Estimating casualties of war is a difficult science. Exact counts are nearly impossible to achieve, especially in areas where violent conflict continues long after the last of foreign troops have withdrawn. Determining a death toll for Iraqi civilians during the eight-year U.S.-led occupation has proven especially challenging. Multiple attempts by different organizations have covered only a few years of the war, and the resulting tallies range from as low as just over 100,000 to as high as 600,000.
The latest estimates, detailed in a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, come from an investigation into the total number of Iraqi deaths between 2003 and 2011 by the University of Washington Department of Global Health. Nearly 40 percent of deaths in Iraq that occurred in that time period were a result of the U.S. conflict, researchers say, putting the death toll at about 461,000.
Researchers visited 2,000 randomly selected homes throughout the Middle Eastern country. They asked adults to recount births and deaths within their immediate and extended family since 2001. Through this canvassing, the researchers estimated 405,000 deaths could be attributed to the war through mid-2011. They made up the remaining several thousands in their final number by estimating mortality rates for about 2 million people who fled the country during the conflict.
Researchers say 60 percent of the 461,000 deaths are directly attributed to violence, such as gunshots (62 percent), car bombs (12 percent), and other explosions (9 percent). Nonviolent deaths were attributed to health problems stemming from crippled health care, clean water, nutrition, and transportation systems. For every three people killed by violence, two died as a result of crumbling infrastructure that supports these areas, according to the study.
The survey, however, like the others that came before it, is not without its limitations. The researchers state their casualty estimate with 95 percent certainty. The actual number, they write, could be as low as 48,000 or as high as 751,000. The researchers point to the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as another example of a situation in which wildly dissimilar casualty counts were unavoidable. In the years since, the death toll for the natural disaster has been estimated to be anywhere between 46,000 and 316,000, revealing the problematic practice of calculating mortality.
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The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the November 14 testimony of Glenn Simpson, the man at Fusion GPS who oversaw the creation of the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Simpson's testimony includes a number of startling claims, including that Russia infiltrated conservative political groups prior to the election, and that Trump had "long time associations" with the Italian Mafia," and that he "gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures." Simpson also testified that Trump called off a post-election meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a longtime member of the NRA, currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. Simpson said that the discoveries were so alarming that he felt compelled to go to the authorities. The full text of the transcript can be read here.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has the votes to pass a short-term spending bill tonight, but "Senate Democrats said they're confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold."
The bipartisan legislation, known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, means taxpayers will "no longer foot the bill" for sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress." The legislation "would require members to pay such settlements themselves." It also reforms the "cumbersome and degrading" complaint process by giving victims "more rights and resources," and by simplifying and clarifying the complaint process. The legislation is the first major transformation of the sexual harassment complaint system since it was created in 1995.
"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.