I wanted to find Diana Ross singing a song that was a little new to us -- of her singing a song we haven't heard her do so much.
Listen to how great she is with this version of "Amazing Grace."
I was actually looking for her version of "Winter Wonderland" but found this instead.
We're doing a theme post where we're all trying to note Diana ahead of her well deserved award next month at the American Music Awards.
She's being honored for the body of her work which is just amazing and there are few singers who will ever come close to her career.
She's got hits, yes.
She sings so amazing, yes.
But she's also a trailblazer who leveled the land for women of color.
Without Diana -- and especially her 60s work where only the Beatles got more number ones -- a Beyonce isn't possible. Diana did it and she broke barriers on radio and TV.
She's a living legend and a person hero of mine.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Its very obvious now:US want @HaiderAlAbadi to stay in power.they Will let him show the iraqis his muscle bc its election in iraq next april
Yes, it is very obvious.
It was very obvious before that when the US government looked away from thug Nouri al-Maliki's crimes. Even more so when he lost the 2010 election and they created The Erbil Agreement to give him a second term anyway.
Time and again, the US government -- regardless of who occupies the White House -- pimps and promotes despots who attack the people they are supposed to represent.
The motives of the US government never have a damn thing to do with humanitarian causes or issues. That's the fig leaf liars like Samantha Power hide behind.
The Iraqi people have not even had the pretense of self-determination and, as long as the US occupies Iraq, they probably never will.
Meanwhile, old Blue Balls finally surfaced.
Oh, good, joint calls.
And will the US call for the attacks to cease so talks can begin?
US State Dept spokesperson Heather Nauert can't grasp the above. She can't grasp much of anything regarding Iraq and, at yesterday's State Dept press briefing, she couldn't even seem to grasp that the KRG is not working with Baghdad on the above -- on the above fighting between the Kurds and the Shi'ite militias sent in by Baghdad.
QUESTION: Can I go to Iraq?
MS NAUERT: -- and I think that’s why he’s discouraged. Okay? Let’s move on to Iraq.
QUESTION: Can I go to Iraq?
MS NAUERT: Hi.
QUESTION: Thank you. Just two questions: The United Nations has published a report documenting lootings and burning down dozens of houses belonging to the Kurdish people in Diyala province and parts of Kirkuk.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: Have you seen that report by the United Nations --
MS NAUERT: I saw a headline about that. I don’t have any details on that. I think I would go back to saying that we call upon all sides to refrain from violence. We would like to see a unified, democratic Iraq. We’ve been engaged in this process. We recognize that the Kurds have some legitimate complaints and concerns. We recognize the Iraqi constitution and that Iraqis have worked with the Kurds on a coordinated effort to start moving north. This has gotten an awful lot of attention. What you’re referring to specifically, I don’t have any information on that for you, but we would just continue to call on all sides for calm.
QUESTION: But there’s one side that seems to be perpetuating --
MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of who allegedly started these attacks, so I just – I can’t comment on who supposedly started that.
QUESTION: The – my second question is on the arrest warrant which was issued by a court in Baghdad for the Vice President of Kurdistan, Kosrat Rasul, who was also a senior Peshmerga commander. Would you condemn that court --
MS NAUERT: Yeah. All I can tell you is that that report, we’ve certainly seen that, and we just have to refer you to the Government Iraq and the Kurds for that – to that.
QUESTION: So you have nothing to say about --
MS NAUERT: Look, we continue to work with officials in the federal government and also in the regional governments to try to promote peace and stability and reduce tensions and to encourage dialogue, but – we’re aware of these reports, they’re fairly fresh, so I’d have to just ask you to speak with the governments. Okay?
QUESTION: But --
MS NAUERT: Anything else on Iraq?
QUESTION: I have one.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.
QUESTION: I know that this was discussed a bit on Tuesday in the briefing, but wanted to follow up on reports that Soleimani and specifically Iran was – played the key role in negotiations that allowed the Iraqi forces to go in and take Kirkuk. And I wondered if – what response you had to the idea that the U.S. must have at least tacitly endorsed that plan and the feeling by a lot of Kurds that there is a betrayal.
MS NAUERT: So first let me say that we were all aware of the action that Iraq was planning to take. We were aware of that. Iraq spoke about it publicly, so this was not a surprise once this started happening. Some of this is enshrined in the Iraqi constitution. Some of this was agreed upon back in 2014 that eventually, once ISIS fell, that Iraq would go back to some pre-2014 lines, if you will – sort of a green line, so to speak. So some of this is not surprising. To many journalists it may have been surprising who perhaps haven’t been following this issue closely, because there’s a whole world to cover, but our folks have been following this closely. This is part of the reason we were concerned about the Kurdish referendum, calling for people to work together to defeat ISIS, but this is something that was enshrined in the Iraqi constitution. And I will go back to saying the Kurds have some legitimate complaints, of course. There were things that were supposed to be done under the Iraqi constitution that my understanding is have not been fulfilled just yet. We hope that everyone will go back to and follow through on the Iraqi constitution.
QUESTION: But following up on that, is there any concern about the role that Iran still appeared to play in this, just as far as it seeming to contradict this idea of wanting to prevent Iran’s influence in the region?
MS NAUERT: Let me say Iran is always a huge concern of ours not just in Iraq, but throughout the region. Matt likes to make fun of me and – as I talk about the Iranian regime.
MS NAUERT: And when the Iranian regime shows up, bad things tend to happen. That is a fact. We know for a fact that U.S. service members have been killed by Iranian-led militias in the past. We know that. That has always been a major concern of ours. But this operation that took place, to go north – for the Iraqi Government to go north was something that was coordinated with the Kurds. That is an – our understanding. This was not a surprise; it was coordinated. If – and I’m not aware of any Iranian involvement in that, per se. I know a lot is being made of that, but I just want to underscore what a huge concern Iran remains for us, not just there but throughout the entire region.
QUESTION: Well, it’s gotten in the way – it’s not just journalists who may not have been paying attention because they were focused on other things going on in the world. I mean, there’s – Senator Cruz has put out a statement today accusing the Government of Iraq of basically getting into bed with Iran and saying that unless they stop being – or acting as Iran’s puppet, the U.S. should re-evaluate its relationship with Iraq. So --
MS NAUERT: Well, I think we would certainly remain concerned about countries developing too cozy of ties. We have seen an increasingly good relationship between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, for example, as we saw the opening of the – not the land bridge --
QUESTION: Border, right.
MS NAUERT: -- the border crossing – thank you – that can help with commerce. We saw that a month or two or so ago. We have seen various governments in the region talk about wanting to participate in reconstruction of some of these countries, Iraq and Syria. We would absolutely support that and would certainly welcome some of those countries taking part in that. So I guess I would go back to saying there are other angles that we can certainly be a part of working when it comes to trying to balance out Iran.
QUESTION: And when you say that the advance north was coordinated with the Kurds, was it – not all the Kurds it was coordinated with, was it?
MS NAUERT: Well, perhaps there are a few people who didn’t know about it, but my understanding is that the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government were in contact about this move forward. Okay?
QUESTION: Actually, this is not true. I just want to --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Because all the --
MS NAUERT: That’s – those are the reports that I’m getting.
QUESTION: No, that’s just misinformation, to be honest. Because like almost 90 percent of the government of Kurdistan, including almost 80 percent of the officials within the PUK, from which two senior officials coordinated with Iran and Baghdad --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: -- only two senior officials, two security officials coordinated this, and everybody else is opposed. That’s the fact.
MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information on what you’re telling me. So I’m sorry.
QUESTION: That’s a fact.
MS NAUERT: I don't have any information on what you’re telling me.
Apparently, Heather and the State Dept are too taxed to follow even the basics.
ALJAZEERA notes, "The federal army, backed by Shia militias, said they seized control of Altun Kupri, some 40km south of Erbil on Friday, after fierce fighting broke out between Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces." And they note:
Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the Erbil-Kirkuk Highway, a few kilometres from the frontline, said two bridges in the area had been destroyed but it was unclear by who.
"Immense military reinforcements are being sent by the Peshmerga as well as trucks carrying ammunition," she said.
"A new checkpoint has been set-up where there wasn't one and the Peshmerga are defending their positions."
Thick plumes of smoke could be seen in the distance, and hospitals confirmed recieving wounded people, our correspondent added.
"People are fleeing the scene of the fighting with everything they own - even transporting their cows."
Today, Human Rights Watch issued the following:
(Beirut) – Apparently indiscriminate firing during fighting on October 16, 2017, in a town near Kirkuk involving the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Peshmerga forces and various Iraqi government forces left at least 51 civilians wounded and five dead, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraqi forces in control of the town, Tuz Khurmatu, subsequently let civilians loot property unimpeded for at least a full day before taking action. Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government forces should take all feasible steps to minimize civilian casualties and prevent looting.
“Iraqi and Kurdish forces need to resolve the current crisis in ways that fully respects human rights and avoids harming civilians or their property,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Tuz Khurmatu, an ethnically mixed Kurdish, Turkmen, and Arab town in the disputed territories around Kirkuk, 65 kilometers south of the city, had been under the joint control of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forces, the Popular Mobilization Forces (known as the PMF or Hashd al-Sha'abi,) and local police, and the scene of sporadic clashes over the last three years. Fighting again erupted on October 16, 2017, as Iraqi forces asserted control over the city of Kirkuk and other disputed areas. According to three medical workers at a Turkmen-run hospital, fighting on October 16 left five civilians dead, and 51 wounded.
Human Rights Watch spoke to three men wounded by apparent indiscriminate fire during the clashes. “Hamid,” said that at about 3:45 a.m. he, his brother, and his mother were sitting in the living room of their home in a Turkmen neighborhood when, he said, “there were two blasts all of a sudden and I lost consciousness. I woke up at about 4:30 a.m. at the hospital, bleeding from my head and the left side of my torso.”
When Hamid returned home that night, he saw two large holes in their living room roof. “I don’t know why our house was hit,” Hamid said. “There was no fighting nearby, nor any military installations that I know of.”
“Nadim,” a Turkmen living in another Turkmen neighborhood, said he was in his garden at 4 a.m. when a mortar landed next to him, hurling metal fragments into his right hand and leg. Nadim said that as the mortar landed, he saw an ongoing battle between Peshmerga forces and PMF about 300 meters from his home.
“Ammar,” a Turkmen, lives in the same neighborhood, about 500 meters from the local headquarters of the Badr Organization, one of the most prominent PMF groups. Ammar said he and his brother were wakened at 5:30 a.m. by heavy fire. Just as they went outside, a projectile landed about two meters away. Metal fragments wounded Ammar’s left hand and head, and both of his brother’s legs. Worried about continued gunfire, they stayed inside their home until 11 a.m. before fighting in the area abated and their neighbor drove them to the hospital, he said.
Human Rights Watch was unable to determine if there were casualties among Kurdish or other civilians in Tuz. Four Tuz residents said the clashes were heaviest in the Turkmen neighborhoods because of the proximity to both PMF and KRG military and security installations. Two aid workers whose organizations work in camps for displaced families in Kirkuk said there was also fighting near Laylan 2 camp, 15 kilometers southeast of Kirkuk, killing or wounding two camp residents. Human Rights Watch was unable to obtain any specific civilian casualty numbers for other areas in and around Kirkuk.
On the morning of October 16, all remaining KRG forces and Kurdish residents fled Tuz Khurmatu. A resident said he visited the predominantly Kurdish northern neighborhood of al-Jumhouri, at around 4:30 p.m., and saw what he knew to be at least 10 Kurdish shops on fire. He saw two boys looting plastic building materials from another Kurdish shop nearby. He said three officers from the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s Emergency Response Division were parked 20 meters away, watching the boys without intervening. A passer-by told him that the boys were taking revenge for looting and burning of Turkmen houses and shops by Peshmerga forces and armed Kurdish civilians in 2015 and 2016.
The resident said he saw a man coming from the direction of the shops in a car loaded with TVs, computers, and other electronics. The three Emergency Response Division officers waved the man past without questioning him. The resident said another civilian in the area had told him that at around noon he had seen a group of about 10 armed civilians in the same neighborhood looting homes but avoiding a few that had “Turkmen Shia” graffitied on them.
A United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) statement on October 19 said it had received allegations that about 150 homes were burned in Tuz on October 16 and 17 “by armed groups” and another 11 destroyed by explosives. In an October 17 news conference, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi acknowledged incidents of abuse in Tuz saying he had given “strict orders to arrest anyone who endangers internal security, and attacks citizens, their property.”
In the early hours of October 18, Ataf Najar, the local head of the Badr Organization, publicly called on all civilians in Tuz to stop looting, after which local police cordoned off the largest Kurdish neighborhood. The resident who had told Human Rights Watch about looting in one Kurdish area said he was unable to return to verify that looting had stopped.
Kurdish journalists and activists shared photos of the burned-out interiors of buildings with Human Rights Watch, saying they were from the city of Kirkuk. Human Rights Watch could not find any witnesses to the looting or burning of buildings in Kirkuk. Three international journalists who visited Kirkuk on October 17 and 18 told Human Rights Watch they had seen no signs of arson or looting inside the city. One said he saw a Peshmerga military base on the road to Erbil on fire, but did not know who had started it.
Iraqi authorities should investigate allegations of looting and destruction of civilian property and prosecute anyone responsible for crimes, and security forces should prevent any further looting, Human Rights Watch said.
Starting on October 16, Iraqi forces including PMF units retook other parts of the disputed territories under de facto KRG control since 2003, including Sinjar, Zummar, Rabia, Hasansham, Khazir, Dibis, Kirkuk, Taza Khurmatu, Jalawla, Khanaqin, and Mandali. The Peshmerga forces retreated after very limited engagements. Authorities should ensure the safety and security of the minority communities in these areas.
According to the United Nations, as Iraqi forces retook the areas an estimated 61,200 people fled their homes to stay with relatives in more stable areas, with some returning over the following days. Human Rights Watch did not identify any incidents of forced displacement.
On October 18, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, the Iraqi military’s communications branch, issued a statement condemning coverage by two leading Kurdish outlets, Rudaw and Kurdistan 24, saying they had “continue to mislead public opinion and accuse the security forces of baseless accusations.” The statement called on Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission to monitor the outlets and bring legal action where their coverage has “threaten[ed] the civil peace.”
Human Rights Watch has previously raised concerns over the media commission and its “mandatory” guidelines, which unjustifiably restrict media freedom. The guidelines demand that media avoid making information about insurgent forces public and requires them to report on government forces only in favorable terms. Article 1 forbids media from broadcasting or publishing material that “may be interpreted as being against the security forces” and insists that they “focus on the security achievements of the armed forces, by repetition throughout the day.”
“Lashing out against media unfavorable to Baghdad undermines the same authorities who are telling Iraqis they are protecting the rights of all of them equally,” Stork said.
But the US government has nothing to say.
They are silent and look the other way and dispute reality when confronted with it at a press briefing.
When not revealing that the State Dept had no idea what was going on, Heather spent the press conference explaining that the US government is not in contact with the Kurds.
QUESTION: Heather, Secretary Tillerson called Prime Minister Abadi on Tuesday. He still hasn’t spoken to any Kurdish leaders since the referendum happened. Is that for a particular reason?
MS NAUERT: Well, we – I can certainly say that we have plenty of people on the ground in Iraq who have been speaking with Kurdish leaders and also leaders in Baghdad, from Brett McGurk, who has been there handling a lot of this, to our ambassador, who is serving there as well. So I know those conversations have been ongoing, and so that should not be an indication that we are not interested or that we’re not – we don’t regard that as important. We have people who are having those conversations all the time.
QUESTION: And you’re – so you’re not boycotting the Kurdish government because of this referendum?
MS NAUERT: I certainly don’t think so. We – look, we would like for a unified, democratic Iraq. And we are friends with the Kurds. I mean, many of our Americans – I’ll say this again – have fought side-by-side with Kurds. Without the Kurds, ISIS would still be in many places in Iraq. They have done an incredible job, a terrific fighting force. But we continue to call for a unified, democratic Iraq, and that hasn’t changed. Okay?
QUESTION: But if the Kurds feel like they’re not getting the support that they want from the U.S. Government, why wouldn’t the Secretary make that call? Obviously, him making a call has a certain impact that Brett McGurk --
MS NAUERT: He’s on the phone – let me just tell you, he’s on the phone constantly. I’m not ruling out that different calls won’t take place. But to my awareness, nothing has happened just yet. Okay?
Anyone else notice how defensive Heather Nauert gets, "okay?"
In fairness we'll note these comments she made (because a State Dept friend asked me to):
Lastly, today, along with many of my colleagues here at the State Department, including members of our LGBTI community, in association with GLIFAA, we are – many of us are wearing purple today to celebrate Spirit Day. On Spirit Day, we speak out against bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex persons and stand with LGBTI youth who disproportionally face bullying and harassment because of their identities.
Around the world, LGBTI individuals face increasing physical attacks, arbitrary arrests just because of who they are or who they love. Our global policy is to oppose violence and discrimination targeting LGBTI persons, including from governments and non-state actors. Spirit Day is about the freedom to be oneself without fear of violence or intimidation. Dignity and equality for all persons are the founding constitutional principle of U.S. democracy and they will continue to drive our diplomacy.
The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley -- updated:
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