Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pentagon forcing veterans to repay enlistment bonuses

What an outrageous betrayal:
.Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.
Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.
But soldiers say the military is reneging on 10-year-old agreements and imposing severe financial hardship on veterans whose only mistake was to accept bonuses offered when the Pentagon needed to fill the ranks.
“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran from Manteca, Calif., who says he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the Army says he should not have received. “People like me just got screwed.”
In Iraq, Van Meter was thrown from an armored vehicle turret — and later awarded a Purple Heart for his combat injuries — after the vehicle detonated a buried roadside bomb.
Susan Haley, a Los Angeles native and former Army master sergeant who deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, said she sends the Pentagon $650 a month — a quarter of her family’s income — to pay down $20,500 in bonuses that the Guard says were given to her improperly.
“I feel totally betrayed,” said Haley, 47, who served 26 years in the Army along with her husband and oldest son, a medic who lost a leg in combat in Afghanistan.
Haley, who now lives in Kempner, Texas, worries they may have to sell their house to repay the bonuses. “They’ll get their money, but I want those years back,” she said, referring to her six-year reenlistment. [my bolding]
How did this clusterfuck happen?
The National Guard Bureau, the Pentagon agency that oversees state Guard organizations,  has acknowledged that bonus overpayments occurred in every state at the height of the two wars.
But the money was handed out far more liberally in the California Guard, which has about 17,000 soldiers and is one of the largest state Guard organizations.
In 2010, after reports surfaced of improper payments, a federal investigation found that thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were given to California Guard soldiers who did not qualify for them, or were approved despite paperwork errors.
Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Three officers also pleaded guilty to fraud and were put on probation after paying restitution.
So why didn't this end there?
Instead of forgiving the improper bonuses, the California Guard assigned 42 auditors to comb through paperwork for bonuses and other incentive payments given to 14,000 soldiers, a process that was finally completed last month.
Roughly 9,700 current and retired soldiers have been told by the California Guard to repay some or all of their bonuses and the recoupment effort has recovered more than $22 million so far.
Because of protests, appeals and refusal by some to comply, the recovery effort is likely to continue for years.
In interviews, current and former California Guard members described being ordered to attend mass meetings in 2006 and 2007 in California where officials signed up soldiers in assembly-line fashion after outlining the generous terms available for six-year reenlistments.
Robert Richmond, an Army sergeant first class then living in Huntington Beach, said he reenlisted after being told he qualified for a $15,000 bonus as a special forces soldier.
The money gave him “breathing room,” said Richmond, who had gone through a divorce after a deployment to Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003.
In 2007, his special forces company was sent to the Iraqi town of Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad in an area known as the “Triangle of Death” because of the intense fighting.
Richmond conducted hundreds of missions against insurgents over the next year. In one, a roadside bomb exploded by his vehicle, knocking him out and leaving him with permanent back and brain injuries.
He was stunned to receive a letter from California Guard headquarters in 2014 telling him to repay the $15,000 and warning he faced “debt collection action” if he failed to comply.
Richmond, 48, has refused to repay the bonus. He says he only had served 15 years when he reenlisted, due to several breaks in his Army service.
He has filed appeal after appeal, even after receiving a collection letter from the Treasury Department in March warning that his “unpaid delinquent debt” had risen to $19,694.62 including interest and penalties.
After quitting the California Guard so the money wouldn’t be taken from his paycheck, he moved to Nebraska to work as a railroad conductor, but was laid off.
He then moved to Texas to work for a construction company, leaving his wife and children in Nebraska. With $15,000 debt on his credit report, he has been unable to qualify for a home loan.
“I signed a contract that I literally risked my life to fulfill,” Richmond said bitterly. “We want somebody in the government, anybody, to say this is wrong and we’ll stop going after this money.” [my bolding]
Yes, but some assistant deputy to a department head in the Pentagon has a hoped for promotion to fulfill by carrying out this vicious, unjust, life ruining collection.

 If there were a deliberate attempt to destroy the all-volunteer military, this would make sense.


Trumped!: anti-abortion brain farts

Trump has only recently caught the brain destroying anti-abortion virus, but his case is very severe, causing him to threaten to imprison women who have abortions and spewing falsehoods about late abortions. Here's what one, real woman with a real experience, has to say in response:
Cecily Kellogg also went on the attack -- but for her, the issue is deeply and angrily personal.
The Philadelphia marketer and social media manager was deathly ill with a pregnancy-related condition called preeclampsia when she underwent an abortion at 23.5 weeks, she wrote Thursday on
"Once I was admitted to the hospital, I started getting sicker," she wrote in an impassioned, obscenity-laced post.
"I started vomiting. My blood pressure soared. My head hurt so badly I thought it would kill me. I stopped producing urine as my organs began to shut down. I was moments away from seizures, comas, and death -- yes, DEATH -- when a team of doctors surrounded my bed and told me I had to terminate the pregnancy or my son and I would BOTH die."
Kellogg, 48, has written repeatedly about her harrowing 2004 abortion at Pennsylvania Hospital "because people keep saying s- like what Trump said in the debate last night."
During the debate, Trump was asked whether he supported the federal ban on the procedure known medically as "intact dilation and evacuation."  He used the opportunity to blast opponent Hillary Clinton's abortion stance. (Clinton voted against the ban because it did not have an exception to save the health of the pregnant woman.)
"Based on what she's saying, and based on where she's going, and where she's been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that's not acceptable," Trump said during the third and final debate.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that supports abortion rights, 43 states prohibit abortions after the fetus could survive outside the womb, usually with exceptions to  preserve a woman's health. Fewer than 2 percent of abortions in this country happen after 21 weeks, late in the second trimester. During the national debate over dilation and extraction a decade ago, opponents of the ban conceded that some procedures were done on healthy women with healthy fetuses.
But Kellogg's blog post was about the fact that terminations occurring very late in wanted pregnancies  may be a matter of  life and death.
Kellogg wrote that she "fought like hell to get pregnant," resorting to in vitro fertilization with her husband because of infertility problems. They were thrilled when she became pregnant with twins. But during a routine ultrasound appointment at 23.5 weeks -- the edge of viability, when a fetus can survive outside the womb -- doctors discovered that one twin had died.
Kellogg herself was so sick, with dangerously high blood pressure, that she was hospitalized immediately.
In an interview Friday, Kellogg said, "The doctors hoped that getting me on magnesium and fluids, encouraging my organs to work again, they could keep me going a couple weeks" so the surviving twin could be delivered.
Instead, her condition worsened. Doctors ruled out inducing labor as too dangerous. A cesarean section was also rejected. The only alternative, she said, was to abort the second twin. Doctors told her he would not survive if born, and she could lose the ability to have another child.
"They worried that I would lose my uterus if I had a c-section," Kellogg said. "I'm so glad they didn't risk it.  My daughter was born in 2006."
Go to any cemetery dating back to the 19th century and look at the dates of birth and death of the women buried there; what you will see is the permanent reminder that pregnancy and childbirth can turn lethal and kill woman, and the reason woman are not dying in the numbers that their ancestors did four or five generations back is that we have medical interventions, including late abortions.

The Supremes, in their collective medical judgment, ruled that a federal ban on intact D&E, was constitutional, since there are other abortion methods available. Not true, and ruling otherwise shows their medical ignorance, and the stupidity of allowing lawyers and lobbyists to tell doctors what to do.

In Kellogg's case, the late abortion using intact D&E, a favorite target of the anti-abortion mob, saved her life and her future fertility, giving life to her daughter. Defending abortion is defending lives---the real lives of real women.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ivanka brand sunk?

Poor little Ivanka---will her fashion brand go down with the family ship?
For Ivanka, who has been the most visible of the next-generation Trumps, a fall from cultural grace could be especially jarring.
While her brother Donald Jr. has been exposed as every bit as crass, slithery, and sexist as his namesake father, and as the likely source of his dad’s strange affinity for alt-right Twitter; and while younger brother Eric remains a creepy shadow in the family portrait, Ivanka has been cast by admiring media, and by Republicans, as the family heroine. She was practically worshipped by an adoring pundit class for her speech at the Republican convention, and tasked with selling the Donald Trump candidacy to young voters.
Even before the campaign, Ivanka played a prominent role in throwing the family’s money around to political players, and selling the licensing deals that are the Trumps’ bread and butter.
In August 2013, after Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office began looking into fraud allegations against Trump University, and following a direct solicitation by Bondi, both Donald and Ivanka Trump wrote $500 checks to Bondi’s campaign, two months apart, on July 15, 2013, and Sept. 10, 2013, respectively. A check for $25,000 followed on Sept. 17, signed by the Trump Foundation, in violation of the law. Trump has since paid a $2,500 fine.
But that wasn’t the end of the Trumps’ largesse. A year later, as Bondi’s re-election approached, Donald and Ivanka wrote three checks, totaling $125,000, to the Republican Party of Florida; the first, a $25,000 check from Ivanka, on July 23, 2014, followed by checks for $75,000 on July 31 and $25,000 on Aug. 4 from her father.
The Republican Party of Florida did not respond to an inquiry regarding whether the money was earmarked for Bondi’s race, or for the reelection of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who now heads a pro-Trump super PAC. Whatever the purpose, the Trumps’ generosity to the Republican Party of Florida was a father-daughter affair.
The contributions are not the only time Ivanka has acted in tandem with her dad.
A Baja California luxury-condo development that went bust in 2009, taking $32.5 million in buyers’ deposits with it, was a family project as well. Buyers have claimed that Ivanka and brother Donald Jr. personally made the pitch for the condos, which buyers were led to believe were being developed by the Trump Organization, when in fact, it was yet another name-licensing deal.
“We are developing a world-class resort befitting of the Trump brand. I’m very excited about it. I actually chose to buy a unit in the first tower,” Ivanka Trump is quoted in the Los Angeles Times exposé as exclaiming in a video on the Trump Baja website.
Now, with their business practices exposed, and traffic to Trump hotels and golf courses down, including at the newly leased but reportedly half-empty Trump hotel in the Old Post Office in Washington D.C., the value of the main thing the Trump family has for sale—its name—could prove to be a significant liability.
After all, with the Trump moniker now associated with racism, incompetence, and sexual assault, rather than with wealth and opulence, it’s hard to imagine it ever being a mainstream brand again.
And while her father could rebound with a Trump TV streaming-video play, which need only appeal to his angry, white, Pepe the frog fan base—giving him a potential market of more than 14 million people—Ivanka still relies on her mainstream, Manhattan appeal. The prospect of life as the youthful moll to the Bannon-Giuliani-Ailes-Trump alt-right gang could be a miserable one indeed.
As I speculated before, I can imagine Ivanka's poorly tailored* fashion line to be on the remainder racks at Marshall's by next fall. Only bargain hunters will buy her stuff, and only after they x-out her name on the tags.

* Look how the fabric pulls around the bodice. Cheap fabric, cheaply made.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

So much for pro-life: woman dies in Sicily after doctor refuses to abort

Anti-abortion kills:
Italian prosecutors have begun an inquiry into the death after a miscarriage of a woman of 32 who was pregnant with twins.
The family of Valentina Milluzzo said the doctor treating her refused to abort the foetuses because he was a "conscientious objector" to abortion.
The hospital involved has categorically rejected the family's claims.
The woman's burial has been postponed while further investigations are carried out.


Milluzzo was admitted to Cannizzaro hospital in the Sicilian city of Catania on 29 September after suffering complications and going into premature labour in her 19th week of pregnancy. She had had fertility treatment at another health centre.
She was in a stable condition in hospital for more than a fortnight but on 15 October her blood pressure and temperature dropped and her condition worsened.
According to the family's lawyer, one of the foetuses was suffering breathing problems. The lawyer alleges that the gynaecologist refused to abort the foetuses in order to save the mother and said: "As long as it's alive, I will not intervene."
No action was taken while the troubled foetus was still alive and hours later both had died, the lawyer said.
Overnight, the mother's condition deteriorated and she contracted an infection. On 16 October she was transferred to intensive care, where she died.
The hospital disputes the family's account, denying the doctor said what the family lawyer alleged.
It emerged earlier this year that the proportion of Italian gynaecologists refusing to carry out abortions in 2013 was 70%, according to Italian government figures. Italy is a predominantly Catholic country.
But in southern Italy the proportion was even higher and in Sicily it was 87.6%.
Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978, provided it is during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
After 12 weeks it is allowed only if the life of the mother is at risk or there is a problem with a foetus.
If there is a chance the foetus can survive outside the womb, termination is lawful only if pregnancy or delivery is a serious risk to the woman's health.
This case reminds me of the sad, enraging death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland, also caused by a medical refusal to abort.

18 days

Wherever you find yourself on the new trumped-up gender spectrum, join in celebrating the fact that the election is less than three weeks away. This madness will soon pass.*

*True, new madness will descend, but we don't have to think about it now.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pat Toomey: afraid to commit

Incumbent Pennsylvania Republican senator Pat Toomey stays bravely on the fence, as New York's Jesse Singal reports
While most of the rest of his party grits their teeth and announces their plans to either support Trump or not, come what may the consequences (with some folks zigzagging back and forth), Toomey has instead adopted a strategy of radical ambiguity.
This has been going on for a while. In the run-up to Sunday’s second presidential debate, Toomey, who is locked in a tight race with his Democratic opponent, Katie McGinty (FiveThirtyEight has his probability of prevailing at 44.3 percent at the moment), had signaled that he could kinda, sorta, potentially see himself supporting Trump, maybe? He just needed to get there on his own terms, to really work through the process.
Then, a week ago, that explosive Access Hollywood tape was released, which would seem to settle matters. If you were on the fence before, shouldn’t that talk of pussy-grabbing knock you violently off it? Not for Toomey. “Toomey has previously said he hopes to support Trump, but needed convincing,” wrote Jonathan Tamari on in an article published Monday. “But after the release Friday of the recording showing the GOP nominee bragging about aggressively kissing and groping women, Toomey would not say if he will support Trump, or if he is still considering doing so, despite repeated questions this weekend from the Inquirer and other news outlets.”
And he keeps his fence sitting up, leading Singal to wonder:
This invites a fascinating thought experiment: If Pat Toomey thinks Donald Trump is too problematic to endorse now, in mid-October, what is the hypothetical event or revelation that would cause him to change his stance between now and the election? Evidence that Hillary Clinton has been dressing up as a clown and terrorizing kids? Leaked audio of her talking about a propensity for groping young women?
Perhaps Toomey is trying for a Guinness book world record for fence sitting. Nonetheless, he should remember the fate of Humpty Dumpty after he sat too long on his fence.

email from a fake academic publisher: quest edition

The fake academic publisher, "Quest journals" is spamming academic mailboxes around the world, so if you open your inbox and find an email from it soliciting papers, remember that it is on Beall's list of predatory academic publishers, and hit delete.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Trumped: psychotic meltdown edition

Is there a psychiatrist Greensboro, NC? If so, you're needed. There seems to be an elderly man undergoing a mental health crisis, marked by delusional thinking, megalomania and paranoia, as seen in his babbling.

Of Clinton, this man says:
“I’m standing at my podium and she walks in front of me, right,” Trump said during a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina. “She walks in front of me, you know. And when she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”
Of Obama:
“He’s talking about me like he knows me. I don’t know him,” Trump said. “He doesn’t know me. And why doesn’t some woman maybe come up and say what they say falsely about me? They could say it about him. They could say it about anybody.”