Sunday, March 09, 2014

Truest statement of the Week

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand blamed the White House's lack of support for the failure of her sexual-assault bill in the Senate on Thursday, and she vowed to keep fighting to reform the military justice system.
"I made my greatest case, I advocated for this position, this reform, and the president has been very clear: He wants to end sexual assault in the military, he wants it to be further studied, and he wants to see progress and whether it's been accomplished in the next year," the New York Democrat said at a press conference after her bill went down.
When asked if she would have succeeded if President Obama had pushed for her bill and whether she was disappointed by the White House's lack of support, she quickly answered, "Yes, yes."

-- Stacy Kaper, "Kirsten Gillibrand Blames White House in Failure of Military Sexual-Assault Bill"  (National Journal).

Truest statement of the Week II

Prominent journalists in the United States may as well be on the White House payroll. They are consistent cheerleaders for whoever occupies the oval office and the corporate corner office. They make no attempt to hide their allegiance to power and their lack of interest in informing the public.

-- Margaret Kimberley, "'Journalists' follow Obama on Ukraine" (Black Agenda Report).

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:

Senator Gillibrand's remarks should have been everywhere.  Instead, it was pretty much just National Journal.
Margaret Kimberley gets a Truest as well.
We were at a loss for an editorial.  In part because I (Jim) was running out the clock thinking it would force Ava and C.I. to agree to do one more article this edition.  They wouldn't budge.  They plan to write it next week.  In the meantime, we decided the photo of Ben Affleck, John Kerry and Russ Feingold needed to be included and went with an editorial to John Kerry.
Ava and C.I. felt this was all they had to do.  And they do have a point.  This covers a great deal: an Oliver Stone interview, Randi Rhodes, Rachel Maddow's bad 'special' and Saturday Night Live as well as Democracy Now! and they could have done more.  This is the big piece for the edition.

Dona moderated a discussion on Congress and veterans.  
Short pieces!!!  Yes, we love them.
I thought a poll was needed.  This was one of the biggest monkey wrenches.  Here's what happens next week when the poll closes.  I take a screen snap and we delete it. The poll is on the side of the page as well as in this post.  I worked for hours trying to get it to disappear on the side.  I had Dona work on it, C.I. and Ty, Jess, Wally . . . We had no luck at all.  

What we listened to.
Liz Phair gets it this week. 
Really, the lead singer did look like Alec Baldwin as a blond.

This should be a big, huge story everywhere.

Jake Tapper's The Lead (CNN).
Statement from Senator Kirstin Gillibrand's office. 
UK Socialist Worker repost.

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


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

Editorial: Dear John Kerry

We get it.  We really do.

John Kerry's bellowing is his attempt to play bad cop.

He was hoping Barack Obama would play good cop.

But all Barack can almost manage is meter maid.

So Kerry has to become the Howard Cosell of diplomacy.

But could someone remind the Secretary of State that he already has duties and they don't include declaring war?

No, no, not a bro hang with Ben Affleck and Russ Feingold.

No, John Kerry is supposed to be over the US mission to Iraq.

Right now, people are worried that chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki intends to refuse to allow Anbar Province to vote in the planned April 30th elections.

That's a serious concern.

And while William Burns was all over Baghdad last week, meeting with many officials and leaders, is delegating all of this really the answer 51 days before an election?

Also, your concern over what's going on with the Ukraine?

Might seem a little less fake if you called out Nouri using US weapons to kill Iraqi civilians.

That's right, did you miss the War Crimes taking place for months now?

Just today, his indiscriminate shelling of Falluja residential neighborhoods left 6 people dead and seventeen injured.  It's collective punishment and the US defines it as a War Crime.

You're over Iraq for the administration and you've got nothing to say.

Nouri tears down protest camps, starts shelling residential neighborhoods in Anbar, doing so with weapons the US government provided him with, and you've not said a word.

As you might have said when you had a sturdier spine, how do you ask someone to be the last Iraqi to die at the hands of an Iraqi tyrant?

TV: A week of putrid and puerile

It was a week of never ending disappointments TV wise., comedy wise, 'news' wise and just basic interviews.


For one thing, there was Saturday Night Live with one of the worst episodes in the last 14 years.

In the past, when SNL has sidelined a female host, you could blame sexism.  Demi Moore really was given nothing to do when she hosted Saturday Night Live.  The male dominated show only wanted to use her as the straight woman in all their funny boy sketches.  During the 80s and the 90s, one of the few women to break through as a host was Heather Locklear. The '00s saw advances and Drew Barrymore and Lindsay Lohan were among the breakthrough hosts who benefited from a writing staff that realized they couldn't continue to say, "I can't write female characters!" -- not while also churning out one skit after another where Adam Sandler and other men dressed in drag to play female characters.

Lena Dumham is a writer.  So the SNL writers and Lena should have been able to come up with something. Instead, they repeatedly struck out.

And it was sort of anti-feminist throughout -- surprising only if you haven't grasped Lena's not all that to feminism.  (She's more an adherent to Lena-ism.)

Scandal was parodied.

Can Lena explain why?

If you were Lena Dumham and you were called out in season one of Girls for failure to feature people of color and you swore that would be fixed in season two but 'fixing' was only a limited guest spot (Donald Glover) and you quickly announced you couldn't write African-American characters because you didn't know any African-American people, should you really be parodying Scandal?

The first hour long show an African-American actress has carried?

We're not saying Scandal shouldn't get the same treatment of other shows.

We are questioning why the Whiter Than White Lena The Albino Dunham is going after the show?

The joke her was that Lena would do her 'character' from Girls (the only part she can play) only in Scandal. We can think of many shows she could have inserted herself into in order to parody and, yes, mock.  But we think of shows like NCIS where women are either tokens or invisible.

Instead, Lena goes after Scandal.

As a former SNL-er said to us over the phone while we watched, "Oh, she really hates Black people."

That is how it appeared.

And that's not funny which was in keeping with the lack of humor that appeared to be the theme of the episode.

There was a stupid sketch about a men's right activist that had no laughs or even intelligence.  He shut down two Planned Parenthoods?  We'd guess that was due to abortion.  But the skit couldn't even say the word. Most annoying, he (Mike O'Brien) looked like Senator Lindsey Graham and we were left wondering why that didn't result in a skit instead of the mess we were viewing.

It was a complete disaster and viewers who thought there wasn't worse than a near nude Dunham playing Eve, were quickly corrected as Dunham rushed across the stage repeating "Charlie" over and over while looking like Rachel Maddow (face only, Maddow's body is not the disaster that Dunham's body is) and supposedly portraying Liza Minnelli.

What was the point of that?

First off, Black America does know who Liza is (the skit was a Katt Williams talk show where people unknown to Black America speak to Katt).  Her late friend Michael Jackson was not the only African-American who had been impressed with Liza's dancing and singing skills.  As the daughter of Judy Garland alone, she's known to pretty much every American who's ever been a child and seen The Wizard of Oz.

Second, that outfit.

We still shudder.

Liza wouldn't have worn it and we wondered why Lena did.  Sack of potatoes.  We've heard that punchline repeatedly but never really grasped it until the lights hit Lena and her outfit and emphasized every fat roll there was -- and there were plenty.

She was so awful, viewers were no doubt grateful for things like the office e-mail skit which didn't feature Lena once.

She demonstrated not only how unattractive she could be -- does no one notice how small her head is in relation to her shoulders (let alone body)?  Well, clearly Vogue did, hence the photo shopping.  But she also demonstrated how unfunny she truly is.  She can't do characters (her "Liza" reminded us of a child actor who attempted to 'sparkle' on an episode of Will & Grace -- only Lena came off even more butch).  She lacks a comedic rhythm.  She's basically the loud mouth who hopes she says something shocking otherwise there will be no laughs.

Rachel Maddow.

Her awful MSNBC 'special' aired last week.  We could rip it apart but, if you caught Randi Rhodes Friday, you know Randi already did and then some.  Randi's critique was specific and dead on.  She was thanked on air for it repeatedly by listeners including one man who pointed out that he appreciated the honesty especially since Rachel and Randi are both former Air America Radio hosts.

We're not Randi fans but we'll give her a link.  An MSNBC friend -- in news, not talk shows -- called us on Friday to say, "Turn on Randi Rhodes right now!  You will not believe it, she's making the same critique you did!"

We tuned in.  Our critique was primarily about Rachel doing her second special 'about' Iraq and yet again failing to include the Iraqi people.  Our secondary critique was about the useless official-dom talking heads she served up.  Our third critique was about her inability to grasp the basic facts.

Randi was not making the same critique we did.  Our third critique was what Randi was hitting on but she went much more in depth than we did.  She called out Rachel's stupidity or silence with regards to the base in Saudi Arabia, the issue of 9-11 (Osama bin Laden wanting Americans off Saudi soil), former-Senator Bob Graham's comments about the 9-11 attacks, and that was just her warm up.  It was vintage Randi, footnoted and factual, the way she used to be all the time.

One priceless moment may have been when Randi, laughing, declared, "I couldn't wait to see it [the special] and find out why does Rachel think we did it [started the Iraq War]?  Why?"

"Why?" was a question we also asked while watching Talk Stoop with Cat Greenleaf.  The show airs on NBC's Cozi TV and generally has someone like Tony Danza sitting on the stoop with Cat.

This week, it was director Oliver Stone.

The topic of whistle-blowers came up and Cat let it play out until Oliver offered the fact that Barack "Obama's cracked down most on whistle-blowers" and that's where Cat cut him off.

No unpleasant truths about Barack can be uttered.

But what bothered us more than Cat was the reality that Oliver was not recruiting support but pushing it away.

Why are you sharing your opinions unless you want to win someone over to your point of view?

He patted Cat on the knee repeatedly, he called her "sweetheart" at least twice -- a point she would raise -- and referring to romantic comedies, he insisted he wanted to direct at least one before he goes but he couldn't be 'politically correct' and would show women as they really were.

We're sorry, what film -- of any genre -- has Oliver ever done where he showed women as they were?

And what's even sadder is, while talking about the female lead in a romantic comedy -- roles that have been played by Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts and others -- he did not use the term "woman," he said "girl."

Girl?  Sweetheart?  Patting the female interviewer repeatedly on her knee?

Was Oliver stoned?

A man in his sixties leering about "girls" and romance?

We couldn't help but think of Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, who, last week, sent a bill to Parliament that would strip mothers of any legal rights to their child (giving it all to the fathers) and make it legal for Iraqi girls, with their father's permission, to be married at the age of nine.

Oliver's nothing like Nouri but, to demonstrate that to others, he's going to have to work on lowering the ick factor when he sits for an interview.


Amy Goodman, such a Christopher Columbus, yet again discovered Iraq last week.

December 29th, we covered Amy's latest 'discovery' of Iraq:

Raed's a blogger and he lasted blogged about Iraq December 15th . . .
Only Goody Whore would bring on the man who fled Iraq physically, emotionally and mentally as an expert.
It was so bad, it was embarrassing.
It was like sitting in an English Lit grad course where the topic was Edith Wharton and Raed's entire contribution was what he had gleaned from watching Martin Scorsese's film of The Age of Innocence.
It was Friday.  Protests in Iraq.
Never mentioned.
Even though the previous Sunday Nouri had threatened the protesters.
Even though he had attempted to attack them on Tuesday but a flurry of political meetings forced him to pull his forces out of Ramadi's sit-in sqaure.
Even though on the Friday Raed 'shared,' Nouri had already gone on Iraqi TV and announced that this had been the last Friday protest and that he would burn down the protest tents in Anbar.
W.G. Dunlap didn't talk about it either.

You think we were wrong to emphasize how important the undiscussed protests were?

That was December 29th when we wrote that.

If you don't get how right we were to call them out for ignoring the protesters -- them being Amy Goodman, Raed Jarrar and WG Dunlop.  On December 27th, three laughable 'journalists' pretended they knew enough to discuss Iraq.

They didn't know one damn thing except how to whore.

The protests mattered and if you doubt that, let's go to Human Rights Watch, "Government security forces had withdrawn from Anbar province after provoking a tribal uprising when they raided a Sunni protest camp in Ramadi on December 30, killing 17 people."  This is the assault on Anbar.

Having screwed that up, Amy Goodman ignored Iraq for two months until last week when she did a really bad segment with Dahr Jamail.

She's never covered the ongoing assault on Anbar.  Darh's written an article about it now that he's joined Truthout. But Human Rights Watch, BRussells Tribunal and so many others have been covering it for weeks and weeks -- that would include this site.

And Goody Whore ignored the topic.  When she finally found 'time' for it, it first had to wait for I-Need-Attention-Benjamin.  CodeStink's Medea got into an altercation in Egypt.  This was news to Democracy Now?

We ask that because Goody Whore never noted Lara Logan's rape in Egypt but did bring on a whore -- we use the term intentionally -- who explained she herself was sexually assaulted but it was no big thing.  (Rebecca called the b.s. out in real time.)  Rape is "miniscule," that's a message the Goody Whore broadcasts and promotes but let con artist Medea claim she was roughed up in Egypt and it's time to spend over six minutes with Medea.


It got seven minutes.

Deaths, refugees, hospitals attacked and so much more is only worth one minute more than Medea's latest drama.

Not only that, the focus wasn't on the Anbar assault.

No, it had to compete with 2004 Anbar.

Approximately 630 words went to the ongoing and current crisis.

Approximately 520 words went to Anbar in 2004.

Does that really sound like Goody Whore addressed Iraq?

No, she didn't.  Like Cat Greenleaf with Oliver Stone, Goody Whore got real nervous when Dahr Jamail mentioned Barack and rushed to cut him off.

Proving infotainment provides neither information nor entertainment seemed to be the big message last week.

Congress and Veterans


Dona: Last Thursday, the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on veterans issues and C.I. covered it in that day's "Iraq Snapshot."  The day before, Wednesday, the two committees heard a presentation from the VFW and the week before, Tuesday, February 25, the two committees held a joint-hearing where they heard from Disabled American Vets which C.I. reported on in that day's snapshot.  Along with C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, we've got Ava of  The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), and Wally of The Daily Jot who were also at the hearings.  Wally, tell me something about rural veterans that came up in the hearings, if it did, because I've had many e-mails about that.

Wally:  Sure.  There are rural veterans all over the country.  In a small state that might seem less of an issue -- less of an issue, but still one -- but in larger states, it's a huge issue.  Alaska is a big state.  Senator Mark Begich is one of Alaska's representatives and he brought up the VA's partnership with the Indian Health Services and how it was working and this was important because, otherwise, you're looking at many veterans having to come to Anchorage for health care which might cost them as much as "$2,000 air fare."

Dona: The partnership is in just Alaska?

Wally: In 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Services agreed on terms to help serve the Alaskan community. I'm not aware of one in another state.  The reality is that some senators attend these hearings and some don't, some who do use their limited time to explore other issues and may or may not get to the issue of rural veterans.  Senator Jon Tester, of Montana, is an example of someone who will always address the issues around rural veterans if he's at the hearing.  Because you mentioned ahead of time that this was a topic you were getting e-mails about, I pulled a press release from Senator Tom Udall's office.  He is a Senator out of New Mexico and I went with him because he's not on the Committee and I don't think we mention him.  Let me back up there for just a second.  I'm from Florida, if anyone from my state on either House or Senate Committee does something of value, I will find a way to note it.  This is from a Valentine's Day press release:

More than 6 million veterans, including a third of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, live in rural communities. But as many as half of those veterans may be going without care from the VA. Rural veterans too often struggle to access quality care because it isn't available locally. For some, traveling to and from an appointment can take all day. Veterans who can't drive must rely on neighbors or volunteers to get to appointments, and many simply go without adequate care.

Dona: Okay, so 6 million are rural veterans and that's also one-third of veterans of today's wars.  Conner e-mailed a question, "How many veterans of today's wars need health care?"

C.I.: That's not an easy answer.  I can give you a government figure.  For Fiscal Year 2013 -- which ended September 30, 2013 -- the VA's figures show that 965,000 Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans have utilized the VA or one of its designated care givers.  So you can say "965,000," but you should really say "at least 965,000" if the issue is "need health care" and not just "used VA health care."  There are many who are using civilian providers and doing so for a number of reasons which can include MST -- Military Sexual Trauma -- or PTS -- Post-Traumatic Stress.  Equally true, since we're talking about rural veterans, a number may see a civilian provider of some form if they are rural veterans due to issues with travel and scheduling an appointment.  Scheduling an appointment is a problem rural veterans have been expressing for some time, the problems with that.  So at least 965,000 have sought treatment.

Dona: Thank you.  Our e-mail address is  Wally?

Wally:  Alright, let me quote Udall from the press release,  "I've met with veterans across New Mexico, some of whom have to drive four hours or more to get to a VA hospital. Many rural veterans are also frustrated with the lack of health care options and the frequent turnover among staff at their local clinics. Rural veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from TBI and PTSD also often don't have adequate access to mental health care in their communities."  With Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, Udall has introduced the Rural Veterans Improvement Act.  The press release identifies the bill's four issues as:

*Enhancing mental health care options by allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work with nonVA mental health providers in rural communities.

*Building on the VA's transportation program to ensure more veterans living in rural areas have a way to get to doctors' appointments.
*Creating programs and incentives to attract and retain doctors and nurses to rural VA health care facilities.
*Requiring the VA to conduct a full assessment of its community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) to determine what improvements are needed and prioritize those projects.

Wally (Con't): The bill was introduced February 10th and its status is currently that it's been referred to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Another veterans bill recently introduced was by Senator Tester and, from Kansas, Senator Pat Roberts.  Critical Access Hospitals currently have a rule that, within 96 hours of admission, their patients must either be discharged or transferred.   Their bill is called The Critical Access Hospital Relief Act.  This bill was introduced February 24th and its also still in Committee.  It's co-sponsors include Senators Tammy Baldwin, Al Franken, Susan Collins, Chuck Grassley, Deb Fischer, Mike Johanns, Amy Gkobuchar and Heidi Heitkamp.

Dona: Thank you, Wally.  Kat, can I get an overview from you?  Specifically, Wally's talking about proposed legislation and can you explain the hearings?

Kat:  Sure.  VSOs are Veterans Service Organizations.  C.I. and I were at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hearing last Wednesday -- Ava and Wally weren't able to make that one -- so I'll use that as an example.  As Wally pointed out, bills are referred to the Committee.  A veterans bill will be referred to the Committee -- if it's a House bill, to the House Committee, a Senate one to the Senate Committee.  The VFW provided testimony on Wednesday regarding the needs of veterans that they represent and how proposed bills could impact the veterans.  They basically, all the VSOs, argue to the two Committees about what will improve veterans' lives, what might harm them and which bills they have no opinion on.  And, yes, there are bills that VSOs will take no opinion on.

Dona: And I'm going to C.I.'s February 25th snapshot and Disabled Veterans of America's Joseph Johnston to ilustrate that:

Joseph Johnston: Members of these Committees, during last year's Veterans Day activities, I attended a ceremony commemorating the Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, a national tribute to Vietnam veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice in that unpopular war, a war in which I and many members beside and behind me, in this historic room, served. When the ceremony ended and the crowd was dispersing, a woman from the audience approached me to say how grateful she and her husband were to DAV for our strong advocacy and unflagging efforts in helping to end the government shutdown mere days before VA ran out of funds to support the payment of disability compensation. She explained to me that she and her husband's only income due to his disability and her personal care giving of him is his monthly VA compensation. As the shutdown lingered day after day, she told me, with tears in her eyes, they had worried terribly that without that VA payment on November 1, they wouldn't be able to buy food, gas, or pay their rent. As National Commander of this tremendous organization, I was grateful to her for her kind words about DAV's effective advocacy, but it concerned me greatly that she and her husband were forced to go through such a terrible ordeal, given the sacrifice they had already made for this country. We should never again put a disabled veteran or his or her family in such a situation. This is why DAV's Operation: Keep the Promise intends to make advance appropriations for all VA funding accounts, including its mandatory disability payments to veterans, our highest legislative priority in 2014. Thousands of DAV members and supporters from all over this nation are sending social networking, email, and telephonic messages today to your offices and those of every Senator and House Member. Today, when you pick up and browse your Roll Call, POLITICO, National Journal Daily, or The Hill, you'll see our Operation: Keep the Promise message prominently displayed. DAV launched this one-day intense campaign because we are serious and dedicated to this goal, and I assure you this testimony will not be the last time you hear about this urgent need. This is not a partisan issue; not a Democratic or Republican issue; it’s a veteran issue, and as National Commander of DAV, I want all of you to join me and everyone else in this room, and our 1.4 million DAV and Auxiliary members, in making it your highest priority as well. If solving this particular problem for wounded, injured, and ill veterans is not a high priority for your Committees, Congress in general, and the Administration in this New Year, please tell me what is. Bills to make this a reality are pending in both Congressional chambers; DAV urges you to pass the Putting Veterans Funding First Act as a top priority for 2014.

Putting Veterans Funding First Act?  Here for S. 932 and here for HR 813.

Ranking Member Mike Michaud:  I want to thank you for your work of advocating in the passage and enactment of HR 813, the Putting Veterans Funding First Act.  We have seen how well advanced appropriation has worked for VA's medical care.  It is time that the rest of VA's discretionary budget  be treated the same way.  We owe it to America's veterans to provide certain and stable VA budget funding.

Dona:  That may be the only time we get to note that hearing.  Right now, let's go back to the VFW hearing, did they have anything on rural veterans that they raised to the two Committees?

Kat: Yes.  For example, telehealth.  That's kind of weird because we've been attending the hearings since before this was really accepted and there's been an ocean of change.

Ava: Because VA's realized they're not just going to farm that off on the rural veterans and offer nothing else.

Kat: That's true.  In the early days, there were notions that the VA would just 'treat' rural veterans via computer hook ups.  Today, telehealth is a tool that rural veterans can use.  The VFW, on Wednesday, advocated for more resources to go into the program.  Let me quote a moment from the testimony of VFW's William Thien:

While the VFW recognizes the limitations of broadband and mobile infrastructure in many rural araes, we strongly believe VA must continue to be the leader in developing practical telehealth options that will benefit veterans and the larger medical community.  Today, many CBOCs are linked to larger VA facilities and their medical experts through teleconferencing, allowing for consultations and diagnostic testing.  These services must continue to be expanded.  Telehealth also allows for veterans to receive care while at home for mental health follow-ups, diabetes maintenance, post-surgical updates and many other services. 

Dona: About the hearings, a regular reader, Alex, e-mailed to ask why there wasn't coverage of these hearings from everyone and not just C.I.  Kat, you want to field that?

Kat: If Senator Richard Burr is at the hearing and has something to offer, I'll report on that.  Otherwise, I basically just do an overview.  These are hearings from VSOs and there's far less back and forth.  C.I. noted last week, offered praise on this, that these joint-hearings have included questions from the Committee members.  We don't get that in the past.  In the past, a VSO leader sits there reading from his or her testimony and they finish and that's the end of the hearing.  Senator Patty Murray, when she was Chair, would usually ask a question or two.  But that was really it.  As C.I.'s pointed out, that has changed with this round of hearings and that's a good thing.

Dona: Ava, you agree?

Ava: Yes.  We go to NYC for the UN whenever it's time for the Security-Council to get the report on Iraq.  And I don't mind.  My father lives there, it's a good visit.  But as, C.I. has pointed out, we end up sitting through the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, who's flown in from Iraq for this hearing, reading a written report out loud for close to 25 minutes.  Then someone from the Iraqi government reads a rebuttal for about 20 minutes.  And that's it.  There are no questions asked, nothing apparently needs to be clarified or examined further. It's like when stupid ass Nancy Pelosi was still House Majority Leader.  We went to a  subcommittee hearing on a very important issue -- rape and assault in the military.  Witnesses flew in for that, veterans flew in to observe that hearing.  It was one of the most packed hearings.  No press was present but you had veterans who cared about this issue and wanted to be present.  And what happened was, those present to testify were told their prepared remarks would go into the record and then that was it.  Why?  Because the queen of plastic surgery Nancy Pelosi had decided everyone needed to hear from the President of Mexico.  Nancy Pelosi didn't value the struggles of the veterans.  She didn't give a damn that people had flown in to talk to Congress about being assaulted and raped.  It was more important for Nancy to bring Congress to a halt so she could play footsie with the president of Mexico.  She really needs to retire.  And, yes, she is supposed to be represent me in Congress, but no she does not.  I felt sorry for the Subcommittee Chair, John Hall, who was apologizing to everyone present but that didn't change the fact that we didn't get the hearing.  It didn't change the fact that witnesses and observers had a made a point to be there first thing in the morning for a hearing that didn't take place.  And, bringing back to the topic of your question, these VSO hearings really are worthless if you're not going to ask questions.  Sometimes, the questions can clarify something or it can add to the value by bringing up a need or caution that no one's thought of.

Dona: Such as in Thursday's hearing.  C.I., you slid me this quote, "The first thing they can do is trash the seamless transition, it's not getting anywhere." The seamless transition refers to the record that is supposedly going to follow a service member from the day he or she is inducted on through all their service and then into the VA as they become a veteran.  It will be one electronic record.  So Thursday, someone opposed it?

C.I.: Correct.  It was Vietnam Veterans of America. John Rowan speaking in response to a question from Senator John Boozman.  Rowan's opposed to it and he stated:

And right now we got the DoD planning to spend $28 billion for a computer system nobody needs.  They can go across the street to their friends in the VA and, instead of feeding all of their contractors that are in the DoD, get VISTA from the VA upgraded a little bit because it does need a little bit of that -- we know that -- and take it.  Why does everybody have to have their own damn computer system? And this is not alone.  I used to work for the Controller of the City of New York.  And I watched the same thing happen in city agencies.  I watched the New York Police Department flush a hundred million dollars down the drain on a stupid system they never used.  There's your answer.  28 billion dollars, wipe it out, get rid of that system, take VISTA add maybe 5 10 million to upgrade it, whatever, billion, it takes.  Upgrade it.  Then there's no -- there's no 'seamless' anything.  It's the same system and they simply walk their records from one side of the street to the other.  And we're done.

C.I. (Con't): At which point everyone not on the Committee began applauding Rowan's statements.

Dona: Okay.  Well I thought a seamless record was a good thing.

C.I.: It might be.  It might not be.  This was supposed to have been implemented during Barack's first term as President.  Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki dragged his feet and refused to do so.  As this became more of an embarrassment, Barack finally sat down with Shinseki and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to get an agreement on the system that would be used.  But 'seamless record'?  They have that now.  It's not very seamless but they have it.  It's more of a paper record.  This would be an electronic record and the hope there is that, by being electronic, it will be less likely for records to get lost.  Is it needed?  Some say yes, some say no.  Rowan says no.  I was surprised by the thunderous applause.  That means a lot of people agree with him.  This may be a tech issue or a generational one.  Younger veterans seem to feel that an electronic record is needed.  This may be due to the VA making them prove various conditions.  Which does happen.  They're asked to jump through hoops on claims.  But it may also include a technological comfort or a technological bias that older generations don't have.

Dona: What's your position on this?

C.I.: If the conversation is going to be restarted on whether or not this is necessary -- a conversation which seriously began in 2006 -- it needs to happen immediately because a lot of money's already been spent under the assumption or belief that this is necessary.

Dona: Ava, you wanted to talk briefly about something.

Ava: We're hoping to write a piece this edition on a topic.  In case we don't, I don't want to hear another damn word from a whiner about how, two weeks ago, a really important veterans didn't get passed because of those mean old Republicans.  In real time, I took that seriously.  I no longer do.  Last week, we saw an important bill that would have protected those who serve get shot down by Republicans and Democrats.  And I'm not seeing any letters to the editor there.  So spare me your partisan bulls**t because it's not just that I don't care, it's that I don't believe you.

Dona: And Ava's referring to last week's trashing of Senator Kirstin Gillibrand's efforts to bring accountability in the armed services with regards to assaults and rapes.  Kat, you wanted to note something from Thursday's hearing.

Kat:  The Military Officers Association of America's Robert F. Norton raised an issue which he said was in that morning's papers.  I hadn't read the papers before the hearing.  But he was talking about the fact that "a number of service members had gotten pink slips while deployed in Afghanistan" and marveling over that -- as we all should.  You're in a combat zone, risking your life and you get a pink slip?  As he noted, this left them "worrying about that they're not going to have a military career when they get back."

Dona: What was his answer?

Kat: He argued that the Defense Department should be offering some sort of incentive program to encourage people to leave as opposed to firing people.

Dona: Alright, thank you.  This is a rush transcript and it's a recurring feature.  Our e-mail address is

Even the children doubt he has a heart

In the photo above, one child insists upon proof.

Who would you send to a desert island?


Screen snap below added 3-16-2014 in case the above results vanish.

This edition's playlist


1) Rickie Lee Jones' The Sermon On Exposition Boulevard.

2) Rickie Lee Jones' Naked Songs.

3) Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

4) Counting Crows' August and Everything After.

Cass Elliot

5) Cass Elliot's Cass Elliot/The Road Is No Place For A Lady.

6) Billy Joel's The Stranger.

7) Toni Braxton & Babyface's Love, Marriage & Divorce.

8) Carly Simon's Have You Seen Me Lately?

9) The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour.

10)  John Legend's Love In The Future.

Tweet of the Week

Liz Phair, singer-songwriter and musician (Exile in Guyville being her major classic), weighed in on Secretary of State John Kerry ridiculous statement:

"We can't allow a nation (USSR) to enter another country just because they don't like the way a situation turns out" um, Iraq? Afghanistan?

The other big SNL question . . .

. . . after what idiot thought Lena Dunham would make a good host was about Alec Baldwin.

Specifically, what was he doing fronting The National?

And when did he go blond?

Dropped bomb you shouldn't have missed

Bomb Queen

It's rare anyone ever tells the truth about how the gas baggery passed off as reporting is actually made.

But last week, Ziad Jilani blew the whistle on his former employers at the Center for American Progress:

Flash forward a couple years, and the Democratic Party’s lawmakers in Congress were in open revolt over the Afghanistan policy. Our writing at ThinkProgress had opened up a lot on the issue, and I was writing really critical stuff. I worked with our art and design team at CAP to put together a chart showing that Obama’s supposed “withdrawal” plan from Afghanistan would leave more troops in the country than when he began his presidency.
The post was one of the most successful things I had ever written to that point. It was featured by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and the Congressional Progressive Caucus used it in their briefings to criticize Obama’s plan. I felt great — like I was actually doing the right thing about Afghanistan for once at an institution that had remained quiet or supportive of Obama’s policy there, which in my view was accomplishing little but more bloodshed.
But then phone calls from the White House started pouring in, berating my bosses for being critical of Obama on this policy. Obama’s advisor Ben Rhodes — speaking of a staffer who follows policy set by others for his career path — even made a post on the White House blog more or less attacking my chart by fudging the numbers and including both the Iraq and Afghan troop levels in a single chart to make it seem as if the surge never happened (the marvels of things you can do in Excel!). 
Soon afterwards all of us ThinkProgress national security bloggers were called into a meeting with CAP senior staff and basically berated for opposing the Afghan war and creating daylight between us and Obama. It confused me a lot because on the one hand, CAP was advertising to donors that it opposed the Afghan war — in our “Progressive Party,” the annual fundraising party we do with both Big Name Progressive Donors and corporate lobbyists (in the same room!) we even advertised that we wanted to end the war in Afghanistan.

Thus far, Amy Goodman, that brave little pretend journalist, has avoided acknowledging the above.  Let's all see who else intends to play dumb and stupid.

Must See Video of the Week

Thursday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's Military Justice Improvement Act failed to pass in the Senate.
Friday on CNN's The Lead With Jake Tapper, assault survivor BriGette McCoy spoke about the "betrayal" and specifically names Senator Claire McCaskill.

Tragically, today the Senate failed them (Senator Gillibrand)

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's office issued the following statement last week after the Senate failed/refused to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act:

March 6, 2014

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivered the following remarks Thursday following the vote on the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act, which despite having the support of a bipartisan majority of the Senate, fell five votes shy of breaking a filibuster.

Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

I want to first thank my colleagues who stood so strong and united in this effort from the very beginning. Your leadership truly made the difference to gain the support of a majority of the Senate.

From the very beginning – this was never about being a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. It was just the right thing to do – that people of good faith from both parties could unite around.

And I want to thank the retired Generals, former commanders and veterans of every rank for making their voices heard – to make the military they love so dear as strong as it can be.

And I want to especially thank all the survivors. We owe our gratitude to the brave survivors who, despite being betrayed by their chain of command, continue to serve their country by fighting for a justice system that will help make sure no one else suffers the same tragedy they did. Their struggles, sacrifice and courage inspire me every day.

They may not wear the uniform anymore, but they believe so strongly in these reforms that for a full year now, they marched the halls of this Congress, reliving the horror they endured, telling their stories, in hopes that no one else who serves our country has to suffer as they did.

Tragically, today the Senate failed them. Despite earning the support of the majority of the Senate, we fell five votes short of overcoming the 60-vote filibuster threshold. But we will not walk away, we will continue to work harder than ever in the coming year to strengthen our military.

Without a doubt, with the National Defense bill we passed, and Senator McCaskill’s Victims Protection Act, we have taken good steps to stand up for victims, and hold offenders accountable.

But we have not taken a step far enough. We know the deck is stacked against victims of sexual assault in the military, and today, we saw the same in the halls of Congress.

For two full decades, since Dick Cheney served as the Defense Secretary during the Tailhook scandal that shook the military and shocked the nation, we’ve heard the same thing: “zero tolerance” to sexual assault in the military.

But the truth is in the results, and that’s “zero accountability.”

I always hoped we could do the right thing here – and deliver a military justice system that is free from bias and conflict of interest – a military justice system that is worthy of the brave men and women who fight for us.

But today the Senate turned its back on a majority of its members.

As painful as today’s vote is, our struggle on behalf of the brave men and women who serve in our military will go on. We owe so much to those who bravely serve our country, and I will never quit on them.

For the men and women who sign up to serve our country for all the right reasons – only to be twice betrayed by their chain of command – if they can find the courage to make their voices heard to strengthen the military they hold so dear– we have to keep up this fight.

We will continue to the fight for justice and accountability. That is our duty.

Anger at Moazzam Begg ‘terrorism related’ charges (Geoff Dexter, Ken Olende)

Repost from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

Anger at Moazzam Begg ‘terrorism related’ charges

Geoff Dexter and Ken Olende report on the anger at news of the detention of Moazzam Begg

Protesters holding a banner which reads Birmingham TUC says free Moazzam Begg
Protesting outside West Midlands police headquarters in Birmingham (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

Hundreds protested in Birmingham and London last weekend at the arrest and charging of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg on suspicion of “Syria-related” terrorism.

Since his release from Guantanamo he has campaigned for the rights of detainees, and against rendition and torture.

Moazzam was one of four people detained on Tuesday of last week. Police raided his home in Hall Green, Birmingham.

Cage, the group campaigning for detainee rights that Moazzam heads, issued a statement after the arrest.

It said, “Moazzam has been very open about his international travel and his objectives, including importantly exposing British complicity in rendition and torture.

“The timing of Moazzam’s arrest given his travel to Syria took place in December 2012 requires a detailed explanation.

“The timing coincides with the planned release of a Cage report on Syria.”

Moazzam and one of the other arrestees, Gerrie Tahari, were charged with “providing terrorist training” and “funding terrorism overseas” at Westminster magistrates court, London, last Saturday.

Up to 1,000 people demonstrated outside the Home Office in central London last Sunday.

The previous day around 400 campaigners rallied in Birmingham outside the headquarters of the West Midlands police.

Demonstrators presented a petition demanding his release to the chief of police.
Protesters demand Moazzam be freed
Protesters demand Moazzam be freed (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

Former Birmingham councillor Salma Yaqoob told the protest, “We will not be silenced, we will not be intimidated.”

Other speakers included Cage, Birmingham National Union of Teachers, former Taliban captive and Stop the War campaigner Yvonne Ridley and Birmingham Trades Union Council.

Speeches were interspersed with chants of “No justice, no peace!” and “Free Moazzam Begg”.

The recent arrests follow a concerted campaign of harassment against Muslim individuals and charities involved in providing humanitarian aid to the victims of the Syrian crisis.

The purpose is to intimidate and vilify the wider Muslim community so that they are prevented from delivering much needed aid to the Syrian people.

Campaigning against police raids on Muslims in 2006, Moazzam told Socialist Worker, “I know what it’s like to have someone smash their way into your house and put a gun to your head.

“It is one step away from being shot. I felt very strongly on a personal level, but also more generally about the role of the police.”

U.S. escalates Ukraine crisis (Fred Goldstein)

Repost from Workers World:

U.S. escalates Ukraine crisis

By on March 5, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Kiev on March 4 and laid flowers at the site of a memorial — to fascists who had died in the fighting that toppled the legally elected Ukrainian government, headed by Viktor Yanukovych.

He then demanded that Russia recognize and talk with the pro-Western puppets who had been installed after Yanukovych was driven from office by force and terror. Kerry announced a $1 billion loan to keep the newly installed regime afloat. He also announced sanctions against Russia — and threatened more sanctions if the Russian government did not bend to Washington’s dictates.

Kerry denounced Russia’s show of military force in the Crimea, an autonomous region with a majority of Russian-speaking citizens, as “aggression,” even though all accounts say that the population welcomed them.
The actual aggression took place on the Maidan Square at the end of February, when a coalition of pro-Nazi, ultra-right-wing, anti-Semitic nationalists, armed and organized by the Right Front, set fires and seized arms from arsenals in Kiev and Lviv. They attacked the police and threatened to attack the Yanukovych government. These are the forces that Kerry calls the “Ukrainian people.”

Noticeably absent during Kerry’s appearance in Kiev were any representatives from the West European imperialist powers.

Washington is twisting the other imperialists’ arms and they may have to get into the act eventually. But it is the right-wing hawks in the U.S. ruling establishment who have seized the initiative and are pressing ahead toward deepening the confrontation over Ukraine.

Kerry knew before he spoke in Kiev that Russian President Vladimir Putin had conducted his first interview on Russian television on the question of the crisis. Kerry was fully aware that Putin had denounced the right-wing takeover as “an anti-constitutional coup and a military seizure of power” and noted the “revelry of neo-Nazis, nationalists and anti-Semitic elements that is currently going on in different parts of the Ukraine.” (RiaNovosti,, March 4)

Putin declared he would not recognize the present illegal government, but said he had instructed Russian officials to make contact with the new administration. He stated that Yanukovych, while out of power, was still the only legally elected president, but added that he had no sympathy for the discredited leader.

So Kerry’s demand that Russia recognize and negotiate with Washington’s puppets was a premeditated provocation and a hard-line, unilateral escalation of the crisis.

Tries to bolster weak U.S. puppets

Kerry’s rush to Kiev was not only an escalation but an urgent attempt to bolster the faltering regime. The Kiev government of acting president Arseniy Yatsenyuk and prime minister Oleksandr Turchynov is weak and unstable. Yatsenyuk is the “Yats” who was named a month ago as the U.S. choice to head Ukraine by U.S. State Department official Victoria Nuland in her notorious “f… the EU” recorded phone call.

One sign of the regime’s weakness is that it fired its newly appointed head of the Navy, Rear Admiral Denys Berezovsky, after he publicly stated: “I swear allegiance to the residents of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” (, March 2) The regime cannot even count on its own appointees.

Its most reliable appointees are its allied oligarchs. Lacking any reliable political apparatus in the east of the country, Kiev has appointed oligarchs as governors of the regions of Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk.
Sergei Taruta, a steel magnate, will govern in Donetsk, and Ihor Kolomoyskyi, whose fortune lies in banking, media and airlines, among other things, will govern Dnipropetrovsk. The idea was said to come from the corrupt billionaire leader of the Fatherland Party, Yulia Tymoshenko, who was released from jail as part of an agreement with the European Union. Yatsenyuk and Turchynov are also from the Fatherland Party.
The regime is especially shaky politically in the east of the country, where sections of the popular masses have been surrounding parliaments. For example, anti-Kiev forces in Kharkiv stormed the government center and expelled the agents of the puppet regime. This was widely seen on CNN and the BBC. Similar acts have been repeated throughout the region.

In the east, defense guards have been put up around statues of Lenin and monuments to the victory over the Nazis in World War II, to prevent them from being defaced or toppled by right-wing forces. These dedicated and extreme opponents of the Yanukovych government are really enraged by the fact that their side, the nationalists who joined forces with the Nazis, were defeated by the Soviet Red Army and the Ukrainian partisans, 150,000 of whom fought against the Nazis.

Every Ukrainian anti-fascist knows that in Kiev in January, a demonstration of 15,000 celebrated Stepan Bandera, the head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists during World War II. Toward the end of the war, his group organized the extermination of Jews and Poles and helped train Nazi battalions.

These are the same forces that were in Maidan Square. Everyone knows it. And that is one of the reasons that Kerry had to be photographed shaking hands with the two stooges of Washington.

This was why Putin referred to the “revelry of neo-Nazis, nationalists and anti-Semitic elements.” And it explains in a nutshell why Russia doesn’t want the imperialist sponsors of these counterrevolutionary forces brought to its doorstep in Ukraine.

Capitalist crisis weakens Europe, undermines U.S. sanctions

Washington is having to cajole, bully and drag the European imperialists to get behind its efforts to bolster Ukraine and help consolidate the new regime.

Europe, and especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German capitalists, are also concerned that Wall Street and the Pentagon are running the show and will try to shape policy in order to get the most advantage out of any victory.

Furthermore, the European capitalist economy is highly fragile, due to the global economic crisis. Europe fears that the sanctions being demanded by the U.S. can come back to harm the interests of German, British and French capital.

This inter-imperialist antagonism made the news when a photographer was able to zoom in on a page of a classified document that a British official was carrying into a high-level government meeting. When the photo was blown up, it read, in part, that Britain does “not support, for now, trade sanctions or [to] close London’s financial centre to Russians.”

It also said, in reference to NATO, that Britain will “discourage any discussions of contingency military preparations.” (, March 4)

London is a global financial center. The British finance capitalists do not want to sacrifice their profit interests to make Washington look strong. Nor do they want to press forward with dangerous and expensive military preparations so that NATO can flex its muscles.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted as saying that “all responsible should refrain from steps that could only be understood as an escalation.” (, March 4) The German imperialists do not even want to cancel the G-8 talks scheduled to take place in Sochi in Russia — something U.S. President Barack Obama has put forward.

Their view, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that the G-8 is the only format in which the West can actually talk to the Russians.

And the reason is clear. One third of Germany’s gas comes from Russia. Germany is Russia’s third-largest trade partner. And the German capitalists have $22 billion invested in Russia.

In fact, some 6,100 companies with German capital participation operate in Russia, in 81 out of 83 federal subjects — administrative units — and with a turnover of around 40 billion euros in 2012 and a total workforce of some 270,000. (, February 2014)

German economic relations with Russia involve a lot of profits and a lot of jobs. The same is true for Britain, France and other European capitalist countries. They are not so dedicated to hurting Russia that they want to risk profits and political stability. Of course, this could change, depending upon how much pressure Washington puts on them and how the situation in Ukraine develops.

Anti-imperialist solidarity between Russians and Ukrainians essential

One important part of Putin’s interview that should not be overlooked affects relations among nationalities. He spoke about deploying troops “only for people’s protection.” And then he said, “Our militaries are brothers in arms, friends. I am sure that Ukrainian and Russian soldiers will be on the same side of the barricade.” (RiaNovosti,, March 4)

Regardless of how one evaluates or interprets this remark, it shows clearly that Putin is mindful of the national question in Ukraine and is trying to undercut Russian chauvinism — part of which he created — that is being promoted in the capitalist press and probably by Russian nationalists in Ukraine.

It reminds all progressive and revolutionary forces that they should do all within their power not to fall into the trap of expressing politics in terms of Russians versus Ukrainians. What is needed is to promote solidarity between the two nationalities against the Western imperialists who want to take over the country and to oppose all the oligarchs in Ukraine, regardless of their political alignment, while fighting for a working-class position of internationalism and against capitalism itself.

While the present situation must make such solidarity difficult, it cannot be avoided. For now, it may take the Russian troop presence to at least partially reverse the present victory of Western imperialism. But in the long run, the solidarity of the workers of all nationalities in Ukraine is the only guarantee of victory in this crucial struggle.

Fred Goldstein is the author of “Low-Wage Capitalism” and “Capitalism at a Dead End,” which has been translated into Spanish as “El capitalismo en un callejón sin salida.”

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.

"Cold Wings: The Soft and Stupid Kevin Drumettes" -- most requested highlight by readers of this site.

"Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. reports on a Congressional hearing.

"Mr. Peabody & Sherman show up over 30 years too late," "300 Fall Of A Franchise" and "Old Boy" -- Betty, Stan and Ann go to the movies.

"scandal," "Another season for The Mindy Project," "Elementary: Can you solve this?," "Arrow," "Rachel Maddow is a liar and a War Hawk," "KKK Lena Dunham takes to SNL," "community gets a little better but mainly worse," "Patricia Arquette in new show," "Revolution jerks off for an hour,"  "The Originals" and "Can crazy Rachel Maddow shut up already?" -- Rebecca, Ann, Mike, Stan, Ruth, Marcia and Kat cover TV.

"Music videos," "Music and other things," and "U2 asks for another extension" -- Mike, Elaine and Kat cover music.

"Ham sandwich in the Kitchen" -- Trina offers a recipe.

"And he also can't spell" and "THIS JUST IN! HE WENT TO COLLEGE?" -- some words are hard for Barack to spell.

"The Aftermath" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"Barack needs to be impeached for the spying" -- Betty leads the charge.

"Drones and Hillary's droning," "As a Jew, Hillary has insulted me," "10 things hillary resembles" and  "The Bully Hillary Clinton" -- Elaine, Ruth, Rebecca and Betty on the bully.

"Barack doesn't give a damn" -- Trina speaks the truth.

"He still loves Pinky" and "THIS JUST IN! HE HEARTS PINKY TUSCADARO!" -- he gets confused easy.

"why naomi campbell?," "Oscars update," "Mia Farrow's going to be screaming on Twitter again," "'jessica' roberts lost - ha, ha on julia!," "Catherine Martin now holds the record," "Thoughts on Oscars and Olympics," "kim novak," "Frozen and other things," "Oscar thoughts," "The little dumb ass named David Walsh" -- Rebecca, Stan, Ruth, Stan, Mike, Marcia and Kat.

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