FEELING CHAINED BY THE BAD ECONOMY? WANTING A LITTLE REVENGE?
42% OF DEMOCRATIC VOTERS IN KENTUCKY YESTERDAY EXTRACTED SOME REVENGE AS THEY CHOSE "UNCOMMITTED" OVER CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O IN THEIR STATE'S DEMOCRATIC PARTY. IN ARKANSAS' DEMOCRATIC PARTY YESTERDAY, OVER 40% OF VOTERS CHOSE JOHN WOLFE OVER BARRY O.
41.5% OF VOTERS CHOSE WOLFE OVER BARRY O.
REACHED FOR COMMENT WHILE GETTING YET ANOTHER MANI-PEDI, BARRY O DECLARED, "NO BIG DEAL, IN NOVEMBER UNCOMMITTED AND JOHN WOLFE WON'T BE ON THE BALLOT! THEY'LL HAVE TO VOTE FOR ME! THEY'LL HAVE TO! I SAID FRENCH TIPS! FRENCH TIPS!"
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
We'll start with US Senate and then move to violence in Iraq. In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committe. Her office notes:
TOMORROW: Chairman Murray to Examine 400 Day Wait Times Plaguing VA and DoD's New Joint Disability Ratings System
Initial findings on wait times and inconsistencies in diagnoses from GAO audit and Veterans' Affairs Committee staff report to be unveiled at hearing, Murray to question top DoD and VA officials on continued problems
(Washington, D.C.) -- On Wednesday, May 23rd, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will hold a hearing to examine the continued rise in wait times for our servicemembers to receive their medical disability rating and compensation decisions. The hearing will examine challenges facing the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) established by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which was developed to improve the disability evaluation process for wounded, ill or injured servicemembers.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that, far from meeting established goals for wait times, servicemembers and their families are having to wait well over a year for answers. Many servicemembers have described the waiting period as extremely stressful and the hearing will touch on that period's uncertainty, which can contribute to self-medication, drug abuse, and even suicide. The hearing will also allow Murray to question the Department of Defense on the Army's upcoming system-wide look at discrepancies in mental health diagnoses that arose from an investigation Senator Murray spurred at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
Jon Ann Rooney, Acting Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness,
Department of Defense
John Gingrich, Chief of Staff, Department of Veterans Affairs
Daniel Bertoni, Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues,
Government Accountability Office
WHAT: Hearing to Discuss Medical Benefit Wait Times and Inconsistencies in Mental
WHEN: TOMORROW: Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
10:00 AM ET
WHERE: Dirksen Senate Office Building
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
That's tomorrow. Today?
Senator Patrick Leahy: The bill before you totals 52.1 billion dollars. That's 2.6 billion below the President's budget request. That's 1.2 billion dollars below the Fiscal Year 2012 level. Let me repeat that, you're not going to hear this often in committees these days. The bill is 2.6 billion below the President's budget request, 1.2 billion below the Fiscal Year 2012 level. Not only that, Senator [Lindsey] Graham and I have not used 881 million dollars that the full Committee recommended and allocated for this Subcommittee. So that's another 881 million dollars we're saving the taxpayers.
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chair Leahy was speaking at a markup session this afternoon. Chair Leahy noted that the bill was bi-partisan and that both he and Graham compromised to reach a budget all could agree on.
Ranking Member Lindsey Graham: I just want to repeat what you said about the funding. That's 881 million below the initial Committee recommendation. 2.6 billion -- or 5% -- below the president's request. 2% below FY2012 enacted levels. And I would argue the world hasn't gotten that much safer. But we are in debt so everything's got to be on the table. So in a very volatile, changing world we've been able to spend less than we did last year and decreased the budget. But having said that, I think the money is pretty wisely spent.
How did they reduce it? A number of ways.
Ranking Member Lindsey Graham: [. . .] and 77% below what we had last year for Iraq. Why? Well the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated, we don't have any military force there to speak of and the Chairman and I both believe very strongly that it's hard to train police when you can't get outside and do the work without being attacked so we have dramatically reduced the amount of funds available in Iraq because it's just throwing good money out for bad.
After the markup hearing, Senator Patrick Leahy's office released this statement from the Senator:
This bill totals $52.1 billion, which is $2.6 billion below the President's budget request, and $1.2 billion below the Fiscal Year 2012 level. Because the Iraqi police training program has not progressed as hoped, and our relations with Pakistan have been stalled for months, Senator Graham and I have not used $881 million that the full Committee initially recommended for the Subcomittee. That is money we are saving the taxpayers.
At the same time, we address many national security threats that are ongoing, from countering extremism in the Sahel region of Africa to building democratic institutions in Central America. We include a new Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund requested by the President, to respond to rapidly changing events in that volatile region. We continue support for critical humanitarian relief and global health programs, including for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
This is a bipartisan bill that address the priorities of Senators of both parties. To get there, Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and I have each made compromises. There are some things in the bill that he does not like, and the same goes for me. But they are the exception. Senator Graham is a well informed and passionate advocate for U.S. global leadership, and I greatly appreciate his input and support, as I know Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton does.
If the bill stands -- and it's going to be a battle on some issues when its time to reconcile with the House (but not on the Iraq issue) -- the Iraqi police program is over. As it should be. Tim Arango (New York Times) reported last week that, since last October, the Iraqi police training program had already cost US taxpayers $500 million. Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. Earlier this month at Huffington Post, Van Buren noted "the U.S. government has spent $7.3 billion for Iraqi police training since 2003." Let's go back to the February 8, 2012 snapshot:
We covered the November 30th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1st snapshot and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions. He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program? Interviews with senior Iaqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter didain for the program. When the Iraqis sugest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue." The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete? Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it." She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government. But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name. That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States." He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
Brooke Darby noted that he didn't deny that comment or retract it; however, she had spoken with him and he felt US trainers and training from the US was needed. The big question was never asked in the hearing: If the US government wants to know about this $500 million it is about to spend covering the 2012 training of the Ministry of the Interior's police, why are they talking to the Deputy Minister?
Why? Because Nouri never nominated anyone to be the Minister of the Interior -- all this time later. The US was funneling millions into training a group of employees in a ministry that for two years has been without any leadership. That's bad. Really bad. And the fact that this Deputy Minister had publicly stated he didn't want the US training the Iraqi police, had stated that last year, had repeated it when asked by Brooke Darby, why was more money wasted? Hopefully, this is the end of the US taxpayer footing the bill for the training of Iraqi police. (It should be noted that the US pushed itself into this position. Iraqis were training at other places, including Jordan, but the US insisted -- during Bush's second term -- that the Iraqi forces shouldn't be going to other countries for training.) While that program currently appears dead, the Subcommittee did not propose cutting all monies to Iraq. Donna Cassata (AP) points out, "The bill would provide $1.1 billion for Iraq, including $582 million in foreign assistance but no money for the police development program."
In Iraq, a disturbing video -- disturbing for content, disturbing for the story and details that supposedly surround it -- has emerged in Iraq. This gruesome YouTube video shows a young man bruisded and battered on his knees, his legs, his back, his shoulders, his buttocks, his arms his lips, his stomach . . . The young man is said to be Ammar Hassan Acikr who is the nephew of Ibrahim al-Jaafari who was prime minister of Iraq and now leads the National Alliance. Also making the video news worthy is the claim that his attackers were either relatives of or employees of current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister. Al Mada reports the attack took place in Karbala and states the attackers were relatives of Nouri. When bystanders attempted to intervene to help Ammar who was being attacked by several men, the men fired guns into the air warning no one to interfere.
Still on violence, AFP reports that two Baquba bombings have claimed 6 lives (four were children) today as the home of a Sahwa was bombed first and then the home of a displaced Shi'ite family. Alsumaria reports that 1 teacher was shot dead in the classroom, allegedly by a student whom sources state had been expelled from the classroom for cheating. The alleged shooter supposedly used a machine gun. Begging the question of how he walked up to and into the school with a machine gun without raising any alarms. In other violence today, Alsumaria notes that a Falluja roadside bombing has left two people injured after it exploded near a food market, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured on person, an attack on a Kirkuk checkpoint resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi soldier with two more left injured, a Mosul sticky bombing injured two people and 1 security guard for a Mosul judge was killed. Among the violence noted in yesterday's snapshot was the bombing outside Mosul that claimed the life of Sheikh Rashid Zeidan (reported by AFP). Alsumaria notes he was a leader with the National Dialogue Front and that he rushed to a Mosul hospital but died while receiving treatment. The National Dialogue Front is part of Iraqiya -- the political slate that came in first in the 2010 elections. Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is the head of the NDF. Sunnis, Kurds, Yezidis, Shabaks and Assyrians are all part of the NDF. Iraq Body Counts reports there were at least 11 killed in violence yesterday and notes at least 147 violent deaths for the month of May thus far.
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