Archive for April 18th, 2008

Landmark Study: Iraq Vets Face Healthcare Crisis

By Paul Rieckhoff @ 2:46 PM (EST)

Shortly after Army Spc. Brandon Garrison returned from Afghanistan last June, his nightmares began:
“I remember waking up in the middle of the night. I’d sit straight up in bed and it was just hard to breathe and I was panicking and I remember my wife Lily asking me if I was OK and I remember crying in her arms several times because of horrific visions that I had, and the memories and the mass casualties that we suffered.”

Nothing in particular triggered the attacks. He would hear a song or a report about the war and before he knew it, he was reliving it. Garrison started drinking almost daily. It was the only way he knew to escape. (Military.com)

Veterans’ advocates have long had to rely on anecdotal stories like these, along with a patchwork of other mental health studies, to explain the psychological injuries that our veterans are facing. Now, thanks to a ground-breaking study by the RAND Corporation, we have access to striking new data on the mental health injuries and the barriers which prevent thousands of new veterans from accessing quality care. You can see the full report, and a quick summary, here.

The new study shines a spotlight on three key issues:

• Hundreds of thousands of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD, depression and traumatic brain injury.
• Of those, almost 50 percent are not receiving treatment – in part because of lack of access to care, and in part because fear of the stigma associated with a mental health diagnosis keeps veterans from reaching out.
• For those veterans who do get help, only about half are receiving what RAND calls “minimally adequate care.”

These findings are appalling, but not surprising. We veterans have been sounding the warning bell for years. I’d call this a wake-up call – but anyone who still isn’t aware of the problems facing returning veterans must be in a coma.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the skyrocketing price tag on this war that PTSD and depression will have a serious economic cost – estimated at as much as $6.2 billion, just in the two years following deployment.

Compared to the $3 trillion cost of the war, that’s a drop in the bucket, of course. But these massive costs only underscore how important, and how cost-effective, the reintegration programs for today’s veterans are. Programs like the GI Bill are vital for veterans to find their place in the civilian world – and we must do a better job of funding these efforts. It’s the right thing to do, and it will save us money in the long run.

You can learn more about the GI Bill, the need for better veterans’ education benefits, and what you can do to help, here.

Cross posted at Huffington Post.

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by Cliff Schecter @ 11:56 AM (EST)

Many have already pored over the ins and outs of a Democratic debate tailor-made for “Enquiring minds” earlier this week on ABC. Well guess who just happens to be coming to dinner…or This Week, this weekend?

Why none other than John McCain!

So in the spirit of seeing how all the candidates deal with “scandal,” or just being queried about everyone they have associated with since that 6th grade teacher who crossed the street against a red light (do you denounce her Senator Obama? Denounce and reject her!?! Or perhaps just reject?), here are some questions that John McCain should be asked on your show this weekend, Mr. Stephanopoulos (sorry, old habit from when I had you as a professor at Columbia).

First a great list I came across, and then a few of my own I found in my research for my book The Real McCain. This list is from Perrspectives, a fantastic compilation, in my always humble opinion:

1. Do you agree with Pastor John Hagee that war with Iran is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy?
In February, you shared a stage with Pastor John Hagee and said you were “very proud” to have his endorsement. You also called the Reverend Rod Parsley, a man who said of Islam “America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed”, your “spiritual guide.” Do you believe America’s mission is to destroy Islam? Do you join Pastor Hagee in believing the United States must attack Iran to fulfill the biblical prophecy of Armageddon in Israel in which 144,000 Jews will be converted to Christianity and the rest killed? Is that why you joked about “bomb bomb Iran?” If not, why will you not renounce the support of Hagee and Parsley?

2. Doesn’t your legendary temper make you too dangerous to be trusted with the presidency of the United States?Your anger, even toward friends and allies, is legendary. You purportedly dropped the F-Bomb on your own GOP colleagues John Cornyn and Chuck Grassley. In the book, The Real McCain, author Cliff Schechter claims you got into a fist-fight with your fellow Arizona Republican Rick Renzi. Allegedly, you even publicly used a crude term, one which decorum and the FCC prohibit us from even saying on the air, to describe your own wife. Which if any of these episodes is untrue? Don’t your anger management problems make you too dangerously unstable to be president of the United States?

3. Doesn’t your confusion regarding basic facts about the war in Iraq, including repeatedly citing a nonexistent Al Qaeda-Iran alliance, make you unfit for command?
On four occasions in one month, you confused friend and foe in Iraq by describing Sunni Al Qaeda as being backed by Shiite Iran. Then you showed a misunderstanding of the U.S. chain of command when you claimed you would not back shifting forces from Iraq to Afghanistan “unless Gen. [David] Petraeus said that he felt that the situation called for that,” a decision which Petraeus himself told you and your Senate colleagues only the week before rests not with him but with his superiors. Doesn’t your lack of understanding and judgment when it comes to basic facts of America’s national security disqualify you as commander-in-chief?

4. Given your past adultery, should Americans consider you a moral exemplar of family values?
You are the nominee of a Republican Party which claims to support so-called “family values.” Yet you commenced an adulterous relationship with your current wife Cindy months before the dissolution of your previous marriage to your first wife Carol. Should Americans consider you to be a moral exemplar of family values?

5. Doesn’t your flip-flop on Jerry Falwell being an “agent of intolerance” show your opportunistic pandering to the religious right?
In 2000, you famously called the late Jerry Falwell “an agent of intolerance,” a statement which may have cost you the decisive South Carolina primary. But as you ramped up your next presidential run in 2006, you embraced Falwell and gave the commencement address at his Liberty University. When Tim Russert asked that spring if you still considered him an agent of intolerance, you said, “‘no, I don’t.” Why shouldn’t the American people consider you a flip-flopping opportunist who cynically courted the religious right to further your 2008 presidential ambitions?

6. Given your wealth and privileged upbringing, aren’t you – and not Barack Obama – the elitist?
You have called Barack Obama an elitist. Yet you recently returned to your exclusive private high school, one which now costs over $38,000 a year to attend. Your wife is the heiress to a beer distribution company, reputedly owns 8 homes and has a net worth well over $100 million. Your children all attended private schools, academies which also happened to be the primary beneficiaries of funds from your supposed charitable foundation. Shouldn’t the American people in fact view you as the elitist, and a hypocritical one at that?

7. What is your religion, really? And has the answer in the past changed as the South Carolina primary approached?
I want to ask about your seemingly ever-changing religious beliefs. In June 2007, McClatchy reported, “McCain still calls himself an Episcopalian.” In August 2007, as ABC reported, your campaign staff identified you as “Episcopalian” in a questionnaire prepared for ABC News’ August 5 debate. But as the primary in evangelical-rich South Carolina neared, in September 2007 you said of your religious faith, “It plays a role in my life. By the way, I’m not Episcopalian. I’m Baptist.” But in March 2008, Pastor Dan Yeary of your North Phoenix Baptist Church refused to comment on why you have refused to finally undergo a baptism ceremony. Congressional directories still list you as an Episcopalian. In the past, you’ve said, “When I’m asked about it, I’ll be glad to discuss it.” So what is your religion? And couldn’t Americans be forgiven for assuming your changing faith is tied to your changing political needs?

8. Didn’t President Bush betray you with his signing statement on the Detainee Treatment Act? You claim to be against torture, but aren’t you a hypocrite for voting “no” on the Senate waterboaring ban?
You’ve said that “we can’t torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured”. And in December 2005, you famously reached a compromise with President Bush on the Detainee Torture Act banning cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees. But just two weeks later, President Bush issued a signing statement making it clear he would ignore the compromise you just reached. Then in February 2007, you voted “no” on a Senate bill banning waterboarding. Isn’t it fair to say President Bush betrayed you with his December 30, 2005 signing statement? And isn’t it fair to say you caved to the right-wing of your party on the issue in order to win the Republican nomination?

9. Why did you flip-flop on the Bush tax cuts you twice opposed? Why do you now support making them permanent for the wealthiest Americans who need them least?
You twice voted against the Bush tax cuts. Now you support making them permanent. In 2001, you said, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief.” Now, according to the Center for American Progress, your tax plan would cost more than $2 trillion over the next decade and “would predominantly benefit the most fortunate taxpayers, offering two new massive tax cuts for corporations and delivering 58 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.” Isn’t it true that you flip-flopped on the Bush tax cuts? Isn’t it fair to say that you now favor a massive expansion of the federal budget deficit in order to fund a tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans who need it least?

10. With the economy tanking, shouldn’t Americans be concerned over your past statements that “the issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should?”
Americans consistently report that the economy is the issue that concerns them most. Yet more than once, you proclaimed your ignorance when it comes to the economy. In November 2005, you told the Wall Street Journal, “I’m going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.” Then in December 2007, you admitted, “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.” Shouldn’t the American be worried about President McCain’s ability to lead the United States out of recession? Given your past statements, shouldn’t the American reject out of hand your claim that “I know the economy better than Senator Clinton and Senator Obama do?”

All of these are fantastic questions, now let me add two from The Real McCain:

11) How can you call yourself a straight-talker in light of the fact that you have changed your positions or rhetorically flip-flopped on the following issues: Abortion, Creationism in science class, immigration, intervention abroad, tax cuts for the wealthy, civil unions, a Martin Luther King holiday, the Confederate Flag, the Christian Right, Bob Jones University, whether Rumsfeld did a good job, whether Dick Cheney is doing a good job, whether President Bush is an honest man, a Patient’s Bill of Rights, global warming, campaign finance reform in general, public financing of campaigns specifically, lobbying reform, whether the War in Iraq would be “easy,” whether Sunni and Shiite are working together, whether “Iraqi blood should be traded for American blood,” military readiness, how many troops are necessary for the suge to succeed in Iraq, ehtanol subsidies, the continuing existence of a minimum wage, closing the gun-show loophole, healthcare for children…and I could go on, but how about we start with those?

12) Finally, if Barack Obama must account for everyone he has ever passed within a 100 square mile radius of, then here are some associations you might want to explain, with the indicted, the white supremacists and the downright corrupt: Rick Renzi (indicted), Terry Nelson (racist ads against Harold Ford in 2006), Trent Lott (pining for a Strom presidency), The Wyly Brothers (corrupt), Bob Perry (Chief Swift Boater), Richard Quinn (white supremacist), Rev. Richard Land (homosexual hate), Ken Blackwell (Ohio election suppression), Charlie Black (lobbyist and according to John Gorenfeld’s new book, Bad Moon Rising, Reverend Moon lover). That would be a start.

I don’t write this to pile on Mr. Stephanopoulos. I have usually found you to be a fair-minded host. Yet, if you are to right the wrongs of that debate, please give equal time, and make John McCain answer for aspects of his political career which are much more relevant than a flag lapel pin to whether he or Barack Obama would make a better president.

Cliff Schecter is the author of The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don’t Trust Him And Why Independents Shouldn’t.

Cross-posted at Huffington Post

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Earthquake In Midwest!

By- Suzie-Q @ 8:56 AM MST

Midwest Earthquake Shakes Up Chicago Loop, Homes In Cincinnati

JIM SUHR | April 18, 2008 10:50 AM EST | AP

WEST SALEM, Ill. — Residents across the Midwest were awakened Friday by a 5.2 magnitude earthquake that rattled skyscrapers in Chicago’s Loop and homes in Cincinnati but appeared to cause no major injuries or damage.

The quake just before 4:37 a.m. was centered six miles from West Salem, Ill., and 45 miles from Evansville, Ind. It was felt in such distant cities as Milwaukee, Des Moines, Iowa, and Atlanta, nearly 400 miles to the southeast.

“It shook our house where it woke me up,” said David Behm of Philo, 10 miles south of Champaign. “Windows were rattling, and you could hear it. The house was shaking inches. For people in central Illinois, this is a big deal. It’s not like California.”

In Mount Carmel, 15 southeast of the epicenter, a woman was trapped in her home by a collapsed porch but was quickly freed and wasn’t hurt, said Mickie Smith, a dispatcher at the police department. The department took numerous other calls, though none reported anything more serious than objects knocked off walls and out of shelves, she said.

Also in Mount Carmel, a two-story apartment building was evacuated because of loose and falling bricks. Police cordoned off the building, a 1904 school converted to residences.

Bonnie Lucas, a morning co-host at WHO-AM in Des Moines, said she was sitting in her office when she felt her chair move. She grabbed her desk, and then heard the ceiling panels start to creak. The shaking lasted about 5 seconds, she said.

The quake is believed to have involved the Wabash fault, a northern extension of the New Madrid fault about six miles north of Mount Carmel, Ill., said United States Geological Survey geophysicist Randy Baldwin.

The last earthquake in the region to approach the severity of Friday’s temblor was a 5.0 magnitude quake that shook a nearby area in 2002, Baldwin said.

“This is a fairly large quake for this region,” he said. “They might occur every few years.”


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Rep Don Young’s Constant Evildoing..

GEF @ 6:08 AM MST

Senate Ethics Chair Barbara Boxer Wants To Put Rep. Don Young in Jail?

Rep. Don Young is looking at a world of trouble right now. He is accused of illegally adding a $10 million dollar earmark to a 2005 transportation bill after it had been signed off on by the House and Senate. And that has made Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, fighting mad. Howie has more:

Barbara Boxer chairs the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, which is a pathetic joke. David “Diapers” Vitter? Nothing, although he publicly admitted breaking the law. Ted Stevens? Nothing, although the FBI and several other agencies have been searching his home in conjunction to a widespread corruption conspiracy that has tainted most of the Alaska GOP (including his son Ben). Pete Domenici? Nothing, even though he used his position as a senator to threaten a U.S. Attorney and attempted to force him to take on a punitive political role and, failing that, conspired with Heather Wilson, Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove and others to fire the upright Justice Department official. Larry Craig? Next to nothing, although he actually pleaded guilty to a crime. The Senate certainly takes care of its own; and really well. Remember all those senators who were taking bribes from Jack Abramoff? Well Abramoff is in prison. Not one senator has even been admonished.

That isn’t to say Boxer doesn’t do anything regarding ethics. In fact, right now she’s trying to figure out how to go after Alaska’s arch-criminal Don Young on ethics charges. No, I don’t mean arch-criminal, Senator Ted Stevens; I mean Congressman Don Young. She’s promises to figure out a way of making this constitutional– she’ll fail– since the House takes care of its own ethical lapses (or doesn’t) and the Senate… well the Senate is supposed to watch it’s own 100 miscreants.

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Sudhan 10:20 CET

Newly Released Government Documents Show Special Forces Used Illegal Interrogation Techniques In Afghanistan

By American Civil Liberties Union, April 16, 2008

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents today from the Department of Defense confirming the military’s use of unlawful interrogation methods on detainees held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. The documents from the military’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), obtained as a result of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, include the first on-the-ground reports of torture in Gardez, Afghanistan to be publicly released.

“These documents make it clear that the military was using unlawful interrogation techniques in Afghanistan,” said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU. “Rather than putting a stop to these systemic abuses, senior officials appear to have turned a blind eye to them.”

Special Operations officers in Gardez admitted to using what are known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) techniques, which for decades American service members experienced as training to prepare for the brutal treatment they might face if captured.

Continued . . .

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Sudhan @10:00 CET

Marjorie Cohn | Global Research, April 17, 2008

On April 1, a secret 81-page memo written by former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo in March 2003 was made public. In that memo, Yoo advised the Bush administration that the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel would not enforce U.S. criminal laws, including federal statutes against torture, assault, maiming and stalking in the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants. The week after the publication of Yoo’s memo, the National Lawyers Guild issued a press release calling for the Boalt Hall Law School at the University of California to dismiss Yoo, who is now a professor of law there. The NLG also called for the prosecution of Yoo for war crimes and for his disbarment.

Two days later, the Center for Constitutional Rights released a letter supporting the NLG’s call for Yoo’s dismissal and prosecution. CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren wrote, “The ‘Torture Memo’ was not an abstract, academic foray. Rather, it was crafted to sidestep U.S. and international laws that make coercive interrogation and torture a crime. It was written with the knowledge that its legal conclusions were to be applied to the interrogations of hundreds of individual detainees… And it worked. It became the basis for the CIA’s use of extreme interrogation methods as well the basis for DOD interrogation policy… Yoo’s legal opinions as well as the others issued by the Office of Legal Counsel were the keystone of the torture program, and were the necessary precondition for the torture program’s creation and implementation.”

Continued . . .

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In praise of … Jimmy Carter

Sudhan @09:40 CET

The Guardian, UK, Friday April 18 2008

Like the Kennedy Library in Boston, where Gordon Brown makes the main foreign policy speech of his US visit today, most American presidential libraries are monuments to the past. The Carter Centre, near Atlanta, is totally different. Like its begetter, Jimmy Carter, it is focused on the future. The centre thrums with constant activity. Its slogan, “Waging peace, fighting disease, building hope” sums up the work of the most active ex-president the US has ever seen. Mr Carter, now 83, has spent the last quarter-century on a punishing round of conflict resolution, monitoring foreign elections and running medical and other aid programmes in Africa. In 2002 his work won the Nobel peace prize. Six years on there is no letup. Last week Mr Carter was in Nepal for the elections. This week he is in the Middle East on a peace mission. He met a Hamas delegation from Gaza in Cairo yesterday. Today he moves on to Syria for more talks. These meetings, amid so much recent bloodshed in Gaza, have raised the wrath of the Israeli political establishment against Mr Carter. And not just the Israeli establishment. Back in the US there have been calls for funding to the Carter Centre to be cut off, while Barack Obama has been forced to say he will not meet Hamas if he becomes president. But Mr Carter is undeterred – and rightly so. He says Middle East peace will eventually require talks with Syria and talks with Hamas. That is no more than the truth. Today would be a good day for Mr Brown to say the same thing.

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