Category: Ineptitude


 

 

Published on Apr 11, 2014

The Japanese government has decided on a new medium- and long-term basic energy plan that calls nuclear power a key energy source.
The Cabinet on Friday approved the plan, after modifying an initial version to take into account calls from within the governing coalition for more use of renewable energy sources.
The plan defines nuclear power as an important base-load power source that enables a stable supply of energy.
The government will allow nuclear plants to resume operations if they meet safety standards set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
But the plan calls for minimizing dependence on nuclear power by promoting renewable energy and making thermal power plants more efficient.
The plan cites a goal set 4 years ago to have renewable energy sources account for 20 percent of total demand in 2030. The figure is mentioned only as a reference in the plan. The government says it hopes to further increase the ratio.
On nuclear fuel recycling, the government says its basic policy is to promote it. Junior coalition partner New Komeito says the prototype Monju fast-breeder reactor should be scrapped.
But the government is sticking with its initial plan to use the facility as an international research base. Scientists will study ways to reduce radioactive waste through recycling.
Monju has been mostly idle since a sodium leak accident in 1995. A fast-breeder reactor can produce more nuclear fuel than it consumes.

More missed inspections found at Monju reactor
Japanese nuclear regulators are investigating more cases of missed inspections at the Monju fast-breeder prototype reactor. It’s located in Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of Japan Coast.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority, or NRA, found the lapses during regular safety checks in March.
Officials say at least 9 out of 80 targeted items had not been inspected. These include a temperature gauge and a switch for equipment that powers the secondary cooling pump.
NRA officials also say workers had revised inspection records without taking the required step of informing an in-house panel on more than 240 occasions.
The NRA last year found around 14,000 missed inspections at Monju, including those for critical safety equipment.

Govt. to set ratio for nuclear power
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his government will set the ratio of nuclear power in Japan’s energy mix after considering the situation once the reactors are restarted.
Abe spoke to a plenary session of the Lower House on Friday about the basic energy plan approved by the Cabinet earlier in the day.
He said the government’s policy is to develop an energy-saving society and introduce renewable energy sources, while reducing dependence on nuclear power as much as possible.
But Abe said that given Japan’s increased dependence on natural gas and other fossil fuels, he can’t say that Japan will completely abandon nuclear power.
He added the government does not currently have any plans to build any more nuclear reactors or plants. Abe said the focus will be on diversifying energy resources and on how experts will view the resumption of existing reactors.
Abe said the government will set a target for the optimum mix of energy sources. He said the government will do that after looking into the situation regarding renewable energy and its potential, as well as the status of resumed operations at idled nuclear plants

Fukushima worker on verge of breakdown speaking about 3/11: “The earth around me distorting like Jell-O” — Massive upheavals taking entire Reactor 1 turbine building with it — “Sounds like it wants to come apart, going to explode” — “Concrete floor and walls around us began to crack” (AUDIO)
http://enenews.com/fukushima-supervis…

Nuclear Engineer: Radiation levels “much higher” in areas of Fukushima plume headed to west coast than models show — Radio: Concern “other isotopes” besides cesium to cross Pacific (AUDIO)
http://enenews.com/nuclear-engineer-i…

[Video column] Fukushima Diary talks “Tepco washing off Plutonium to the Pacific, huge risk for the least effect”
http://fukushima-diary.com/2014/04/vi…

Tepco started pumping up the bypass water to discharge / Tritium density jumped up to 87% of desired safety level
http://fukushima-diary.com/2014/04/te…

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MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA 8 minutes

Kathleen Sebelius Resigning as Health Secretary

Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, U.S. officials told NBC News on Thursday.

U.S. officials told NBC News that President Barack Obama on Friday will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently director of the White House Office and Management and Budget, to succeed Sebelius, 65, the former governor of Kansas, who was an original member of the Cabinet that Obama appointed when he took office in January 2009.

Image: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius answers a question while she testifies before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President's budget proposal for FY2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington LARRY DOWNING / Reuters

As secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius was the public face of the bug-ridden rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care insurance initiative..

No reason for Sebelius’ departure, was immediately available, but she came under sustained criticism as head of the agency in charge of the controversial rollout of Obama’s health care reform initiative.

Sebelius told Obama of her intentions in early March, a White official said, but she didn’t tip her hand when she told the Senate Finance Committee earlier Thursday that 7.5 million Americans had signed up for health coverage under the new law — a figure that exceeded the original expectations despite the months of problems.

Sebelius has apologized numerous times for the glitch-prone website, which initially blocked many Americans from comparing and enrolling in health insurance plans. Testifying before a House committee in October, she conceded that the website, healthcare.gov, was “a miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans.”

Read More Here

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Bloomberg

Sebelius Said to Resign as U.S. Health Secretary

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks during a Senate..

Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. health secretary who steered the troubled rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, will resign just as the program topped its first-year enrollment goal, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The resignation of Sebelius, 65, is expected to be announced tomorrow, said the people who asked not to be identified because the decision is still private. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, 48, director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be nominated to succeed Sebelius, one of the people said. White House officials had no immediate comment on the report.

A former Democratic governor of Kansas, Sebelius was an early backer of Obama’s campaign for the president. She spent five years running the Health and Human Services Department, presiding over the largest change to government health programs since Medicare and Medicaid began almost 50 years ago.

Sebelius’s resignation closes the first major chapter of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The 2010 law is projected to eventually offer health insurance to 25 million more people in the U.S., paid for with changes to Medicare, taxes on health-care providers and a requirement that all Americans have insurance.

Sebelius’s departure was unexpected by at least one person close to her, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican who has worked with her since 1991. Praeger said she was at a dinner where the health secretary spoke last week and that “she seemed like she was in it for the long haul.”

Enrollment Goals

Assessing Sebelius’s work, the number of people who signed up for coverage through Obamacare may trump the difficulties in getting there when the new online insurance marketplaces started with flawed technology last October. In total, 7.5 million Americans signed up for private health plans through the exchanges, half a million more than the government’s most optimistic estimates.

The secretary “played a key role that enabled the Affordable Care Act to become the law of the land, and she worked tirelessly to implement it successfully,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a Washington-based health advocacy group that supports the law, said in an e-mail. “We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for her excellent work in improving health care for families across America.”

Sluggish Start…

 

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Photograph of the LAX sign at the Century Boulevard entrance to Los Angeles International Airport.

Author  :  Florencio Briones (User:Flobrio)

CC/SA 3.0 Unported

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News.com.au

Sherry Wright, who is unable to speak following a stroke, was not allowed to board flight

A WOMAN claims an airport security agent refused to let her disabled sister on board a plane because she couldn’t say her own name.

Sherry Wright says she was shocked at the treatment they received at Los Angeles International Airport, where her sister Heidi was due to fly to Phoenix.

The problems began when Heidi, who was left wheelchair-bond and unable to speak or write after a stroke a decade ago, was stopped by the Transport Security Administration (TSA) due to an expired driver’s licence, CNN reported.

Sherry claims the TSA agent was rude and insensitive, insisting Heidi talk.

“I showed her ID, her social and her DMV (licence) papers,” Sherry said, to no avail.

“He just wanted me to make my sister talk, and I couldn’t believe it.

 

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The Week Logo

A dirty secret of the American judicial system is that juries are hardly fair and impartial

Jury selection these days is done with a wink and a nod.
Jury selection these days is done with a wink and a nod. (REUTERS/Art Lien)

Imagine you are a defendant awaiting trial on criminal charges that could send you to prison for the rest of your life. You are sitting at the counsel table during voir dire, the process by which a jury is selected before a trial.

The prosecutor asks a potential juror: “You haven’t heard any evidence. How would you vote?” The potential juror responds: “I would have to vote guilty.”

Your trial judge pipes up. He’s supposed to ensure that you receive a fair trial and that the jurors who will sit in judgment upon you are neutral, objective, and willing to see and hear the evidence with an open mind. The judge asks the prospective juror: “Could you return a verdict of not guilty if the government doesn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt?” The would-be juror responds: “I don’t think I would be able to.”

The prosecutor — who wants this juror on the panel because he wants to convict you — presses on. He asks the juror: “Let’s say the victim takes the stand [and] you flat-out don’t believe her. In fact, you think she’s lying. You look at her [and conclude], ‘I don’t believe a word coming out of her mouth.’ Are you going to convict this man anyway?”

The potential juror responds: “That depends. I still feel he was at fault.”

How would you feel if this juror were allowed to join the panel that determined your fate? Would you feel as though you had received a fair trial by an impartial panel, as the Sixth Amendment commands? Or would you feel that the trial judge had failed to protect your presumption of innocence?

My guess is you would feel cheated. I know I would. But yet this precise scenario unfolded in California in 2009. This juror was allowed to serve on this trial. And to date, no judge has declared it a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.

Now, in this particular case, the defendant, Jose Felipe Velasco, was accused of an extremely heinous crime. He was an alleged serial child rapist who had gotten a 14-year-old girl pregnant after having some form of sex with her 21 times. But that should not change our minds about whether this man should be presumed innocent and be entitled to a fair trial. Indeed, this is precisely why we have constitutional rights in criminal cases — so that fairness and due process come even to the despised.

R. Scott Moxley, a veteran reporter and columnist for OC Weekly, brought this story to national prominence this week — and it’s a remarkably ugly picture in every way. Not only were the charges awful, not only is this defendant as unsympathetic a figure as the criminal justice system churns out, but the way the case was handled was ignoble, too. Thousands of years’ worth of the presumption of innocence shouldn’t go out the window just because a defendant is accused of heinous crimes.

 

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The myth of the impartial juror

Crazy story from the OC Weekly about a sex crimes case in California.

After an Orange County prosecutor gave an opening statement, Juror 112 notified [Judge David] Hoffer that based on her own experiences she believes criminals should forgo trials in such sexual assault cases and go straight to prison to spare victims additional turmoil.

The prosecutor then asked the juror: “You haven’t heard any evidence. How would you vote?”

Juror 112 responded, “I would have to vote guilty.”

Statements by lawyers are not evidence, and Hoffer followed up with the juror, according to court transcripts reviewed by the Weekly.

The judge asked if she could return a verdict of not guilty if the government couldn’t prove it’s case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I don’t think I would be able to,” the juror replied.

 

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This Is What Employment In America Really Looks Like…

By Michael Snyder, on April 6th, 2014

Warren Buffett - Photo by Mark Hirschey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The level of employment in the United States has been declining since the year 2000.  There have been moments when things have appeared to have been getting better for a short period of time, and then the decline has resumed.  Thanks to the offshoring of millions of jobs, the replacement of millions of workers with technology and the overall weakness of the U.S. economy, the percentage of Americans that are actually working is significantly lower than it was when this century began.  And even though things have stabilized at a reduced level over the past few years, it is only a matter of time until the next major wave of the economic collapse strikes and the employment level goes even lower.  And the truth is that more good jobs are being lost every single day in America.  For example, as you will read about below, Warren Buffett is shutting down a Fruit of the Loom factory in Kentucky and moving it to Honduras just so that he can make a little bit more money.  We see this kind of betrayal over and over again, and it is absolutely ripping the middle class of America to shreds.

Below I have posted a chart that you never hear any of our politicians talk about.  It is a chart that shows how the percentage of working age Americans with a job has steadily declined since the turn of the century.  Just before the last recession, we were sitting at about 63 percent, but now we have been below 59 percent since the end of 2009…

Employment Population Ratio 2014

We should be thankful that things have stabilized at this lower level for the past few years.

At least things have not been getting worse.

But anyone that believes that “things have returned to normal” is just being delusional.

And nothing is being done about the long-term trends that are absolutely crippling our economy.  One of those trends is the offshoring of middle class jobs.  As I mentioned above, Fruit of the Loom (which is essentially owned by Warren Buffett) has made the decision to close their factory in Jamestown, Kentucky and lay off all the workers at that factory by the end of 2014

Clothing company Fruit of the Loom announced Thursday that it will permanently close its plant in Jamestown and lay off all 600 employees by the end of the year.

The Jamestown plant is the last Fruit of the Loom plant in a state where the company had once been a manufacturing titan second only to General Electric.

This isn’t being done because Fruit of the Loom is going out of business.  They are still going to be making t-shirts and underwear.  They are just going to be making them in Honduras from now on…

The company, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway but headquartered in Bowling Green, said the move is “part of the company’s ongoing efforts to align its global supply chain” and will allow the company to better use its existing investments to provide products cheaper and faster.

The company said it is moving the plant’s textile operations to Honduras to save money.

So what are those workers supposed to do?

Go on welfare?

The number of Americans that are dependent on the government is already at an all-time record high.

And doesn’t Warren Buffett already have enough money?

In business school, they teach you that the sole responsibility of a corporation is to maximize wealth for the shareholders.

And so when business students get out into “the real world”, that is how they behave.

But the truth is that corporations have a responsibility to treat their workers, their customers and the communities in which they operate well.  This responsibility exists whether corporate executives want to admit it or not.

And we all have a responsibility to our fellow citizens.  When we stand aside and do nothing as millions of good paying American jobs are shipped overseas so that the “one world economic agenda” can be advanced and so that men like Warren Buffett can stuff their pockets just a little bit more, we are failing our fellow countrymen.

Because so many of us have fallen for the lie that “globalism is good”, we have allowed our once great manufacturing cities to crumble and die.  Just consider what is happening to Detroit.  It was once the greatest manufacturing city in the history of the planet, but now foreign newspapers publish stories about what a horror show that it has become…

 

Read More Here

 

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U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Division of Labor Force Statistic

 

Employment Situation Summary

Transmission of material in this release is embargoed until                    USDL-14-0530
8:30 a.m. (EDT) Friday, April 4, 2014

Technical information: 
  Household data:         (202) 691-6378  •  cpsinfo@bls.gov  •  www.bls.gov/cps
  Establishment data:     (202) 691-6555  •  cesinfo@bls.gov  •  www.bls.gov/ces

Media contact:	          (202) 691-5902  •  PressOffice@bls.gov


                              THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION -- MARCH 2014


Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 192,000 in March, and the unemployment rate
was unchanged at 6.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Employment grew in professional and business services, in health care, and in mining
and logging.

Household Survey Data

In March, the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 10.5 million,
and the unemployment rate held at 6.7 percent. Both measures have shown little movement
since December 2013. Over the year, the number of unemployed persons and the unemployment
rate were down by 1.2 million and 0.8 percentage point, respectively. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult women increased to 6.2
percent in March, and the rate for adult men decreased to 6.2 percent. The rates for
teenagers (20.9 percent), whites (5.8 percent), blacks (12.4 percent), and Hispanics
(7.9 percent) showed little or no change. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.4 percent
(not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2,
and A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 3.7 million,
changed little in March; these individuals accounted for 35.8 percent of the unemployed.
The number of long-term unemployed was down by 837,000 over the year. (See table A-12.)

Both the civilian labor force and total employment increased in March. The labor force
participation rate (63.2 percent) and the employment-population ratio (58.9 percent)
changed little over the month. (See table A-1.) The number of persons employed part
time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was
little changed at 7.4 million in March. These individuals were working part time because
their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time work. (See
table A-8.)

In March, 2.2 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed
from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not
in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime
in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched
for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 698,000 discouraged workers in March, down 
slightly from a year earlier. (These data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged
workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are
available for them. The remaining 1.5 million persons marginally attached to the labor
force in March had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family
responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 192,000 in March. Job growth averaged 183,000
per month over the prior 12 months. In March, employment grew in professional and business
services, in health care, and in mining and logging. (See table B-1.)

Professional and business services added 57,000 jobs in March, in line with its average
monthly gain of 56,000 over the prior 12 months. Within the industry, employment increased
in March in temporary help services (+29,000), in computer systems design and related
services (+6,000), and in architectural and engineering services (+5,000).

In March, health care added 19,000 jobs. Employment in ambulatory health care services
rose by 20,000, with a gain of 9,000 jobs in home health care services. Nursing care
facilities lost 5,000 jobs over the month. Job growth in health care averaged 17,000 per
month over the prior 12 months.

Employment in mining and logging rose in March (+7,000), with the bulk of the increase
occurring in support activities for mining (+5,000). Over the prior 12 months, the mining
and logging industry added an average of 3,000 jobs per month.

Employment continued to trend up in March in food services and drinking places (+30,000).
Over the past year, food services and drinking places has added 323,000 jobs.

Construction employment continued to trend up in March (+19,000). Over the past year,
construction employment has risen by 151,000.

Employment in government was unchanged in March. A decline of 9,000 jobs in federal
government was mostly offset by an increase of 8,000 jobs in local government, excluding
education. Over the past year, employment in federal government has fallen by 85,000.

Employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail
trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities, changed
little over the month.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.2
hour in March to 34.5 hours, offsetting a net decline over the prior 3 months. The
manufacturing workweek rose by 0.3 hour in March to 41.1 hours, and factory overtime
rose by 0.1 hour to 3.5 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory
employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.3 hour to 33.7 hours. (See
tables B-2 and B-7.)

In March, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls edged
down by 1 cent to $24.30, following a 9 cent increase in February. Over the year,
average hourly earnings have risen by 49 cents, or 2.1 percent. In March, average
hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees edged down
by 2 cents to $20.47. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised from +129,000 to
+144,000, and the change for February was revised from +175,000 to +197,000. With these
revisions, employment gains in January and February were 37,000 higher than previously
reported.

_____________
The Employment Situation for April is scheduled to be released on Friday, May 2, 2014,
at 8:30 a.m. (EDT).



 

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Another Fraudulent Jobs Report — Paul Craig Roberts

Another Fraudulent Jobs Report

Paul Craig Roberts

The March payroll jobs report released April 4 claims 192,000 new private sector jobs.
Here is what John Williams has to say about the claim:

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) deliberately publishes its seasonally-adjusted historical payroll-employment and household-survey (unemployment) data so that the numbers are neither consistent nor comparable with current headline reporting.  The upside revisions to the January and February monthly jobs gains, and the relatively strong March payroll showing, reflected nothing more than concealed, favorable shifts in underlying seasonal factors, hidden by the lack of consistent BLS reporting.  In like manner, consistent month-to-month changes in the unemployment rate or labor force simply are not knowable, because the BLS cloaks the consistent and comparable numbers.”

Here is what Dave Kranzler has to say: “the employment report is probably the most deceptively fraudulent report produced by the Government.”

As I have pointed out for a decade, the “New Economy” jobs that we were promised in exchange for our manufacturing jobs and tradable professional service jobs that were offshored have never shown up. The transnational corporations and their hired shills among economists lied to us. Not even a jobs report as deceptive and fraudulent as the BLS payroll jobs report can hide the fact that Congress, the White House, and the American people have sat sucking their thumbs while corporations maximized profits for the one percent at the expense of everyone else in the United States.

Let’s look at where the alleged jobs are. The BLS jobs report says that 28,400 jobs were created in March in wholesale and retail sales. March is the month that Macy’s, Sears, JC Penny, Staples, Radio Shack, Office Depot, and other retailers announced combined closings of several thousand stores, but more retail clerks were hired.

The BLS payroll jobs report claims 57,000 jobs in “professional and business services.” Are these jobs for lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, and managers? No. The combined new jobs for these middle class professional skills totaled 10,400. Employment services accounted for 42,000 of the jobs in “professional and business services” of which temporary help accounted for 28,500.

 

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Healthcare cuts canceled after Dem complaints

Getty Images

The Obama administration announced Monday that planned cuts to Medicare Advantage would not go through as anticipated amid election-year opposition from congressional Democrats.

The cuts would have reduced benefits that seniors receive from health plans in the program, which is intended as an alternative to Medicare.

Under cuts planned by the administration, insurers offering the plans were to see their federal payments reduced by 1.9 percent, which likely would have necessitated cuts for customers.

Instead, the administration said the federal payments to insurers will increase next year by .40 percent.

The healthcare law included $200 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage over 10 years, in part to pay for ObamaCare.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) on Monday said changes in the healthcare market meant it did not need to make those cuts to Medicare Advantage this year.

It cited an increase in healthy beneficiaries under Medicare, which it said has lowered projected costs for that program.

CMS separately is delaying a risk assessment proposal that was set to take affect under ObamaCare.

 

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Obama administration proposes 1.9% cut in Medicare Advantage payments

February 21, 2014 8:08 pm by

Barack ObamaMedicare Advantage plans could see payment reductions of 1.9 percent next year under proposed rates announced Friday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Insurers, who have led a fierce lobbying campaign against payment reductions, have said the combination of the health law’s lower payment rates, new fees on health plans and other factors, including automatic federalspending cuts known as “sequestration,” mean that Medicare Advantage plans will see their Medicare payment rates drop by 6 percent – or even more — in 2015.

CMS said Friday its preliminary estimate is “the combined effect of the Medicare Advantage growth percentage and the fee-for-service growth percentage.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans said they are reviewing the details of the announcement to determine the total impact of the federal payment rates. In a statement, AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni was critical of the proposed rates, saying, “The new proposed Medicare Advantage cuts would cause seniors in the program to lose benefits and choices on which they depend.”

 

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Obama flip-flops on Medicare drug coverage

(REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

The Obama administration, in an abrupt about-face, said on Monday it would drop proposed changes to Medicare drug coverage that met wide opposition on grounds they would harm health benefits for the elderly and disabled.

Late last week, more than 370 organizations representing insurers, drug makers, pharmacies, health providers and patients urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to withdraw changes it had proposed for Medicare Part D.

One of the federal government’s most successful and cost-effective healthcare programs, Part D provides drug benefits for the elderly and disabled through private insurers to 36 million enrollees.

Critics said the changes, if adopted in coming months, could not only undermine Part D benefits but impact drug benefits available through Medicare Advantage, a program that allows Medicare beneficiaries to obtain their major medical coverage through private insurers.

“Given the complexities of these issues and stakeholder input, we do not plan to finalize these proposals at this time. We will engage in further stakeholder input before advancing some or all of the changes in these areas in future years,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner advised in a letter sent on Monday to members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The proposals were opposed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The Republican Party had already begun to look for ways to leverage popular anger over the changes into campaign attacks on Democratic incumbents who could be vulnerable in November’s election showdown for control of Congress.

Elated critics of the proposed changes said the government had effectively agreed to start over in the face of broad, bipartisan opposition.

 

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New York Times SundayReview

The Obama administration’s proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage plans — the private insurance plans that cover almost 30 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries — are fair and reasonable. As it happens, they are also mandated by law. Yet Republicans, sensing a campaign issue, are telling older and disabled Americans that the administration is “raiding Medicare Advantage to pay for Obamacare.” The health insurance industry, for its part, is warning that enrollees will suffer higher premiums, lower benefits and fewer choices among doctors if the cuts go into force.

Some of this could in fact happen, although the industry has cried wolf before and continues to thrive. But the key point is this: Over the past decade, enrollees in Medicare Advantage have received lots of extra benefits, thanks to unjustified federal subsidies to the insurance companies. Now they will have to do with somewhat less, unless the insurers are willing to absorb the cuts while maintaining benefits. Enrollment in these private plans, offered by companies like UnitedHealth and Humana, has more than doubled since 2006, in part because of lower premiums and extra benefits, like gym memberships, that are not included in traditional fee-for-service Medicare.

What made these perks possible was, in effect, a subsidy from taxpayers and other Medicare beneficiaries. The federal government paid the private plans, on average, 14 percent more in 2009 than it would cost to treat the same people in traditional Medicare. The insurers used this extra money to reduce enrollees’ costs and add benefits.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act rightly required that these subsidies be reduced, although it stopped short of completely eliminating them. The reductions began to take effect in 2012, and have not, so far, visibly harmed beneficiaries or the plans. Since enactment of the law, Medicare Advantage premiums have fallen by 10 percent, the opposite of what some expected, and enrollment has increased by nearly 33 percent, according to the administration. But as the law intended, federal payments to the private plans dropped — from 7 percent more than services under traditional Medicare in 2012 to 4 percent more last year. The administration now proposes to further reduce the payments to Medicare Advantage plans in 2015. The loudest criticism has come from Republicans, but plenty of Democrats have chimed in.

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The soldier behind Wednesday’s deadly shooting at Fort Hood was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, and had seen no combat while deployed in Iraq three years ago.

Also, the shooter bought his gun from the same place the 2009 Fort Hood shooter got his weapon.

Army officials Thursday afternoon identified the killer as Spc. Ivan Lopez, 34, a Puerto Rican father of three who authorities say had no record of misbehavior. Wednesday’s tragedy at the Texas Army base left four people dead, including the gunman, and 16 injured.

“We have very strong evidence that he had a medical history that indicated an unstable psychiatric or psychological condition,” Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, head of the Army’s III Corps at Fort Hood, said of Lopez. “There was no indication that he was targeting specific people.”

Milley hinted at a motive for the shooting. “There may have been a verbal altercation with another soldier or soldiers,” he said. “There is a strong possibility that that immediately preceded the shooting.”

MORE: Alleged shooter was not required to register weapon

STORY: Tragedy again touches Fort Hood community

STORY: Military plays catch-up on PTSD

STORY: 4 dead, 16 wounded in Fort Hood attack

MORE: Fort Hood shooting comes less than 5 years after earlier attack

MORE: ’09 shooting led to Pentagon review of base security

Lopez purchased his gun on March 1.

Last year, Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan was convicted and sentenced to death in the Nov. 5, 2009, attack at Fort Hood on his fellow soldiers as they waited inside a crowded building on the base. Thirteen died and more than 30 were wounded, and it remains the deadliest attack on a domestic military installation in U.S. history.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Wednesday night traced the gun used in Wednesday’s attack to a local gun shop, said a federal law enforcement official not authorized to comment publicly. The official confirmed that the gun had been purchased at Guns Galore, the same shop that sold a weapon to Hasan.

Lopez enlisted in the Army in June 2008 and served four months in Iraq as a truck driver.

“His records show no wounds, no involvement — direct involvement — in combat,” said Army Secretary John McHugh, the U.S. Army’s top civilian official. “As Gen. Milley said, no record of Purple Heart or any injury that might lead us to further investigate a battle-related TBI (traumatic brain injury) or such.”

Milley said Lopez had “self-diagnosed” a traumatic brain injury. “He was not wounded in action,” Milley said.

On Thursday, McHugh said the suspected shooter had two deployments, including the one in Iraq. Lopez enlisted as an infantryman and later switched his specialty to truck driver.

Lopez, who was on a variety of prescribed drugs including Ambien, had not yet been diagnosed for post-traumatic stress disorder. But he was also undergoing treatment for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and a variety of other issues, McHugh said.

“He was seen just last month by a psychiatrist,” McHugh said Thursday. “He was fully examined. And as of this morning, we had no indication on the record of that examination that there was any sign of likely violence, either to himself or to others. No suicidal ideation.”

Out of respect for Lopez’s family and the integrity of the investigation, Milley said he would not release any more details about the soldier’s medical status. He did add that it was too early to tell if Lopez received adequate mental health treatment.

 

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Soldier’s ‘Courageous Act’ Remembered as Fort Hood Begins Healing

 

Image: Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson, of Florida, who served as a transportation supervisor and had been deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, is pictured in this undated handout Fort Hood Public Affairs Office via Reuters

Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson, 39, of Florida, who served as a transportation supervisor and had been deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, is pictured in this undated handout from Fort Hood Public Affairs Office. Ferguson was one of three victims killed at the shooting at Fort Hood.

 

In a final heroic act, Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson threw his body against the entryway of a door as a fellow soldier-turned-gunman blasted away in a terrifying rampage at Fort Hood.

Ferguson, 39, was fatally hit in the moment he became a human shield — a sacrifice remembered in a news conference Saturday.

Ferguson’s “courageous act of blocking the door with his own body prevented further bloodshed,” said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas.

Also killed in Wednesday’s shooting were Sgt. Timothy Owens, 37, and Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, 38. Sixteen others were wounded. Gunman Spc. Ivan Lopez died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said.

Rep. Williams, along with Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, met some of the wounded soldiers Saturday, and commended them on their valor. Among the victims was Maj. Patrick Miller, who was shot in the stomach with Lopez’s .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

Miller had called 911 as he tended to his own wounds.

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Slain Fort Hood counselor found his calling in Army

Courtesy of Mary Muntean – Timothy Wayne Owens, with his mother, Mary Muntean, at his wedding in August 2013.

 

Timothy Wayne Owens, a counselor at Fort Hood, was known to friends as a stand-up guy who triumphed over a hardscrabble upbringing to become an empathetic military man, one who helped people and defused conflicts.

So, it was no surprise to residents in his home town of Effingham, Ill., to hear that Owens lost his life trying to calm the shooter in Wednesday’s Fort Hood killings.

“He was a brave man,” said Owens’s mother, Mary Muntean, 77, who said she learned that her son had been killed as he tried to talk with Ivan Lopez, who has been identified as the man who killed three people and injured 16 in the shooting on the Army post.

Muntean said she received a call at her Effingham home from her son’s wife, Billy Owens, on Wednesday evening telling her that he had been shot five times after trying to calm Lopez in a post parking lot. Military officials have not released the names of those killed or injured or confirmed reports of how the violence unfolded. But friends of Owens said the account provided by his family fits the man they knew.

 

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Sgt. Timothy Owens was killed Wednesday night. Credit Courtesy of Glen Welton, via Associated Press

NYT Now

The names of the victims of the shooting in Fort Hood began to come out on Thursday, released by relatives and by officials offering their condolences.

In Effingham, Ill., family members told The Associated Press that Army Sgt. Timothy Owens was one of the three soldiers killed Wednesday in a mass shooting by Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez. Sixteen others were wounded in the shooting. The Army has not released a list of the victims, pending notification of relatives.

The mother of Sergeant Owens, Mary Muntean, 77, of Effingham, told The Associated Press that she had learned of her son’s death in a telephone call with her daughter-in-law.

Unable to reach her son, she called his wife, Billie Owens, who first said he was in the hospital. Before long, Sergeant Owens’s wife called back, and Mrs. Muntean had her worst fears confirmed. “She said, ‘Mom, I want to tell you how sorry I am. Tim’s gone,’ ” Mrs. Muntean said, according to The A.P. “I broke down.”

Sergeant Owens dropped out of high school in 1995. But his mother said he earned his high school equivalency after joining the Army in 2004.

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Maj. Patrick Miller was wounded in the shootings.

A friend and former roommate, Paul Eatherton, said Sergeant Owens, whose family moved back to Effingham from Missouri in the mid-1990s, worked at Pizza Hut and studied tae kwon do at a local gym. Mr. Eatherton, a martial arts instructor at the time, said Sergeant Owens got his black belt and started teaching at a gym in Effingham.

“He was the best student I’d ever seen or known,” Mr. Eatherton said. “We’d go to tournaments, and he’d bring first places home every time.”

He said Sergeant Owens, who was in his mid-30s, had recently signed up for another six years in the Army. “I think he was going to be a lifer,” he said. He said he had not talked to Sergeant Owens for several months, but when he heard news of the shooting, he texted him immediately. He got no reply. “That really worried me,” he said.

The commander of Fort Hood, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, said in an afternoon news conference, that nine of the 16 people wounded in the attack were taken to Scott & White Memorial Hospital in nearby Temple, Tex., for treatment. Three were upgraded to serious condition on Thursday. Hospital officials said doctors had operated on two patients, a man and a woman, who had been shot in the abdomen and neck. The third person had an abdominal wound. The other victims taken there were discharged.

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Specialist Ivan Lopez served in Iraq but did not see combat.

Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez had seen a military psychiatrist as recently as last month. He was being treated for depression and anxiety, and had been prescribed Ambien to help him sleep. He had come back from a four-month deployment to Iraq in 2011 and told superiors he had suffered a traumatic head injury there. But military officials said he had never seen combat, and there was no record of any combat-related injury. He was being evaluated for possible post-traumatic stress disorder.

Still, military officials said, they had seen nothing to indicate that Specialist Lopez, 34 — who killed three people and himself and wounded 16 others on Wednesday in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex. — was violent or suicidal.

“He had a clean record,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Thursday morning in testimony before a Senate panel in Washington. “No outstanding bad marks for any kinds of major misbehaviors that we’re yet aware of.”

Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Fort Hood commander, said Thursday at a news conference that there were “very strong indications” that there had been a “verbal altercation” between Specialist Lopez and one or more other soldiers in the minutes before the shooting started, but the authorities were still investigating what role, if any, that played in the attack.

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Before joining the Army, Specialist Lopez was in the Puerto Rico National Guard. Credit Puerto Rico National Guard, via Reuters

“We have very strong evidence looking into his medical history that indicated an unstable psychiatric condition,” General Milley said.

Friends from his hometown in Puerto Rico said that Specialist Lopez was angry with the Army when he returned home for his mother’s funeral in November. Ismael Gonzalez, a former schoolmate who had kept in contact with Specialist Lopez on Facebook, said the soldier was very upset that he had initially been given only 24 hours to attend the funeral.

In addition, Mr. Gonzalez said, Specialist Lopez, who was earning $28,000 a year, told him that he was “in a precarious economic situation” trying to support his family in Texas and two children in Puerto Rico from his first marriage. And he was angry that the Army would not allow him to move his family onto the base at Fort Hood, Mr. Gonzalez said.

None of this had found its way into Specialist Lopez’s official record, though.

“This was an experienced soldier,” said Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff. “He spent actually nine years in the Puerto Rico National Guard before coming on active duty, so he’s a very experienced soldier.”

Those who knew Specialist Lopez as a young man, obsessed with the high school band, were even more stunned to learn what he was suspected of doing.

“I cannot believe you are speaking about the same guy,” said Sgt. Maj. Nelson Bigas, one of Specialist Lopez’s superiors in the National Guard. “He was the most responsible, obedient, humble person, and one of the most skillful guys on the line.”

For a year beginning in 2006, Specialist Lopez was deployed with his guard unit on the Sinai Peninsula, watching the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

But, the authorities say, it was Specialist Lopez who went into Guns Galore in Killeen, Tex., near Fort Hood on March 1 and bought the .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that was used in the shootings on Wednesday.

It was the same gun store where Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army major, had bought at least one of the weapons used in a 2009 mass shooting on the base.

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Specialist Lopez in an image from Facebook.

So information was emerging slowly on Thursday about Mr. Lopez. He was raised in the small fishing village of Guayanilla on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, about an hour and a half from San Juan. While there, he attended the School of Asunción Rodríguez de Sala, where he was active in the band and an enthusiastic drummer.

In 1999, he joined the National Guard, where he also played in the band. Later, he joined the Puerto Rico Police Department and became a member of its band. Officials said his record with the force was clean, with no disciplinary or behavioral problems.

His main job for the police was visiting schools and hospitals around Puerto Rico to give demonstrations on his percussion instruments. After he finished, other police officers would speak to the students or patients about gun violence, drugs and bullying, said Jeann Correa, the director of the unit for which he worked. His pay was $2,400 a month.

In 2010, getting a special leave from the police force, he shifted into the Army as a private first class and was quickly promoted to specialist and stationed with the First Armored Division at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Tex. He was an infantryman there but his military record shows that in November, because of a medical condition identified as plantar fasciitis, a painful foot ailment, he moved to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where he trained to become a truck driver. In February, he was posted to Fort Hood in that capacity.

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Gunman in Fort Hood shooting had behavioral issues, authorities say

 

An Iraq war veteran who was grappling with mental health issues opened fire at Fort Hood, Tex., in an attack that left four people dead and 16 wounded Wednesday afternoon, according to preliminary law enforcement and military reports. The gunfire sent tremors of fear across a sprawling Army post still reeling from one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.Many basic details about the shooting remained unclear in the chaotic hours after the first calls for help around 4 p.m., but senior U.S. law enforcement officials said the incident did not appear to be linked to any foreign terrorist organizations. The shooter was among those who died, the officials said.

The officials identified the shooter as Army Spec. Ivan Lopez, 34, a military truck driver, who was dressed in his standard-issue green camouflage uniform. Lopez opened fire in two locations on the vast central Texas post, inside a building housing the 1st Medical Brigade and in a facility belonging to the 49th Transportation Battalion.

Police spent Wednesday night searching his apartment in Killeen, the city that abuts the Army facility. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the commander of Fort Hood, said the soldier, whom he did not identify by name, served four months in Iraq in 2011.

Milley said the shooter “had behavioral health and mental health issues.” He said the soldier, who self-reported a traumatic brain injury and was taking anti-depressants, had been under examination to determine whether he had post-traumatic stress disorder. “We are digging deep into his background,” Milley said.

Milley said the soldier opened fire with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that was purchased recently but was not authorized to be brought on the post. He was eventually confronted by a female military police officer. He put his hands up but then pulled out a gun from under his jacket. “She engaged,” Milley said, and then the soldier put the gun to his head and shot himself.

The shooting was the third major gun attack at a U.S. military installation in five years, leaving the nation grappling with the prospect of yet more flag-draped funerals for troops killed on the homefront. A government contractor went on a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard in September, leaving 12 people dead. In 2009, Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan opened fire on a group of soldiers at Fort Hood preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, killing 13 people and wounding more than 30.

Doctors at the Scott & White hospital in Temple, Tex., said Wednesday that they have treated eight of the wounded and that one more was on the way. Three of the patients were in critical condition in the ICU, and five were in serious condition. Seven of them were male, and one was female. Their injuries ranged from mild to life-threatening, a majority of them caused by single-gunshot wounds to the neck, chest and abdomen.

President Obama said he was “heartbroken that something like this might have happened again.” Speaking during a fundraising trip to Chicago, he pledged “to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”

 

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Four killed in shooting at Fort Hood; gunman dead, multiple injuries

A shooting at the Fort Hood military installation in Texas left at least four people dead, including the gunman, and more than a dozen were injured, according to authorities.

The gunman, identified by multiple government sources as Army Specialist Ivan Lopez, took his own life, officials said.

Lopez, 33, of Kileen, Tex., was wearing an Army uniform at the time of the shooting, Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told reporters.

Four people were taken to Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Tex., and another two are being brought there, said Glen Couchman, the facility’s chief medical officer. Their injuries that “range from stable to quite critical,” he said.

The installation was locked down for much of the afternoon and into the evening after the shooting before being lifted shortly before 9 p.m. local time.

Speaking in Chicago, President Obama said his administration was following the shooting closely.

“I want to just assure all of us we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” he said. “We’re heartbroken something like this might have happened again.”

The base was the site of a shooting in 2009 that ultimately killed 13 people and wounded another 32, the worst mass murder at a military installation in U.S. history. Nidal Hasan was sentenced to death last year for the shooting after being found guilty of premeditated and attempted premeditated murder.

 

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BREAKING: Shooting at Fort Hood Military Base – 1 Death Confirmed

 

Published on Apr 2, 2014

SHOOTING SITUATION STILL ACTIVE, Multiple Gunned Down
FORT HOOD (April 2, 2014) At least one person is dead after a shooting late Wednesday afternoon on Fort Hood, a post spokesman confirmed.
Others were injured in the shooting, but the spokesman didn’t say how many.
The gunman is still at large and the spokesman said the incident is being treated as an active-shooter situation.
Warning sirens sounded late Wednesday afternoon at Fort Hood because of the incident.
A man who said he was a witness told News 10 that about 20 shots were fired in a post motor pool in the area of Motor Pool Road and Tank Destroyer Boulevard.

He said at least three people were hit.

He said the three victims were taken to a hospital.

The post was on lockdown as a result of the shooting, which occurred at around 4:25 p.m.

People on post were told to stay indoors.

A message that scrolled across the top of the post’s website said, “Shelter in place immediately. This is not a test.”

The 1st Calvary Division, which is based at Fort Hood, sent a Twitter alert telling people on base to close doors and stay away from windows.

Texas A&M Central Texas in Killeen canceled evening and night classes Wednesday at Fort Hood and at its Fairway building because of the situation on post.

First responders from surrounding communities were headed to the post.

Bell County sheriff’s deputies and Department Public Safety troopers were also responding, sheriff’s Lt. Donnie Adams said.

Media were being directed to the post’s Visitor’s Center.

On Nov. 5, 2009, Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center, killing 12 soldiers and one civilian and wounding 29 others before two Fort Hood civilian police officers shot him.

He is now on the military’s death row.

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Harry Reid: People Are Not Educated On How To Use The Internet

 

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