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Friday, June 6th, 2014
VETERANS: Murray Joins Bipartisan Group of Senators to Urge Administration to Accept Free Private Sector Help to Fix Broken VA Scheduling System
In letter to President Obama, Senators urge top-level private sector review of VA systems
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, joined a bipartisan group of nine U.S. Senators to call on the Obama Administration to accept private sector assistance in fixing the broken Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) scheduling system. In the letter, Murray along with Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Richard Burr (R-NC), Al Franken (D-MN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and Michael Bennet (D-CO), urged the VA to follow the example of the Army, which in 2010 allowed a consortium of leading technology companies to provide expertise in designing a corrective plan, at no cost to the taxpayers, to fix widespread data management issues uncovered at the Army’s Arlington National Cemetery.
“Because of the immediacy of the many challenges at the VA, we urge you to work with us to implement a similar cost-effective, private sector initiative so we can begin restoring the trust of our veterans and the American public in the ability of the VA to meet the commitments our nation has made to our veterans. Our military men and women, their families, and our veterans deserve nothing less.”
“Engaging the tech sector and the best minds from leading American IT firms produced a comprehensive business plan to help the Army modernize its workflow procedures and upgrade the data management systems at Arlington. That effort, conducted at no cost to the taxpayers, represented the very best traditions of corporate citizenship,” the senators wrote.
Full text of the letter is below, and a PDF of the signed letter can be accessed here.
June 5, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Dear Mr. President:
Like most Americans, we are outraged at the documented misconduct at the U.S. Veterans Health Administration that has caused our military veterans to face long waits when seeking the medical care they have earned. That some veterans actually have died while waiting for needed care adds urgency to our efforts to act immediately. While last week’s preliminary Inspector General’s (IG) report indicated this is a systemic problem that dates back many years, it is our responsibility to take swift, decisive action now.
The IG report details widespread information technology challenges that enabled many of the unacceptable and inappropriate use of scheduling gimmicks and outright fabrication of performance metrics at the VA. We should be able to move quickly to begin restoring confidence in the VA by addressing these technology and data management problems in the current scheduling system.
This is a crisis that requires immediate action, and we recommend enlisting the expertise of the private sector to provide an assessment and recommendations for improvements to the current IT and workflow challenges at VA. By calling on our best minds across the private sector in a pro bono demonstration of solid corporate citizenship, we could create a blueprint for achievable action the VA should undertake within 60-to-90 days. Our veterans deserve this quick action on these urgent issues.
We already have an effective template that sorts through most of the legal and process issues to allow this type of private-sector assistance. For example, a 2010 Inspector General’s investigation revealed widespread mismanagement at the U.S. Army’s Arlington National Cemetery, including misplaced and mishandled remains of our warfighters. The IG report also revealed that Cemetery managers continued to rely upon decades of vulnerable, hand-written paper files in managing burial records. A consortium of technology companies operating under the auspices of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) jumped in quickly to provide their services and expertise at no cost to the taxpayer. This task force ultimately worked with the Army to create a legal framework that enabled the Army and Arlington National Cemetery to accept their pro bono help.
Engaging the tech sector and the best minds from leading American IT firms produced a comprehensive business plan to help the Army modernize its workflow procedures and upgrade the data management systems at Arlington. That effort, conducted at no cost to the taxpayers, represented the very best traditions of corporate citizenship.
We are confident that private sector expertise from across the country could be assembled to provide a similar pro bono service to help fix the challenges at the VA, and we stand ready to assist the Administration in moving quickly to help empanel this group.
Not every problem requires a government solution. Because of the immediacy of the many challenges at the VA, we urge you to work with us to implement this cost-effective, private sector initiative so we can begin restoring the trust of our veterans and the American public in the ability of the VA to meet the commitments our nation has made to our veterans. Our military men and women, their families, and our veterans deserve nothing less.
Deputy Press Secretary
Deputy Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510
Meanwhile, Jennifer Jackett (Gospel Herald) reports:
Open Doors International, the "world's largest outreach to persecuted Christians in the most high-risk places," released a top 10 list, comprised of countries in which Christians have experienced the most violent incidents for their faith in Jesus Christ. The report, based on persecution incidents that have occurred between November 1, 2012 and March 31, 2014, is topped by Nigeria and Syria.
The remainder of the countries that made the list are: 3. Egypt, 4. Central African Republic (CAR), 5. Mexico, 6. Pakistan, 7. Colombia, 8. India, 9. Kenya, and 10. Iraq.
What a proud moment for War Criminal Nouri al-Maliki, chief thug and prime minister of Iraq.
He continued his War Crimes today. National Iraqi News Agency reports Nouri continued bombing residential neighborhoods in Falluja and 3 civilians were killed with eleven more left injured.
Nouri's been bombing Falluja like this for months now, killing civilians since January, bombing hospitals, water plants, electrical plants, you name it. These are War Crimes and he is a War Criminal.
The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees issued the following on Falluja today:
GENEVA, June 6 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency on Friday said that violence in central Iraq's restive Anbar province has displaced close to half-a-million civilians so far this year. "With a deteriorating security situation, it is also becoming harder for humanitarian actors to reach those in need," said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards.
He told journalists in Geneva that the Iraqi government puts the number of displaced since January at 434,000 men, women and children. "However, the full scale of the displacement from this under-reported conflict is unknown, as the Iraqi authorities have had to suspend registration over the past month because of insecurity," he said, adding: "UNHCR believes the current figure is now close to 480,000."
Iraq's new displacement crisis began in January with fighting between government forces and rebels in eastern Anbar. It has continued in various waves as the fighting locales shifted within Anbar. There was further displacement last month when fighters deliberately breached a dam in Anbar's Abu Ghraib district, flooding the area and forcing some 72,000 Iraqis from their homes.
While the floodwaters have subsided, and people are returning to their homes, there are now health and recovery worries. Access to clean water is a pressing concern, because the flooding damaged water treatment plants. Local officials say 28 tanker truckloads of potable water are being delivered to the area every day, but this is only meeting 50 per cent of needs.
There are also fears about further civilian flight from the city of Fallujah. Recent shelling of the city has sparked new displacement and hit a city hospital and water plant there.
"Our field teams report that many displaced people are struggling to cope in desperate conditions, spread out across Iraq," UNHCR's Edwards noted. The highest concentrations of displaced people are in the Anbar and Salah al-Din governorates (provinces), followed by Erbil, Kirkuk, Sulaymaniyah and Baghdad.
The more fortunate are living with friends and relatives, but others are in tents, schools, unfinished buildings and other types of communal shelters. In Anbar alone, where there are almost 300,000 displaced people, more than two-thirds are living in schools.
"Displaced people tell us housing stock is limited, and increasingly expensive. Most are without income and are going into debt to pay for essential needs. Families say access to housing and food is a top priority," Edwards said.
While UNHCR has provided emergency relief kits to more than 48,000 people and emergency cash assistance to 3,000 of the most vulnerable people, this represents a fraction of what is needed.
"We urgently need to ramp up our response," Edwards stressed while noting that the challenges included difficulties reaching people because of the insecurity; the displaced are spread out across the country; and there is insufficient donor support. A UNHCR special appeal for US$26.4 million launched in March is only 12 per cent funded. "Better funding is critical to help those who are displaced now, and when they return home in the future," Edwards said.
While the UNHCR cares, the United Nations Security doesn't give a damn about Iraq. They make that clear again today with their latest nonsense. Here's the first paragraph, see if you can spot the problem:
The United Nations Security Council has stressed its support for the engagement of all political groups in Iraq, where nearly 800 people fell victim to violence last month, on concerted efforts to ensure security for its entire population, particularly in Anbar province, which has been embattled for months.
Did you spot the problem?
Zoom in on "nearly 800 people fell victim to violence last month."
Last month would be the month of May.
I think we can all agree on that.
800 victims of violence?
There we've got a problem. Victims of violence would include the dead as well as the injured. Yes, the injured are victims of violence.
'Okay, they said nearly 800 victim to violence when they meant 800 dead. Big deal.'
Well, it is a big deal.
The wounded are a big deal.
The wounded have to live in the violence. The dead are lucky in that regard, their suffering ended. They're not now, for example, living in a war zone but without a limb.
But that's not even the problem.
Yeah, the UN Security Council meant nearly 800 dead.
They meant it but they were too stupid to say it.
You know what else they were too stupid to do?
Read and comprehend.
This is the UNAMI statement containing the figures that the Security Council is using:
Baghdad, 1 June 2014 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of at least 799 Iraqis were killed and another 1,409 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence in May*.
The number of civilians killed was 603 (including 144 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 1108 (including 218 civilian police). A further 196 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed, and 301 were injured (not including casualties from Anbar operation).
“I strongly deplore the sustained level of violence and terrorist acts that continues rocking the country. I urge the political leaders to work swiftly for the formation of an inclusive government within the constitutionally mandated time frame and focus on a substantive solution to the situation in Anbar”, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG), Mr. Mladenov said.
Anbar excluded, Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 932 civilian casualties (315 killed, 617 injured), followed by Ninewa (113 killed 248 injured), Salahuddin (94 killed 146 injured), Kirkuk (22 Killed, 60 injured), Diyala (38 killed 28 injured).
*CAVEATS: Data do not take into account casualties of the current IA operation in Anbar, for which we report at the bottom the figures received by our sources.
Operations in Anbar
According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, the total civilian casualties in Anbar up to 30 May were 195 killed and 499 injured, with 95 killed and 222 injured in Ramadi and 100 killed and 277 injured in Fallujah.
How many people died in the month of May from violence?
If you say "799," you may be stupid enough to serve on the UN Security Council -- in fact, you may be dumb enough to qualify as a permanent member.
799 excludes Anbar Province. Add the 195 to 799. The total is 994.
994 deaths is what UNAMI has for the month of May. 994 isn't "nearly 800," it's over 800.
Let's stay with violence. National Iraqi News Agency reports a Tikrit bombing left 1 police officer dead. a Baquba bombing and mortar attack left 1 person dead and five more injured, a Baghdad mortar attack left seven people injured, a Hawija attack left one officer injured, a Ramadi battle left 1 Iraqi soldier and 3 rebels dead, a Kirkuk car bombing left three people injured, and 2 Qadisiyah bombings left one police member and his brother injured. They also noting fighting in Mosul has left 7 Iraqi soldiers dead and three more injured, six police members injured, 25 rebels were killed, 7 police members were killed and twenty-three injured, 10 Iraqi soldiers dead and fourteen injured, and 2 car bombings left 25 civilians dead and thirty-five injured. AFP reports that "two suicide bombers blew up vehicles in the Shabak village of Al Muwaffaqiyah, east of Nineveh provincial capital Mosul, killing four people and wounding 45, police and medical officials said." Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 166 violent deaths today with 101 people left injured.
Moving over to conspiracy theories, nut job MJ Rosenberg (MWD) froths:
The Bergdahl frenzy is the phoniest pretense for Obama bashing since Benghazi. But that does not mean it won't succeed.
In fact, I think it is possible that a Republican Congress will impeach Obama over one or both of those issues (ike President Clinton, he would not be convicted because even a GOP Senate could not muster 67 votes for conviction.)
Is that what you think, you raving nut job conspiracy theorist?
MJ Rosenberg is a graduate of Media Matters which means he majored in sexism and minored in delusion. He lets the crazy run free because that's what Professor David Brock taught -- carrier monkey that he is. Excuse me, diseased carrier monkey that he is bringing all of his unethical methods over to the left from the right after he'd burned his bridges there.
Taught by the master teacher in deception and lies, David Brock, a student can learn to make up any lie in the world and pimp it. That's what the disgraced David Brock did to Anita Hill, after all. A cheap little liar who has never made amends.
MJ Rosenberg studied under a quack and a liar so he is what he was taught.
But in the real world, there are many reasons to be upset with Barack surrendering 5 prisoners from Guantanamo for one US soldier.
1) The Congress wasn't informed. First and foremost -- though a 'graduate' from Media Matters would never understand this, those who train under David Brock don't learn the Constitution -- this is a democracy, this is not a monarchy. Senator Dianne Feinstein is offended by the lack of notification to Congress. I've known Dianne for years. I'll say about 20% of her being offended is personal as a member of Congress who should have been notified. But the other 80%? That's Dianne being offended -- rightly -- because of her role. It's not about her. It's about America's representatives. That's what Dianne is, she's in the Senate to represent the people of California -- so is Senator Barbara Boxer. And whatever other faults I have with them, both women do grasp the importance of their roles. I would argue that's true of other senators as well. Senator Al Franken takes it so seriously it's almost an obsession. (And that's a great obsession to have, trying to represent the people of your state.) Those are just Democrats but there are Republicans -- many -- in the Senate who take this role and this obligation seriously. We have a system of checks and balances. We do not have a king in the US.
But as even stalwart Obama defenders such as Jeffery Toobin admit, Obama “clearly broke the law” by releasing those detainees without providing Congress the 30-day notice required by the 2014 defense authorization statute (law professor Jonathan Turley similarly observed that Obama’s lawbreaking here was clear and virtually undebatable).
2) Glenn Greenwald has made this very clear: By ignoring Congress to release the 5 from Guantanamo, Barack has made it clear that he thinks he could have released everyone there and closed it. So why hasn't he? He swore he'd do it if elected. Then he got sworn in (January 2009) and broke his promise. As Glenn has noted, this is a rather big point of the story. Mike weighed in on that point earlier this week.
3) Any soldier rescued would raise questions. Jessica Lynch never lied about what happened to her. I'm really tired of the dicks -- including Rachel Maddow and her phantom penis -- who try to lie about Jessica Lynch or use her name as a punchline. When she spoke, she spoke the truth. She was not responsible for the lies and the spin created by an administration trying to rally support for their illegal war. My point here is that even when the spin was that she was being tortured or harmed, there were still some who wondered why a rescue mission was being carried out for her? (There was no rescue mission. She was being cared for -- as she herself notes -- in an Iraqi hospital. She was not a prisoner.) Even at the height of the administration propaganda, there were people who questioned whether Jessica was 'worth' a rescue. And, guess what, in a democracy that's allowed. In a democracy, people discuss issues and find the point where everyone can agree. That's what self-rule is. So the US soldier who was released in exchange for the five prisoners Barack surrendered, he was always going to be a question mark.
4) Find a better family spokesperson. I saw that crap this morning. Good talking points. Some of them cribbed from here. But he should have stuck to what the White House told him. I picked up the phone while that nonsense was airing and asked, "You didn't tell him to talk about the mom did you?" Don't talk about the mom. She may be wonderful, she may be awful. But she's married to the father and the father has been a bad image on this story since Saturday. He needs to shave his beard immediately and appear in public and if anyone doesn't like that, my response is, "Grow up, this isn't about him. This is about his son." You better believe if one of my children were in trouble, I would change anything -- hair, clothes, whatever -- to lessen any hostility towards one of my children. This isn't about your right to grow a beard. No one questions that right. This is about you getting off your ass and helping your son. Shave the damn beard.
(FYI, when I saw the photos Saturday, I called an administration friend to ask why the hell the father didn't shave before appearing with Barack. That bushy crap -- not shaped, not styled -- was disrespectful to the office of the president. Worse than that, it fed into the image of 'these are strange people.' Shave the damn beard.)
5) The White House has offered an ever changing storyline. That doesn't help. Each day is a new day for the novelist. At this point, this late in the game, stop changing the story. It makes the White House look dishonest. Bite the bullet and own the decision or continue to have this dominate the news cycle. See Frank James' "Explaining The Bergdahl Swap Hasn't Been Obama's Finest Hour" (NPR).
6) The terms of the deal have been criticized. The US got one person, the Taliban got five. Elise Labott (CNN) noted earlier this week:
While secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was skeptical of early plans to trade Taliban prisoners for American captive Bowe Bergdahl, former officials involved in the process told CNN on Tuesday.
Clinton pushed for a much tougher deal than the one with Qatar that secured the Army sergeant's release in exchange for five terror detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, they said.
Josh Rogin (Daily Beast) reports:
Despite that the White House’s claim this week that the United States did not negotiate “directly” with the Taliban to secure the Bergdahl swap, the State Department, Defense Department, and White House officials did meet several times with Taliban leaders in 2011 and 2012 to discuss the deal. The negotiations, held in in Munich and Doha, fell apart in early 2012. But before they did, Clinton had a framework deal drawn up that was much tougher on the Taliban than what ultimately got done two years later.
Three former administration officials who were involved in the process told The Daily Beast that Clinton was worried about the ability to enforce the deal and disinclined to trust the Taliban or the Haqqani network in Pakistan, which held Bergdahl until this weekend. Clinton was so concerned, the former officials added, that she may not have even signed off if the negotiations had succeeded.
In Barack's administration, Leon Panetta headed the CIA and later was Secretary of Defense. David Conti (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) reported Wednesday:
“I don't fault the administration for wanting to get him back. I do question whether the conditions are in place to make sure these terrorists don't go back into battle,” former CIA director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a gas industry gathering in Pittsburgh.
Panetta, who was in the Cabinet for four of the five years Bergdahl spent in Taliban custody, said he opposed a swap for the terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when he was Defense secretary.
“I said, ‘Wait, I have an obligation under the law,'” Panetta said during a lunchtime address at the Hart Energy Developing Unconventionals DUG East conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. “If I send prisoners from Guantanamo, they have to guarantee they don't go back to the battlefield. I had serious concerns.”
Which is why, despite supporting Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Party primaries, I won't be supporting her now. I do learn from my mistakes. The former First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State has held hostage the willing news media with another book she had help writing -- why don't you credit co-writers, you just look stupid and vain otherwise -- and CBS News got an advance copy of the book and noted many things including this passage on Iraq:
"[M]any Senators came to wish they had voted against the resolution. I was one of them. As the war dragged on, with every letter I sent to a family in New York who had lost a son or daughter, a father or mother, my mistake become (sic) more painful."
"I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn't alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple."
As we noted this morning, "At this point, Hillary, what difference does it make?" She should have said it in 2008. Instead, it's taken her 12 years to get to this point. A presidential term is four years. I don't know that American can afford a slow thinker in the post. She was in pain, you understand, because she had to write letters to families who had lost a loved one.
That's what she goes with?
How hard it was on her to write people whose loved one had been killed in Iraq?
Again, I do learn from my mistakes. Should she run in 2016, she will not have my support unless she gets honest about Iraq (including about how Nouri is a thug which she knows and has stated) and apologies to Pat Smith and others.
I've said this before. If Bill Clinton was the person involved, he would have already called Pat Smith and apologized to her. (Pat Smith's son Sean Smith died in Bengahzi September 11, 2012. Smith feels misled by Hillary and ignored by her due to Hillary failing to keep a promise she made. The other three Americans who died that day -- who are known to have died that day -- were Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Chris Stevens.)
Hillary's too politically stupid to grasp that she needs to apologize to Pat Smith. She's also too politically stupid to come clean on Iraq. If you wait 12 years to offer anything "plain and simple," people have a right to expect that you have reflected deeply during this time and have something of value to share. Hillary is being as superficial in her 'reflection' as she was the day she voted for the Iraq War.
the lead with jake tapper
national iraqi news agency
all iraq news