Billiken Gerstenberg's picture

Press Conference: The Continuing Illegal Detention and Torture of Detention of Mr. Shawki Ahmed Omar

Location: Bloomberg Room, National Press Club, 529 14th Street, Washington, D.C.
Date and Time: Tuesday, November 17 at 9:15 am.

The Continuing Illegal Detention and Torture of Detention of Mr. Shawki Ahmed Omar

Mr. Ramsey Clark, the 66th Attorney-General of the United States, and Attorney Dr. Curtis Doebbler who represents American Mr. Shawki Ahmed Omar who has been held prisoner in Iraq since 2004 will present an update on arbitrary detention in Iraq with a focus in the case of at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, November 17, 2015.

WASHINGTON, D.C., 17 November 2015 – Thousands of people remain arbitrary detained in Iraq as a consequence of the United States’ invasion of Iraq.
One of these persons is American citizen Mr. Shawki Ahmed Omar who was detained by the United States military in Iraq in 2004. He has never been charged by the United States, but was tortured and then in 2010 turned over to the Iraqi authorities. His wife was detained at the same time by the American military. Despite her being four months pregnant at the time, a fact the US solider knew, she was severely tortured. After she was released she gave birth with a child that was born handicapped. Shawki has never seen his daughter. He remains in detention and has recently been transferred to Camp Cropper, which has become renowned for its torture of prisoners under both American and now Iraqi authority. In 2007 Shawki brought a case to the Supreme Court of the United States in which he won the right for Americans detained abroad to seek a writ of habeas corpus, however the Court refused to prevent his transfer to Iraqi authorities. The United States government, however, told the Supreme Court that it had not tortured Shawki and that he would not be tortured in Iraq, both claims that are now known to be false. In 2014 the United Nations has declared his detention illegal and called for his release.

Journalists are invited to attend the news conference on Tuesday, November 17, at 9 a.m. at the Bloomberg Room of the National Press Club, 529 14th Street, Washington, D.C.

Dr. Curtis Doebbler
Attorney for Mr. Shawki Ahmed Omar
c/o International-Lawyers.Org
4 rue Cramer, 1202 Geneva Switzerland
Mobile: +41 79 304 4645
Fax: +1 206 984 4734
Email: cdoebbler@gmail.com

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Thomas Burr for President!

It's official! Thomas "Tommy" Burr has thrown his hat in the ring to be the 2016 National Press Club President! For more information, please check out Tommy's Facebook page here.

Steve OHearn's picture

John Metelsky and the Veterans Project

I just received a link to a great article about the incomparable John Metelsky by researchers at The George Washington University. The focus of the research is stories about illustrious alumni from GWU, and John definitely falls into that category.

To create this story, the researchers at GWU first contacted Steve O'Hearn, who blogs here at PressBlog, and also at Skere9, as well as a few other locations. Steve connected the good folks at GW with John and the rest is history.

We're very impressed with that the folks there at GWU are doing, well done!

See for yourself!

Steve OHearn's picture

The unsolved murder of Anna Politkovskaya

Five men were sentenced last month for the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, but the mastermind behind the killing remains unidentified, as the Washington Post pointed out in a June 10, 2014 editorial Misrule of law.

In 2003, I was working to bring Politkovskaya to the United States for a press conference. At the time, I happened to be part of the National Press Club's Publications Committee, who helped create the Record, the Club's internal newsletter. We were led at that time by legendary Club member John Metelsky.

During that time, I was in communication with an acquaintance who introduced me to Politkovskaya's work. Anna had already developed quite the reputation for herself in Eastern Europe with her reporting on the Chechen war for Russia's Novaya Gazeta, and my contact was working closely with her on some key projects in connection with that war. As my contact filled me in, it became apparent to me that Anna's work would find an interested audience in the United States.

Several months earlier, Anna had traveled to Los Angeles, but she was planning on a return trip to the United States to visit friends in New York. I began working with a professional point of contact in Europe to get Anna to add a leg to that U.S. trip, and to have her do a special appearance in Washington, DC at the National Press Club regarding her work in Chechnya. Through my European contact, Anna confirmed her desire to make the trip and the press conference was agreed to in general; I informed the Club's head of the Newsmakers Committee and he agreed to the idea. At that point we were simply on standby to get the specific dates of Anna's travel in order to schedule the event.

But it was not to be. In 2004, armed separatists seized control of the Beslan school in Russia, taking more than a thousand people hostage, most of them school children. As Russian police began to communicate with the separatists inside the school, the gunman insisted they would only speak with one person: Anna Politkovskaya. Anna was working in Chechnya at the time, but responded to the request to negotiate with the separatists, who wanted her there in person. After a couple of failed travel attempts that were blocked by Russian authorities, she boarded a plane and began the very long flight to Beslan. However, in the first leg of the flight, she fell horribly ill. At the first stopover of the lengthy flight, she cut her trip short and was taken off the plane and hospitalized. Doctors confirmed that she had been poisoned, and given the timing the conclusion was that she had been poisoned on the plane. Anna nearly died in the days that followed.

Meanwhile, the siege at Beslan ended tragically: in a climactic conclusion, 334 of the hostages were killed, and many more were badly injured.

Anna eventually recovered from the attempted poisoning, but she canceled all of her travel plans after that - including her plans to travel to the United States. We dropped the plans for the press conference at the National Press Club.

Three years passed. Very late one night in 2006, I received an anguished email from my contact with Anna, telling me the horrible news that Anna had been shot, murdered execution style just outside her apartment in Moscow. My contact observed that the timing was striking: it was October 7, which was Vladimir Putin's birthday. My contact wondered if this mysterious assassination was some sort of birthday present to Putin.

The story had not yet broken in the U.S., but I was able to locate and translate some foreign news websites to confirm the tragic development. (Remember, it was only 2005, online news has not yet matured to the state it is in today.) I immediately notified representatives from the Club's board of governors and officers at the Club about Anna's murder, and within days, the decision was made to give the upcoming 2007 John Aubuchon Freedom of the Press award posthumously to Anna.

I attended that award ceremony on July 16, 2007. It was a somber event. Another journalist, Fatima Tlis, also of the Novaya Gazeta, accepted the award in Anna's honor.

Fatima Tlis accepts award in Anna Politkovskaya's honor
Fatima Tlis accepts award in Anna Politkovskaya's honor, July 16, 2007, at the National Press Club.

The day after the Washington Post editorial, National Press Club 2014 president Myron Belkind - with whom I worked on the Record back in those years - issued a statement calling for further investigation into Anna's murder "until the individuals who took out the contract on Anna's life are uncovered and prosecuted", stating that until then, "she will not have true justice".

I agree.

Steve OHearn's picture

Book Author Night - November 19th

One of my favorite events at the National Press Club all year is the annual Book Author night. This year the event will be held on the evening of November 19th. This year's authors include everyone from famed biography Kitty Kelley to Megadeth guitarist David Ellefson. Personally I'm looking forward to seeing Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian with his new book Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed. Web pioneer Marc Andreesen, speaking about the book, says "Software is eating the world and WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION is your ultimate cookbook." And of the course the coolest thing about Ohanian is what his Amazon author notes report: "He lives in Brooklyn but remains a diehard fan of the Washington Redskins."

A complete list of authors is available online here.

Steve OHearn's picture

The Tyranny of Style and Commas: Are We Slaves Or Are We Free?

A friend on Facebook just brought an article to my attention at the Business Insider that has fired up a passion in me like few other topics do. And you're going to laugh when you realize the title is 13 Rules For Using Commas Without Looking Like An Idiot, but hear me out.

Item 4 in the article is "Use commas to separate items in a series". It continues "For example, "I saw a duck, a magician, and a liquor store when I went running. That last comma, known as the serial comma, Oxford comma, or Harvard comma, causes serious controversy."

Don't laugh, I've come close to physical blows over this issue.

The official Associated Press style guide rejects the Oxford comma, creating sentences that are confusing at the least, and often factually incorrect at the worst. The National Press Club, home to a lot of good folks from the AP, adheres to AP style in many internal publications. A few years ago, I wrote regularly for the Club's internal newsletter, the Record, and while I loved the individual members of the team there, I hated their position on the Oxford comma. I used the Oxford comma in my articles, but it was always edited out by the rotating editors of the week.

I was shocked when I first encountered this, and I complained passionately, arguing that the edit totally changed the substance of the sentence. For example, to write that "the entries, received from committees such as New Media, Book and Speakers, were processed Friday" implies there's a "Book and Speakers" committee, and there isn't, there's a Book committee, and then there's a Speakers committee. But I was told "well I think our members know that".

I would argue "so what? Other people read this! Why go out of your way to transform clear sentences into confusing, misleading statements?" The answer: "because we follow the AP style guide".

Even when I became a rotating editor, if I included the Oxford comma, I was confronted on it by other editors who declared I was in "violation", like I should be fined or something.

There were some in the group who recognized what I was talking about, thankfully. And apparently Business Insider recognized the problem, so now I love Business Insider.

But this drove me absolutely crazy. Years later, it still irks me.

There is no good reason to deliberately confuse people. If you don't love the Oxford comma, get over yourself and embrace it. Otherwise, as Business Insider warns, you'll risk "looking like an idiot".

They said it, I didn't.

Shout it from the mountaintops. Shout it throughout the world in every home, school, and office. And that's three distinct places, not two places named "home", and "school and office". But you knew that already, thanks to the Oxford comma.

- Specific Steve

P.S. If you noticed my use of quotation marks with periods is also in violation of AP style, well, there is a reason for that too. That may be the subject of a future blog post.

Billiken Gerstenberg's picture

MORNING JOE: Chuck Todd on the criminalization of journalism

On MSNBC's Morning Joe, NBC's Chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd said: "If George Bush and Dick Cheney did this ... Candidate Obama would be unloading ... you can't look at this and see it as anything other than an attempt to basically scare anybody from ever leaking anything ever again. So they want to criminalize journalism."

Steve OHearn's picture

The Passing of Andrew Price, Longtime Head Waiter of the NPC

We just heard that Andrew Price has passed away. Andrew was the head waiter of the National Press Club for many years. He started his career with the Club in 1967 and was an institution there until his retirement in July of last year.

Andrew served all the most distinguished visitors to the Club, and became known to heads of state and VIPs from around the world.

I had the privilege of meeting and chatting with Andrew many times over the years, he was a gracious man. I think its fair to say he was respected and highly regarded by just about every member who had the privilege of meeting him. And I dare say he was better known than most Club presidents, who serve one year and move on, whereas Andrew was a Club mainstay for nearly 50 years.

His passing is a great loss. We miss you, Andrew.

For a more formal article about Andrew's passing, see the announcement at the National Press Club website.

Steve OHearn's picture

CHRISTMAS 1917: NPCers give Model T Ford to U.S. Senate's Preston

Years before the $20/$50 rules were established, members of the National Press Club gave a Model T Ford as a Christmas present to their good friend James D. Preston, the Superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery.  The photo above shows the presentation of the lavish gift, and is featured in shrdlu, which offers the following details:

In December, 1917, James D. Preston, Superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery, received a Christmas present of a new Ford Model T on the steps of the Capitol. Left to right: Jim Preston at the wheel, first derby Richard V. Oulahan, New York Times; Leo Sack, Scripps-Howard; Dan O'Connell, Washington Times; J. Bart Campbell, International News Service, and interested Senate pages. [1]

Preston was responsible for creating the role that served newspaper reporters so well from the U.S. Senate, as the official U.S. Senate government website reports:

As head doorkeeper, the sergeant at arms has responsibility for the Senate Press Gallery. The scope of this role expanded in 1897, when James D. Preston, a doorkeeper in the Senate Press Gallery under the sergeant at arms, started collecting legislative bills and other information for reporters and facilitating interviews with senators. Preston eventually assumed the title of superintendent of the Press Gallery. In the 1930s and 1940s, Superintendents headed new Press Galleries for radio and television, periodical press, and press photographers.[2]

When Preston began his work with the press in the Senate Press Gallery, there were 150 newsmen covering the Senate "with one telephone and no typewriters" as Time Magazine reported.[3]  He served for about 35 years, and when he left in 1931, there were 368 reporters. 

Scene from Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

Preston went on to serve as a key advisor to Hollywood director Frank Capra in the making of the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  As Life Magazine reported in 1939:

Before work started Director Frank Capra visited Washington ... His quest for Capitol blueprints touched off a minor spy scare. To many of his questions, Washingtonians responded: "You'll have to ask Jim Preston about that." So persistent was this suggestion that Mr. Capra finally hunted up James D. Preston who for 33 years was superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery, is now assistant administrative secretary of the National Archives. An enthusiastic antiquarian, Mr. Preston proved himself such an astonishing mine of information that he was hired as technical advisor for the film. ... In Hollywood Jim Preston insisted that every detail of Washingtoniana be authentic. Busts of Vice Presidents in the Senate gallery were reproduced with plaster casts. Bills and printed forms used were actual Senate documents brought from Congress. He saw to it that the Senate clock was padlocked (to keep pages from shoving the hands forward) and that the desk of the Senator Jefferson Davis bore the gash made by the bayonet of a Union soldier during the civil War.[4]

Preston's father was a correspondent for the New York Herald.  In 1909, Preston was part of the small group of dedicated volunteers who helped move the one-year-old National Press Club from its original quarters to its new location on March 20.  The valiant volunteers were accompanied by an escort of two Washington, DC police officers, and a marching band. [5]

[1] shrdlu, Chapter 4, World War. Washington, DC: Colortone Press, 1958. http://www.pressblog.org/shrdluChapter4

[2] United States Senate website, Sergeant At Arms. Washington, DC. 2011. http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/sergeant_at_arms.htm

[3]Time Magazine, The Press: Gallery Man. December 7, 1931. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,930414,00.html

[4] Life Magazine, Hollywood's Washington is an extraordinary likeness based on fine technical research. October 16, 1939.  Page 73. http://books.google.com/books?id=RUIEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA73&lpg=

[5] Twentieth Anniversary Yearbook, Marching On! To New Quarters. Washington, DC: National Press Club. 1928. http://pressblog.org/node/37


Billiken Gerstenberg's picture

FLASHBACK: J. Edgar Hoover Popovers

The following is an excerpt from Who Says We Can't Cook, published by the Women's National Press Club, 1955.

J. Edgar Hoover

THE DIRECTOR of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, sometimes called Washington's "most eligible bachelor," is almost as famous for his cooking as for his success in tracking down the nation's most-wanted criminals. Popovers are among his FBI specials. Here is his recipe:

3 eggs 1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons salad oil
or melted shortening
1 teaspoon sugar  
1 cup flour  

The following directions are for an electric mixer, but the same recipe may be used for mixing "by hand."

First of all, put greased muffin tins or custard cups into a very hot oven ~ 450o F ~ and heat until they are sizzling hot. Beat eggs at medium speed a few minutes until frothy. Add salt, sugar, flour and half the milk, and mix again, medium speed, until smooth. Then add remaining milk and salad oil, or melted shortening, and beat at low speed until just blended. Pour batter into hot muffin tins or custard cups, filling each about half full. Bake in a very hot oven (450o F) for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 400o F and continue baking for 15 minutes longer. Makes 12 popovers.

~ Recipe obtained by WNPC member Ingrid Jewell, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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