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Archive for March 1st, 2007

Stocks Rebound, but Still End Lower


NEW YORK — A still skittish Wall Street closed modestly lower Thursday, having clawed its way back from an early-session plunge after upbeat manufacturing data allayed fears about a flagging U.S. economy.

The Dow Jones industrials ended 34 points lower after tumbling 209 points in early trading and then briefly reaching positive territory in the afternoon.

Investors, relieved that manufacturing is still expanding, bought some of the stocks pummeled in Tuesday’s drop, which sliced 416 points off the Dow. The blue chip index is now down 398 points, or 3.2 percent, from its closing level Monday, having rebounded halfheartedly Wednesday on calming words about the economy from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

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Walter Reed general fired after failures


WASHINGTON – The Army on Thursday fired the general in charge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, saying he was the wrong person to fix embarrassing failures in the treatment of war-injured soldiers that have soiled the institution’s reputation as a first-class hospital.

Less than a week after Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Walter Reed and said those responsible would be “held accountable,” the Army announced it had relieved Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman of command. He is a physician who had headed the hospital for only six months.

In a brief announcement, the Army said service leaders had “lost trust and confidence” in Weightman’s leadership abilities “to address needed solutions for soldier outpatient care.” It said the decision to fire him was made by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey.

The Army and the Defense Department began investigations after The Washington Post published stories last week that documented problems in soldiers’ housing and in the medical bureaucracy at Walter Reed, which has been called the Army’s premier caregiver for soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Shortages Threaten Guard’s Capability

88 Percent of Units Rated ‘Not Ready’

Nearly 90 percent of Army National Guard units in the United States are rated “not ready” — largely as a result of shortfalls in billions of dollars’ worth of equipment — jeopardizing their capability to respond to crises at home and abroad, according to a congressional commission that released a preliminary report yesterday on the state of U.S. military reserve forces.

The report found that heavy deployments of the National Guard and reserves since 2001 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other anti-terrorism missions have deepened shortages, forced the cobbling together of units and hurt recruiting.

“We can’t sustain the [National Guard and reserves] on the course we’re on,” said Arnold L. Punaro, chairman of the 13-member Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, established by Congress in 2005. The independent commission, made up mainly of former senior military and civilian officials appointed by both parties, is tasked to study the mission, readiness and compensation of the reserve forces.

“The Department of Defense is not adequately equipping the National Guard for its domestic missions,” the commission’s report found. It faulted the Pentagon for a lack of budgeting for “civil support” in domestic emergencies, criticizing the “flawed assumption” that as long as the military is prepared to fight a major war, it is ready to respond to a disaster or emergency at home.

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The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law may approve subpoenas that would require attorneys sacked by the Bush administration to appear before the subcommittee next week.

The subcommittee will vote tomorrow on the whether to issue the subpoenas.

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Hospital Officials Knew of Neglect


Complaints About Walter Reed Were Voiced for Years

Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army’s surgeon general, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years.

A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army’s top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.

Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, said he ran into Kiley in the foyer of the command headquarters at Walter Reed shortly after the Iraq war began and told him that “there are people in the barracks who are drinking themselves to death and people who are sharing drugs and people not getting the care they need.”

“I met guys who weren’t going to appointments because the hospital didn’t even know they were there,” Robinson said. Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer.

A recent Washington Post series detailed conditions at Walter Reed, including those at Building 18, a dingy former hotel on Georgia Avenue where the wounded were housed among mice, mold, rot and cockroaches.

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Military chiefs give US six months to win Iraq war


· Violence expected to rise after UK withdrawal
· Troop numbers too low
· Coalition is ‘disintegrating’

An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq – or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.

The officers – combat veterans who are leading experts in counter-insurgency – are charged with implementing the “new way forward” strategy announced by president George Bush on January 10. The plan includes a controversial “surge” of 21,500 additional American troops to establish security in the Iraqi capital and Anbar province.

But the team, known as the “Baghdad brains trust” and ensconced in the heavily fortified Green Zone around the US embassy, is struggling to overcome a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time, said a former senior administration official familiar with their deliberations. “They know they are operating under a clock. They know they are going to hear a lot more talk in Washington about ‘Plan B’ by the autumn – meaning withdrawal. They know the next six-month period is their opportunity. And they say it’s getting harder every day,” the former official said.

By improving security, the plan’s short-term aim is to create time and space for the Iraqi government to bring rival Shia, Sunni and Kurd factions together in a process of national reconciliation, us officials say. If that works within the stipulated timeframe, longer-term schemes for rebuilding Iraq under the so-called “go long” strategy will be set in motion. But the next six months are make-or-break for both the US military and the Iraqi government.

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