Young Soldier

Young Soldier

When we were young did we not all play

Pretending to be Generals and Sergeants

In our backyards or barns filled with hay

President Mom calling a truce

To fill our bellies with hot biscuits and ham

No foul, no harm, no spills I guess

When young, is not time and the world

Our personal sandbox full of new thrills

 

17 who can now say that I am not a man

Jungles and deserts I now low crawl

With M-16 with 203 in my hand

I hold my breath and tweak my sight

With one finger the trigger I quietly squeeze

One less breath, one less enemy,one less man

As the earth inhales their blood

To me one more notch, one more trophy

As his last breath leaves with the wind

Is there blood on your conscience

For the blood on your hands

Not knowing your temple

Is the target

17 your life is over

Before it began

Russian Defense Minister’s Plane Buzzed Over Baltic By NATO Jet: TASS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS AND TASS)

Russian defense minister’s plane buzzed over Baltic by NATO jet: TASS

(PRESIDENT PUTIN NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO HIS POLICY OF CONSTANT ‘FLY-BY’ IGNORANCE)(TRS) 

A plane carrying Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was buzzed by a NATO F-16 fighter jet as it flew over the Baltic Sea, but was chased away by a Russian military jet, the TASS news agency reported on Wednesday.

TASS said the NATO plane had tried to approach the aircraft carrying the defense minister even though it was flying over neutral waters. It said Shoigu was en route to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad at the time.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

VA Denied Stay On Paying Emergency Care Claims: Good Luck On Actually Getting Them To Pay Their Bills Though!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL)

VA denied stay on paying emergency care claims

LINKEDIN 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has rejected with stunning speed a motion from the Department of Veterans Affairs that it be allowed to stop taking steps toward reimbursing hundreds of thousands of veterans, for the non-VA emergency care costs they have paid, until higher courts rule on VA’s appeal.

Warning of possible “accounting chaos” if payments must begin before appeals are exhausted, VA lawyers Friday filed a motion with the Veterans Claims court to stay the “precedential effect” of the court’s decision last year in Staab v. McDonald, now renamed Staab v Shulkin with a new VA Secretary in office.

VA should not have to continue to take complex and costly steps toward reimbursing these veterans or survivors for non-VA emergency health care claims, VA lawyers argued, because the Veterans Claims court decision is likely to be overturned, which would mean VA isn’t liable to pay a rising mountain of claims.

By Monday, however, the Veterans Claims court applied a rubber stamp of red ink to VA’s stay request, ruling “Motion Denied.” Judge Alan G. Lance Sr. signed the stamp on behalf of a three-judge panel.

“It’s the quickest judicial ruling I’ve ever seen,” chuckled Barton F. Stichman, one of three attorneys for the appellant, Richard W. Staab. Staab is an 84-year-old Air Force veteran who had to pay roughly $48,000 in unreimbursed medical expenses following emergency health surgery in the private sector in 2010.

VA claim experts told Staab that because he was eligible for Medicare Part A, any additional out-of-pockets costs he incurred tied to non-VA emergency care were his responsibility. Under a 1999 law, VA only has covered outside emergency care if a veteran has no other health care coverage, which would include Medicare.

Staab sued, arguing that Congress changed that law in 2009 but that VA chose to ignore the change and continued to deny emergency care reimbursements to any veteran with alternative health care coverage.

Last April a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims agreed with Staab, finding that VA, in rewriting regulations, ignored the “plain language” of the 2009 statute which Congress passed to protect VA-enrolled veterans from out-of-pocket costs when forced to use non-VA emergency care.

VA’s plea for reconsideration by a full panel of judges on the Veterans Claims court also was denied last summer. This month attorneys for VA and the Justice Department filed a fresh appeal brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, urging its judges to overturn the Veterans Claims decision.

They argue that Congress in 2009 did change language of one relevant provision of law, but it left another provision untouched, which VA appropriately used to continue to deny claims for reimbursement of non-VA emergency care.

In their motion to stay the effect of Staab until the decision is overturned or appeals are exhausted, VA attorneys told the lower court that the volume of claims affected is “indeed significant.” Since April 8, the date of the Staab decision, VA has suspended consideration of 373,000 emergency care claims it previously would have denied. VA estimates reimbursements for such claims, filed in 2017 alone, would fall between $75 million and $273 million. Over five years, the added costs would fall between $394 million and $1.45 billion, and over 10 years the total could exceed $6.5 billion. Meanwhile, VA work toward paying the claims is proceeding.

“Policy program officials, revenue officials, rulemaking professionals, legal and other subject matter experts across the Department have already been directly involved in this undertaking and will continue until its completion,” wrote VA in its stay request. “Preliminary steps have been completed to craft the regulations and identify computer needs, and absent the grant of the stay, VA will need to proceed with costly software upgrades and continued investment in resources.”

Despite the “strong possibility” Staab will be reserved, VA argued, without a stay it will continue a “heavy and irreversible investment in rulemaking and implementing” the decision, using up resources that VA should be applying “to health care programs that would undisputedly benefit veterans now.”

VA has been fighting the Staab decision in Congress too. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) revealed during the Feb. 1 confirmation hearing of Dr. David Shulkin to be the VA Secretary, that some senators schemed twice last year with VA to try to offer quietly, and to pass by unanimous consent, bills that would reverse the effect of Staab and modify the 2009 law on VA emergency care reimbursements.

Rounds referred to them as “hotline bills,” which he and other senators blocked. Rounds asked Shulkin his opinion of such back-door efforts.

“My opinion doesn’t matter because this is law,” Shulkin said. “The judges have ruled … I have instructed VA to start putting together (the) regulation that it’s going to take to be able to start paying these emergency room bills. Every day we delay, veterans are going to be put in the middle and that’s really unfair to them.”

But Rounds reminded Shulkin that the VA is appealing Staab and so its lawyers “continue to do battle on this.”

Shulkin agreed he should “clarify our position.” He said, “While VA is moving forward to start paying these bills” it also “does not believe that the court interpreted the statute correctly … and so we will see what happens. But in the meantime, I am not going to allow veterans to be put in the middle like we have been continuing to (do). We are going to move forward and we will do it with speed to make sure we start paying these bills as soon as we possibly can.”

Rounds noted the costs involved, as much as $10 billion over 10 years, which will fall on veterans “if the VA doesn’t pay it. You don’t have the money in your budget. Are you prepared to ask Congress for appropriate funds,” he asked.

Shulkin expressed concern that Staab and the 2009 law change is “a new interpretation of a benefit for veterans who have other health insurance” and need emergency care, in many cases for conditions that are not service connected.

“If we do not get additional funds authorized, that money will come from the services we provide today to veterans, and they will have less health care,” Shulkin warned. “So, yes, we will … ask (Congress) to help support with additional funding this new benefit — if it is not overturned on appeal from the Department of Justice.”

Staab’s attorney Stichman, who is joint executive director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program, said the court was right to reject VA’s stay request because its chances of winning on appeal actually are low. Also, more delay in paying claims would cause “irreparable harm” to elderly veterans.

“If they happen to die while the claim is on appeal then they’ll never see the money and the debt would pass on to the estate,” Stichman said.

Send comments to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120, or email [email protected], or twitter: Tom Philpott @Military_Update

Young Soldier

Young Soldier

When we were young did we not all play

Pretending to be generals and sergeants

In our backyards or barns filled with hay

President Mom calling a truce,

To fill our bellies with hot biscuits and ham

No foul, no harm, no spills I guess

When young, is not time and the world

Our personal sandbox full of new thrills

17 who can now say that I am not a man

Jungles and deserts I now low crawl

With M-16 with 203 in my hand

I hold my breath and tweak my sight

With one finger the trigger I quietly squeeze

One less breath, one less man

As the earth inhales their blood

To me one more notch, one more trophy

As his last breath leaves with the wind

Is there blood on your conscience

For the blood on your hands

Not knowing your temple

Is the target

17 your life is over

Before it began

China’s President Xi Has New Year Message For The Nation’s Military

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Xi has New Year message for the nation’s military

PRESIDENT Xi Jinping called on the military to improve its political awareness, push forward reform, and govern its forces according to law to aid the building of a strong military.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, underscored the importance of improving combat readiness through troop training.

The president made the comments on Monday during a visit to the 65th Army Group, which is stationed in north China’s Hebei Province.

While at the barracks, Xi extended Spring Festival greetings to the armed forces, armed police force, the militia and reserve forces.

The weeklong holiday, which starts on the eve of the Chinese New Year tomorrow, is the most important in the Chinese calendar, when millions of people travel home, many seeing their relatives for the only time in the year.

Xi visited a study room of a company of an infantry brigade under the 65th Army Group, where he saw servicemen using a smart phone app to compare study results. He encouraged all soldiers to carry forward the country’s excellent traditions and move with the times, while using the Party’s new theories to arm their ideologies.

Xi expressed an interest in soldiers’ living arrangements during the Chinese Lunar New Year. He was briefed by a platoon leader that soldiers will have dinner, play games and attend entertainment events.

After listening to the soldiers singing, Xi sat with them, talking to every soldier in the platoon and urging the leaders to make sure that the soldiers have a good Spring Festival.

At the company clubhouse, Xi posed for photographs with the soldiers and told them that the grassroots units were the foundation of the military. He urged officers to care about their fellow servicemen and address their concerns.

He also voiced the hope that young servicemen could make personal achievements while in service.

Better work order

At the command and training center of the army group, Xi ordered better ideological and political work, saying that the pernicious influence of Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, two corrupt former CMC vice-chairmen, should be purged.

Guo was jailed for life last year. Xu died of cancer in 2015 before he could face trial.

It must be ensured that the military upholds the authority of the Party’s Central Committee at all times and under any circumstances, and firmly follows the command of the Party and the military commission, Xi said.

He demanded reform tasks be implemented and the military’s combat capability be enhanced through drills under battle conditions.

Xi stressed that the military should be strictly governed according to law, with a focus on primary-level units.

While striving to complete military missions, Xi said, the military should also support the integrated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the country’s poverty alleviation efforts.

The Right To Wear Beards And Turbans In The U.S. Military Is A Victory For More Than Sikhs

 

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The change to grooming standards for religious minorities is a victory for all Americans and will strengthen the armed forces.

In 1675, Tegh Bahadur, the ninth spiritual master of the Sikhs and a brilliant military leader, was actively pushing back against the Mughal empire’s intolerant policies of forced religious conversion. After Hindus from the Kashmir region implored him for help, Tegh Bahadur sent the Moghul emperor, Aurangzeb, a challenge: “If you can convert me to Islam, then all of the Hindus in Kashmir will also convert to Islam. But if you can not convert me, then you must let them practice their religion in peace.”

The Mughals tortured Tegh Bahadur’s followers and killed them in order to compel him to convert. Ultimately, they beheaded Tegh Bahadur when he refused to give up his Sikh identity, and with that sacrifice the Kashmiri Hindus were spared forced religious conversion.

This is a story that Sikh children grow up listening to. It teaches us lessons of sacrifice, bravery, and social justice. It taught me to stand up for the practice of all religions.

Ever since 9/11, Sikhs, Muslims and other minorities that appear “Middle Eastern” have been targeted in hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and bullying. As a Sikh, I fought back against that hate and intolerance by working to fix discriminatory policies that institutionalize these divides. If one of the largest employers in the United States, our military, can discriminate against my religiously mandated turban and beard, then that gives cover to every employer to do the same.

Sikhs served honorably in the U.S. military for most of the 20th century, but in the early 1980s the military changed grooming and uniform regulations, essentially barring all Sikhs with turbans and beards from service. But it wasn’t just Sikhs who were pushed out. Muslims, Native Americans, Rastafarians, some Jewish sects, and several other religious minorities were also told that their religious observances would no longer be allowed in uniform.

RELATED: A MARINE SAYS HER RELIGION EXEMPTED HER FROM CERTAIN RULES. HERE’S WHY SHE’S WRONG »

In 2009, I became the first Sikh in a generation to be granted a religious accommodation for my turban and beard by the Pentagon, and on Jan. 3, 2017, the Pentagon released Army Directive 2017-03. It is a policy that addresses the most commonly requested religious accommodations and is a monumental achievement for not only Army Sec. Eric Fanning but also for those Sikhs who had pushed this issue for nearly a decade.

It is also a victory for America. We show our strength when we recognize the civil rights of small minorities. And when we do, we also gain in our fight with our enemies. ISIS tolerates no dissent, no disagreement, no difference. Our acceptance brings new people to our side, just as ISIS’ intolerance pushes many away.

The new directive allows brigade-level accommodation approval; that is, religious accommodations will no longer clutter desks at the office of the deputy chief of staff for personnel at the Pentagon. Once the religious accommodations have been made, they will continue throughout the soldiers’ careers. They can not be revoked or modified unless authorized by the service secretary or his/her designee. These soldiers can change duty stations and deploy, all without having to reapply for their religious waivers.

The directive also sets forth changes to AR 670-1 that specifically establish guidelines for the wear of turban, beard and hijabs in uniform. And just in case I wanted to wear my pink turban in uniform, the policy change states that the turban and hijab must be of subdued color or pattern that matches the camouflage of the uniform. All soldiers must still be able to wear a helmet and other “protective headgear.” Personally, I have never had any issue establishing a seal with a protective mask even with my turban and beard. The directive acknowledges that there are powered protective mask systems that our military currently uses which will form a good seal for all soldiers with facial hair. Furthermore, the Army will look to acquire and develop more protective masks that will function with facial hair.

This makes sense. Utilizing the Pentagon to grant individual religious accommodations is expensive, wasteful, and just plain silly. I want the Pentagon to focus on important issues like improving military transition, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, sexual assault, and cyber attacks.

Sikhs have been fighting against violent extremism and religious intolerance for centuries. A good friend of mine, Lt. Col. Claude Brittain, served as a Pentagon chaplain before he passed away last year. He always supported our efforts to help open doors for religious minorities. Bluntly, I asked him one day why he continues to stick his neck out for us. He told me that in order for him to be a good Christian, he felt compelled to stand up for Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and others. I shared the story of Tegh Bahadur with him and he teared up.

This is how we counter threats like ISIS. ISIS doesn’t believe in diversity or religious freedom. That’s their weakness and we have to learn to exploit it if we’re to have any chance of defeating their underlying ideology. You don’t have to go back too far in history to see that the Nazis were way more “uniform” than we were, and that’s why we fought them. We can fight wars with bullets and tanks, but it’s our American ideals that will ultimately win the day. America’s military should look like the people it serves.

My Views On How ‘To Fix’ Israel’s ‘Broken’ Political System

 

For those of you who do not know me, I am a 60-year-old white American man who is a fundamentalist Christian who is also a huge fan of the Nation of Israel. I am a person who is not an anti-Muslim or anti-Persian. Even though I do believe that the Jewish people are missing the reality that Yeshua (Jesus The Christ) and Yahweh (Jehovah The Father) I have no doubts about Israel and the Hebrew bloodline being very special to God The Father and The Son. The Christian faith is born out of the Jewish faith and the Arab people are descendants of the Father of Israel, Abraham through his son Ishmael. Whether it is a Nation, a people, or a singular person, it is a great sin to fight against the Nation of Israel. It is an old saying and a truthful one that I have heard several times throughout the years that the Palestinian people would have peace any time they decide they actually want it by simply laying down their arms and quit fighting against Israel. It is also a true saying that if Israel was to lay down their arms, there would be no Israel. The majority of Israel’s politics is based around the security issues of its people and of the State from attacks by people who believe that Allah is God. Think about it, who else is attacking Israel?

 

This article tonight is one I thought of as I was reading the Times of Israel News Paper online. The names and the math figures are ones that I gleaned off of those articles so hopefully they were correct. As I said earlier, the single biggest issue in Israeli politics seems to always be about security issues. Within any government there is always many other issues that the leadership is responsible to make sure are addressed and taken care of for their people. There is always the issues of jobs, housing, power grids, transportation, garbage pickup and disposal and the list goes on and on. If the Leaders of a Nation or of a group of people are channeling their time into one issue like lets say President Putin is doing with Russia’s military, the people of your own Country suffers. For any Nation, any People to flourish the Leaders need to address the issues that affect the daily lives of their population. Just look at the situation in the Gaza Strip with Hamas as their ‘Governors’! The people of the Strip could have their own Country and be living in peace but Hamas will not allow it. They spend the majority of their income on military issues in their ‘struggle’ with Israel yet it is a ‘struggle’ that they themselves create.

 

In Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, you have some members who would build a very high wall to block off all of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and I am sure that there are some who would take all of this land they were given in the Land for Peace deal of  2005 if they were allowed to by Israeli law. The only way for that to happen is if these ‘hard lines’ can gain political control of Israel’s Government and elections are the only way to do this. There are other issues that would have to get involved in their Democracy like Israel’s Court system as well as considerations of U.N. sanctions and the such. In the Knesset Isaac Herzog who is the leader of the ‘Zionist Union Party’ (which is the second largest party as far as members of the Knesset) spoke yesterday of his opposition to Israel’s current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu perceived plan to partition off the West Bank or at least big sections of it as being a mistake because of the issue that in doing so would bring in millions of Arab voters thus giving them more control of Israel’s political system. You need to remember that there are Arab Islamic believing members of the Knesset, if Israel partitions off the West Bank, there will become many more Islamic believing members of the Knesset.

 

The Chairman of the Likud Party, which is the Party of the Prime Minister, Mr. David Bitan said that he would like it if Israel’s Arab population were not allowed to vote. This brought many critical comments toward him because he said this but his response, in my opinion, was appropriate. Think about this for a moment before you judge him. He said that any political party would like it if their competition were not allowed to vote. Don’t you think that Hillary Clinton would have liked it if no Republicans had been allowed to vote last month in the U.S. elections? Was what Mr. Bitan said actually racist? I don’t know, I don’t know this man’s heart, do you? If you do, you may have a more informed opinion.

 

Before I make a book out of this article via giving too much time to the ‘set up’ material I am now going to address the political operation of the Knesset and the election of their Prime Minister’s position. Yesterday the Leader of the Yair Lapid Party Mr. Yesh Atid was calling for early Elections in an attempt to over through the current Government led by the Prime Minister’s Likud Party. Mr. Atid was using a recent poll showing that He and his Party were even with the Prime Minister’s Party in the poll. The next National election is scheduled for November 5th of 2019. In the Knesset for a Bill to pass it must get a majority of the votes which is a minimum of 61. Israel’s Governments require a Ruling Coalition to have at least 61 Seats. This gives very small political parties a large amount of power if they are part of the Ruling Party Coalition. As an example, the ruling Likud Party  currently has 67 Seats through their Coalition. In this coalition you have the Jewish Home Party with 8 Seats and the Kulana Party with 10 Seats. Under the current political setup if either one of these Parties decided to leave the Coalition, the Government of Prime Minister Netanyahu would fall and a new election would have to quickly be set up, the November 5th of 2019 date would mean nothing.

 

Here is my suggestion that I wish Israel would consider because the people of any Nation need to know that their Government is secure so that the people themselves can make long-term decisions in their own lives. Here in the U.S. we the people know that our next Presidential election will be in November of 2020, it is set every 4 years, no matter what. I believe that for the Nation of Israel the people would be better served if the next elections aren’t held until the scheduled date in 2019. From that election forward I believe a better system would be that they keep the 61 votes for the purpose of passing any Bill’s yet drop the 61 Seat requirement for the Ruling Party. Hold your election in November of 2019 and if no Party gets above the 50% level (61 Seats) then have another election about 3 days later where only the top 2 vote getter are on the ballot. This election must be by the people, not the Politicians doing backroom deals. Then the Party who gets the most votes of the 2, wins. But, before the elections each Party must put forth who their Leader is so that the people decide whom they want to be their next Prime Minister. Even if the Ruling Party only has lets say 30 Seats like what Likud has now this leading vote getter will be the Ruling Party. Instead of the Prime Minister having to have 61 Seats they would only have to work with all the Members of the Knesset to get the other votes to help pass the Bill. I believe that this system would give the Government of Israel and the People of Israel more stability. Any economy, any people, need stability to be able to live in physiological peace and any Country that has ‘snap elections’ reeks of weakness which is never a good thing for the people the Government is supposed to be representing.

Israel Says It Is Not Ready To Confront Hezbollah’s Rockets?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘ONLY LEBANON.NET’ NEWS AGENCY)

December 7, 2016 Last Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2016 – 7:58
Israel is ready to confront Hezbollah rockets .. but

Ali Haider – News

Titled “Israel: The home front is not ready to face the Hezbollah rockets,” Ali Haider wrote in the “News”: Ten years after the 2006 war, and three bloody military confrontations against the Gaza Strip, Israel acknowledged that the home front is not ready to face the Hezbollah rockets, and that the government and the leadership of the army’s performance has not lived up to the level of threat that shaped tunnels Gaza Strip.

Read More …

“The state comptroller,” announced that the Israeli home front is not ready to face the Hezbollah rockets, ten years after the July aggression. Although the state comptroller’s report dealt with the readiness of the home front during the recent aggression on the Gaza Strip.

However, the notes and warnings, which involved them, targeting mainly the willingness to confront Hezbollah on its northern front.

He Amos Harel, military affairs commentator in the newspaper “Haaretz”, that this concept is based on the fact that there is no similarity between the seriousness of the threat posed by Hezbollah on the domestic front and fronted by Israel in the recent war with Hamas. The paper warned of the lack of understanding of the threat to Israel from its northern front, in light of Hezbollah’s possession of tens of thousands of rockets that have part of it accurate and extents cover all occupied Palestine.

Can not be separated between the conclusion of the Israeli newspaper, and understood by policymakers and security decision in Tel Aviv that Hezbollah, despite the concern to confront the threat posed by terrorist groups and infidels, we still have the will of the decision to activate its capabilities in the event of Israel to overcome some of the red lines that have evolved during the past years.

The “Haaretz” that the deep gap between the facing Israel on its northern front and facing the South forehead, which could explain the gap between the Israeli discourse firm against Hezbollah, and approaches the operational disorderly and justification for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who as much as possible try to avoid the outbreak war with the party. And Chi-sum referred to by Harel that cost calculations and feasibility of any war with Hezbollah is preparing strongly in the consciousness of policymakers and security decision in Tel Aviv, and explain a lot of the vocabulary of the political and operational performance.

Report of the State Comptroller for the home front put through the process of “steadfast shelf” against the Gaza Strip, is only a pre-emptive strike preliminary final report, which is supposed to be released in January, which will address the core issues that have held the opinion of the Israeli public, and formed the focus of disputes between Netanyahu’s hand and all of the ministers at the time of Naphtali built and Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni. These issues revolve around preparing for the threat of tunnels, and the performance of the cabinet in the war, and the image of intelligence and other dimensions.

In the case of the internal front, the prime minister was not the central goal of the criticism of the State Comptroller’s report, but the criticism focused on the leadership of the army and the Ministry of Security and former its Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The report included a series of flaws, starting with the work of the Cabinet and the government and the end of the field activity. The report, in this context, that the Cabinet as the observer, not until June held this year a broad discussion about the preparations of the home front’s meeting, given that this issue is one of the most critical questions by Israel in any future battle against Hezbollah in Lebanon or against the Gaza Strip.

As for Netanyahu, Vtantzerh three personal notes in the main report, relate not to study alternatives to war, and the failure to involve the cabinet in the seriousness of the threat of tunnels and lack of control on the army’s preparations for the threat. On this issue, Netanyahu still ran a focused campaign to influence the final report of the observer, Joseph Shapira, next month, in order to soften the draft version of the semi-final.

Although Shapira aware that he would be a media attack by the vicinity of the prime minister, but he skewered to the Ministerial Council on ways to warn and protect the population in Israel, especially in light of the expectations of their exposure in any future war with Hezbollah for tens of thousands of rockets, at the time still in it Department of defense systems and objection is not valid, and a large section of public and private shelters is not ready to meet the expectations.

He pointed to the observer that since the government decided to reduce the differences in fortify buildings, partly implemented, and in some places has never carried out, which prevented achieve equality at this level. The report pointed out that there are institutions not been vaccinated in the buildings around the Gaza Strip into Israeli towns, despite a decision in this regard by the Supreme Court. The report also warned that the ability to defend the north of Israel is extremely limited, given the lack of immunization buildings.

On the other hand, the observer’s report confirmed that the army and the Ministry of Security Ablora did not plan to evacuate towns in northern Israel and there were deliberations on the military and political levels about the gaps in the means of air defense of northern Israel. Also included criticism of the National Security Authority for being not pursued as it should implement the decisions of the prime minister, given that this matter of the roles specified in the law.

Pentagon Buries Internal Report Showing 23% Of Their Budget Is Wasted

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.

Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.

The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.

The study was produced last year by the Defense Business Board, a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants from McKinsey and Company. Based on reams of personnel and cost data, their report revealed for the first time that the Pentagon was spending almost a quarter of its $580 billion budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management.

The data showed that the Defense Department was paying a staggering number of people — 1,014,000 contractors, civilians and uniformed personnel — to fill back-office jobs far from the front lines. That workforce supports 1.3 million troops on active duty, the fewest since 1940.

The cost-cutting study could find a receptive audience with President-elect Donald Trump. He has promised a major military buildup and said he would pay for it by “eliminating government waste and budget gimmicks.”

For the military, the major allure of the study was that it called for reallocating the $125 billion for troops and weapons. Among other options, the savings could have paid a large portion of the bill to rebuild the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal, or the operating expenses for 50 Army brigades.

But some Pentagon leaders said they fretted that by spotlighting so much waste, the study would undermine their repeated public assertions that years of budget austerity had left the armed forces starved of funds. Instead of providing more money, they said, they worried Congress and the White House might decide to cut deeper.

So the plan was killed. The Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings. A 77-page summary report that had been made public was removed from a Pentagon website.

“They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money. We proposed a way to save a ton of money,” said Robert “Bobby” L. Stein, a private-equity investor from Jacksonville, Fla., who served as chairman of the Defense Business Board.

Stein, a campaign bundler for President Obama, said the study’s data were “indisputable” and that it was “a travesty” for the Pentagon to suppress the results.

“We’re going to be in peril because we’re spending dollars like it doesn’t matter,” he added.

The missed opportunity to streamline the military bureaucracy could soon have large ramifications. Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Pentagon will be forced to stomach $113 billion in automatic cuts over four years unless Congress and Trump can agree on a long-term spending deal by October. Playing a key role in negotiations will probably be Trump’s choice for defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis.

The Defense Business Board was ordered to conduct the study by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranking official. At first, Work publicly touted the efficiency drive as a top priority and boasted about his idea to recruit corporate experts to lead the way.

After the board finished its analysis, however, Work changed his position. In an interview with The Post, he did not dispute the board’s findings about the size or scope of the bureaucracy. But he dismissed the $125 billion savings proposal as “unrealistic” and said the business executives had failed to grasp basic obstacles to restructuring the public sector.

“There is this meme that we’re some bloated, giant organization,” he said. “Although there is a little bit of truth in that . . . I think it vastly overstates what’s really going on.”

Work said the board fundamentally misunderstood how difficult it is to eliminate federal civil service jobs — members of Congress, he added, love having them in their districts — or to renegotiate defense contracts.

He said the Pentagon is adopting some of the study’s recommendations on a smaller scale and estimated it will save $30 billion by 2020. Many of the programs he cited, however, have been on the drawing board for years or were unrelated to the Defense Business Board’s research.

Work acknowledged that the push to improve business operations lost steam after then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was replaced by Ashton B. Carter in February 2015. Carter has emphasized other goals, such as strengthening the Pentagon’s partnerships with high-tech firms.

“We will never be as efficient as a commercial organization,” Work said. “We’re the largest bureaucracy in the world. There’s going to be some inherent inefficiencies in that.”

‘Dark matter’

Work, a retired Marine officer, became deputy defense secretary in May 2014. With the military budget under the most pressure since the end of the Cold War, he sought help from the Defense Business Board, an advisory panel known for producing management studies that usually gathered dust.

Work told the board that the outcome of this assignment would be different. In a memo, he directed the board to collect sensitive cost data from the military services and defense agencies that would reveal how much they spent on business operations.

Pentagon officials knew their back-office bureaucracy was overstaffed and overfunded. But nobody had ever gathered and analyzed such a comprehensive set of data before.

Some Defense Business Board members warned that exposing the extent of the problem could have unforeseen consequences.

“You are about to turn on the light in a very dark room,” Kenneth Klepper, the former chief executive of Medco Health Solutions, told Work in the summer of 2014, according to two people familiar with the exchange. “All the crap is going to float to the surface and stink the place up.”

“Do it,” Work replied.

To turn on the light, the Pentagon needed more outside expertise. A team of consultants from McKinsey was hired.

In a confidential August 2014 memo, McKinsey noted that while the Defense Department was “the world’s largest corporate enterprise,” it had never “rigorously measured” the “cost-effectiveness, speed, agility or quality” of its business operations.

Nor did the Pentagon have even a remotely accurate idea of what it was paying for those operations, which McKinsey divided into five categories: human resources; health-care management; supply chain and logistics; acquisition and procurement; and financial-flow management.

McKinsey hazarded a guess: anywhere between $75 billion and $100 billion a year, or between 15 and 20 percent of the Pentagon’s annual expenses. “No one REALLY knows,” the memo added.

The mission would be to analyze, for the first time, dozens of databases that tracked civilian and military personnel, and labor costs for defense contractors. The problem was that the databases were in the grip of the armed forces and a multitude of defense agencies. Many had fought to hide the data from outsiders and bureaucratic rivals, according to documents and interviews.

Information on contractor labor, in particular, was so cloaked in mystery that McKinsey described it as “dark matter.”

Prying it loose would require direct orders from Work. Even then, McKinsey consultants predicted the bureaucracy would resist.

“This is a sensitive exercise conducted with audiences both ‘weary’ and ‘wary’ of efficiency, cost, sequestration and budget drills,” the confidential memo stated. “Elements of the culture are masterful at ‘waiting out studies and sponsors,’ with a ‘this too shall pass’ mindset.”

Overstaffed chow hall

From the outset, access to the data was limited to a handful of people. A $2.9 million consulting contract signed by the Pentagon stipulated that none of the data or analysis could be released to the news media or the public.

Moreover, the contract required McKinsey to report to David Tillotson III, the Pentagon’s acting deputy chief management officer. Anytime the Defense Business Board wanted the consultants to carry out a task, Tillotson would have to approve. His office — not the board — would maintain custody of the data.

“Good news!” Work emailed Tillotson once the contract was signed. “Time to cook.”

In an Oct. 15, 2014, memo, Work ordered the board to move quickly, giving it three months to produce “specific and actionable recommendations.”

In a speech the next month, Work lauded the board for its private-sector expertise. He said he had turned it into “an operational arm” of the Pentagon leadership and predicted the study would deliver transformational results.

In an aside, he revealed that early findings had determined the average administrative job at the Pentagon was costing taxpayers more than $200,000, including salary and benefits.

“And you say, hmmm, we could probably do better than that,” he said.

The initial results did not come as a surprise.

Former defense secretaries William S. Cohen, Robert M. Gates and Chuck Hagel had launched similar efficiency drives in 1997, 2010 and 2013, respectively. But each of the leaders left the Pentagon before their revisions could take root.

“Because we turn over our secretaries and deputy secretaries so often, the bureaucracy just waits things out,” said Dov Zakheim, who served as Pentagon comptroller under President George W. Bush. “You can’t do it at the tail end of an administration. It’s not going to work. Either you leave the starting block with a very clear program, or you’re not going to get it done.”

Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine general and former staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers block even modest attempts to downsize the Pentagon’s workforce because they do not want to lose jobs in their districts.

Without backing from Congress, “you can’t even get rid of the guy serving butter in the chow hall in a local district, much less tens of thousands of jobs,” he said.

‘Time to hunt!’

The Defense Business Board assigned five members to conduct the study alongside consultants from McKinsey. Scott Rutherford, senior partner at McKinsey’s Washington office, declined to comment.

The team ran into resistance as several Pentagon offices delayed requests for data, according to emails and memos. Work and Tillotson had to intervene to get the data flowing. At one point, more than 100 people were feeding data from different sectors of the bureaucracy.

Laboring under its tight deadline, the team hashed out an agreement with Pentagon officials over which job classifications to count in their survey. The board added a sixth category of business operations — real property management. That alone covered 192,000 jobs and annual expenses of $22.6 billion.

On Christmas Eve, Klepper emailed Work and Tillotson to thank them for putting their muscle behind the project. Without it, he said, “this would all have been DOA and the naysayers would all have been right.”

He hinted the board would make some eye-catching recommendations and expressed relief its work had not been torpedoed.

“I have to admit, with all the caution, negative reaction and pushback,” Klepper said, “I had a bit of concern at the end of the analysis some form of censorship would stop us from showing the true opportunity.”

Work replied that he could not be happier.

“Time to hunt!” he said in an email, adding that he was “very excited about 2015” and ready to make “some bold moves.”

The year kicked off with promise. On Jan. 21, 2015, the Pentagon announced Stein, the private-equity investor, had been reappointed as the board’s chairman and praised him for his “outstanding service.”

The next day, the full board held its quarterly public meeting to review the results of the study. The report had a dry title, “Transforming DoD’s Core Business Processes for Revolutionary Change,” and was packed with charts and jargon. But it began plainly enough.

“We are spending a lot more money than we thought,” the report stated. It then broke down how the Defense Department was spending $134 billion a year on business operations — about 50 percent more than McKinsey had guessed at the outset.

Almost half of the Pentagon’s back-office personnel — 457,000 full-time employees — were assigned to logistics or supply-chain jobs. That alone exceeded the size of United Parcel Service’s global workforce.

The Pentagon’s purchasing bureaucracy counted 207,000 full-time workers. By itself, that would rank among the top 30 private employers in the United States.

More than 192,000 people worked in property management. About 84,000 people held human-resources jobs.

The study laid out a range of options. At the low end, just by renegotiating service contracts and hiring less-expensive workers, the Pentagon could save $75 billion over five years. At the high end, by adopting more aggressive productivity targets, it could save twice as much.

After a discussion, the full board voted to recommend a middle option: to save $125 billion over five years.

Hordes of contractors

Afterward, board members briefed Work. They were expecting an enthusiastic response, but the deputy defense secretary looked uneasy, according to two people who were present.

He singled out a page in the report. Titled “Warfighter Currency,” it showed how saving $125 billion could be redirected to boost combat power. The money could cover the operational costs for 50 Army brigades, or 3,000 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Air Force, or 10 aircraft-carrier strike groups for the Navy.

“This is what scares me,” he said, according to the two people present. Work explained he was worried Congress might see it as an invitation to strip $125 billion from the defense budget and spend it somewhere else.

A few weeks later, Carter replaced Hagel as defense secretary. Carter sounded as though he would welcome the kind of revolutionary change the board was urging.

“To win support from our fellow citizens for the resources we need, we must show that we can make better use of every taxpayer dollar,” Carter said in an inaugural message in February 2015. “That means a leaner organization, less overhead, and reforming our business and acquisition practices.”

In briefings that month, uniformed military leaders were receptive at first. They had long groused that the Pentagon wasted money on a layer of defense bureaucracies — known as the Fourth Estate — that were outside the control of the Army, Air Force and Navy. Military officials often felt those agencies performed duplicative services and oversight.

But the McKinsey consultants had also collected data that exposed how the military services themselves were spending princely sums to hire hordes of defense contractors.

For example, the Army employed 199,661 full-time contractors, according to a confidential McKinsey report obtained by The Post. That alone exceeded the combined civil workforce for the Departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development.

The average cost to the Army for each contractor that year: $189,188, including salary, benefits and other expenses.

The Navy was not much better. It had 197,093 contractors on its payroll. On average, each cost $170,865.

In comparison, the Air Force had 122,470 contractors. Each cost, on average, $186,142.

Taking fire

Meantime, the backlash to the $125 billion savings plan intensified.

On Feb. 6, 2015, board members briefed Frank Kendall III, the Pentagon’s chief weapons-buyer. Kendall’s operations were a major target of the study; he oversaw an empire of purchasing agents and contractors that were constantly under attack from Congress for cost overruns and delays.

Kendall put up a stiff fight. He challenged the board’s data and strenuously objected to the conclusion that his offices were overstaffed.

“Are you trying to tell me we don’t know how to do our job?” he said, according to two participants in the meeting. He said he needed to hire 1,000 more people to work directly under him, not fewer.

“If you don’t believe me, call in an auditor,” replied Klepper, the board’s restructuring expert. “They’ll tell you it’s even worse than this.”

In an interview, Kendall acknowledged he was “very disappointed” by the board’s work, which he criticized as “shallow” and “very low on content.” He said the study had ignored efforts by his agencies to become more efficient, and he accused the board of plucking the $125 billion figure out of thin air.

“It was essentially a ballpark, made-up number,” he said.

Still, Kendall knew that lawmakers might view the study as credible. Alarmed, he said, he went to Work and warned that the findings could “be used as a weapon” against the Pentagon.

“If the impression that’s created is that we’ve got a bunch of money lying around and we’re being lazy and we’re not doing anything to save money, then it’s harder to justify getting budgets that we need,” Kendall said.

More ominously, board members said they started to get the silent treatment from the Pentagon’s highest ranks.

Briefings that had been scheduled for military leaders in the Tank — the secure conference room for the Joint Chiefs of Staff — were canceled. Worse, the board was unable to secure an audience with Carter, the new defense secretary.

Stein, the board chairman, accused Carter of deliberately derailing the plan through inaction. “Unfortunately, Ash — for reasons of his own — stopped this,” he said in an interview.

Peter Cook, a spokesman for Carter, said the Pentagon chief was busy dealing with “a long list of national security challenges.” He added that Work and other senior officials had already “concluded that the report, while well-intentioned, had limited value.”

The fatal blow was struck in April. Just three months after Stein had been reappointed as board chairman, Carter replaced him with Michael Bayer, a business consultant who had previously served on the panel and clashed with Stein. Bayer declined to comment.

A few weeks later, Klepper resigned from the board. The $125 billion savings plan was dead.

In an interview, Tillotson, the Pentagon’s acting deputy chief management officer, called the board’s recommendations too ambitious and aggressive. “They, perhaps, underestimated the degree of difficulty we have in doing something that in the commercial sector would seem to be very easy to do.”

Yet he acknowledged that its overall strategy for scaling back the bureaucracy was sound and that, given more time, it would be possible to realize huge savings.

“If we had a longer timeline, yes, it would be a reasonable approach,” he said. “You might get there eventually.”

Ending the debate

Frustration, however, persisted in some corners over the Pentagon’s unwillingness to tackle the inefficiency and waste documented by the study.

On June 2, 2015, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus delivered a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. He complained that 20 percent of the defense budget went to the Fourth Estate — the defense agencies that provide support to the armed forces — and called it “pure overhead.”

He singled out the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency, which together employ about 40,000 people, as egregious examples.

When a reporter in the audience asked whether he thought the agencies should be abolished, Mabus resisted the temptation to say yes.

“Nice try on getting me into deep trouble,” he replied.

But trouble arrived in Mabus’s email the next day.

“Ray, before you publicly trash one of the agencies that reports through me I’d really appreciate a chance to discuss it with you,” wrote Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons-buyer, whose management portfolio included the Defense Logistics Agency.

He said that if Mabus had a complaint, he should raise it directly with their mutual bosses, Carter and Work, and copied the email to both.

In his interview with The Post, Kendall said he was “completely blindsided” by the Navy secretary’s criticism, “so I sent him what I thought under the circumstances was a pretty polite note.”

Mabus did not back down. In an emailed retort to Kendall, he referred to the ill-fated Defense Business Board study.

“I did not say anything yesterday that I have not said both publicly . . . and privately inside this building,” he said. “There have been numerous studies, which I am sure you are aware of, pointing out excessive overhead.”

That prompted a stern intervention from Work.

“Ray, please refrain from taking any more public pot shots,” Work said in an email. “I do not want this spilling over into further public discourse.”

Evelyn Duffy contributed to this report.

If You Have Any Interest In Ancient Law, History, And Culture, Learn Of Hammurabi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GOOGLE PLUS AND (WHO, WHY, WHERE AND HOW) WEB-SITE)

Friday, 11 November 2016

Hammurabi’s Code of Law

Hammurabi’s Code of Law is a well-preserved Babylonian law code of ancient Mesopotamia, dating back to about 1754 BC. It is one of the oldest and one of the most important deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth king of the Babylonian dynasty, Hammurabi, enacted this code. Partial copies of this code exist on a seven and a half foot stone stele and various clay tablets.
Img Source – http://www.todayifoundout.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Code-of-Hammurabi.jpg
It was a Customary law of code, which means that it was based on rituals, customs, and practices of the society. The code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man. Customary laws was the basis of legal structure. Rulers would usually apply the laws of their predecessors. Rulers would issue edicts which contained these modifications. Hammurabi carried out a thorough compilation of laws, many of which were intended to guide judges in situations which were not provided for in existing law. In order to familiarise the people with these laws Hammurabi had them inscribed and placed in several parts of the empire, many were placed in temples also. The Susa inscription is the most well known of all the copies of Hammurabi’s code.
Susa inscription
Img Source – http://danamotor.ir/Inscription_Elamite_Susa.jpg

The Mesopotamian Society at a glance.

The code confirms the existence of a highly stratified society. The code recognises three main classes: Wardu, Mushkenu and awelu.
Wardu was the term used for slaves. By Hammurabi’s time there was a considerable slave population in Mesopotamia. The ability to produce a surplus on a regular basis had been the first precondition for the emergence of slavery. Slavery becomes possible when society reaches a stage where it can produce surplus. Warfare, however is the second precondition for slavery. Enslavement implied complete dehumanisation of a person. Slaves were treated as things and not as human beings. The first slaves were women. When a group was conquered, the normal practise was to kill the men and enslave the women. It would have required too much armed force to watch over men slaves who possessed military training. It was much later that men were enslaved. The Wardu had distinctive marks on their bodies. This made it difficult for them to run away. They were shaven and branded. In Hammurabi’s code of law, helping a slave lead to death.
The Awelu were the uppermost stratum of society. Awelu were free inhabitants enjoying superior rights. The Awelu included priests, nobles, military leaders, warriors, scribes and big farmers. The ruling elites were drawn from this class.
The Mushkenu did not enjoy certain rights. They could not hold any public office and were usually not allowed to possess weapons. Their right to property was limited. They were tenants rather than landowners. The Mushkenu stood much lower than Aweku in the social hierarchy. Yet they were free, unlike the Wardu. Whereas laws in the code ordinarily apply to the Awelu and Mushkenu in a similar manner, most of the penalties prescribed are much lighter for the Awelu.

Laws

Almost one-forth of the laws in the code pertain to marriage and the regulation of family relationships. Also, the emergence of private property meant that rulers for inheritance had to be property defined. There must have been a large number of disputes over the inheritance of property. The family, rather the clan, now became the main unit for control over property. Property was inherited within the family.

Women’s Status

With the development of agriculture, agrarian communities took to sedentism and established ties of cooperation with one another. These ties were strengthened ties of cooperation with exchange of marriage partners. Women would give birth to children and thereby could be tied down to a new group more easily. Their reproductive function would give them a stake in the group into which they had married, ensuring the loyalty. Men on the other hand would find it easy to break their ties and run away. Women thus became commodities to be exchanged primarily for the purpose of producing children. Once woman had became a ‘thing’ she no longer enjoyed an equal status. Society became a male dominated Society. The Structure of family was patriarchal. The authority of the father could not be questioned. If a son hit his father, the father could punish the son by cutting of his hand.
A Dowry settlement would be made at the time of marriage. When a women Died, her dowry went to her sons.
Divorce was a male prerogative. According to the code one of the acceptable grounds for divorce was that a woman had behaved ‘foolishly wasting her house and belittling her husband’ The most common reason for divorce was the feature to give birth to sons.

Economy

Another category of laws in the code deal with the economy. A farmer who undertook to reclaim wasteland was allowed three years to perform the task. In the first year he paid no tax, half the normal tax in the second year, and the full rate in the third year. The laws make it clear that every holder of land had to maintain the bank of any canal that flowed past the fields, and any neglect which might result in damage to adjacent fields was punishable. Then there are laws which lay down the price that had to be paid for certain services, e.g surgery.

Military

Hammurabi’s code has references to the system of ilkum which was a mechanism for enlisting military service. Ilkumimplied a grant of land which obliged the holder to serve in the army. It is not very clear as to how ilkum operated, but this institution was useful for mobilising military support.

A thought

Mesopotamian laws, including those enshrined in Hammurabi’s code, exerted considerable influence over the legal systems of other societies of West Asia. Many of these laws were later modified and adapted to suit the social conditions of the people of this region. 

This blog, trouthtroubles.com is owned, written, and operated by oldpoet56. All articles, posts, and materials found here, except for those that I have pressed here from someone else’s blog for the purpose of showing off their work, are under copyright and this website must be credited if my articles are re-blogged, pressed, or shared.

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