Trump says he wanted to give himself Medal of Honor

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)

 

WHITE HOUSE

Trump says he wanted to give himself Medal of Honor

President Donald Trump claimed to laughter on Wednesday that he sought to give himself a Medal of Honor, but decided not to after being counseled against the move by aides.

The offhand remark from the president came during his address to the 75th annual national convention of American Veterans, a volunteer-led veterans service organization also known as AMVETS.

At the event in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump singled out for praise WWII veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams.

“Thank you, Woody. You’re looking good, Woody. Woody’s looking good,” Trump said.

“That was a big day, Medal of Honor. Nothing like the Medal of Honor,” he continued. “I wanted one, but they told me I don’t qualify, Woody. I said, ‘Can I give it to myself anyway?’ They said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’”

Amid scattered chuckles, Trump concluded: “Great, great people. These are great, great men and women that get congressional Medal of Honor. Thank you, Woody.”

The president’s assessment that he should receive the nation’s highest award for acts of military valor followed his statement earlier Wednesday afternoon that he is “the chosen one” in relation to his administration’s trade conflict with China — a proclamation he turned to the sky to deliver.

Trump never served in the military and was granted five draft deferments — four for college and one for bone spurs in his heel.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Bought And Paid For: Costs Taxpayers Millions?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOUISVILLE (KENTUCKY) INSIDER NEWSPAPER)

News Commentary: The curious case of a hefty political contribution that coincided with the VA hospital site selection

The proposed site of the new VA medical facility in Louisville, next to the city of Crossgate and the intersection of Brownsboro Road and the Watterson Expressway

For years, the public has pondered why the Veterans Administration paid an investment group led by Louisville businessman Jonathan Blue millions too much for a proposed hospital site near two of the region’s 10 most congested hotspots. Now emerges another question: Was the VA’s site-selection process for sale, too?

Here’s what we know:

On Sept. 22, 2010, David S. Blue, Jonathan’s father, contributed $30,400 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. According to the elder Blue, the donation was made at the behest of Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, then and now the GOP’s most powerful U.S. senator.

In a telephone interview, I asked David Blue, “Have you ever made a donation that large?” He replied only, “I made the donation because Sen. McConnell requested the donation.”

The bequest was extraordinary, even for Blue, who sold the lucrative Louisville Scrap Materials Co., an industry giant, in 1998.

The hefty handout far exceeds the sum of his other campaign donations dating back to 1999: The $30,400 is more than six times his second-highest single contribution of $5,000 in 2001 to the Bluegrass Committee (McConnell’s leadership PAC) and 12 times his third-highest of $2,500 to the 2002 Kentucky Republican Victory Committee.

Critics of Jonathan Blue’s Brownsboro Road site first brought the donation to my attention last year, beginning an exhaustive search to follow the money via the most detailed, discoverable chain of events.

Research revealed the contribution coincides with the controversial sharp turn and acceleration of the site selection, according to a timeline former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki provided to the chairman of the VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

The donation came the month after three undeveloped “greenfield” sites, including Blue’s, cleared a crucial VA hurdle: approval by Shinseki for “due diligence” or reasonable steps to satisfy agency requirements for buying real estate.

“I had no idea of that,” David Blue says. “I had nothing to do with that property.”

However, his son and McConnell apparently knew the greenfield sites had been greenlighted shortly before his Sept. 22, 2010, donation: According to Shinseki’s timeline, “The Kentucky congressional delegation was notified of the Secretary’s decision on September 14, 2010, and the landowners were notified shortly thereafter.”

What are the odds that the donor’s crest would coincide, by chance, with the sudden surge of his son’s site?

McConnell spokeswoman Stephanie Penn declined to answer emailed questions including 1) what did McConnell know about the emergence of the Brownsboro site, and 2) why did he solicit the large donation from its owner’s dad?

And so questions persist: Did the $30,400 donation purchase leverage? And if so, how much did it advance McConnell’s goal of becoming the most powerful person on Capitol Hill?

At the time, the minority leader, then 68, was eager to become majority leader, which would remain beyond reach until GOP senators outnumbered Democrats. Thus he and the NRSC shared a top priority: maximize giving to overtake a party amid a forbidding climate — just two years beyond McConnell’s narrow re-election.

Extraordinary pressure for selection
Sen. Mitch McConnell

In the year after receiving a sizable donation from David Blue, McConnell repeatedly sought to expedite VA Secretary Shinseki’s decision on the site of the replacement Robley Rex VA Medical Center (RRVAMC). In an Oct. 1, 2011, letter to Shinseki obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, McConnell recalls past pushes — and then gives one last shove:

As you know, this is not my first attempt to obtain answers from the Department about this delay. Just last year it required holding one of your nominees whose appointment was pending before the Senate in order to obtain the Department’s assurances that a decision would be made by “summer 2011.”

Since the VA’s timetable was issued in a June 22, 2010 letter to me, my office has been reassured on a number of occasions — including in writing — that the Department would select a site by September 2011. Summer has past (sic); September has now come and gone and still no site has been selected. Each month of delay means the longer that Kentucky veterans have to wait to get the quality of care they need and deserve

I, therefore, strongly urge you to make selecting a site in a timely manner one of your top priorities.

The letter also includes his ubiquitous disclaimer: “I myself have taken no position on where the RRVAMC should be located.”

However, during a March 2012 conference of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Louisville, he telegraphed where it should not be located. He reportedly criticized “a recent Courier-Journal editorial that was supportive of a downtown location” and added, “This is not an economic development project.”

Ignoring the steroidal stimulus of this billion-dollar project aligns the lawmaker with the VA against neighborhood attorneys who claim the agency, in its site selection, unlawfully ignored an executive order (No. 12898) requiring the VA “to the greatest extent practicable” to make “achieving environmental justice part of its mission.”

The senator’s discouragement of a downtown site also aligned him with Jonathan Blue, whose Brownsboro property stood a better chance of selection if a major roadblock was eliminated.

Red flags emerge

On Nov. 10, 2011, less than six weeks after McConnell’s memo to the VA, Sec. Shinseki unexpectedly named the Brownsboro Road site the preferred alternative and a Factory Lane site (before it dropped off the market) the second choice. McConnell’s statement said, “I’m pleased the VA Secretary made the decision.”

Three weeks later, Shinseki wrote McConnell that construction would take about three-and-a-half years after the purchase of the property, which was finalized on July 9, 2012.

Four-and-a-half years later, ground has yet to be broken. During that time, however, many red flags have emerged.

In July 2012, The Courier-Journal’s Chris Otts (now at WDRB-TV) reported that Blue and his co-investors sold the VA the site for almost $8 million more than the $4.96 million they paid for it eight years prior.

Otts subsequently petitioned the VA, under the federal Freedom of Information Act, for appraisal information. A month later, he reported that his open-records request remained unfulfilled. Stunningly, McConnell intervened to obtain from the VA an appraisal for the Louisville daily he often disparaged as “The Curious-Journal.”

In February 2014, the specter of a cover-up emerged with news that there were two appraisals separated by only 14 months. McConnell had helped the C-J obtain only the second appraisal of $12.9 million — which the VA paid in full. It was 31 percent higher than the first appraisal of $9.8 million. The inspector general concluded on Sept. 17, 2015, that the VA may have overpaid in excess of $3 million for the property.

McConnell’s office has declined to answer whether the senator was aware there were two appraisals, and it remains unclear whether anyone involved in the scandal sought his intervention.

The senator has steadfastly maintained he takes “no position” on the location of a new VA.

In recent months, the standard cut-and-paste reply to VA-related questions from McConnell’s office reaffirms the need for speed: “It is time to build the new facility.”

Given escalating controversy, however, the fate of the location remains uncertain.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer recently alerted the VA to multiple issues that “could impede the success” of the site amid growing public, political, veteran and medical opposition. In addition, opposition groups including Grow Smart Louisville have retained lawyers, and litigation overshadows the process — a process that seems too fouled by favoritism not to fail.

Outrage In Vietnam Over United Airlines Treatment Of 69 yr Old Vietnamese Born Doctor

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

By Mai Nguyen | HANOI

Outrage spread to Vietnam on Wednesday over United Airlines’ handling of a passenger dragged from his seat after it emerged that the 69-year-old U.S. doctor was Vietnamese by birth.

Although United Airlines has no direct flights to Vietnam, there were widespread calls on social media for a boycott after video showed a bloodied David Dao being yanked out of the plane by airport security on Sunday to make way for United employees.

The ire in Vietnam grew quickly after it was reported that Dao’s origins were not in the Southeast Asian country’s old enemy, China, as many had at first assumed.

Vietnamese also fumed at allegations over Dao’s past reported in the United States as irrelevant and possibly racist.

“Watching this makes my blood boil, I’ll never fly United Airlines,” commented Anh Trang Khuya on Facebook, the most widely used social media platform in Vietnam.

Nguyen Khac Huy wrote: “Boycott United!!! This is excessive! Let’s be loving and united, Vietnamese people!”

There was no immediate comment from the government or in state media.

Video showing Dao being pulled from United Airlines Flight 3411 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Sunday went viral and the worldwide backlash hit the airline’s share price and prompted an apology from the company chief executive.

Kentucky’s medical board website shows that a doctor David Dao graduated in 1974 in Ho Chi Minh City – then known as Saigon and the capital of U.S.-backed South Vietnam before its defeat and the reunification of Vietnam under communist rule a year later.

Around that time, Dao left for the United States, according to U.S. media and Vietnamese websites.

Vietnamese media said that Dao was also a songwriter and crooner of soulful ballads – including one about the memory of rain falling in Saigon.

Reports in U.S. media of an offence that had led to Dao losing his medical license in 2003 were dismissed in Vietnam as a probable smear campaign.

“Dr. Dao didn’t do anything wrong on that flight and that’s the main thing,” wrote Clarence Dung Taylor in a post that had more than 4,000 likes.

The attitude to the case shifted dramatically in Vietnam once it was reported that Dao was not from China – an ancient enemy with which Vietnam continues to have a maritime dispute over the South China Sea.

When initial reports had suggested the man being dragged from the plane was Chinese, some Vietnamese had posted strongly unsympathetic comments about him.

“So funny,” wrote Bui Nguyen Trong Nghia. “Now they know he’s Vietnamese, most people stand up to advocate. Whether it’s Vietnamese or Chinese, there’ll be discrimination as we’re Asian.”

(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

United Airlines Overbooks Flight: Security Forcibly Remove Doctor Who Would Give Up His Seat

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

United Airlines: Passenger forcibly removed from flight

Media caption Passenger dragged off a United flight. Video: Audra D. Bridges

Videos showing a man being violently removed from a United Airlines flight have provoked an outcry on social media.

The footage taken inside the airliner shows a man being violently pulled out of his seat and dragged down the aisle as passengers prepared to take off from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday evening.

The airline in question – United – has tweeted an apology for what happened and says it is investigating.

One 50-second clip of the incident on Twitter was re-tweeted 16,000 times since it was posted that day.

Jayse D Anspach, who posted the footage, tweeted: “#United overbooked and wanted four of us to volunteer to give up our seats for personnel that needed to be at work the next day.”

“No one volunteered, so United decided to choose for us. They chose an Asian doctor and his wife.”

“The doctor needed to work at the hospital the next day, so he refused to volunteer,” Mr Anspach added.

“Ten minutes later, the doctor runs back into the plane with a bloody face, clings to a post in the back, chanting, “I need to go home.”

One of the three security officers involved has been “placed on leave”, the Chicago Department of Aviation said, and his actions were “obviously not condoned by the Department”.

The department also said it would carry out a review into the incident, which it said was “not in accordance with our standard operating procedure”.

Another passenger Audra D. Bridges, posted a video of the incident on Facebook that has been viewed over 400,000 times.

She wrote: “Please share this video. We are on this flight. United airlines overbooked the flight.”

“They randomly selected people to kick off so their standby crew could have a seat.

“This man is a doctor and has to be at the hospital in the morning,” she added.

“He did not want to get off. We are all shaky and so disgusted.”

Man being shown pulled out of his seatImage copyrightTYLER BRIDGES/TWITTER
Image captionThe man who is believed to be a doctor is dragged out of his seat by flight security

Thousands of Facebook comments have been posted about what happened.

One person wrote: “This is infuriating”

Another posted: “OMG So sad to see someone being treated like this. I wont fly United ever again.”

But another felt the video raised some unanswered questions.

“There has to be more to this story,” he said.

“Usually when a flight is overbooked they offer free flight vouchers to those willing to change flights or go on standby and a couple of people will jump at those as their travel plans may be flexible.”

“I feel like this specific incident HAS to be deeper than what we are seeing in this video,” he added.

In a statement United airlines told the BBC: “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked.”

“After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate,” the airline added.

The chief executive of United, Oscar Munoz, has since made a statement on Twitter: “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologise for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

“Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened.

“We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve the situation,” he added.

By Rozina Sini, BBC’s UGC and Social News team