Sunday, May 18, 2014

Truest statement of the week

Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM’s founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called “the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa”). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush’s legacies in the Congo, where U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 – the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world’s newest nation – the culmination of a decades-long project of the U.S., Britain and Israel to dismember Africa’s largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the U.S. touches, these days.

-- Glen Ford, "Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of U.S. Imperial Policy in Africa" (Black Agenda Report).

Truest statement of the week II

Mel Brooks, please don’t go there. It’s dangerous; artistic license only extends so far. Oh, alright, I can’t stop you. Not “The Producers,” you say, but its sequel, “The Despoilers,” about pillagers of American democracy, and starring, not Zero Mostel, but an equally gifted actor, whose warm smile can melt the edges of any war crime, Barack Obama, with extensive theatrical training at Harvard Law, and coaching by Wall Street’s finest, skilled in the art of duplicity. Mel, a sure winner, congratulations; central casting will never be the same. From now on, all roles featuring militarism, global conquest, the promotion of wealth concentration, cannot seek refuge in fictional treatments or the sci-fi genre (the Strangelovian scenario once and for all spoiled for amusement, and now confirmed as REAL) and necessarily must be identified, as to leadership, with a Democratic president.

-- Norman Pollack, "Springtime for Obama" (CounterPunch).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

We'll do the note on Monday, everyone's tired.

Now it's Monday.  And why the wait?  It was a long edition.  Since Friday, C.I. had three deaths to deal with.  Ava and Jess' baby had pink eye -- and then Ava, C.I. and Jess had pink eye.  And Dona was under the weather . . .

Me (Jim)?  No problem here.

Glen Ford got another truest.
Mike and C.I. advocated for Norman Solomon to get another truest.
We're experimenting with feature lengths -- in part as a result of the condition of everyone this edition.  I'm surprised this was so popular -- the numbers are off the wall.  Credit to Elaine who suggested this for the editorial.

Ava and C.I.  This is tracking well on page views.  They saw this as 'a bomb' and were okay with that because they like to lower expectations.  I don't think it's a bomb.  I think it's a well written piece.
Yes, the White House took the picture and yes they actually posted it.  What were they thinking?
The enabling of Nouri al-Maliki by the US government is disgusting.  We tried to come at it from a different angle.
What we listened to.
Dona moderates a roundtable. 
We spent forever trying to find one piece of information we thought of value to share.  We went with this.
Press release from Senator Patty Murray's office.

From Great Britian's Socialist Worker.
From Workers World.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: The photo avoided

Does a documented meeting take place if the press works overtime to pretend it didn't?

That photo went up at the English language website The Common Ills last Sunday.

It had been posted by Nouri al-Maliki's office at Nouri's website.  

But you'd think it had been covered in Kryptonite and buried beneath the sea by the way the meeting and the photo were 'disappeared' and ignored by the western media.

That's General Lloyd Austin in the photo.

What is he doing meeting with Nouri?

Might it have something to do with repeated reports that Nouri is comfortable bring more US troops into Iraq?

If so, that photo above would be not only news worthy but also historic.

So why are the press ignoring it?

TV: Failing as entertainment, failing as propaganda

Last week, ABC's Modern Family began the usual nonsense the show is so infamous for -- scattering characters and common sense to the winds.  Allegedly, the episode -- the first of a two-parter -- was about a same-sex couple getting married but so much of the show went to Phil playing blind, Clair fretting over her son, and Gloria and Jay hanging out with Cam's parents.


Cam and Mitchell are an insulting same-sex couple portrayed by Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson on Modern Family.  Cam is the ultimate gay stereotype -- even tossing pinkies in the air (and calling them "the girls") -- but at least he has heart.  Mitch is a bitch, a nasty little bitch.

Always questioning Cam's childhood stories, always mocking him behind his back (especially when talking to the 'documentary' filmmaker or filmmakers) and spending a large amount of time being embarrassed by him.  Part of the reason Mitch is such a bitch is that he's played by the awful Jesse Tyler Ferguson.  He's giving the exact same 'performance' he did in The Class.  He's a highly limited 'actor' and there's little he can provide other than bitchy when it comes to humor.

For five seasons, America has endured this awful show that rips off Christopher Guests' mockumentaries.  It's used the 'tell it to the camera' approach because the writers lack any genuine real talent or understanding of humanity.  So they string together attempts at funny (which rarely go anywhere) with talking-to-the-camera bits and a lot of moralizing.  A lot of moralizing.

The show suffers from both a lack of originality and an inflated sense of purpose.

We've ignored the show because, mainly, there are too few Latin performers on TV and Sofia Bergara almost manages to redeem the Latin spitfire stereotype that's been slapped on her by the largely male and Anglo White writers.

Modern Family has been sold as the story of America but it's another laugh free sitcom that has no real diversity.  For example, only 27 of 120 episodes were written or co-written by women.

That may go a long way towards explaining how the series went through four seasons with no main female character working outside the home.

It's funny, as this show offers one stereotype after another, to hear it praised.

US President Barack Obama has praised it for example.  This despite the lack of African-Americans featured on the show.

Phil has an African-American friend he found late in the show.  Sometimes the writers remember him, sometimes they don't -- mainly, they don't.

The real question about Modern Family is what is so "modern" about it?

The gay couple!

The ones who don't have a sex life?

At one point, the show was under heavy fire for the fact that Cam and Mitch never even kissed.

The response to that?

The producers insisted this wasn't them, this was a storyline.  And we learned that Mitch (a created character) was uncomfortable with public displays of affection due to his father, as Gloria summed it up, not telling Mitch he loves him.

The whole thing played off less like a storyline and more like a justification for the producers own homophobia.

Along the way, they've also trafficked in xenophobic statements about Asian-Americans.

It's been a lousy ride.

One that just got worst last week.

In the lead-up to the two-part season ender, actress Julie Bowen (Clair) made a ridiculous statement.  Ruth called it out for being insulting.  It was that.

It was also more than that.

Bowen told Bill Keveney (USA Today), of Mitch's father's homophobic reaction to his son's wedding, "He gives a voice to audience members who aren't on board."

No, he doesn't and Bowen's a stupid performer.

If you don't know what you're talking about, don't speak.

Art can do many things including propagandize.

Jane Fonda successfully used film in the way Bowen wrongly believes Modern Family can.

In her IPC films, Jane played a woman awakening to this or that.  Her character then embarked on a journey, take the audience along with the character.

Well, why can't Modern Family do the same thing.

For a number of reasons.

First of all, those opposed to marriage equality are not going to watch a wedding of Mitch and Cam.

Secondly, the show's been on for five seasons now.  It's very doubtful that there's any 'radicalization' left for its audience.

Thirdly, they ought to be a little more concerned about how they're failing at art

As Ruth notes, The Simpsons and The Family Guy both, seasons ago, did this exact same story with Marge and Lois.  So it's tired.

Fourthly, and most importantly, by redoing this tired story, they are normalizing homophobia.

Why, at this late date, are gay characters being shoved on the back burner?

The episode should be about Mitch and Cam and their love.

Instead, it's about a straight character.

And it's about the straight character's problem: He's struggling with his adult son being gay.

It's about five seasons too late for such a storyline but it's typical of this show which works overtime to keep Cam and Mitch at arms length.

Supposedly, Mitch grew up closer to his mother DeDe while his sister Claire was closer to their father Jay.

Guess who's not at the wedding?

Yep, DeDe (Shelley Long).  The parent who would be supportive isn't showing.

Again, the show spends a lot of time normalizing and justifying homophobia.

It's about as modern as 1991.

And that might mean something if this was 1994 and not 2014.

Lovable Jay is a homophobe.

And the star.  The star even in an episode that's supposed to be about Mitch and Cam getting married.

The way this normalizing works out usually is that a homphobe gets applauded for coming into the current century.

That's what Modern Family wants to do and wants to create.

That's one story and it's a story that's been told repeatedly.

But no one should mistake this story for the story of a wedding.

Mitch and Cam are extras, 'local color,' served up to glorify a straight man who's going to leave a little bit of his homophobia behind.

Again, that's a story.  Its not particularly modern or even new.  But if the show didn't traffic in the tired and stereotypical, it wouldn't manage to fill out ten minutes, let alone five seasons.

A White House Moment

The crowd goes wild as Barack shows how to Twerk while seated.

Joker Joe


Friday, the White House issued the following:

The White House

Office of the Vice President

Readout of the Vice President's Call with Iraqi Prime Minister of Nouri al-Maliki

Vice President Biden spoke this morning with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  The Vice President congratulated the Iraqi people on their participation in the parliamentary elections, and emphasized the importance of a new parliament acting to pull the country together given the many challenges confronting Iraq.  The two leaders spoke about the security situation in Anbar province.  The Vice President stressed the importance of pursuing a holistic approach that includes political outreach as well as security measures consistent with the goal of gaining local support and cooperation.   He welcomed initiatives that are now underway to mobilize the population against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and strongly urged the Government of Iraq to ensure that their difficult fight against terrorism is conducted in a manner that protects the civilian population and adheres to the rule of law.  The Vice President and the Prime Minister reaffirmed the long-term partnership between Iraq and the United States pursuant to the Strategic Framework Agreement, including their commitment to coordination in the fight against ISIL, which represents a threat to the entire region.

Joker Joe feels that Nouri "protects the civilian population and adheres to the rule of  law"?

The same Nouri who has been using collective punishment since January?

The same Nouri whose bombings of residential neighborhoods of Anbar Province have left many wounded and dead?

The same collective punishment that is a defined War Crime?

The same weapons used that the US government supplied Nouri with?

Joker Joe, we're looking for the punchline but just not finding it.

This edition's playlist

1) Tori Amos's Unrepentant Geraldines.

2) Ben and Ellen Harper's Childhood Home.

3) Ben Harper's Both Sides of the Gun.

4) Tori Amos' Under the Pink.

5) Laura Nyro's Christmas and the Beads of Sweat.

6) Ben Harper's Lifeline.

7) Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk.

8) Jefferson Airplane's Crown of Creation.

9) The Lemonhead's It's A Shame About Ray.

10) Tori Amos' Little Earthquakes.

Congress and Veterans


Dona: On Thursday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the allegations that several VA centers have been keeping two lists of appointments -- one demonstrating the VA is providing medical appointments within 14 days of their being requested by the veteran and another list that shows how many weeks and months the veteran may actually be waiting.  C.I. reported on the hearing in Thursday's snapshot and Friday's, Ruth covered it in "Senator Richard Blumenthal says call in the F.B.I.," Kat covered it in "Shinseki needs to be fired," Ava covered it in "Shineski (Ava)" and Wally covered it in "More talk, no action (Wally)."  Kat, give us a few basics of the Committee itself.

Kat: Sure.  Senator Bernie Sanders is the Chair and Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member.  They heard from three panels.  Two were made up of Veterans Service Organizations -- VSOs -- and Inspector General staff.  The first was VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. 

Dona: As the Secretary, Shinseki has come under fire before and we've called for him to step down some time ago. I would argue that it's hard for anyone to cover Shinseki and not argue that he needs to step down because has has presided over so many fiascos.  But today, Katrina vanden Heuvel appeared on CBS' Face The Nation.  The daughter of a spy is most infamous for buying her way into The Nation magazine where her drooling is passed off as insight.  From the program:

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL:  I'm glad, Jackie, that you brought that up. Because I do think the V.A. has been the most effective, efficient health care system in this country over these last decades. And it was nickel and dimed under the Bush administration. They felt they needed to spend more on defense than on veterans' benefits.
If you're going to send brave men and women into war, you have to take care of them, and the multiple deployments. So, I think the president faces the important task of speaking to what is going to happen now, just showing what has been improved. The question is, what do you do with Congress? The Republican Congress has slashed benefits. Do you bring in someone like a Colin Powell? I personally think Shinseki should be left there to fight. But the president has said he may say goodbye. But if Colin Powell speaks more effectively and will have more (UNINTEL) and clout with this Republican Congress.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I don't know what they need to do. But all I know is they need to do something. And what you say, I take your point. But that was then and this is now. This is a problem that no matter how it got to be where it is, has to be fixed.
And old Bob Gates, say what you want to about him. When you had a similar thing like this that came up in Walter Reed Hospital, he went out there and fired a bunch of people. And they got it straightened out. It's not perfect, but it's a whole lot better than it was.

KATRINA VANDEN HUEVEL: But firing Shinseki? I mean, the crisis of veterans' care has been with us for many years. And I think history is important to bring to bear in this and find a way to reform, but understanding that we have nickel and dimed the V.A. in these last years.

Dona (Con't): Ruth, you want to jump in?

Ruth: Ms. vanden Heuvel is not one to pass up an opportunity to show ignorance so why should this be any different?  The VA has been "nickeled and dimed . . . in these last years"?  Would she mean the last six years where the president has been Barack Obama?  She does not care about veterans.  She needs to shut her mouth, she really does.  She has become a joke in the same manner that Ann Coulter is.  I believe the term is "partisan whore."

Ava:  If Barack has inherited the problem -- and there's no indication in Katty van van's response that she's aware of any problem -- he would have owned it himself by the end of 2009.  She's much more interested in playing partisan nonsense than in helping veterans.

Dona: We should point out that vanden Heuvel is not a veteran and that The Nation magazine largely ignores veterans and veteran issues.

Wally:  We should also point out that she's a failure in every way possible.  Not only does she have a face that belongs on radio, she's a dumb idiot.  If Shineski is fired or retired, Katty van van has just argued Colin Powell needs to be the replacement?  WTF?  How stupid is this woman?  Colin Powell lied to the UN and now we've got Katty van van bringing him up as a replacement?

Dona: She really is useless and while I realize she bought her seat at the table -- she didn't earn it -- I'm reminded of the same sense of repulsion I had for years watching Paul Begela allegedly represent me on TV -- we can't have any attractive people on the left?  She seems to get booked solely to imply that those of us on the left are unattractive.  C.I.?

C.I.: The ugliest thing about her is her pretense that she cares about veterans issues.  She's much more likely to muse at her magazine's website over how much she spent on her daughter's birthday party than on veterans' issues.  She really should learn when to stay silent.  What the idiot doesn't know or won't share is the VA's suffered no real cuts.  Katty wants to blame Bully Boy Bush and "the Republican Congress." In January 2007, the Congress sworn in was one with Democratic majorities in both houses.  This would remain true until January 2011 when the House returned to Republican control but the Senate remained controlled by the Democrats.  Even more importantly, Katrina's never bothered to attend a Congressional hearing on veterans.  If she had, she's know Congressional funding has increased each year for veterans and that the VA, unlike other departments, is actively encouraged to request all the resources they believe they need and none of these requests have been turned down.  

Dona: And I was thinking about that last thing as well because it is something you have noted before in your reports.  On the same program, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough declared that Barack was "madder than hell" about the issue."  Any thoughts there?

Kat: Well Ruth pointed out in "Step down Shinseki" that McDonough didnt grasp the difference between service member and veteran.  I'm not really sure why we'd valued McDonough's remarks.  But if someone's "madder than hell" you'd assume they'd be trying to fix the problem and I haven't seen anything to indicate Barack's worried about this issue other than his trotting out White House spin which isn't going to do a thing to help veterans.

Dona: Did the hearing help veterans?

Kat: No.  I would say that we heard nothing from Shinseki or the VA that spoke to awareness or responsibility.  

Dona: Okay.  Ruth?

Ruth: I think the fact that the hearing is taking place in May goes to a lack of serious oversight by the Senate.  This issue emerged in April and the House Committee has addressed the topic in hearings.  But we have had little from the Senate until now.  I hope that the investigation being conducted by the VA's Inspector General finds no one died in Phoenix, Arizona as a result of these lists because if any deaths took place in Phoenix the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee looks pretty stupid and pretty inactive.  40 deaths are reported in April but the Senate cannot be bothered to hold hearings that month?  This scandal could be taking place around the country but the Senate cannot be bothered to hold hearings until now?

Dona: Ava?
Ava: Ruth's making an important point.  Where is the oversight?  When 40 veterans are said to have died from the actions of one VA medical center, why doesn't the Committee whip into action?  Don't give me 'ongoing investigation' because this is now a safety issue and the Committee has the obligation to do immediate hearings and oversight to ensure that no veteran's life is at risk.

Dona: I'm going to note this lengthy exchange from the hearing:

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Secretary, were you aware that on October 25, 2013, the Office of Special Counsel requested that the VA conduct an investigation into the allegations of inappropriate scheduling at the Fort Collins Community Outpatient clinic?  And that since then, the media has reported about Mr. Freeman's e-mail of June 19, 2013 that explains how to game the system to avoid being on the bad boy list.  Were you aware of those?

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Uh, Senator, I became aware of that-that, uh, that screen shot -- I believe that's what it was -- screen shot of an employee who was suggesting that there are ways to game.  I put that employee on administrative leave, uh, 

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  When was that?

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  That was last Friday.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Secretary, it's my understanding that on June 21, 2013, VA received a report from the Office of Medical Inspector  regarding chronic understaffing issues at the Jacksonville VA Medical Center and that report described multiple patient scheduling problems including scheduling two patients for the same appointment slot and scheduling patients for a clinic that does not have any assigned  providers -- often referred to as ghost clinics.  And that on September 17, 2013, the Office of Special Counsel submitted a letter to the President of the United States on which the VA was courtesy copied the findings of that June 21st Office of Medical Inspector on the Fort Jackson Medical Center including the practice of double-booking patients and the use of ghost clinics.  Do you remember reading that report and receiving that copied letter to the president?

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Uh, I can't say that I remember it today here.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Okay.  There was a December 23, 2013 report by the Office of -- by the Office of Medical Inspector  regarding the Cheyenne Medical Center in Fort Collins Clinic that found that several medical support assistants reported that, and I quote, "Medical Center's business office training included teaching them to make the desired date the actual appointment and, if the Clinic needed to cancel appointments, they were instructed to change the desired date to within 14 days of the new appointment."  Did you read that report? 

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  That, uh, report has come to my-my attention here recently.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Okay, on February 25, 2014, your Chief of Staff, Mr. [Jose D.] Riojas, submitted a response to the Office of Special Counsel which included the December 23 , 2013 Office of the Medical Inspector report on Fort Collins.  And in that letter, Mr. Riojas states, and I quote, "However as OMI" Office of Medical Inspector "was not provided any specific veterans cases effected by these practices, it cannot substantiate that the failure to properly train staff resulted in danger to public health or safety."  Were you aware of what your Chief of Staff wrote?

Secretary Eric Shinseki: I was.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Okay.  Mr. Secretary, were you aware that the GAO report entitled "VA Health Care: Reliability of Reported Out Patient Medical Appointment Wait Times Scheduling Oversight Need Improvement" which was publicly released in January 2013 and then on December 11, 2012, to that same report, your former Chief of Staff, John Gingrich, sent a letter to the GAO which stated, and I quote, "VA generally agrees with the GAO's conclusions and concurs with GAO's recommendations to the Dept"?  Do you remember that letter?   That report and your Chief of Staff's response?

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  In-in general, I do remember that report.

Ranking Member Richard Burr:  Mr. Secretary, you knew that there were specific issues relating to scheduling and wait times as early as June 21, 2013 at Jackson, December 23, 2013 at Fort Collins, as well as numerous IG reports related to excessive wait times in January '012 in Temple, Texas, September '012 in Spokane, Washington, October 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio, September 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  December '012, a GAO report questions the validity and the reliability of the reported wait time performance measures.  Which brings us to today in Phoenix.  On May 1, you publicly stated that you had removed Ms. Hellman as the medical director.  And you  stated then that that was to ensure the integrity of the IG's current ongoing investigation.  On May 5th, Dr. Petzel conducted a conference call with all medical directors, all VISN directors and the chiefs of staff -- a rather large group -- to discuss the ongoing face-to-face audits of all VA centers and large community outpatient clinics.  I have been told by sources that were on that call that during that call, Dr. Petzel made the statement that the removal of Ms. Hellman was, I quote, "political and that she's done nothing wrong."  If you're asking us to wait until the investigation is over, doesn't the same apply to people who work for you?  And, Mr. Secretary, from all I've described to you and the current investigation, why should this Committee or any veteran believe that change is going to happen as a result of what we're going though? 

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  I-I was not aware of, uh, the phone call you referred to and I will look into it.  Uhm, I would just tell you that, uh, my removal of the director, uh, placing her on administrative leave was at the request of the IG.  He is the lead in this, uh-uh, comprehensive review.  Uhm, I don't get out ahead of him.  Uh, he requested it.  And I, uh, put Director Hellman and two other individuals on administrative leave.

Dona:  Wally, is Shinseki showing any sort of leadership?

Wally: I don't see how.  He is, from his testimony, unaware of very basic issues involved and this ignorance takes place when he shows up at a scheduled hearing.  He should have been prepared and on top of his game.  Instead he seems distant and not all that interested in the events.

Dona:  C.I., you wrote in your two snapshots about your initial impressions and then your feelings after speaking to veterans.  In the second snapshot, you say that the veterans were unimpressed with the hearing and you agree with them.  Can you speak to that?

C.I.: Yes, their impression was that Chair Bernie Sanders was not present as an advocate for veterans but as a defender of the VA.  I went into this at length in the second snapshot but Sanders made remarks, initially, that seemed strong but that were found lacking as the hearing went on.  He followed that up with an appearance on CNN which only fed into the impression further --

Dona: Because even the CNN host, Chris Cuomo, told Sanders on air that he was carrying the water for the VA.

C.I.: So that didn't help either.  There's a feeling that the April 30th hearing, on the topic of alternative medicine, should have been shelved and the focus put on this current issue.  Words like "pet causes" are being used to describe that hearing --

Dona: Because Sanders has made this issue -- alternative medicines -- a key issue as Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

C.I.: Right.  So there's this whole group of elements coming together to form a storm.  We're talking about this in terms of Shinseki and that's where the focus should be.  However, I think the way this unfolds will also determine how Bernie Sanders tenure as Chair is seen.   I think they need to get ahead of this, Sanders and his office, because they've lost a lot of support already, in the days since the hearing, as a result of this issue and what is seen as a lack of strong response to it.

Dona: Are you calling for his resignation?

C.I.: Senator Bernie Sanders?  No.  I'm stating veterans attending the hearing saw things which caused them dismay and Sanders can address that or leave it alone.  If he leaves it alone, his tenure as chair will be judged poorly.

Dona:  Okay, we're going to end there.  This is a rush transcript.  Our e-mail address is 

Maybe not spice things up?

Last week, the FDA announced that US Trading Company was recalling one of its product due to the possibility that it had salmonella contamination.  Salmonella is   The product in question is Dragonfly Brand Crushed Chili Powder.

The Mayo Clinic notes:

Salmonella infection is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. Salmonella bacteria typically live in animal and human intestines and are shed through feces. Humans become infected most frequently through contaminated water or food. 
Typically, people with salmonella infection have no symptoms. Others develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within eight to 72 hours. Most healthy people recover within a few days without specific treatment. In some cases, the diarrhea associated with salmonella infection can be so dehydrating as to require prompt medical attention. Life-threatening complications also may develop if the infection spreads beyond your intestines. Your risk of acquiring salmonella infection is higher if you travel to countries with poor sanitation.

We weren't aware, until last week, that dried spices would be able to pass on Salmonella.  However, in 2013, CBS News reported the FDA was finding salmonella in imported spices.

[VIDEO/AUDIO] Murray to Secretary Shinseki: "This Needs to be a Wake-Up Call for the Department"

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following last week.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                               CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Thursday, May 15, 2014                                                               (202) 224-2834
[VIDEO/AUDIO] Murray to Secretary Shinseki: "This Needs to be a Wake-Up Call for the Department"
During Senate hearing, Murray tells Secretary Shinseki “the standard practice at VA seems to be to hide the truth in order to look good.”
Murray: “We have come to the point where we need more than good intentions.”


(Washington, D.C.)  – Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, attended a hearing to examine the state of VA health care with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. At the hearing, Murray questioned Secretary Shinseki on recent allegations that patients died while waiting for treatment at VA hospitals, and asked him what immediate changes will be made to finally restore long-overdue accountability, transparency, and confidence in the VA system. 

Murray: Secretary Shinseki, Deputy Under Secretary for Health Bill Schoenhard told me at a hearing in 2012 that gaming is so prevalent, as soon as new directives are put out, they are torn apart to find out how to get around the requirements. Testimony from a VA mental health employee said the exact same thing. At the same hearing Linda Halliday from the IG’s office told us, ‘If we have seen scheduling practices that resulted in gaming the system to make performance metrics look better at the end of the day, over the past seven years, they need a culture change. To get that culture change, I think they really need to hold the facility directors accountable for how well the data is actually being captured.’ That was more than two years ago. The standard practice at the VA seems to be to hide the truth in order to look good.  That has got to change once and for all. And I want to know how you’re going to get your medical directors and your network leaders to tell you – whether it’s through this survey or in the future -- when they have a problem and will work with you to address it – rather than pursuing these secret lists and playing games with these wait times?

Shinseki: Senator, if there’s anything that gets me angrier than just hearing allegations, is to hear you tell me that we have folks that can’t be truthful because they think the system doesn’t allow it. (See Secretary Shinseki’s full response here.)

Excerpts from Senator Murray’s opening remarks:

while the Department generally offers very high quality health care and does many things as well as, or better than, the private sector—I am very frustrated to be here, once again, talking about some deeply disturbing issues and allegations. It’s extremely disappointing that the Department has repeatedly failed to address wait times for health care.” 

“Clearly this problem has gone on for far too long.   It is unfortunate that these leadership failures have dramatically shaken many veterans’ confidence in the system. Secretary Shinseki, I continue to believe that you take this seriously and want to do the right thing.  But we have come to the point where we need more than good intentions.  What we need from you now is decisive action to: restore veterans’ confidence in VA, create a culture of transparency and accountability, and to change these system-wide, years long problems.”

“This needs to be the wakeup call for the Department.  The lack of transparency and the lack of accountability is inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue.  The practices of intimidation and of cover-ups must change – starting today.”  

Senator Murray’s full opening remarks:

“I am very glad the Chairman has called this hearing. Like most Americans, I believe that when it comes to caring for our nation’s heroes, we cannot accept anything less than excellence. The government made a promise to the men and women who answered the call of duty—and one of the most important ways we uphold that is by making sure our veterans can access the health care they need and deserve.  So while the Department generally offers very high quality health care and does many things as well as, or better than, the private sector—I am very frustrated to be here, once again, talking about some deeply disturbing issues and allegations. It’s extremely disappointing that the Department has repeatedly failed to address wait times for health care.   So I was encouraged when you announced a nation-wide review of access to care.  And I am very pleased that the President is sending one of his key advisors, Rob Nabors, to assist in overseeing and evaluating that review.  His perspective, from outside the Department, will make this review more credible and more effective. But announcing this review is just the first step.  These recent allegations are not new issues – they are deep, system-wide problems.  And they grow more concerning every day.

“When the Inspector General’s report is issued – and when the access review’s report is given – I expect the Department to take them very seriously and to take all appropriate steps to implement their recommendations. But there are also cases where the facts are in right now. There are problems we know exist.  And there is no reason for the Department to wait until the Phoenix report comes back before acting on the larger problem. The GAO reported on VA’s failures with wait times at least as far back as the year 2000.  Last Congress we did a great deal of work around wait times, particularly for mental health care.  The Inspector General looked at these problems in 2005, 2007, and again in 2012.  Each time they found schedulers around the country were not following VA policy. They also found in 2012 that VA has no reliable or accurate way of knowing if they are providing timely access to mental health care.  But now the IG recommendations are still open. And the Department still has not implemented legislation I authored to improve the situation. Clearly this problem has gone on for far too long.   It is unfortunate that these leadership failures have dramatically shaken many veterans’ confidence in the system. Secretary Shinseki, I continue to believe that you take this seriously and want to do the right thing.  But we have come to the point where we need more than good intentions.  What we need from you now is decisive action to: restore veterans’ confidence in VA, create a culture of transparency and accountability, and to change these system-wide, years long problems.

“This needs to be the wakeup call for the Department.  The lack of transparency and the lack of accountability is inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue.  The practices of intimidation and of cover-ups must change – starting today.   Giving bonuses to hospital directors for running a system that places priority on gaming the system and keeping their numbers down, rather than provide care to veterans -- must come to an end.    But, Mr. Secretary it can’t end with just dealing with a few bad actors or putting a handful of your employees on leave. It has to go much further and lead to system-wide change.  You must lead the Department to a place where we prioritize the care of our veterans above everything else.  The culture at VA must allow people to admit where there are problems and ask for help from hospital leadership, VISN leadership, or from you.  This is the time for the Department to make real, major changes.  Because business as usual is unacceptable.”

Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834


Global protests as US fast food workers supersize their strike

This is from Great Britian's Socialist Worker:

Global protests as US fast food workers supersize their strike

by Julie Sherry in New York

Workers and supporters marched in New York last week
Workers and supporters marched in New York last week (Pic: Julie Sherry)

The biggest fast food workers’ strike so far is set to hit the US on Thursday of this week.

Solidarity protests will take place in over 30 countries in a global day of action to demand union recognition, better pay and respect at work.

This will see up to 20 protests outside McDonald’s sites across Britain, organised by the Fast Food Rights campaign. This is a campaign that was initiated earlier this year by the BFAWU bakers' union, Labour MP John McDonnell and Unite the Resistance.

The global day of action is centred around unprecedented walkouts by fast food workers in around 160 US cities. This comes in the wake of strikes spreading across the US since November 2012, with 130 cities hit by the last strike in Autumn 2013.

The global day of action was launched in New York last week at an international fast food union conference with around 90 delegates. The conference hosted by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF).

The IUF comprises of 396 affiliated organisations in 126 countries, representing a combined membership of 12 million workers.

The New York conference heard from union organisers, campaign activists and McDonald's workers from across the world. They discussed the terrain in each country to gain an overview in the battle against multinational fast food corporations, particularly McDonald's.

Delegates also organised how to develop international solidarity with the growing strike movement in the US.
Activists drew lessons from the different experiences, illustrating that the US strikers' demand for $15 (£8.80 an hour) and a union was possible. 

In New Zealand, McDonald's workers talked about their strikes that forced union recognition. A Danish McDonald's worker explained how they won the equivalent of £12 an hour. 

US strikers from McDonald's and KFC spoke about why they got involved and how they organised and spread strikes in the space of 12 months across the whole of the US. They also spoke about how the strike movement has transformed the dynamic of the workplaces in the industry.

The international delegates marched to a McDonald's in Manhattan for a press conference on Wednesday of last week to launch the day of action.

For details of protests in Britain go to

Tweet your photos to #fastfoodglobal and email them to

Venezuela stands up to U.S. interference

This is from Workers World:

Venezuela stands up to U.S. interference

By on May 15, 2014

While the eyes of the world focus on the events in Ukraine, the U.S. empire is using this opportunity to intensify its plan to overthrow governments in the Latin American and Caribbean region that are leading the process for change there — Cuba and Venezuela.

The new war against these countries is not the invasion of Marines, as it was before. Now the plan is more sophisticated. It focuses on the youth and includes the use of new technologies, as demonstrated by the recent ZunZuneo attack on Cuba.

The imperialists know that without the impetus from these two revolutions, the rest of the Latin American process would collapse. It would shatter the unity and integration for which Latin Americans have fought and which to date have been gaining against the empire. The area has already won some independence from the giant in the North.

This process, however, has not yet fully matured. Hence the need to defend more than ever the Cuban Revolution and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

Campaign against Venezuela

It is especially in Venezuela where the future of the region is being decided. There, the far-right and fascist Venezuelan opposition continues their attempt to destabilize the revolution, aided by the U.S.

According to the U.S.-led capitalist media, these protests are made up of peaceful students who only want a peaceful Venezuela. But the reality is quite the opposite.

This became clear May 8, when alerted by the people and by President Nicolas Maduro’s intelligence organization, State Security Forces raided four illegal camps of the opposition in Chacao, a well-to-do district in eastern Caracas. They found weapons and ammunition, U.S. dollars and Venezuelan bolivars, drugs and petrol bombs. Some 243 of these “peaceful” people were arrested, of whom fewer than two dozen were students.

These camps were at the core of the spread of violence since last February that left 41 people dead and 813 injured, plus enormous destruction of infrastructure, clinics, universities and transportation. Indeed, in the Caracas Metro, a symbol of Nicolás Maduro’s presidency, there have been 100 attacks, including on drivers and passengers.

Now another tactic has been added, one prevalent in neighboring Colombia: targeted assassinations. This approach seems to fit the modus operandi of paramilitary forces that have infiltrated Venezuela with the help of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, whose involvement in the destabilization has been widely shown.

The most recent example was the murder, with four shots, of Eliezer Otaiza, who was a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and president of the Council of the Libertador municipality in Caracas.

Otaiza, whose tortured body was found on April 26, belonged to the bodyguard detail of late President Hugo Chávez and participated in the 1992 Civil Military Revolution. The head of state denounced Otaiza’s murder as having been planned in Miami, like so many other attacks.

Criminal interference by U.S.

U.S. meddling ranges from verbal provocations by representatives of the imperialist government against the Bolivarian government to the use of a hostile media campaign full of lies, to super-friendly relations with key figures in the opposition such as Maria Corina Machado, to financing counterrevolutionary organizations.

Now it also includes efforts of right-wing members of Congress to impose sanctions on Bolivarian government figures.

The latest congressional attack on Venezuela is based in part on a report published on May 5 by José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of the Human Rights Watch organization, famous for his rightist bias and anti-communism. Titled “Punished for Protesting,” the report is a pack of lies spread over 103 pages.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called on the U.S. Congress to impose sanctions on Venezuela. Meanwhile, anti-Cuban Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen did the same in the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives. This bill proposes an additional $15 million aid to opposition groups, which are already well funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Agency for International Development. According to an investigative article by Eva Golinger entitled “Follow the Dirty Hand of the NED in Venezuela,” these agencies “have spread more than $14 million to opposition groups in Venezuela from 2013 to 2014.” (VTV, May 8)

In response to the proposed penalties, Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz called the efforts to sanction Venezuela an insult and announced that she would ask for the same penalties against Rubio.

For his part, President Maduro said during a meeting with Venezuelan environmentalists, “Now they are acting stupid; they are going to sanction us! Stupid! That’s what they are, stupid; let them impose sanctions. Bolivar’s people will never be stopped by sanctions from the empire.” He added, “Bolivar’s homeland is standing and will stay on its feet for the entire 21st century: independent, socialist, chavista, Bolivarian. Long live the dignity of the people of Venezuela! Down with imperialism!” (Reuters, May 10)

On another front, the president of the Union of Workers of the Caracas Metro, Edison Alvarado, announced that on May 12 the workers will mobilize to demand that the district attorney carry out an investigation of the governor of Miranda state, Henrique Capriles, for his involvement in the subway attacks. The workers will ask the Supreme Court to investigate Mayor Gerardo Blyde of Baruta municipality, Mayor Ramón Boy of Chacao municipality and Mayor Carlos Ocariz of Sucre municipality.

Alvarado explained in detail the criminal offensive against Bolivarian Venezuela at the recent Labor Gathering of Our America (ESNA) meeting in Havana. To counter this attack, the 455 delegates from 181 unions in 30 countries at the meeting resolved to convene a worldwide Day of Solidarity and Mobilization in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution on Aug. 1.

Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

 "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "More talk, no action (Wally)," "Shineski (Ava)." "Senator Richard Blumenthal says call in the F.B.I.," "Shinseki needs to be fired,"  -- community reports on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

 "Godzilla," "Million Dollar Arm" and "Movie project I'm excited about" -- Stan, Betty and Kat talk movies.

"The Producers, Grimm, Guantanamo," "revenge: the good (who's dead who's not.)" "24 destroys any good will it had," "Arrow -- season finale""Hannibal killed Revolution""He turned down what?????????????," "Modern Family and other things," "revenge - the good - victoria kills," "CBS does not care," "F**k you, Julie Bowen and double for Modern Family," "Hannibal is a suck-ass show." "The Originals season finale," "revenge - the bad,"  "The Good Husband," "Adam Kokesh, The Drone War, Dracula" and "Tori, The Originals and Iraq" -- TV coverage by Mike, Rebecca, Stan, Marcia, Ruth and Trina.

"Music (Carly's Hello Big Man)," "Tori Amos' new album for $10 bucks?." "Tori Amos and some reaction to the new album," "Tori Amos' Unrepentant Geraldines," "Tori and her new album," "Tori Amos releases new album," "Sade Doyle disappoints" "WSWS doesn't get it" and "The sad Jermaine Jackson" -- Elaine, Kat, Trina, Ann and Betty cover music.

"Cooking Canned Goods in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers some cooking basics.

"Barack insists the law does not apply to Conyers" and "THIS JUST IN! RULES DO NOT APPLY TO JOHN CONYERS!" -- no rules for Conyers.

"Ranking the Batmans" -- Stan ranks them.

"The one where the Joe Bidens become the Dick Cheneys" and "The New Dick Cheneys" -- Ann explains it.

"Billman for the powerful" and  "THIS JUST IN! FLORIDA'S SINKHOLE!" -- Cedric and Wally have some fun.

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