http://www.homeloans.va.gov/sah.htm-----Original Message-----From: VA Media RelationsSent: Friday, January 04, 2008 9:06 AMTo: VSubject: VA Improves Housing Benefits for Severely DisabledNew VA Rules for Specially Adapted Housing Grants Program Aids MostSeriously Injured WASHINGTON (January 4, 2008) - A change in the law thatallows certain seriously injured veterans and servicemembers to receivemultiple grants for constructing or modifying homes has resulted in many newgrants, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today. Before the change, eligible veterans and servicemembers could receivespecial adaptive housing grants of $10,000 or $50,000 from VA only once.Now they may use the benefit up to three times, so long as the total grantsstay within specified limits outlined in the law."Veterans seriously disabled during their military service have earned thisbenefit," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake."This change ensures that every eligible veteran and servicemember has thechance to use the maximum amount afforded to them by our grateful nation."In order to ensure all previous recipients are aware of this opportunity, VAhas mailed more than 16,000 letters to eligible veterans, reaching out tothose who used only a portion of their grant or who decided not to use thegrant even after initially qualifying. The response over the past year has been dramatic, with more than 4,600applications received thus far. Of these, approximately 3,900 veterans havebeen determined eligible under the new law, and more than 200grants already awarded. VA has averaged about 1,000 adaptive housing grant applications per yearduring the past 10 years. Since the program began in 1948, it has providedmore than $650 million in grants to about 34,000 seriously disabledveterans. To ensure veterans' and servicemembers' needs are met and grant money isspent properly, VA works closely throughout the entire process withcontractors and architects to design, construct and modify homes that meetthe individuals' housing accessibility needs.Eligible for the benefit are those with specific service-connecteddisabilities entitling them to VA compensation for a "permanent and totaldisability." They may receive a grant to construct an adapted home or tomodify an existing one to meet their special needs. VA has three types of adapted housing grants available. The SpeciallyAdapted Housing grant (SAH), currently limited to $50,000, is generally usedto create a wheelchair-accessible home for those who may require suchassistance for activities of daily living. VA's Home Loan Guaranty program and the Native American Direct Loan programmay also be used with the SAH benefit to purchase an adaptive home. The Special Housing Adaptations (SHA) grant, currently limited to $10,000,is generally used to assist veterans with mobility throughout their homesdue to blindness in both eyes, or the anatomical loss or loss of use of bothhands or extremities below the elbow.A third type established by the new law, the Temporary Residence Adaptation(TRA) grant, is available to eligible veterans and seriously injured activeduty servicemembers who are temporarily living or intend to temporarily livein a home owned by a family member. While the SAH and SHA grants require ownership and title to a house, increating TRA Congress recognized the need to allow veterans and active dutymembers who may not yet own homes to have access to the adaptive housinggrant program.Under TRA, veterans and servicemembers eligible under the SAH program wouldbe permitted to use up to $14,000, and those eligible under the SHA programwould be allowed to use up to $2,000 of the maximum grant amounts. Eachgrant would count as one of the three grants allowed under the new program. "The goal of all three grant programs is to provide a barrier-free livingenvironment that offers the country's most severely injured veterans orservicemembers a level of independent living," added Peake.Other VA adaptive housing benefits are currently available throughVocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service's "Independent Living"program, the Insurance Service's Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance program,and the Veterans Health Administration's Home Improvement and StructuralAlterations grant. For more information about grants and other adaptive housing programs,contact a local VA regional office at 1-800-827-1000 or local veteranservice organization. Additional program information and grant applications(VAF-26-4555) can be found at http://www.homeloans.va.gov/sah.htm.Sphere: Related Content
Friday, January 4, 2008
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
CALL TO ACTION: ASK THE PRESIDENT TO RELEASE VA
FUNDING -- The White House is holding $3.7 billion in "emergency"
veterans' funding that must be released by January 18.
OK, Brother and Sister veterans...it's time to shake some change out of the President's pockets!
If you hold him down, I'll get his wallet ... :-)
Seriously...the President is hold $3.7 billion in VA funding. It is designated as "emergency" funding and can only be released to the VA if he says so. More on that here... http://www.vawatchdog.org/07/nf07/nfDEC07/nf121807-1.htm
We need to get to work.
Below is a call to action from the VFW that explains what to do and how to do it.
Please don't wait...take action now!
VFW call to action here... http://www.vawatchdog.org/08/vsop08/vsop010208-1.htm
Call to action below:
VFW Legislative Alert
Ask the President to Release Veterans Funding
The large funding bill that Congress sent to the president's desk included a sizeable $2.9 billion increase for veterans health care and benefits. There is an additional $3.7 billion in potential veterans funding - funding that would fully meet the needs laid out by the VFW as part of the Independent Budget. VA will receive this funding, however, only if the president declares it "emergency spending." Without that declaration, VA will not get that additional increase.
You must contact the president to ask him to release the "emergency" funding for VA.The current increase, while appreciated, is not enough, and VA must have the additional $3.7 billion to fully meet the needs of veterans.The additional $3.7 billion (for a total increase of $6.6 billion) would allow VA to:
• Hire additional claims processors and train staff to reduce the ever-growing disability claims backlog
• Treat the tens of thousands of returning service members who put their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing them with all the health care they need, including full mental health coverage and treatment for traumatic brain injuries and other war-related illnesses and disabilities.
• Care for the hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled veterans from other conflicts, particularly as many of them grow older
• Begin construction and improve maintenance on a number of VA health care facilities, expanding access and ensuring that veterans receive care in clean, safe, and comfortable locations that meet their needs.
How to contact the president:
• Letters:The White House1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NWWashington, DC 20500
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Phone: 202-456-1111
• Fax: 202-456-2461
Contact Congress, too:
Let your Representative and Senators know that you appreciate their efforts and urge them to ask the President to release the full funding amount. Since your legislators are on break for the holiday, phone numbers for their district offices can be found in your local phone book or you can look for contact info on their WebPages: www.senate.gov and www.house.gov .
------------------------- posted by Larry ScottFounder and EditorVA Watchdog dot Org
Don't forget to read all of today's VA News Flashes (click here)
Click here to make VA Watchdog dot Org your homepage
BMJ 2007;335:1313-1315 (22 December), doi:10.1136/bmj.39420.533461.25
Enduring beliefs about effects of gassing in war: qualitative study
Edgar Jones, professor1, Ian Palmer, professor2, Simon Wessely, professor1
1 Institute of Psychiatry and King’s Centre for Military Health Research, Weston Education Centre, London SE5 9RJ, 2 Medical Assessment Programme, St Thomas’ Hospital, London SE1 7EH
Correspondence to: E Jones email@example.com
Objectives To discover the content of enduring beliefs held by first world war veterans about their experience of having been gassed.
Design Collection and thematic analysis of written and reported statements from a sample of veterans about gassing.
Subjects 103 veterans with a war pension.
Results Twelve themes were identified, which were related to individual statements. The systemic nature of chemical weapons played a key part in ideas and beliefs about their capacity to cause enduring harm to health. Unlike shrapnel or a bullet that had a defined physical presence, gas had unseen effects within the body, while its capacity to cause damage was apparent from vesicant effects to skin and eyes. The terror inspired by chemical weapons also served to maintain memories of being gassed, while anti-gas measures were themselves disconcerting or a source of discomfort.
Conclusions Chronic symptoms and work difficulties maintained beliefs about the potency of chemical weapons. In the period after the war, gas continued to inspire popular revulsion and was associated with a sense of unfairness.
Read all Rapid Responses
Knowledge of chemical warfare injuries
Jan Schumacher, et al.bmj.com, 29 Dec 2007 [Full text]
Morning HUBdate: Closing Argument
* If You Watch One Thing Today: Hillary presents her closing argument to Iowans, culminating in a two-minute taped appearance that will air tonight on every 6PM newscast throughout the state. Watch it: http://youtube.com/watch?v=v0hyVSmVVBU
* Also Making News Today: Hillary continues the “Big Challenges, Real Solutions: Time To Pick A President” tour with events in Indianola, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Ottumwa, and Des Moines.
* Momentum in IA: In a sign of growing enthusiasm for Hillary, one of our Iowa field staffers came across a sign with this message when they went knocking on doors: “WE WILL SUPPORT HILLARY. OUR DECISION IS NOT OPEN FOR JUSTIFICATION OR REVIEW. SEE YOU AT CAUCUS.”
* Recapping Yesterday: Hillary rallied crowds of Iowans and won over previously undecided caucus-goers, with a press report calling it “one of her best performances in weeks”… President Clinton told Iowans how Hillary has been changing people’s lives for years… And door knockers will hit the house of every Iowan who has declared strong support for Hillary …Visit www.hillaryhub.com for more.
* Strength in NH: A new poll by 7NEWS/Suffolk University shows Hillary leading the Democratic field by 14 pts in the NH primary. The same poll had her up 7 just three weeks ago…. A separate poll sponsored by UNH has Hillary gaining strength, increasing her support by 6 points since their last poll two weeks ago… Gen. Wes Clark and his wife stumped for Hilary in downtown Laconia, praising Hillary’s readiness to lead, knowledge, and warmth….And Hillary encouraged ABC and WMUR-TV to allow her fellow candidates who have participated in previous debates to participate in this weekend's.
* Endorsement Watch: US Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) -- the first African-American to represent New Jersey in the House of Representatives and a past Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus – becomes the 77th member of Congress to endorse Hillary.
Contributions to Hillary Clinton for President
are not deductible for federal income tax purposes.
Paid for by Hillary Clinton for
I am a disabled Army veteran, who served from the Vietnam Era in the active Army as an Infantryman, I left the Army in 1982 after 9 years as a Staff Sergeant/E6. I then joined the Georgia National Guard in 1988 as I missed the Army and the camaraderie of the soldiers and also to try and finish my 20 years for the retirement benefits. I was activated for Desert Storm and served in Khasab AFB Oman during the first Gulf War.
Hillary has supported research to find out what is the root of the illness or cluster of symptoms known as Gulf War Syndrome or Illness, GWS or GWI. While her husband was President they apologized for the human experimenst this nation conducted from nuclear experiments to the Tuskeegee Syphlis experiments, also the Army experiments I was used in at Edgewood Arsenal in 1974.
Here is a newspaper article where I met President Clinton on December 17, 2007 and it has a picture where he is signing a book titled Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten, written by a Doctor James Ketchum one of the Edgewood scientists/doctors/researchers.
Here is a link to the book reviews: http://www.erowid.org/library/review/review.php?p=226
Here is a link to the apology from President Bill Clinton from You tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTiONdJJRcw
Here is a link to an 8 minute story about the mind control experiments the C.I.A. and the Army were involved in from 1952 thru 1975 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSOOK3tocTk&feature=related
Senator Clinton has pressed the Veterans Administration to help the ill Gulf War veterans for more than a decade now, and as our President she would be able to demand better accountability for the veterans and their families. There are more than 100,000 veterans that have some sort of medical disability from the first Gulf War and the government i.e. DOD and the VA have not been proactive in helping them. She would do more than any other Presidential candidate for these men, women and their families.
Veterans and their families should be voting for Hillary for the Democratic nomination and for her as the next President of the United States, veterans need to start voting with their wallets, and how it affects their families, she has proven herself on their behalf and she has earned their votes.
Stonewalled by the C.I.A.
By THOMAS H. KEAN and LEE H. HAMILTON
Published: January 2, 2008
MORE than five years ago, Congress and President Bush created the 9/11 commission. The goal was to provide the American people with the fullest possible account of the “facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001” — and to offer recommendations to prevent future attacks. Soon after its creation, the president’s chief of staff directed all executive branch agencies to cooperate with the commission.
The commission’s mandate was sweeping and it explicitly included the intelligence agencies. But the recent revelations that the C.I.A. destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot. Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.
There could have been absolutely no doubt in the mind of anyone at the C.I.A. — or the White House — of the commission’s interest in any and all information related to Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot. Yet no one in the administration ever told the commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations.
When the press reported that, in 2002 and maybe at other times, the C.I.A. had recorded hundreds of hours of interrogations of at least two Qaeda detainees, we went back to check our records. We found that we did ask, repeatedly, for the kind of information that would have been contained in such videotapes.
The commission did not have a mandate to investigate how detainees were treated; our role was to investigate the history and evolution of Al Qaeda and the 9/11 plot. Beginning in June 2003, we requested all reports of intelligence information on these broad topics that had been gleaned from the interrogations of 118 named individuals, including both Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, two senior Qaeda operatives, portions of whose interrogations were apparently recorded and then destroyed.
The C.I.A. gave us many reports summarizing information gained in the interrogations. But the reports raised almost as many questions as they answered. Agency officials assured us that, if we posed specific questions, they would do all they could to answer them.
So, in October 2003, we sent another wave of questions to the C.I.A.’s general counsel. One set posed dozens of specific questions about the reports, including those about Abu Zubaydah. A second set, even more important in our view, asked for details about the translation process in the interrogations; the background of the interrogators; the way the interrogators handled inconsistencies in the detainees’ stories; the particular questions that had been asked to elicit reported information; the way interrogators had followed up on certain lines of questioning; the context of the interrogations so we could assess the credibility and demeanor of the detainees when they made the reported statements; and the views or assessments of the interrogators themselves.
The general counsel responded in writing with non-specific replies. The agency did not disclose that any interrogations had ever been recorded or that it had held any further relevant information, in any form. Not satisfied with this response, we decided that we needed to question the detainees directly, including Abu Zubaydah and a few other key captives.
In a lunch meeting on Dec. 23, 2003, George Tenet, the C.I.A. director, told us point blank that we would have no such access. During the meeting, we emphasized to him that the C.I.A. should provide any documents responsive to our requests, even if the commission had not specifically asked for them. Mr. Tenet replied by alluding to several documents he thought would be helpful to us, but neither he, nor anyone else in the meeting, mentioned videotapes.
A meeting on Jan. 21, 2004, with Mr. Tenet, the White House counsel, the secretary of defense and a representative from the Justice Department also resulted in the denial of commission access to the detainees. Once again, videotapes were not mentioned.
As a result of this January meeting, the C.I.A. agreed to pose some of our questions to detainees and report back to us. The commission concluded this was all the administration could give us. But the commission never felt that its earlier questions had been satisfactorily answered. So the public would be aware of our concerns, we highlighted our caveats on page 146 in the commission report.
As a legal matter, it is not up to us to examine the C.I.A.’s failure to disclose the existence of these tapes. That is for others. What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.
Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton served as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the 9/11 commission.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Bush Signs Government Transparency Bill
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: December 31, 2007
Filed at 7:47 p.m. ET
CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) -- President Bush on Monday signed a bill aimed at giving the public and the media greater access to information about what the government is doing.
The new law toughens the Freedom of Information Act, the first such makeover to the signature public-access law in a decade. It amounts to a congressional pushback against the Bush administration's movement to greater secrecy since the terrorist attacks of 2001.
More Articles in National »
Call me disbelieving but when does this law take effect? Jan 2009 This has been the most secretive government since WW2 when we were actually in a world war, but Congress was involved in it. FDR did not do it like this administration has. I will believe the administration as soon as the RNC turns over the missing 5 million e mails from Rove and others, the visitor logs to the White House, the President has been proclaiming are Presidential papers, like the American public has no right to who he and his administration are meeting with, who exactly is paying for that house, us, or him? What does the signing statement say? We know there has to be a hey wait a minute that does not apply to me in here somewhere. The last 7 years have taught us that.
Published: December 31, 2007
There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.
It was not the first time in recent years we’ve felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.
The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked — how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.
Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied America’s global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the world’s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.
In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a warrant.
We have read accounts of how the government’s top lawyers huddled in secret after the attacks in New York and Washington and plotted ways to circumvent the Geneva Conventions — and both American and international law — to hold anyone the president chose indefinitely without charges or judicial review.
Those same lawyers then twisted other laws beyond recognition to allow Mr. Bush to turn intelligence agents into torturers, to force doctors to abdicate their professional oaths and responsibilities to prepare prisoners for abuse, and then to monitor the torment to make sure it didn’t go just a bit too far and actually kill them.
The White House used the fear of terrorism and the sense of national unity to ram laws through Congress that gave law-enforcement agencies far more power than they truly needed to respond to the threat — and at the same time fulfilled the imperial fantasies of Vice President Dick Cheney and others determined to use the tragedy of 9/11 to arrogate as much power as they could.
Hundreds of men, swept up on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, were thrown into a prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, so that the White House could claim they were beyond the reach of American laws. Prisoners are held there with no hope of real justice, only the chance to face a kangaroo court where evidence and the names of their accusers are kept secret, and where they are not permitted to talk about the abuse they have suffered at the hands of American jailers.
In other foreign lands, the C.I.A. set up secret jails where “high-value detainees” were subjected to ever more barbaric acts, including simulated drowning. These crimes were videotaped, so that “experts” could watch them, and then the videotapes were destroyed, after consultation with the White House, in the hope that Americans would never know.
The C.I.A. contracted out its inhumanity to nations with no respect for life or law, sending prisoners — some of them innocents kidnapped on street corners and in airports — to be tortured into making false confessions, or until it was clear they had nothing to say and so were let go without any apology or hope of redress.
These are not the only shocking abuses of President Bush’s two terms in office, made in the name of fighting terrorism. There is much more — so much that the next president will have a full agenda simply discovering all the wrongs that have been done and then righting them.
We can only hope that this time, unlike 2004, American voters will have the wisdom to grant the awesome powers of the presidency to someone who has the integrity, principle and decency to use them honorably. Then when we look in the mirror as a nation, we will see, once again, the reflection of the United States of America.
31st, 2007 5:38 am
As a disabled Army veteran I fully support the tone and words of this editorial, I am ashamed of what our country has become, in the past 6 years. An incompetent lying Attorney General who thought his priority was to the President and not the law. Who let a twenty something blonde hire "politcally right" lawyers regardless of their competence for the Justice Department. The Army has been turned into a political arm of the President and General Petraues became the "front man" for President Bush's war, to buy President Bush more time. We have a President who is not trusted by a majority of Americans, most of us suspect and feel crimes against humanity and quite possibly crimes that could see him and many other high government officials charged with war crimes. An administration that has no respect for Congress or the people of the United States, they have forgotten who works for who. The American people do not work for George Bush nor Dick Cheney, they work for us, but up until now there is no one with a backbone to hold them accountable, why?
— SSG Mike, Columbia SC
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Sphere: Related Content
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — In 1950, this cotton market town in northern Alabama lost a bid for a military aviation project that would have revived its mothballed arsenal. The consolation prize was dubious: 118 German rocket scientists who had surrendered to the Americans during World War II, led by a man — a crackpot, evidently — who claimed humans could visit the moon.
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Josh Anderson for The New York Times
Konrad Dannenberg, 95, is one of the original German scientists who helped turn Huntsville into Rocket City.
The New York Times
Before rockets, Huntsville was better known for cotton.
Ultimately those German immigrants made history, launching the first American satellite, Explorer I, into orbit in January 1958 and putting astronauts on the moon in 1969. The crackpot, Wernher von Braun, was celebrated as a visionary.
Far less attention, though, has been given to the space program’s permanent transformation of Huntsville, now a city of 170,000 with one of the country’s highest concentrations of scientists and engineers. The area is full of high-tech giants like Siemens, LG and Boeing, and a new biotech center.
Rocket scientists, propulsion experts and military contractors have given the area per capita income levels above the national average and well above the rest of the state.
Huntsville residents regard their city as an oasis, as un-Alabaman as Alabama can be. But they acknowledge that the state’s backwater reputation is a hindrance to recruiting. Local boosters are hoping to use the 50th anniversary of Explorer I on Jan. 31 as a way to promote Huntsville as Rocket City, unveiling a new pavilion, housing a 363-foot Saturn V rocket, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, a museum and popular tourist attraction.
Even the Germans, who had spent five years cloistered on an Army base near El Paso, knew beforehand of Alabama’s spotty “résumé,” as Konrad Dannenberg, who at 95 is one of the last surviving members of the original von Braun team, put it last week.
“We knew that the people here run around without shoes,” Dr. Dannenberg said, in a tone of deadpan gravity. “They make their money moonshining and that’s what they drink for breakfast, and supper. And so we, in a way, were a little bit disappointed that it was really not that bad.”
The residents were wary of the Germans as well. They knew that most of them had been members of the Nazi Party and that they had built the V-2 rocket for Hitler. But the charismatic von Braun accepted virtually every speaking invitation, winning over Rotarians and peanut farmers.
And the Germans tried hard to assimilate. Von Braun insisted that the scientists speak English if there was so much as a single American, even a janitor, within earshot, said Ernst Stuhlinger, 94, another surviving member of the team. Dr. Stuhlinger was one of many who settled on Monte Sano, the mountain overlooking the town, which reminded the Germans of home.
“People said, ‘If you had just been at war with these people, how can you be so accepting of them?’ ” recalled Loretta Spencer, the 70-year-old mayor of Huntsville, offering a visitor a homemade pecan cookie. “But I think we were just in awe.”
In school, the German children’s diligence posed a challenge. “I remember working real hard in physics class to beat Axel Roth, who later worked for NASA,” Ms. Spencer said. “I beat him by a point on the final exam, and I was really tickled by it.”
The Germans also needed thousands of Americans to staff the missile program. Many who answered the call were “rocket boys” like Homer H. Hickam Jr., author of the memoir by that name, who scavenged together his first rockets in a West Virginia mining town and now lives here. Others were young men from cotton-picking families who went to school on the G.I. Bill.
By the time Explorer I was launched, the residents of Huntsville had so thoroughly adopted the Germans that there was an impromptu celebration. Charles E. Wilson, the former secretary of defense whose severe curtailment of the Germans’ work was blamed by some as having allowed the Soviet Union to beat America to space with Sputnik, was burned in effigy.
And by the mid-1960s, von Braun had so mastered the local culture that when he wanted voters to approve a bond issue for the Space and Rocket Center, he persuaded Bear Bryant, the revered University of Alabama football coach, and Shug Jordan, the rival Auburn coach, to make a television commercial supporting the project.
Rocketry permeated Huntsville, where windows shook and dishes cracked each time the powerful propulsion engines were tested. Children built rockets powered by zinc powder and sulfur, and the mad-scientist-in-the-basement tradition still has a hold. Tim Pickens, a rocket designer who helped a private manned spacecraft win the $10 million X Prize in 2004, attached a 200-pound-thrust engine to a bicycle in his garage here.
City officials trying to capitalize on this kind of ingenuity are irritated that prominent scholars have chosen this moment to scrutinize the von Braun team’s Nazi ties.
A new biography by Michael J. Neufeld portrays von Braun as a man who made a Faustian bargain. Diane McWhorter, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Birmingham native, is at work on a book on the space race that compares Nazi ideology to contemporaneous white supremacy in the South.
Most Huntsvillians concluded long ago that the Germans had been coerced into joining the party. And, though skeptical of claims that the scientists were thoroughly apolitical, Ms. McWhorter says Southerners might easily understand that membership in an organization is not necessarily the best indicator of sentiment.
“There were members of the White Citizens Council in the South who were probably less racist than people who weren’t members,” she said.
Residents point to the symphony and the Huntsville branch of the University of Alabama, both nurtured into being by the Germans, and say their enlightened views contributed to the fact that the town had the first integrated elementary school in the state. Dr. Von Braun himself was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan for hiring blacks, said Bob Ward, a Huntsville newsman and von Braun biographer.
Besides, Huntsville is a forward-looking place. The Nazi question “just doesn’t come up,” said Loren Traylor, a Chamber of Commerce vice president. “That was then, this is now.”
The question should come up and not be written off as that was then and this is now, many people died at Penumundee, where the V2 rockets were built by Werner Von Braun and "his team". They were brought in under false papers in a CIA program call "Operation Paperclip" against President Trumans orders, along with about 2000 other Nazis who had their records cleaned up in order to come into the United States after WW2. Among these men were doctors who worked at the death camps who went on to do experiments with human researchers at Edgewood Arsenal, Fort Detrick, saying that was then and we should just forget about it, is wrong.
All we did was bring them from Germany to help build our technology base after the war, basically it was a race to get them out of Europe before the Russians could kidnap them and take them into Russia. In fact many of these Paperclip scientists should have been prosecuted at Nuremberg. People turned their backs back then for the nations "greater good" kind of like we are doing today about "water boarding" detaining people at Gitmo based on "secret evidence", the more people forget the past the more abuses of the past will be repeated, why? Remember and stop them from doing it again, time does not heal all wounds.
This is a man who wanted the Times prosecuted for revealing Bush Administration secrets, now he wants to take the money from these "traitors"? Forgive me while I go throw up, at least Time Magazine had enough sense to let this man go, he has been wrong on every call of the Iraq war since it began. He gives the Bush Administration a free pass on torture, spying on Americans, Gitmo etc, where will he stand when the War Crimes trials are ever held? People should be charged for violations of American law, let alone international law, we are a nation that used to be respected for our committment to law, and now we are an embarassment to our ancestors.
I think the NY Times is quickly trying to make themselves irrelevant to most Americans, very few people admit to being Republican anymore, more claim to be independents now than just 4 years ago, that is what President Bush and V.P. Cheney and Karl Rove have done to modern conservatism, they are snuffing it out and making Billy Krystol also irrelevent. What a waste of money.
Clinton makes promise on Gulf War SyndromeJENNIFER JACOBS • REGISTER STAFF WRITER • December 29, 2007http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071229/NEWS/71229020After a Desert Storm veteran asked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton what she’d do about the war-related health issues that have been “swept under the carpet,” she made a campaign promise - twice.“I promise you that among my priorities will be trying to get to the bottom of this,” Clinton said during a question-and-answer session at her campaign rally in the town of Clinton today.The candidate said when she was first lady, she did an investigation after veterans or their wives approached her about unexplainable ailments.The reasons why military members got sick is still unknown – people have looked at the anthrax vaccines, the pesticides that were used in sleeping and eating areas, and depleted uranium residue from the soldiers’ weapons, she said.“One thing we did accomplish is that we forced the VA to recognize the Gulf War Syndrome," Clinton said. "Couldn’t give you the specifics, but because of the work I did, we did get to the point where you will be recognized as having some combination of ailments.But now we’ve to figure out what’s really causing it and I promise you I will do my best to get that done.”Sphere: Related Content
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VOICE OF THE SUNDAY Mirror: Nuke scandal brought home
Gordon Brown doesn't have to rely on reports from campaigners to understand the scandal over the British nuclear test veterans. He can ask his wife Sarah.
The man she grew up calling "grandpa" - her grandfather by her mother's second marriage - died from a rare form of cancer after witnessing a test in the South Pacific.
Squadron Leader Stephen Pooley flew through the mushroom cloud to collect fallout samples. Yet when he died in 1996 from myelodysplastic syndrome, the Ministry of Defence lied to his inquest and said there was "no proof" that he had been anywhere near the explosion.
Such a shocking story will come as little surprise to anyone who has followed the scandal of the nuclear test vets, though that does not diminish the outrage at each new case.
But Squadron Leader Pooley's story brings the shameful treatment of thousands of servicemen right to the door of the current prime minister.
It is time for Mr Brown to immediately order decent treatment for the dwindling number of veterans who remain alive - and the relatives of those who have died.
Rivals tap voter anger in appeal to Iowans
By George E. Condon Jr.
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
December 30, 2007
INDEPENDENCE, Iowa – Wearing worn blue denim overalls and leaning on his cane, Merritt McCardle personifies “Iowa nice” when he talks about his grandchildren and his days in the Navy in San Diego.
Advertisement But when the conversation turns to either Washington or the price of prescription drugs, McCardle, 74, a retired tool maker, flashes the anger that has transformed both the Democratic and Republican races for president only days before the crucial Iowa caucuses.
“Sure it makes you angry,” he said. “Look who wrote the medical bill in Congress – the drug companies. There is just no doubt that lobbyists have too much power. We've got to do something.”
For McCardle, a heart transplant patient who takes more than 50 pills a day and relies on the Department of Veterans Affairs for his care, doing something means supporting the campaign of Democrat John Edwards. On this day, that meant driving through a snowstorm to listen to the former North Carolina senator make his pitch at Bill's Pizza & Smoke House.
What McCardle saw was a candidate distinctly different from the sunny optimist who finished a strong second in the 2004 caucuses. In his place is a fiery populist who mocks the other candidates for wanting to negotiate with the drug and insurance companies and who hopes to tap into a palpable anger among the electorate here.
It is an anger that keeps Edwards in the race against better-funded rivals, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, as the Iowa caucuses approach Thursday.
“Enough is enough,” Edwards proclaimed in his pitch to about 60 people. “It is time for some truth-telling.”
Heads nodded when he insisted that “corporate greed is absolutely destroying the middle class and jobs in this country.” They nodded again when, without naming Obama or Clinton, Edwards dismissed their promises to invite the drug and insurance companies to the table when hammering out universal health care insurance.
He said it was a “fantasy” to think those companies would voluntarily give up any power.
“You can't nice these people to death. You can't flatter them to death,” he said.
You just have to fight them, Edwards said.
Pollster John Zogby said there is “a huge amount of anger” among voters. “Tapping into this anger is the principal reason” for Edwards' resurgence in the polls, Zogby said.
A similar dynamic is taking place in the Republican race in Iowa. Two hundred miles away, voters nodded in approval when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee railed against the political establishment.
In West Des Moines, Huckabee was introduced by former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley as a candidate for those who are “fed up with what's going on in Washington” and as “not the same-old, same-old.”
In his speech, Huckabee appealed to Iowans who are “completely bummed out” by the system. He told voters that supporting his candidacy is the best way to “confound the political ruling class in this country.”
Pointedly, Huckabee makes no distinction between the Republicans and the Democrats in that ruling class. It is a measure of the Republican president's unpopularity that Huckabee has lost no noticeable support among GOP voters with his much-publicized attack on what he called the “arrogant bunker mentality” of President Bush's foreign policy.
Huckabee's rise in the polls has been steady and coincides with his ability to tap into voter discontent – even to the point of alarming many party conservatives. The Club for Growth, which espouses fiscal conservatism, has stepped up its attacks on Huckabee, decrying his “mix of lefty populism and class-warfare rhetoric that one would expect to hear from the likes of John Edwards or Hillary Clinton.”
Undeterred, Huckabee simply dismissed the group as the “Club for Greed.”
The rhetorical attacks on the political elites by Huckabee and Edwards are not surprising given the mood of the electorate. But they still have come as a surprise to some longtime friends of Edwards who rarely saw that side of him when he was in the Senate.
“I am surprised at just how angry John has become,” said Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, another presidential candidate. “This is not the same John Edwards I once knew.”
Voters don't seem surprised. Even those who support other candidates said they understand the anger.
“I'm mad, the Democrats are mad, a lot of the Republicans are mad,” said John Burns, 51, a Des Moines lawyer who supports Obama.
Burns said his Republican father is angry at the way Bush took the country into Iraq even though he supports the war.
Obama and Clinton have their own populist appeals but suggest they take a more constructive approach than Edwards. Change, Obama said, “won't just come from more anger at Washington.”
David Axelrod, Obama's senior strategist, said it is “bewildering” that Edwards thinks you can have health care reform without involving the insurance companies.
“Our predicate is you can be strong and you can be resolute, but you've got to have dialogue,” Axelrod said.
He added: “Anger is not enough. Do you see a deficit of anger in Washington? I don't think that's what we're lacking here.”
But Axelrod acknowledged that Iowans are angry right now.
“There is anger at the inability of Washington to solve problems,” he said. “There is anger at the dysfunctionality of government in Washington.”
This is in a state that has made “Iowa nice” part of the political lexicon, because voters here like to project warmth and civility – and often expect candidates to do the same.
According to a Zogby Poll, almost 80 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa said they are angry at the political system, with that anger extending to the Democratic Congress, as well as the Republican president. The number was only slightly lower for Republicans, with 67 percent saying they are angry.
Although voters were discontented in other elections, numbers this high have not been seen since 1980, when anger at President Carter bubbled over.
There are some differences between Republican anger and Democratic anger, said Zogby, who found that Republicans in Iowa are more worked up over illegal immigration than are Democrats there. But Iowa voters of both parties are increasingly upset over the effects of free trade, which many believe has moved jobs overseas.
Iowans are “in a nasty frame of mind,” Zogby said, with “a huge amount of anger on both sides.”
Sphere: Related Content
Understatement of the year (runner-up): Recording the condition of a patient who had died 12 days earlier, a nurse at the Salisbury Veterans Administration hospital gave this description: "Stable."
By CHRIS ADAMS
WASHINGTON — Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, took officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs to an auditorium at the Montana State University-College of Technology campus in Great Falls last summer to talk about the best way to provide health care to veterans in the region's vast rural areas.
The director of the VA region that includes Montana, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming detailed all that the agency was doing to provide for veterans' health needs — physical and mental.
"Comprehensive mental-health care is one of the top priorities for Network 19," Glen Grippen said, referring to the multi-state Rocky Mountain region. He said that mental health staff had been added recently, specifically for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.
Each medical center now has a suicide prevention coordinator, he said, and the VA's medical centers "actively collaborate with state National Guard and Reserve components to ensure that no returning soldier slips through the cracks."
An examination of VA data and documents, however, tells a different story. Internal documents that McClatchy Newspapers obtained show that, far from being a national leader, the Rocky Mountain region is in the bottom half of the nation's 21 regions in the VA's own scorecard of performance, which takes into account whether veterans are receiving regular mental-health treatment and how efficiently the region is spending its money and using its resources.
On a couple of important measures, Network 19 was dead last. For example, in a measurement of the effectiveness of treatment — in which researchers charted patients' mental status scores before and after treatment — the region ranked last, according to the documents, which were from fiscal 2006 and were made available under the Freedom of Information Act.
That was for a range of mental health treatment. On the more specific measurement of treating post-traumatic stress disorder, the Rocky Mountain region was last in the number of specialized PTSD treatment programs it offered, and 16th of 19 ranked regions in program effectiveness, based on the fiscal 2006 records.
The situation in Montana — which has sent more of its sons and daughters, per capita, to fight America's wars than any other state — is even more dismal:
The Montana VA hospital started a specialized PTSD treatment program only recently, though soldiers have been returning from Iraq and Afghanistan for more than four years, and experts have long urged that every VA hospital have such units.
Out of 139 VA hospitals nationwide, the hospital at Helena and its related clinics ranked 123rd in the proportion of their budget that goes toward specialized mental health treatment.
While the average veteran receiving specialized mental health treatment in the VA system got 11 visits a year, those who used the Helena hospital and its affiliated clinics got an average of 4.2 visits. That's dead last among all VA hospitals in the U.S., according to 2006 data.
Veterans waited longer to gain access to the Montana system for mental-health care. While the VA aims to get veterans who are new to the system in to see doctors within 30 days of their requested dates, that happened only 53 percent of the time in 2006 in the Montana hospital system. On that ranking, the Montana system was third to last.
In a statement to McClatchy last week, the VA said its Rocky Mountain region "showed substantial improvements in the delivery of mental health care" over the past three years and that the VA hospital in Montana had beefed up its staff and supplemented its services with contracts with regional mental-health centers. Those encounters, the VA said, weren't reflected in McClatchy's analysis.
In addition, the Montana VA is establishing new strategies to provide for veterans in rural areas, including telephone consultations.
"Much of the need for mental health care is met by providers at clinics, and by contracting or fee-basing to community providers," the VA said in its statement. "The strategy is to distribute these key resources to enhance statewide access to mental health care rather than clustering them" at the Helena hospital.
HELENA — Chris Dana came home from the war in Iraq in 2005 and slipped into a mental abyss so quietly that neither his family nor the Montana Army National Guard noticed.
He returned to his former life — a job at a Target store, nights in a trailer across the road from his father's house.
When he started to isolate himself, missing family events and football games, his father urged him to seek counseling. When the National Guard called his father to say that he'd missed weekend duty, Gary Dana pushed his son to get in touch with his unit.
"I can't go back," Chris Dana responded. "I can't do it."
Things went downhill from there. He blew though all his money, and last March, he shot himself in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. He was 23 years old.
As Gary Dana was collecting his dead son's belongings, he found a letter indicating that the National Guard was discharging his son under what are known as other-than-honorable conditions. The move was because of his skipping drills, which his family said was brought on by the mental strain of his service in Iraq.
The letter was in the trash, near a Wal-Mart receipt for .22-caliber rifle shells.
All across America, veterans like Chris Dana are slipping through the cracks, left to languish by their military units and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The VA's ability to provide adequate care for veterans with mental ailments has come under increasing scrutiny, and the agency says it's scrambling to boost its resources to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder, prevent suicides and help veterans cope. It's added more mental health counselors and started more suicide prevention programs.
But the experience in Montana, which by some measures does more than any other state to support America's wars, shows how far the military and the VA have to go.
"The federal government does a remarkable job of converting a citizen to a warrior," said Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat. "I think they have an equal responsibility converting a warrior back to a citizen.
"I can't imagine that it's only Montana that's experiencing this. Our men and women are part of this country, and we have common experiences. It's not as though the water we drink and the air we breathe in Montana make our experience completely different than everywhere else."
McClatchy Newspapers analyzed a host of VA databases and records, and found that mental health treatment across the country remains wildly uneven. While mentally ill veterans in some parts of the country are well-tended, those in other places — especially Montana — are falling by the wayside.
The data and records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, included all 3 million VA disability claims in the nation and 77 million medical appointments in the agency's health system in fiscal 2006.
At a U.S. Senate committee hearing last summer in Great Falls, a top VA official touted the success of the department's mental health operations in the region that includes Montana. But the agency's records indicate that it ranks below most other regions in measures of access and success.
In fact, Montana veterans trail far behind their peers around the country on the two main VA functions:
— By several measures, the agency provides less specialized mental-health care in Montana than it does in most other states. Veterans seeking to enter the mental health system at Montana's only VA hospital had longer waits and received fewer visits than veterans did at almost any other VA hospital in the country.
— Recent veterans in Montana with mental ailments receive far lower payments, on average, from the VA disability system than veterans in almost any other state do.
Adam Olivas of Laurel had his post-traumatic stress disorder payment cut this month.
Olivas had been regular Army and had come home from Iraq with a Purple Heart, shrapnel in his left side, ringing in his ears, back problems and the nightmares, hair-trigger responses and survivor's guilt that are hallmarks of PTSD.
Since Olivas left the military, his life has been a blur of sleepless nights, drowsy days, nightmares, flashbacks, constant fatigue, spotty memory, counseling sessions and medication. He goes to work, goes home and rarely sees other people.
"I married Adam right before he went to basic training," said his wife, Shannon. "The only reason I am married to this man is because I know who he was before he went to Iraq."
His PTSD was rated a 50 in the VA's complicated system, and with his other injuries he was entitled to a monthly disability check for $1,567. Earlier this year, however, the Montana VA benefits office sent Olivas a letter proposing to drop his PTSD rating from 50 to 30. It would cost him $2,600 a year.
PTSD is rated at zero, 10, 30, 50, 70 or 100, and the VA office in Montana, the McClatchy analysis found, is less likely to rate recent war veterans 50 or above than any other office is. The McClatchy analysis zeroed in on veterans who've left military service recently and most likely had combat experience in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The lower rating was a slap in the face to both Adam and Shannon Olivas, who said that the past four years had been "absolutely horrific."
Adam Olivas, who works in hospital security, and his wife, a schoolteacher, drove three hours to Helena to appeal the decision, assisted by experts from two veterans groups. A representative from the American Legion said that Olivas' PTSD rating probably should go up, not down.
But the Montana VA office said that Olivas' symptoms weren't severe enough to warrant a 50 and that he'd gotten it only because of a quirk in the rating rules. The Montana office dropped the rating after it was allowed to do so.
Olivas doesn't know how he'll handle the cut in income.
"I can't afford to pay for the gas to go to all these meetings and counselings and all this stuff," he said. "Which probably isn't going to be the best thing for me."
More than 2,500 members of the Montana Air National Guard and Montana Army National Guard are among the 10,000 men and women from the state who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan or elsewhere in the war on terrorism, according to Department of Defense numbers.
"When they were called to active duty, they were running a business, driving a truck, working at a mill, teaching school," Schweitzer said. "When they returned from being a soldier, they didn't go back to a military base. ... They don't have people they can talk to. They are 300 miles away from their detachment, and everybody where they work didn't experience what they've gone through.
"In fact, nobody where they work experienced what they've gone through. Their family doesn't understand it well."
Montana has more veterans per capita than any other state, and they return from war to a vast expanse with few hospitals and miles between the ones that do exist. The VA has only one hospital in the state, Helena's Fort Harrison.
Chris Dana's suicide roiled Montana, which set up a task force to determine how a Guardsman had slipped through the cracks. It concluded that the Montana National Guard was following the national standard program, designed by the Department of Defense, to catch mental health issues as soldiers return from war.
But the task force also found that the national program is "deficient" because it doesn't provide the vision or the resources necessary to pinpoint veterans' mental heath problems.
Among other things, the task force said, the standard demobilization process is "ineffective for identifying mental health issues," and coming-home briefings include such a blizzard of paperwork that things get lost in the shuffle. It noted that veterans are reluctant to disclose their mental health problems and that counseling is lacking and uncoordinated in many parts of the state.
Guard members themselves — more than 40 percent in a survey the task force conducted — said they didn't think they were getting sufficient information about the health benefits and services available to them.
The Montana Guard is working to beef up its demobilization process significantly, hoping to keep better tabs on its soldiers as they return to their small towns and their businesses, farms, schools and families.
Another great article by Chris AdamsSphere: Related Content
Homeless veterans rally in Iowa
Rally spotlights plight of homeless veterans
By JACQUELINE LEE • REGISTER STAFF WRITER • December 30, 2007
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On any given winter night in Iowa, as many as 1,000 homeless veterans don't have a place to sleep. And there are just 56 beds available for homeless veterans in the state.
"It is an outrage that there are now about 3,000 of our valiant troops who served their country in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now homeless on the streets of our nation," said Maj. Brian Hampton, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War who is president of the Circle of Friends for American Veterans.
The Circle of Friends held a rally Saturday at the Holiday Inn Downtown in Des Moines to draw attention to the plight of homeless veterans. The group hopes that the presidential candidates in Iowa this weekend take note.
"We're putting heat on politicians that homeless veterans deserve the most support," Hampton said. "The homeless veterans don't have clout with members of Congress."
Another Vietnam veteran, Jim Underwood, who was a security guard at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland in the late 1970s, said an alcohol and drug problem dogged him for 25 years. He lived in more than 10 places during that time.
"I think a lot of veterans don't actually know what's out there for them," Underwood said, referring to benefits and treatment.
Underwood said he was treated for depression at the Veterans Medical Center in Knoxville. He now lives at the 180 Degrees transitional facility on Cottage Grove Avenue in Des Moines, which is a combination shelter and treatment and education center.
Reporter Jacqueline Lee can be reached at 515-284-8065 or firstname.lastname@example.org
TRICARE'S FEE BOOST MAY BE DELAYED -- With an election
looming and wars under way, Congress may be loathe to
raise fees for veterans. Hike may come in a year or two.
For more information about TRICARE, use the VA Watchdog search engine...click here...
Story here... http://www.heraldnet.
Tricare's fee boost may be delayed
With an election looming and wars under way, Congress may be loathe to raise fees for veterans.
By Tom Philpott
The Defense Department's top health official believes that "within the next year or two" Tricare fees, co-pays and deductibles will "begin to gradually go up" for military retirees.
But Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, also says he has a lot of sympathy with the argument of older retirees that they served during times when military pay was low and lifetime health care was promised if they served at least 20 years.
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Dr. Gail Wilensky, co-chairwoman of the Task Force on the Future of Military Health Care which has endorsed higher Tricare fees for retirees, believes Congress will be receptive if fee increases are part of a broader effort to make military health more efficient.
"But how much they choose to do next year, in an election year when we're in a war period, and how much they might do the year after, is a more difficult question," Wilensky said after a day briefing key lawmakers and Capitol Hill staff on task force recommendations.
With the U.S. military still fighting two protracted wars, with Congress showing a strong bias toward re-election over fiscal discipline, prospects appear slim that military retirees will face higher Tricare fees anytime soon.
This month the House-Senate conference report on the 2008 defense authorization bill, which has blocked Tricare fee increases for a second consecutive year, said Defense officials have "options to constrain the growth of health care spending in ways that do not disadvantage" military retirees.
Political winds, it seems, continue to guard the wallets of millions of military beneficiaries. The task force proposes that retirees under 65 and their families face a four-year phase-in of higher fees and co-payments under Tricare Prime, the managed care option. It calls for higher deductibles under Tricare Standard, the fee-for-service option.
Retirees age 65 used Tricare for Life, wrap-around insurance to Medicare. They would begin paying a new annual enrollment fee of $120, under the task force plan. Most fees would be adjusted annually based on the rise in the cost of civilian-purchased care for Tricare users. Drug co-pays would be raised to encourage use of mail order rather than the outlets of base pharmacies and the Tricare retail network.
Casscells told a small group of reporters Dec. 13 that he believes military retirees will see the start of a gradual rise in out-of-pocket medical costs over the next few years. Casscells said more health care dollars need to be shifted into maintaining and staffing base hospitals and clinics. "Even take a flagship like National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda," he said. "They are not as full (of patients) as they need to be to maintain excellence. Patients have choice now and they tend too often to go into the private sector."
Unless the pattern is reversed, he said, "we won't have the numbers of patients needed to justify a neurosurgical trauma specialist or a radiologist or a pediatric endocrinologist. … We have to maintain those skills."
Casscells noted that Congress continues to block fee increases for retirees. He blamed that, in part, on the design of earlier proposals calling for steep and quick increases.
"The staff in my office said, 'Well, the civilian sector, they're doing this too. Co-pays are going up. Deductibles are going up.' The veterans said, 'Well, that's not my problem. We had a deal with you. And furthermore, when I signed up, the pay was really lousy so we didn't get well taken care of on the front end. And now we want to hold you to your original bargain.'"
Casscells said he understands the argument made by service associations on behalf of older retirees that they served when pay was low and lifetime access to health care was a promised benefit.
"So I do think we need to be as generous as we can afford to be -- without taking away from the health care we offer to serve in theater."
After briefing lawmakers, task force co-chairwoman Wilensky said Congress takes seriously recommendations to slow health cost growth. But lawmakers want higher fees considered only as part of a broader effort to make the health system more efficient.
Larry Scott --
For more about GIs (and veterans) and gambling, use the VA Watchdog search engine...click here...
Story here... http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=51301
Lawmaker looking for an end to on-base gambling
By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON — New legislation would ban slot machines and video gaming devices from all U.S. military installations, effectively shutting down overseas military gambling.
Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., calls the measure a way to protect troops from a dangerous and addictive pastime. State lottery ticket sales and charitable events would be exempt from the ban, but the rows of slot machines at many overseas bases would be removed.
“It’s offensive. The military is taking $150 million from soldiers’ wallets … and then denying them treatment for an illness they helped create,” he said. “Our young officers are being invited to gamble on bases, and it brings about financial and psychological problems.”
But Defense officials disputed that, saying the services do offer help for gambling addicts and the games represent another recreational opportunity for overseas troops and their families.
“Slot machines are not viewed as a stand-alone recreational program, but as another opportunity in the context of the recreational activities where they are collocated,” said Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Les’ Melnyk. “The gaming machine program provides a controlled alternative to unmonitored host-nation gambling venues.”
According to Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation documents, revenue from all overseas military slots totaled more than $120 million in fiscal 2006, nearly $94 million from Army machines alone.
Army Recreation Machine Program officials operated 3,275 gaming machines in 137 locations worldwide. Pentagon officials did not respond to requests for figures on gaming machines run by the other services overseas.
Video poker and similar gambling machines are not permitted at stateside military bases.
Profits from the slots are returned to service MWR activities, and defense officials say that payouts from the military machines are higher than most typical U.S. casinos.
But Davis, who opposes gambling on moral grounds, said the real issue is the potential for addiction caused by the games.
Department of Defense health behavior studies in the 1990s and in 2002 all found between 5 percent and 9 percent of military personnel had experienced a gambling-related problem in their lifetime, and about 2 percent fit the classification for pathological gambling problems.
That’s higher than the national average of just under 1 percent, according to John Kindt, a University of Illinois business professor who has studied gambling in the military.
“These troops, they’re Type A personalities,” he said. “They’re naturally drawn to risk and adventure, and that’s the group most vulnerable to gambling problems.”
Both he and Davis criticized the military’s assistance programs as too small, but Melnyk said officials are “committed to ensuring that the program is well managed and responsive to our customers.”
No hearings have been set on the legislation. Davis said he is working with contacts in the Senate to introduce companion legislation to his bill next month.
Larry Scott --
By Joel AchenbachSphere: Related Content
Sunday, December 30, 2007; Page B01
Forty years ago, this country entered what would turn out to be the most politically charged, disorienting, violent and tragic year in modern American history. The year we're now heading into has some surface similarities to 1968: a protracted and wrenching war in Asia, an unpopular president, a wide-open presidential campaign and raw-nerve controversies over civil rights (with gays and immigrants this time) and geopolitics (featuring jihadists instead of communists). The murder of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan is another awful reminder of 1968, when two American heroes, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, lost their lives to assassins.
History repeating itself: It's a tidy premise. In fact, it's irresistible -- and wrong, but wrong in interesting ways that shed light on both years. Sure, elements of '68 persist in the world and in America today (because folly is durable), but the difference between 2008 and 1968 is the difference between needing psychotherapy and requiring a brain transplant.
In 1968, the country came close to political disintegration. Authority wasn't merely questioned; it literally lost control. The Tet Offensive in late January 1968 shocked those who had assumed we were winning the Vietnam War. President Lyndon B. Johnson essentially quit his job on live television. Days later, the apostle of nonviolent resistance was gunned down in Memphis. The cities burned.
Just like today, millions of people vehemently opposed the war, but for many of them it was a highly personal matter: The military announced in early 1968 that it would draft 300,000 more troops. Americans were dying in Vietnam by the dozens and even the hundreds every week. Countless young people lost all confidence in the ordered, officially sanctioned version of reality.
My Washington Post colleague David Maraniss, a college freshman in 1968 (he wrote a book, "They Marched Into Sunlight," about events on campus and in Vietnam in the fall of 1967), recalls: "There was a mood that anything was possible, good or bad, that life was changing by the week, that something a week or a month ago seemed old all of a sudden. You didn't know what was going to happen. It was kind of dizzying and exhilarating and tragic -- all of those things at once."
The big question is not why 2008 has so many echoes of 1968, but why the two years are so different.
No draft, obviously. And technology may have supplanted politics as the dominant agent of change. Information runs riot, not protesters. The news cycle spins so much faster; for every action there is an instant reaction. The odd result is not a world where things are out of control, but one in which issues get quickly categorized, organized, bureaucratized and, if necessary, outsourced. Everything is more precisely measured and calibrated. There's an expert for every problem -- just ask Google.
On the campaign trail, you will occasionally feel an aftershock of the '60s. Sen. John McCain is still tweaking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for earmarking $1 million for that "hippie museum" at the site of the Woodstock festival, which took place while he was a POW in Hanoi. A demonstrator at the Iowa straw poll a few months back carried a sign saying, "Defeat Hillary Clinton and Jane Fonda." Sen. Barack Obama, trying to cruise a high road, declares that we shouldn't re-fight the battles of the 1960s.
This may be the most unpredictable political year since 1968, when President Johnson, stunned by rising antiwar sentiment and Sen. Eugene McCarthy's strong showing in the New Hampshire primary, announced that he wouldn't seek another term. Robert F. Kennedy jumped into the race. Long viewed as a ruthless operator and Cold Warrior, Bobby had transformed himself into a liberal, inciting frenzied adulation -- rock-star stuff -- as he took his campaign into impoverished rural towns and inner-city ghettoes.
Where is the spirit of that Kennedy campaign? Certainly with Obama, who's so often described as Kennedyesque. But you can also find it in the candidacy of John Edwards.
A week before Christmas, Edwards stopped in Keene, a small city in a valley in the southwest corner of New Hampshire -- prime turf for liberals, leftists, artists, organic farmers, college professors. Edwards brought Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne as his warm-up act. They sounded terrific, the lyrics saturated in idealism.
Things like hunger, greed and hatred One way or another, gonna be eradicated
Out came Edwards, and he was on fire. The former senator talked about ending the war in Iraq and taking power away from big corporations. He said 35 million Americans last year went hungry. He talked about the uninsured Americans who must take their sick kids to the emergency room in the middle of the night and beg for treatment. He talked about a man who spent 50 years with a cleft palate, unable to talk, without money or insurance to pay for an operation that would finally let him speak. "In America," he said. His rhetoric could easily have come from Kennedy or King in early 1968. He predicted that he will ride a wave of popular sentiment that will shock the mainstream. He was, in essence, describing what in the '60s would have been known as The Movement.
Therein lies his challenge: Can a candidate inspire a popular movement in a society that over the last 40 years has cubbyholed itself into self-selected social groups and generally been co-opted by consumerism?
The polls indicate massive antiwar sentiment in America, but if 500,000 people descended on the Mall anytime recently to protest what's happening in Iraq, I missed it. The only way people would riot in this country is if you announced that Best Buy just got in a new shipment of Wiis. There are only about three or four people in America who still talk about The Revolution, and they all live in treehouses.
The feverish rhetoric and verbal mayhem of the blogosphere is deceptive: America on the whole isn't as political as it was in 1968. In Iowa, many citizens told me they have no intention of going to the caucuses. Why not? It's simply not something they do. What they don't articulate is the obvious fact: They just don't care.
Todd Gitlin, a Movement veteran and the author of "The Sixties," says 1968 still stands apart.
"You have one president who's disgraced by a war and cuts short what had been one of the brilliant political careers of the century, you have the Democratic Party cracking up, you have two major assassinations, you have a growing number of American students who think they're on the brink of, or on their way to, a revolution. You have a political secession of the white South amidst a civil rights revolution," Gitlin told me. "You have millions of people thinking the end of history is at hand."
You can see that side of 1968 in the face of Bobby Kennedy in a framed photo in Frank Mankiewicz's living room.
Mankiewicz served as Kennedy's press secretary for those thrilling, chaotic, ultimately tragic 85 days from March to June of 1968. The black-and-white photo shows RFK conferring with Mankiewicz on April 4; they're aboard a plane flying from Muncie, Ind., to Indianapolis, where Kennedy is scheduled to go into the black part of town and give a speech about race and poverty. But Kennedy's forehead is furrowed, his whole face heavy with the weight of horrible news: Martin Luther King has been shot in Memphis.
They got to Indianapolis and motorcaded toward the event, but the police peeled away because they didn't want to go into the black neighborhoods. Mankiewicz had thrown together a speech, but by the time he reached the stage, Kennedy was already speaking, extemporaneously. To gasps, he told his listeners that King had been killed. He said he understood their pain, because he too had lost a family member to violence. Then he quoted his favorite poet, Aeschylus, by heart: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
Mankiewicz still has the yellow sheet of paper with the notes he jotted down for Kennedy's last speech, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of June 4. Kennedy, celebrating his victory in the California primary, extemporized once again.
"I think we can end the divisions within the United States," Kennedy told his supporters. "[W]e can work together in the last analysis . . . We are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country."
Minutes later, Mankiewicz was helping Ethel Kennedy off the stage when he heard what at first he thought might be firecrackers.
He rushed to Kennedy's side. He heard him say one word: "Noooooooo."
Charles Kaiser's book "1968 in America" quotes a young college student who despaired after RFK's murder: "It really was like the last straw -- that there was no longer reason to hope for anything; that the world was now just totally off its rocker, and that evil was ascendant."
Evil may have been ascendant, but ultimately, it could not vanquish the dream of King and Kennedy. People do, in fact, prefer to work together. And so it is that, 40 years later, the world is so much smaller, so highly networked. No one in 1968 had heard of the Internet or the cellphone or nanotechnology. Or the Human Genome Project. Or the "Information Age."
Today's America looks rich and fat and comfortable compared with the 1968 version. In fact, many of our chief challenges come from the consequences of our economic successes: transferring carbon from Earth to the atmosphere, income inequality, suburban sprawl.
At the moment, no one can tell who the presidential nominees will be. What's also uncertain is how much the identity of the next president will matter, at least compared with other cultural and technological vectors. Truly revolutionary change seems more likely to come from physics than from politics.
Of course, we can't predict anything about the future with confidence, except that it will surprise us. It's highly probable that 2048 will be radically different from 2008. History replays certain notes, but it shouldn't be slandered as circular. The world is just more interesting than that.
Joel Achenbach is a Washington Post staff writer and blogs at washingtonpost.com/achenblog.
"You have to have a leader who is strong and commanding and convincing enough . . . to deal with the unexpected," he said. "There is a better than 50 percent chance that sometime in the first year or 18 months of the next presidency, something will happen that is not being discussed in this campaign. President Bush never talked about Osama bin Laden and didn't foresee Hurricane Katrina. And if you're not ready for that, then everything else you do can be undermined. You need a president that you trust to deal with something that we will not discuss in this campaign. . . . And I think, on this score, she's the best of all."Sphere: Related Content
After trying out various themes and rationales for her campaign, Hillary Clinton has settled in the final week before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary on the experience plank, arguing that she is the only one of the front-running Democratic candidates prepared to lead from the first day in office, a claim her rivals have challenged by questioning the value of her tenure as first lady. Clinton advisers noted privately this week that the experience argument was bolstered by the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the threat of wider unrest in that country. Clinton pressed the point during a stop in Eldridge, Iowa, telling reporters: "I'm not asking you to take me on faith. I'm not asking you to take a leap of faith."
But the campaign has apparently decided that the person best able to make this case in the bluntest terms is the former president. "Who better to explain what it takes to be president than the last two-term president the Democrats have had since FDR?" said Mark Penn, chief strategist for the Clinton campaign.
Bill Clinton has been edging closer in recent weeks to arguing that the country would be taking a chance if voters nominated someone with less experience in Washington, a dig at her main rivals, former senator John Edwards of North Carolina and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. Speaking in Plymouth, N.H., last week, he said that his wife would be best suited to handle the challenges of terrorism, climate change and income inequality. He hinted that if these challenges were not met, the world, or at least American democracy, might be in peril in the coming decades.
"How we meet those challenges will determine whether our grandchildren will even be here 50 years from now at a meeting like this listening to the next generation's presidential candidates," Clinton said in Plymouth. He did not elaborate on what he meant by the prospect of the audience members' grandchildren not being there in 50 years.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Why Pakistan Matters
Category: News and Politics
Why Pakistan Matters so Much
You may have heard recently that the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated on December 27th after eight years of self-imposed exile from the country. Bhutto's assassination has garnered a lot of media coverage and stimulated a great deal of international discussion. You may be wondering why.
What you need to know about Pakistan:
1. Pakistan borders Afghanistan.
2. Pakistan is home to known Islamic extremists, including members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It is even believed that Osama bin Laden is living somewhere among these self-ruling tribal areas.
3. Pakistan is estimated to have anywhere from 24 to 48 nuclear warheads but claims to have 80 to 120.
4. There is a great deal of social and political unrest in Pakistan. Despite international condemnation, President Musharraf imposed emergency law from Nov. 3 to Dec. 15, 2007, and postponed national elections. 2007 in Pakistan has been a year of riots, protests, and violence.
5. The U.S. was relying on Bhutto's return to Pakistan (as she was in self-imposed exile for eight years) and the projected success of her party (and her) in the upcoming election to help stabilize Pakistan.
6. Although he chose to be an "ally" to the U.S. after 9/11, he has been greatly criticized for not removing the terrorist groups operating in Pakistan.
7. Pakistan is one of four countries in the world that did not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
8. Pakistan and India have a relationship similar to the Soviet-US Cold War era relationship, except their hatred is more deep-seated, long-standing, and contentious. In fact, since their independence from Great Britian in 1947, they have fought three separate wars against each other.
9. India is believed to have 30 to 35 nuclear warheads (and is one of the other countries that refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty).
Our concerns, as a nation, are two-fold. First, we want to prevent the nuclear warheads in Pakistan from falling into the hands of terrorists, such as al-Qaeda. Second, we want to avoid the use of nuclear weapons between India and Pakistan, which could quickly escalate into a global nuclear disaster.
This page has links for the more information on every point above.
Right now, we don't have the resource to protect the weapons or the current government if there is an uprising. This is a very scary development.