    That's a strange world of absolutes and one not reflective in Iraq.

    Nouri, his State of Law and some Shi'ite politicians were the problem.

    Appeasing them, going along with them, was not the answer.

    And the real teamwork took place in 2011 when Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds came together to call for a vote in Parliament -- a no-confidence vote on Nouri.

    Instead of fostering democracy -- the effort was Constitutional per Iraq's Constitution -- the White House leaned on then-president Jalal Talabani (Joe Biden was the main acting agent on this) to stop the process.  Which he did by 'creating' laws that didn't exist.

    Nouri was appeased by Barack because Nouri was prime minister and Samantha Power and others had insisted that he was the only vehicle for US aims in Iraq.

    That's why Barack gave Nouri the second term as prime minister that the Iraqi voters did not give him.


    So let's stop pretending that the problem was that politicians couldn't all get along.

    You had a thug in charge of the government who targeted everyone -- including reporters, including activists, including children -- never forget the massacre at Hawija.


    The April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    The problem wasn't Iraqi politicians, it was a thug running the government -- who was supported by some politicians.  (And by a US president, Barack Obama.)

    And this isn't just reliving the past here, Nouri wants to be prime minister again.

    Hayder is Nouri-lite and that's all anyone from Nouri's party will be.

    But Nouri himself wants to be prime minister again.

    This is a threat that has not vanished -- a serious and real threat to Iraq's future.

    Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr grasps that and that's why he's been very vocal about Nouri in recent months.  (Not that the western media's paid much attention.)


    Earlier this week, Bill Van Auken (WSWS) reported:

    One week after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed the “liberation” of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, the scale of destruction wrought during a nine-month, US-backed siege is becoming clearer, even as reports mount of collective punishment being meted out to survivors.
    Abadi presided over a victory parade in Baghdad on Saturday in which elements of the security forces marched past the prime minister and other officials in the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone. It is a measure of the state of the country that the parade was not publicly announced because of security concerns, with the media learning about it only afterwards and the population of the city excluded.
    Evidence of the death toll inflicted upon Mosul’s civilian population during the siege—largely the result of unrelenting US-led air strikes and artillery bombardments carried out against crowded neighborhoods, particularly in western Mosul’s Old City—continues to mount.
    Conservative estimates have put the number of civilians killed at over 7,000. The London-based monitoring group Airwars documented the deaths of 5,805 civilians between February and June of this year. There were undoubtedly many more deaths that went unreported, not to mention those killed in the four months preceding this period, as well of those who died in the intense assault waged on the area of the city during the last three weeks of fighting.
    Officials in Mosul report that civil defense workers have already dug some 2,000 corpses from the rubble created by US 500- and 2,000-pound bombs as well as heavy artillery shelling and strikes by attack helicopters.
    It is clear that neither the Iraqi government nor the Pentagon has any interest in clarifying the scale of carnage unleashed upon the city.


    I'd also recommend this Bill Van Auken article which touches on Mosul but is about the ongoing wars and potential ones on the horizon.

    The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, Jody Watley and PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated:
















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