Monday, March 30, 2015

Media Advisory: IAVA Builds Community at (the Monday) Boston VetTogether

Friday, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following about an event taking place today:

Vets welcomed to join CEO and Founder at District Hall on Monday

Boston, MA (March 27, 2015) – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will showcase its new data visualization tool The Wait We Carry 2.0 and share the experiences of Boston veterans using the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system and disability claims process at a VetTogether on Monday, March 30, at District Hall. At the event, IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff and attendees will also learn about the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Memorial, a project that honors fallen servicemembers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Who: IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff, and Boston-area veterans

When: Monday, March 30, 12:30-2:30 pm

Where: District Hall, 75 Northern Avenue, Boston

For more info, visit:

Prior to the VetTogether, Rieckhoff will attend the opening gala and dedication for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for The United States Senate on Sunday and Monday. President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at the dedication.

Two weeks ago IAVA launched The Wait We Carry 2.0 at SXSW in Austin and TED Talks in Vancouver. Created with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the cutting-edge data visualization tool offers users a candid understanding of the veteran health care experience.

“IAVA is honored to be a part of the opening gala and dedication ceremonies for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. For decades the Kennedy family has been a strong supporter of the veteran community and we are grateful to have advocates like Patrick Kennedy in our corner,” said Rieckhoff. “Boston continues to be a national leader in promoting solutions for its veterans, and we look forward to joining area veterans in honoring those who will be recognized by the Massachusetts Iraq and Afghanistan Fallen Heroes Memorial. We’re excited that Executive Director Dan Magoon will be on-hand to share the vision and progress of this important memorial project with our attendees.”

More than 340,000 veterans reside in Massachusetts, including more than 32,000 who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Boston-area veterans face a number of critical challenges: more than 200,000 veterans are stuck in the VA backlog, including more than 2,500 in the Boston regional office, who are waiting more than 125 days for a claim. The average wait time in Boston is 157.9 days.

Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Iraq today.

urges Iraq 2 do all it can to ensure protection of civilians & humanitarian access in conflict zones.

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The UN issued the following:


As-salam Alaikum. Good afternoon.

Shukran Jazilan, I want to thank Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for his welcome and for his leadership.  It is a great pleasure for me to be back in Iraq once again.

We have just concluded a very productive meeting, which was preceded by fruitful discussions with President Fuad Masum and Speaker Saleem al-Jabouri.

Later today, I will speak by phone with President Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

I am here to underscore the United Nations’ continuing and full support for advancing peace, development and human rights in Iraq.

I am also very pleased to be here so soon after the arrival of my new Special Representative, Mr.Ján Kubiš. I am confident that the government and people of Iraq will support Mr. Kubiš and work very closely with him.

I recognize and appreciate the commitment of Iraqi leadership to maintaining the momentum for national reconciliation and unity.  I am encouraged by the Government’s submission of key draft legislation to Parliament since my last visit in August.

However, I remain extremely concerned about the security crisis in Iraq and its impact on civilians.

During my meetings today, we reviewed the progress of ongoing military operations to liberate areas under the control of Daesh, including most recently around Tikrit.  I hope that additional areas, and the rest of the region, will soon be freed from the ongoing threat of Daesh.

People have suffered unconscionable levels of casualties as a result of this new wave of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence.  Over 2.5 million people have been displaced. Minority communities, women and children remain particularly affected.

Iraq’s cultural treasures have not been spared.  I strongly condemn the destruction of archaeological sites in Hatra, Nimrud and elsewhere – and express my support for UNESCO efforts to safeguard cultural sites at imminent risk.  We must unite to protect humanity’s shared heritage.

Mr. Prime Minister, Ladies and gentlemen,

I know the Government of Iraq, as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government have worked tirelessly to scale-up emergency relief efforts for those affected by the violence.

But vast challenges remain and the threat of additional and secondary displacement during ongoing military operations may overwhelm local and international capacities.

Additional resources are urgently needed to save lives.

I call on the Government of Iraq and the international community to enhance support to Iraq’s displaced and to help alleviate the suffering of all the Iraqi people.

I urge the Government to do all it can to ensure the protection of civilians and their access to humanitarian assistance.

I am also concerned by allegations of summary killings, abductions and destruction of property perpetrated by forces and militias fighting alongside Iraqi armed forces.

Civilians freed from the brutality of Daesh should not have to then fear their liberators.  One form of violence cannot replace another.

I encourage the Government of Iraq to do all it can to ensure the restoration of the rule of law and governance in areas liberated from Daesh as well as to bring volunteer armed groups fighting in support of the Government under Government control.

Alleged violations or abuses of human rights must be investigated and perpetrators need to be held to account.

I further call on the Government of Iraq, alongside its national partners and the international community, to create the conditions for stabilisation and reconstruction of Iraq.

We have also had the chance today to discuss the need for Baghdad and Erbil to uphold their December agreement on oil and revenue-sharing and ensure that the work of the joint committees continues.

This partnership is crucial to addressing Iraq’s security and financial crises. It is essential that disagreements over pending issues be resolved within the framework of the Constitution.

Finally, we discussed Iraq’s relations with Kuwait.  From here, I will go to Kuwait to take part in a pledging conference in support of Syrian refugees and neighbouring host countries.  I want to commend the government and people of Iraq for providing sanctuary and support to so many Syrians fleeing the fighting.

I also commend the governments of both Iraq and Kuwait for continuously and proactively working to strengthen bilateral ties. I will reinforce that message in Kuwait.

Progress on the missing Kuwaiti persons and national archives is still required. I also commend the enhancement of relations between Iraq and other countries in the region.

We will continue to do all we can to assist the people and Government of Iraq to end this crisis so that they may focus their energy and resources on building a more peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous future for all Iraqis.

Mr. Prime Minister, once again, I am honoured to be here to express my full solidarity and support for the people and the government of Iraq, and I highly command and appreciate your leadership in promoting unity and solidarity and inclusive dialogue which goes to all the people of the society and I express my strong hope that you will continue to enjoy prosperity, development and stability of your country.

Thank you. Shukran Jazeelan.

UN's Ban Ki-Moon in Baghdad notes allegations of abuse by 'pro-government forces'

urges Iraq 2 do all it can to ensure protection of civilians & humanitarian access in conflict zones.
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Ban Ki-moon is the United Nations Secretary-General.  He arrived in Baghdad today.

One set of needed remarks are getting attention.

Civilians freed from brutality of Daesh should not have 2 fear liberators. Human rights need 2 be respected, says in Baghdad.
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  • And not just from the spokesperson.

    BREAKING: U.N. Secretary General: Concerned about alleged summary executions and torture by pro-government forces in
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    Ned Parker and John Stonestreet (Reuters) quote the Secretary-General, "I am... concerned by allegations of summary killings, abductions and destruction of property perpetrated by forces and militias fighting alongside Iraqi armed forces,"

    The needed remarks come after a missed opportunity last week.  Friday, Human Rights Watch issued a statement which included:

    The United Nations Human Rights Council has missed a key opportunity to address war crimes and rights abuses by all sides to the conflict in Iraq. The council adopted a resolution on the Iraq conflict by consensus on March 27, 2015, that denounces atrocities by the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS), but failed to condemn the abuses by militias, volunteer fighters, and Iraqi forces.

    “No one questions the Human Rights Council's attention to the widespread atrocities by ISIS in Iraq, but ignoring abuses by Iraqi militias and security forces is not only indefensible, it's dangerous,” said John Fisher, Geneva director.

    Iraq prepared the resolution, and the Arab group of countries put it forward at the council on March 19. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report the same day that documents ISIS abuses. But the High Commissioner also found that militias and Iraqi security forces had “carried out extrajudicial killings, torture, abductions and forcibly displaced a large number of people, often with impunity,” and that by doing so they “may have committed war crimes.” The Human Rights Council asked for the report in September 2014 during an emergency session.

    Human Rights Watch reached similar conclusions following an investigation of abuses in the wake of the ISIS retreat from the town of Amerli in September. Militias looted property of Sunni civilians who had fled the fighting, burned their homes and businesses, and destroyed at least two entire villages, all in violation of the laws of war.

    Meanwhile AP notes two car bombs in northern Baghdad left 11 people dead and twenty-six more injured.   And KUNA notes that the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, arrived in Baghdad today as well.

    New content at Third:

     The e-mail address for this site is

    Sunday, March 29, 2015


    The Pentagon announced the following airstrikes in Iraq today:

    Attack, fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 14 airstrikes against ISIL terrorists in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
    -- Near Bayji, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
    -- Near Fallujah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL excavator.
    -- Near Mosul, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL vehicles, two ISIL heavy machine guns and an ISIL building.
    -- Near Tal Afar, three airstrikes struck an ISIL large tactical unit, an ISIL storage facility, an ISIL fighting position and destroyed an ISIL building and an ISIL heavy machine gun; and
    -- Near Tikrit, six airstrikes struck six ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL anti-aircraft artillery weapon.

     All aircraft returned to base safely.

    While the White House is very proud of these bombings, they've not accomplished anything.

    We've been noting that for some time.

    Other voices are joining the chorus.  Maria Fantappie and Peter Harling offer "If Shi'ite militias beat Islamic State in Tikrit, Iraq will still lose" (Reuters):

    The military campaign is thus exacerbating the sense of powerlessness, disenfranchisement and humiliation among Sunni Arabs that gave rise to Islamic State.
    The growing tendency in Baghdad and the south to equate Shi’ite militias with the national army, to declare oneself a patriot while expressing gratitude to Iran for its intervention, and to subsume national symbols under Shi’ite ones — with black, yellow and green flags referring to Hussein ibn Ali ibn Abi Taleb, Shiism’s third Imam, increasingly crowding out the Iraqi flag — is reshaping Iraqis’ national identity in ways that will vastly complicate well-intentioned efforts to advance inclusive politics and governance.

    Fantappie and Harling are with the International Crisis Group.

    The ICR is among a very few groups or outlets that paid attention to Iraq during Nouri al-Maliki's second term (2010 through 2014).  In fact, in terms of significant attention, it really was just the ICR and Human Rights Watch.

    Most groups and outlets preferred to look the other way.

    The assault on Tikrit appears to have prompted more coverage from news outlets.

    Amir Taheri (New York Post) offers:

    That sectarianism is now a key factor in Iraqi politics cannot be doubted. In Tikrit, a city of over 300,000 people, fewer than 200 joined the “liberating forces” sent by Baghdad but spearheaded by armed Shi’ite groups led by Iranian officers. Thanks to massive deployment of heavy weapons, these forces made advances in the suburbs of Tikrit that had already been depopulated when the arrival of IS forced the inhabitants to flee.

    On the 30th day of the operation to take Tikrit back from the Islamic State, Ahmed Rasheed and Ned Parker (Reuters) report, "On Sunday, an attempt to infiltrate Tikrit from the southern district of Shisheen was thwarted by militants. They used anti-tank missiles to destroy a bulldozer being used by the military to clear a path around booby-trapped roads, an official said."

    Meanwhile what does The Nation offer?

    This is what we wrote when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Help us keep speaking truth to power:

    And the battle for Tirkit continues.  On day 30, Ahmed Rasheed and Ned Parker (Reuters) report, "On Sunday, an attempt to infiltrate Tikrit from the southern district of Shisheen was thwarted by militants. They used anti-tank missiles to destroy a bulldozer being used by the military to clear a path around booby-trapped roads, an official said."

    This is what we wrote when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Help us keep speaking truth to power:

    They've Tweeted that nonsense daily for about ten days in a row.

    I'm really not understanding the point other than self-stroking?

    I'm not spending each day here re-posting what I wrote over a decade ago.

    I could.

    It would certainly be easier than writing something new about today.

    The Nation has nothing to offer but moldy things from the past.

    Poor Katrina vanden Heuvel, she's run that magazine into the ground.

    And while she likes to claim/charge that I'm running some sort of "jihad" (her term) against the publication and her, the reality is I was just ahead of the curve on the criticism (the just criticism) that is coming her way.  

    For example, the current issue of Harper's magazine contains Adolph Reed Jr.'s "Nothing Left: The long, slow surrender of American liberals."  And both she and her magazine get a 'shout-out':

    Taking into account the left's disappearance into Democratic neoliberalism helps explain how and why so many self-proclaimed leftists or progressives — individuals, institutions, organizations, and erstwhile avatars of leftist opinion such as The Nation — came to be swept up in the extravagant rhetoric and expectations that have surrounded the campaign, election, and presidency of Barack Obama.
    [. . . ]
    Indeed, even ersatz leftists such as Glenn Greenwald, then of, and The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel defended and rationalized Obama's willingness to disparage black poor people. Greenwald applauded the candidate for making what he somehow imagined to be the "unorthodox" and "not politically safe" move of showing himself courageous enough to beat up on this politically powerless group. For her part, vanden Heuvel rationalized such moves as his odious "Popeyes chicken" speech as reflective of a "generational division" among black Americans, with Obama representing a younger generation that values "personal responsibility."* Perhaps, but it's noteworthy that Obama didn't give the Popeyes speech to groups of investment bankers.

    What's going to happen when the criticism continues to pile on?

    And at what point do I or someone else go public about how Katrina strong-armed certain program hosts to book her?

    Because I can.

    I can do that right now.

    I've been saving that for a rainy day.

    She bought her place at the table not for the left, not to help the magazine, but to get herself covered in the media.  Maybe her name should be Katrina vanity Heuvel?

    She's got to nothing to offer on Iraq.  She can't comment on today because she's not done the work required.  She offers superficial commentary in a magazine that's going under.

    This despite the fact that it was the Iraq War, specifically the opposition to it, that allowed The Nation to thrive and increase readership while support for it came close to burying The New Republic.

    I'm traveling in some vehicle
    I'm sitting in some cafe
    A defector from the petty wars
    That shell shock love away
    -- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

     The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4494.

    The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley and the Guardian  -- update:

  • The e-mail address for this site is

    Richard Diebenkorn's paintings capture a fresh and intriguing Californian light

    This is a repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

    Richard Diebenkorn's paintings capture a fresh and intriguing Californian light

    The Royal Academy’s exhibition of Richard Diebenkorn’s art brings together abstraction and the natural world and should not be missed, writes Nick Grant

    Published Tue 24 Mar 2015

    Issue No. 2446

    Richard Diebenkorn, Cityscape I, (Landscape No. 1), 1963, Oil on canvas
    Richard Diebenkorn, Cityscape I, (Landscape No. 1), 1963, Oil on canvas (Pic: Photograph: 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation)

    This is a rare opportunity to see a selection of work by the US artist Richard Diebenkorn.
    Art critic Robert Hughes has described Diebenkorn as “a mediator between abstraction and natural vision”.

    He said Diebenkorn’s 1967-88 Ocean Park series of paintings are “abstractions which don’t reject the world but contain it in a concentrated form.”

    Diebenkorn is virtually unknown in Britain. None of his work is held in collections or museums here. None has been seen here since an exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 1991.

    This new exhibition traces his post-war career up until his death in 1993 and has been greeted with critical acclaim.

    What is it that makes Diebenkorn’s work so enticing?

    When you see his work the appeal is quite simple and obvious. Three things stand out.

    First, there is the way he evokes fresh Californian light through daring but always intriguing colour contrasts. He spent most of his life in the coastal district of Los Angeles that his works are named after.

    Second, he foregrounds compositional beauty. In his later work, the structure is shown by  charcoal-sketched grids drawn in parallel and angled lines.


    Critics have suggested that  the distant and elevated point of view typical of Diebenkorn’s art was inspired by his first flight in 1951. The journey from Albuquerque, in New Mexico, to San Francisco will have taken him over patchwork landscapes.

    Third, there is both a mystery and hesitancy to his work, which encourages contemplation.

    For example, his pictures that include people tend to avoid facial detail and are set in complex spaces.

    Most of his large Ocean Park series—of which five can be seen here—have thin veils of paint over other shapes.

    The edges do not show signs of masking tape. The paint on seemingly unprimed canvas is starting to fade and crack.

    The catalogue includes  this revealing quote from the artist, “One of the most interesting polarities in art is between representation at one end of the stick, and abstraction at the other end, and I’ve found myself all over that stick.”

    This is an exhibition that is not to be missed.

    Richard Diebenkorn. Royal Academy of Arts, London W1J 0BD. Until 7 June.