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Archive for December 10th, 2012


US Senate has formally inquired the Pentagon about how the Air Force could call off a software upgrade after spending USD 1 billion.

On Wednesday, Senators sent a letter demanding an explanation for the cancelation of upgrading Air Force logistics management program, after it was reported that it would cost another USD 1 billion to achieve one-quarter of the capabilities originally planned for the software.

“From what we know to date, this case appears to be one of the most egregious examples of mismanagement in recent memory,” it was addressed in the letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The project was cancelled one month ago after spending six years trying to modernize the system without success.

This comes while if the project had continued, it would have been ready to use first after eight years.

The program was not written from scratch, instead the Computer Sciences Corporation was contracted to “configure, deploy and conduct training and change management activities” to an already commercialized software program from Oracle.

The plan was to have auditable financial books working by 2017; however, with the termination of the project the Air Force must continue to rely on systems dating back to the 1970s.

A lengthy report was published by the Institute for Defense Analyses in 2011, criticizing the Defense Department’s software initiatives, stating that the modernization of software systems had been a priority since 15 years ago, costing more than USD 5.8 billion up to 2009.

 

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Two unions at Hartford Healthcare are objecting to the health network’s new mandatory vaccination policy.

Unions at Windham Hospital in Willimantic and Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield, both part of the Hartford Healthcare network, which includes Hartford Hospital, have pushed back against the network policy — enacted for the first time this year — that requires flu shots for all employees.

The policy allows for medical and religious exemptions, and employees granted these exemptions must wear masks at work until the end of flu season. For now, though, officials at Hartford Healthcare say they’ve made a one-time-only exception for union members at Natchaug and Windham: Members who don’t want flu shots but don’t qualify for a medical or religious exemption can get a “personal exemption” this year. That option won’t be available next year.

More hospitals are beginning to require flu vaccinations. This year, 19 of the state’s 29 acute care hospitals require that all employees get flu shots. That’s a sharp increase from last year, when there were only five.



 

David Lucier, an official with Local 1199, the union at Natchaug Hospital, said Hartford Healthcare officials have been “heavy-handed” in pushing the new policy. He said 37 employees at Natchaug have refused to get the shot.

“We believe we should have right over our bodies,” Lucier said. “Some people are very serious about that.”

Lucier said union officials also object to the requirement that employees wear a mask if they don’t get the shot, calling it “a scarlet letter.”

“It’s done for ostracization and it’s done to punish and it’s done to give people a reason to get the shot,” Lucier said.

Rocco Orlando, chief medical officer for Hartford Healthcare, said masks aren’t a perfect solution but they do significantly diminish the risk of spreading the flu. He said the two unions are the only ones in the Hartford Healthcare network to take up the issue in collective bargaining.

As far as the legal issues of requiring flu shots for all employees, Orlando said, there’s “a fair amount of disagreement” that’s being worked out in courts in the U.S. “There is not an answer to that question yet,” he said.

Jenae Aguilar, a mental health worker at Natchaug Hospital, said she simply doesn’t want to put vaccines in her body.

“I am a healthy individual and my kids are healthy,” said Aguilar, 28, from Norwich. If she gets the flu, she said, she’ll use her sick days. And since Natchaug Hospital is a psychiatric hospital and not an acute care facility, the patients she deals with aren’t particularly susceptible to influenza.

If anything, Aguilar said, the mask will make her less effective at work.

“I do therapy with kids, and when you talk to someone face to face, you go off facial expressions,” she said. “They’re just going to think ‘What the heck is wrong with this lady?'”

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US troops (file photo)

US troops (file photo)
Over 3,000 US troops have secretly returned to Iraq via Kuwait for missions pertaining to the recent developments in Syria and northern Iraq, Press TV reports.

According to our correspondent, the US troops have secretly entered Iraq in multiple stages and are mostly stationed at Balad military garrison in Salahuddin province and al-Asad air base in al-Anbar province.

Reports say the troops include US Army officers and almost 17,000 more are set to secretly return to Iraq via the same route.

All US troops left Iraq by the end of 2011, after nine years of occupation, as required by a 2008 bilateral security agreement between the two countries. The troops left Iraq for the neighboring Kuwait.

Washington decided to pull out all its troops from Iraq after Baghdad refused to grant legal immunity to the remaining US soldiers.

Washington claims that the only US military presence left in Iraq now is 157 soldiers responsible for training at the US Embassy, as well as a small contingent of marines protecting the diplomatic mission.

US-led forces attacked Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein on the pretext of possessing weapons of mass destruction. But no WMD was ever discovered in Iraq. At the peak of the US-led military operation in Iraq, there were 170,000 US troops and more than 500 bases in Iraq.

More than one million Iraqis were killed as the result of the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of the country, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored.

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‘More than 60 German clerics have been accused of sexually abusing minors and adults between 2000 and 2010, Germany’s Roman Catholic Church says.

According to a study conducted by three German forensic centers for research, at least 66 priests had been charged with 576 cases of sexual abuse of mostly male victims during the ten-year period. The German Bishops’ Conference released the report on Friday, saying that nearly three-quarters of the 265 alleged targets of sexual misconduct were male.’

Read more: 66 German Priests Charged with Sexually Abusing Minors: Report

 

 

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WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department paid for an underwater robot in a Midwest city with no major rivers or lakes nearby, a hog catcher in rural Texas and a fish tank in a small Texas town, according to a new congressional report highlighting what it described as wasteful spending of tax money intended for counterterrorism purposes.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said in his 54-page report that while much of the spending for the department’s Urban Area Security Initiative appeared to be allowed under the program’s rules, it was still inappropriate in an age of budget austerity and as the federal government faces a $16 trillion national debt.

“Every dollar misspent in the name of security weakens our already precarious economic condition, indebts us to foreign nations, and shackles the future of our children and grandchildren,” Coburn said.

The report focused on UASI spending in the last few years in Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma and the National Capitol Region, which includes Washington and parts of Maryland and Virginia. Among the projects Coburn found questionable were:

  • $21 for a fish tank in Seguin, Texas, a small town outside of San Antonio.
  • $98,000 for an underwater robot in Columbus, Ohio, where there are no major rivers and few lakes nearby.
  • $24,000 for a “latrine on wheels” in Fort Worth, Texas.
  • A “BearCat” armored vehicle bought with a $285,933 grant in Keene, N.H., a small New England town that is home to an annual pumpkin festival that draws up to 70,000 people.
  • $250,000 for security upgrades, including $9,000 in signage, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The grant program stems from the 2001 terrorist attacks when the federal government pledged to help equip local governments to prevent future attacks and respond if they occurred. DHS has pumped billions to states over the past decade under the program that puts states in control of how the money is ultimately spent.

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The Kincora Scandal

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Via: Wolf Richter, Testosterone Pit

The staged posturing with its tragic-funny theatrics and lurid special effects in Washington about the Fiscal Cliff—and whether to fall off, jump off, fly off, dive off, climb down, or somehow avoid it altogether—has become an inescapable media reality, much like Y2K once was. I remember well the worldwide letdown on January 1, 2000.

I was in Berlin for the first time in my life to celebrate, well, Y2K on the street with about four million or so close friends and relatives—many of us have Neanderthal genes, it turns out. Like everyone else, I’d loaded up on cash in case the ATMs or the banking system would crash, or in case my credit cards wouldn’t work, etc., fears that had been mongered everywhere by everyone for well over a year. Computers and the world would come to a screeching halt at midnight.

Having partied through that point in time, I didn’t notice. But late that morning, I noticed. Still a bit groggy, I saw that everything was working, faucets, clocks, elevators, lights. I stepped out of the hotel and wandered into the perma-dusk that pervades Berlin in the dead of winter. People were strolling around, leisurely, trying to clear their heads, without the least sign of chaos. I noticed an ATM. Out of curiosity, I stuck in my US bank card, and wow, out came a neat bundle of marks.

Y2K wasn’t more than a big party. And a year-long media event. Ah yes, and something else.

Fearing the demise of their businesses, decision makers bought untold billions of computers and software and paid for custom updates so that they wouldn’t get caught with their pants down at midnight. A worldwide high-tech buying binge that had lasted for a couple of years. And after they’d bought everything they could think of in order to survive Y2K, they stopped buying. The run-up to Y2K was the last leg of the tech boom. The letdown on January 1, that I and the rest of the world felt, albeit with some relief, was a harbinger of the tech crash.

The Fiscal Cliff was invented by Congress to reduce the deficit, which would still be huge, but less huge, and the mountain of debt would still grow, but not quite as fast. Fiscal Cliff, the term, was invented by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. He should get an award for it. It’s a phenomenally successful term. Fiscal Cliff, the drama—we’re supposed to be riveted to the edge of our seats—was invented by the media. But the US government debt is real, gigantic, and rising at a vertigo-inducing speed.

Richard Nixon …

Remember him?

… was the last Republican President under whom our gross national debt as a percent of GDP actually went down. Under Gerald Ford, it went up. Under Ronald Reagan, it jumped. Under George Bush père, it went up. And under George W. Bush, it defied gravity.

The record of Democrats in the White House is more mixed. Under Jimmy Carter, gross national debt as a percent of GDP went down (OK, a nasty bout of inflation was responsible for that, not Carter). Under Bill Clinton, it went down quite a bit. But under Barack Obama, it has been rocketing into the clear blue sky of brilliant false hope and is now over 100% of GDP—not long ago an unimaginably horrid banana-republic ratio, the stamp of what in the Eurozone has come to be called “debt-sinner countries.” Even Spain isn’t there yet!

During these administrations, Republicans and Democrats alternately ran Congress, and they bent over backwards to fill the big trough that corporate America, individual Americans, special interest groups, aid organizations, and whatnot, and even much of the rest of the world were feeding on. That’s why trimming the deficit—cutting outlays and raising revenues—is so impossible: everybody with any political power benefits from the moolah and the tax code.

For a graph of the US debt from 1972 through the fiscal year ended September 2012, and its parabolic rise recently, check out….  US National Debt: In a Year, I’ll Add Another Ugly Data Point.

In 2011, the debt ceiling, over which Congress fought hot and heavy for months, was $14.29 trillion. Now it is $16.395 trillion. Over $2 trillion more. And we’re already just about there. How could Congress and the White House borrow over $2 trillion in such a short time? I don’t know either. But they did.

video here

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Emotionally, I love Iceland’s financial policies since the crash of 2008:

Iceland

Iceland went after the people who caused the crisis — the bankers who created and sold the junk products — and tried to shield the general population.

But what Iceland did is not just emotionally satisfying. Iceland is recovering, while the rest of the Western world — which bailed out the bankers and left the general population to pay for the bankers’ excess — is not.

Bloomberg reports:

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Israel_army_flag

Imagine holding a fundraiser for murder, destruction and military occupation.

On December 6, Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) held their annual gala in Los Angeles. Guests annually include high-ranking Israeli military and government officials. Well-known Americans attend.

The event raises millions of dollars annually for Israeli militarism, belligerence, and cold-blooded murder. It’s shocking that anyone would contribute to what they should condemn.

FIDF says the “job” of IDF killers “is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.”

Doing so is complicity with decades of crimes of war, against humanity, and genocide.

“Marching Onward with the Soldier,” says FIDF. It was founded in 1981. It’s headquartered in New York. It operates 14 regional US offices. Panama hosts another.

Major General (Res.) Yitzhak Gershon is national director and CEO. He’s “always been proud of being Israel’s soldier,” he said, “whether (on active duty) or in” America as FIDF national director.

“The bond between the community in America and the soldiers in Israel is extraordinary and powerful. It has changed the lives and created opportunities for thousands of IDF soldiers.”

“Together, we continue to carry out the utmost important mission of providing for the soldiers who fight relentlessly to defend the Jewish homeland.”

Gershon served 32 years in Israel’s army. He remains unaccountable for enormous amounts of blood on his hands. He was involved in two premeditated wars on Lebanon.

He served as IDF West Bank forces head. He was also Israeli Home Front Commander.

He helped murder and injure hundreds of Palestinian men, women, children and infants during five weeks of Operation Defensive Shield slaughter. During the second Intifada, it raged relentlessly from March 29 – May 3, 2002.

Fifty-five children died. IDF soldiers randomly shot civilians trying to by food and other essentials. Mines were laid in civilian areas. They killed seven children. Four others were injured.

On April 23, Asad Orsan lost both arms and legs. Twelve-year old Saed al-Wahshi suffered severe burns and shrapnel wounds over his entire body.

Palestinian neighborhoods were bombed and shelled. Homes were bulldozed with residents inside them. They perished beneath the rubble.

Soldiers shot children going to and returning from school. Many schools closed because violence was so intense. Injured Palestinians were prevented from getting healthcare in time. Deaths resulted.

Dozens of children were arrested, detained, beaten, isolated and terrorized. They were denied contact with families and legal help. Thousands of Palestinian men and women were treated the same way.

Three mothers lost newborns. They were forced to give birth at checkpoints. Their babies perished. Many other war crimes were committed. Gershon was actively involved.

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