Thursday, July 24, 2014

47% of Post-9/11 Veterans Know a Fellow Vet Who Has Attempted Suicide

This is from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org


47% of Post-9/11 Veterans Know a Fellow Vet Who Has Attempted Suicide 
IAVA’s Annual Member Survey Reveals Key Findings on Mental Health, VA Mental Health Care Utilization, Employment and More


Washington DC (July 24, 2014) – According to a new survey completed by IAVA members, 47 percent of respondents know at least one Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide, while 40 percent of respondents know someone who has died by suicide, up three points from 2013. 


That is one of many critical findings from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s (IAVA) groundbreaking 2014 Annual Member Survey, released today at a press conference and panel event in Washington DC. The largest and deepest recent survey of post-9/11 veterans provided insight into a number of critical issues, including suicide, mental health, VA wait times, mental health care utilization, the disability claims backlog, employment, burn pit exposure, reintegration challenges and more. 


Fifty-three percent of respondents said they have a mental health injury. A staggering 31 percent of respondents have thought about taking their own life since joining the military, a one percent increase from 2013. These findings underscore the need for Congress to pass the Clay Hunt SAV Act, comprehensive legislation named after an Iraq War Marine veteran and IAVA member who died by suicide in 2011. 


The survey also highlights barriers veterans face when seeking mental health care at the VA, an issue that has taken center stage since the VA scandal erupted in late April. A shocking 68 percent of VA mental health users indicate challenges scheduling appointments. Forty-six percent of respondents think that the VA is doing a bad job of reaching out to veterans regarding mental health. 


One area where respondents had a positive reaction is education. Seventy-eight percent of respondents who have used the Post-9/11 GI Bill rate the experience as good or excellent. However, 36 percent of those respondents received late GI Bill payments from VA.


The full 2014 Annual Member Survey is available for download here: http://iava.org/survey/
Additional highlights from the survey include: 


Suicide and Mental Health
73% do not think that troops are getting the care they need for mental health injuries
38% think the VA is doing a good job on mental health
26% think the Department of Defense is doing a good job


VA Disability Backlog:
70% of respondents who filed a disability compensation claim waited over 120 days for the VA to notify them of a decision on their claim
65% of respondents reported a financial impact while they waited on their claim


Education:
62% of respondents have used the Post-9/11 GI Bill (either personally or their dependents have used it)


Employment: 
10% of respondents were unemployed
77% of respondents have experienced a period of unemployment since leaving the military


Burn Pit Exposure: 
76% of respondents were exposed to burn pits while deployed and over half report symptoms as a result


Women in Combat: 
70% of females and 43% of males think women’s advancement in the military has been limited by restrictions on women in combat


Perceptions:
54% of respondents think the President is doing a poor job improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
69% of respondents think Congress is doing a poor job improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
88% of respondents are concerned that the end of the war in Afghanistan will negatively affect public attention to issues concerning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans 


“This groundbreaking survey shows the true voice of our generation on the most pressing issues in America. It’s the deepest and most extensive recent survey done of this population. If you really want to know what post-9/11 vets think, read this survey. We hope it will serve as a resource for all Americans who want to understand how our community really feels—and what we are facing. We hope it will serve as a resource to Congress, non-profits, philanthropists, DoD, VA and the President,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “These veterans are America’s new greatest generation and our nation’s future leaders. For over a decade they’ve continuously had America’s back. But too often, they are being ignored. This survey is instrumental in showing all Americans how they can help vets in almost every key area.”


This is the largest and deepest poll conducted of verified post-9/11 veterans in recent history. Unlike any other study in America, respondents have had their military service verified by IAVA. The overall number of respondents is also extremely noteworthy. The total is more than twice the number recently surveyed by the Washington Post. 


Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation's leading organization representing and supporting veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Founded in 2004 by veterans, for veterans, IAVA continues to grow rapidly and has more than a quarter of a million members nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year of dedicated service, IAVA has regularly received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.

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Levin statement at Senate Finance Committee hearing on “The U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It or Reform It!”



Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  His office issued the following yesterday:





Levin statement at Senate Finance Committee hearing on “The U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It or Reform It!”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member Hatch, and colleagues, thank you for allowing me to submit this statement for the record of today’s hearing on international taxation.

As you know, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, has conducted a series of investigations, spanning more than a decade, into offshore tax avoidance and tax evasion.  In recent years, the IRS has cracked down on some individual offshore tax cheats who use tax shelters and secret foreign bank accounts to evade paying their U.S. taxes in violation of U.S. law.  And, this month, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act took effect, which will further strengthen U.S. tax enforcement.
But, today, many of the biggest tax giveaways aren’t to taxpayers who are breaking the law.  Instead, many taxpayers – especially large, often highly profitable multinational corporations,  are using a number of tax loopholes that may or may not be legal, but are unjustified because of lack of economic purpose and whose purpose is pure and simple tax avoidance.  The Cut Unjustified Tax (CUT) Loopholes Act (S.268), which I and Senator Whitehouse introduced last year, would shut down a number of the most longstanding and egregious loopholes, and I urge you to consider including its provisions in any tax reform legislation you advance.

While the CUT Loopholes Act targets a number of loopholes, I’d like to discuss one particular tax loophole that has recently gained traction among large multinational corporations seeking to avoid U.S. taxes.  Tax inversions, where a U.S. company moves its tax address to a low-tax jurisdiction through a merger with a smaller foreign competitor, have become the latest tool for CEOs seeking to dodge Uncle Sam.  These transactions have allowed U.S. corporations to reduce their tax rates by up to 12 percentage points by claiming, for tax purposes, that they have moved away from the United States.

Yet, a company’s executives, officers, and management all remain in the United States, benefiting from our country’s marketplace, laws, resources, infrastructure, and workforce, while declining to provide their share of financial support for the very qualities that help them succeed.

Unlike many tax loopholes our Subcommittee has investigated, the tax inversion loophole is being exploited in plain sight.  Daily, there are front page media reports describing one new inversion transaction after another.  Sadly, iconic American companies like Walgreens, Medtronic, and Pfizer have already taken steps to give up their American corporate citizenship in order to lower their tax bills.  And the problem is growing.  Just last week, two more American companies, both closely tied to Abbott Laboratories -- an American company since 1888 -- sought to move their tax addresses overseas in two separate transactions.

These companies aren’t moving because there are better business opportunities in foreign countries.  Their move is a pure and simple tax dodge.  Executives don’t move, and the company headquarters isn’t moved.  What’s more, inverted corporations continue to claim U.S. research and development tax credits, receive intellectual property protections in U.S. courts, and benefit from the safety and security provided by our nation’s military.

Tax inversions aren’t a driver of job creation in the United States.  In fact, one need only look to California, where an American drug maker has been forced to lay off 1,500 employees in a bid to fight off a hostile takeover from an inverted corporation that has been swallowing up U.S. companies due to the advantages of the inverted corporation’s tax structure.

In other cases, inverted companies may claim to be creating jobs because they gain access to more capital.  Although many small businesses have struggled to access capital as our economy recovers, for most profitable multinationals, capital is available from other sources that don’t use a tax inversion.  Interest rates are at all-time lows, and banks are more ready to lend than any time in recent years.  The equity markets are booming, with a growing market for public offerings.  And multinationals have $2 trillion offshore that they could tap into if they wanted to invest and create new jobs.
Both Democrats and Republicans recognize that tax inversions are a major problem that must be addressed.  I urge you to take action to put a stop to tax inversions, and I urge you to do so now.  While most recognize that tax reform should take place, we can’t afford to wait for a comprehensive tax reform effort to fix the problem of tax inversions.  If we wait, billions of dollars in badly needed revenue will disappear, growing the deficit, hurting our security, leaving our roads in disrepair, shortchanging education, and other priorities.  Worse yet, while those billions of dollars in tax revenue disappear, the corporate freeloaders multiply – taking advantage of America’s greatness while refusing to pay their fair share.


Two months ago, I, along with 22 of my colleagues, introduced the Stop Corporate Inversions Act (S.2360).  This bill would establish a two year moratorium on tax inversions.  That two year moratorium would stop what nearly all agree is an abuse of our tax system, and provide Senators with two years to debate a permanent solution as part of a comprehensive tax reform effort.  All ideas to bring the archaic U.S. tax system into the 21st Century can be debated during that two year period.  The issue is whether in the meantime we should let the inversions flow.  I believe we shouldn’t.


If we don’t act, we are forcing the corporations that don’t use the inversion tax gimmick to compete against the corporations that do.  We will create economic pressures on our patriotic corporations to change their tax addresses.  As one after another U.S. corporation moves overseas through a tax inversion, more U.S. competitors will face financial pressure to do the same, in order to stay on a level playing field.  It isn’t fair to the U.S. taxpayers who foot the bill, and it isn’t fair to the U.S. corporations who want to do the right thing.


In 2002, the Finance Committee showed that it could work on a bipartisan basis to stop a similar tax inversion loophole.  At that time, the then-Chairman and Ranking Member, Senators Baucus and Grassley, told companies that they would put a stop to corporate inversions, and drew a line in the sand, warning that tax inversions taking place after a specific date would be retroactively subjected to tax as a domestic U.S. corporation.


It took time, but Senators Baucus and Grassley achieved their goal.  And, more importantly, they stopped a wave of corporate inversions that threatened to decimate our country’s tax base.


Now a loophole has emerged which jeopardizes the effectiveness of our anti-inversion law.  We must act speedily to close that loophole.  Chairman Wyden has made clear that he intends to make any closure of the loophole in the tax inversion law retroactive to May 8, 2014.  I support making any legislation retroactive to that date, and 22 other Senators supporting my bill, S.2360, do also.  U.S. corporations should understand that if they pursue a tax inversion after May 8, 2014, they do so at their own risk.


We cannot afford to wait for tax reform to address the issue of tax inversions.  Urgent action is needed now, and I urge you to take action as soon as possible to end this abusive tax loophole.
I look forward to working with you to both stop tax inversions and to improve our international tax system.











Wolf: Genocide Taking Place In Iraq

US House Rep Frank Wolf's office issued the following earlier this week:



     Jul 22, 2014


Washington, D.C. (July 22, 2014) – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), long regarded as one of the leading human rights champions in Congress, today said genocide is taking place in Iraq.


Speaking on the House floor, Wolf said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.


For months, Wolf has been trying shine a bright light on what has been taking place in Iraq, as thousands of religious minorities have been forced to flee the lands they have inhabited for more than 2,000 years.  Not until ISIS last Thursday told the few remaining Christians in Mosul to leave or be killed did the world focus on what has been unfolding.


Below is the complete text of Wolf’s remarks:


"Mr. Speaker, the international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
“It says ‘genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’
“I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide.  I also believe it is a crime against humanity.
“Last Thursday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria  – more commonly referred to as ISIS – gave the few remaining Christians in Mosul until Saturday to leave or be killed.
“This from yesterday New York Times: ‘Some went on foot, their car having been confiscated; others rode bicycles or motor scooters; few were able to take anything of value, as militants seized their money and jewelry.  Some – just a few, and because they were not healthy enough to flee – submitted to the demands that they convert to Islam to avoid being killed.’
“ISIS is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.
“I want to submit for the Record the complete article from The New York Times and an editorial from today’s Wall Street Journal for history to see what is happening.
“With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country.   The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur.  Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, came from northwest Iraq.  Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons (the 12 tribes of Israel) were born in northwest Iraq.  A remarkable spiritual revival as told in the book of Jonah occurred in Nineveh.  The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq, as did the account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den
“Monday’s New York Times piece also quotes a Muslim woman at a prayer service at St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad on Sunday whispering to a Christian woman sitting in the pew next to her:  ‘You are the true original people here, we are so sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam.’
“On June 16, for the first time in 1,600 years, there was no Mass in Mosul.
“Pope Francis on Sunday expressed concern about what has unfolded in Mosul and other parts of the Middle East, noting that these communities, since the beginning of Christianity, have ‘co-existed there alongside their fellow citizens, making a significant contribution to the good of society.   Today they are persecuted.  Our brothers are persecuted, they are cast out, they are forced to leave their homes without having the chance to take anything with them.’
“The United Nations released a statement attributed to Ban Ki-moon that, in part, said:  ‘The Secretary-General reiterates that any systematic attack on the civilian population or segments of the civilian population, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable.’
“Where is the Obama Administration?
“In June, 55 Members of Congress – Republican and Democrats – urged the Obama Administration to actively engage with the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to prioritize additional security support for especially vulnerable populations, notably Iraq’s ancient Christian community and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those affected communities.
“I want to read the last line from our letter:
‘Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.’
“It is happening.  They are almost all gone – just as we predicted. 
“The Obama Administration has to make protecting this ancient community a priority.
“It needs to encourage the Kurds to do what they can protect those fleeing ISIS and provide safe refuge.
“It needs to ensure that of the resources going to the region, a portion be guaranteed to help the Christian community.  
“It needs to have the same courage as President Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell when they said genocide was taking place in Darfur.
“The United Nations has a role, too.  It should immediately initiate proceedings in the International Criminal Court against ISIS for crimes against humanity.
“The time to act is now.“ 













ObamaCare thoughts by Dr. George Flinn (Republican candidate for Senate out of TN)

A few comments.

1) The item below will screw up the website.  It's too wide.  I don't have time to play with it.  (Added: Turns out it didn't extend past page borders when posted -- it did in the preview function.)

2) I do not endorse any candidate running for office unless I'm able to vote for them.  George Flinn is running in Tennessee.  Clearly, I will not be voting for him (I'm registered in California).

3) Our noting Dr. Flinn's comments do not mean we'll be noting any other candidates -- Democrats or Republicans -- in the coming days, weeks or months.  His campaign sent it, we're noting it.

4) Green Party candidates on state and local level will always be noted if they send statements or campaign materials in.  We need more than two parties.  I will also -- and have -- noted Libertarians. Other third party candidates?  I don't have to agree with you for you to be noted but if you say/write something in your press release that is untrue and I know it's untrue it will not be posted here.  


Dr. George Flinn released the following statement on the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling today in the case of Halbig v. Burwell.


“Today, the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell reaffirms what the American people already know…that Obamacare is an unconstitutional law that aims to circumvent congress and its enumerated powers.  Obamacare and its harsh regulations have been forced upon the American people and today’s decision is yet another reason why we must continue to fight to repeal Obamacare and work to fix healthcare in America.”



 
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War Crimes in Gaza? Genocide?

Francis A. Boyle is an attorney and a professor  at the University of Illinois College of Law. His books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press: 1999) and Tackling America’s Toughest Questions (2009).   His most recent book is United Ireland, Human Rights and International Law.  



FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle@illinois.edu


    Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law and The Tamil Genocide by Sri Lanka. He said today: "I read the entire Navi Pillay Letter to the Human Rights Council. She said that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed and need to be investigated. So what? That’s exactly what [Richard] Goldstone did after Operation Cast Lead [in 2008-9] and nothing came of it.


   "An appropriate legal remedy is to apply the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Palestinians have been victims of genocide by that treaty's definition. In 1993 I won two World Court Orders on the basis of the 1948 Genocide Convention that were overwhelmingly in favor of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina against Yugoslavia to cease and desist from committing all acts of genocide against the Bosnians in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention.


     "You did not need an equivalent to the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews in order to find that wholesale atrocities against a civilian population constitute 'genocide' in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention. Indeed the entire purpose of the 1948 Genocide Convention was to prevent another Nazi Holocaust against the Jews. You did not need six million dead human beings in order to constitute 'genocide.'"

 

Francis A. Boyle
Law Building
504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Champaign, IL 61820 USA