06/12/14

Dark Clouds

Arlene from Israel


Credit: NOAA

In my last posting I wrote about “rays of light,” and indeed they do exist. But I would be remiss indeed if I were to convey a simple-mindedly optimistic message. The somber truth is that we are facing down some exceedingly tough situations.

For starters, there is Hezbollah. I’ve been reporting for some time about the difficulties of this jihadist terror group. Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, lost considerable support amongst the Lebanese when it started sending its fighters into Syria to battle alongside Assad’s troops. Suddenly, they were killing other Arabs instead of killing Jews as they are “supposed” to do. This rendered them considerably less popular, especially, when Syrian rebels, angry at being targeted by Hezbollah fighters, began shelling at Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.

Then there is the fact that some 350 Hezbollah fights have died in the Syrian civil war. And there is the inability of the Assad regime, up to its neck in fighting, to attend to supplying Hezbollah with weaponry, transported over the border into Lebanon.

http://themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=40166

Add to Hezbollah’s current challenges the fact of Israeli deterrence. Hezbollah “knows what will happen if it gets into conflict with us, and that this will set Lebanon back decades,” IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said just days ago at the Herzliya Conference.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.597740

The impression one has, then, is of a Hezbollah that would be exceedingly reluctant to take on Israel. “Hezbollah is deterred,” concluded Gantz.

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However, there is a huge “but” here. For Gantz also said, “there are maybe four of five countries (in the region) with more fire power than Hezbollah. They have a tremendous fire power which covers all of Israel.” According to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, there are roughly 100,000 missiles and rockets in Hezbollah’s arsenal.

Worrisome, to be sure. And according to some reports, there is concern in the Israeli military that for the first time, Hezbollah, which has been training for this, might take the battle into Israeli territory.

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Analysis/2014/Jun-07/259222-hezbollahs-tactics-support-israeli-fear-of-galilee-attack.ashx#axzz34RVTY0nE

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This does not mean anything will happen tomorrow. Nor is there ultimately any concern about the Israeli military besting Hezbollah forces. Hezbollah has placed a large portion of its arsenal in civilian areas, but Israel has let it be known that it will have to go after those arsenals nonetheless. Were there to be war, action from the air would be swift and fierce, of necessity.

See Air Force Chief Major-General Amir Eshel on this:

http://www.jpost.com/Defense/IAF-chief-Israel-will-destroy-Hezbollah-bases-in-Lebanon-even-those-in-residential-areas-339773

“Our ability today to attack targets on a large scale and with high precision is about 15 times greater than what we did in the (2006) war,” Eshel said. He indicated intense fighting was necessary to keep the duration of the conflict short “because the more protracted the war, the more missiles we’ll be hit with here”.

As well, there would likely be a speedy ground action.

Reassuring. However, with all of this said, complacency with regard to this situation is not advised.

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I cannot revisit this subject, even now, without expressing my fury at then prime minister Ehud Olmert and then foreign minister Tzipi Livni. It didn’t have to be this way. Olmert – who vacillated terribly – was unwilling to see the 2006 war in Lebanon to a successful conclusion, which would have meant taking out Hezbollah. And Livni bragged about her part in setting up UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for UNIFIL to stop Hezbollah from re-arming. Trust the UN to protect us. Right…

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As to Syria, reports out of the Herzliya Conference indicate the civil war shows no signs of abating.

Israel truly is between a rock and a hard place with regard to a Syrian policy. For some time, it was felt in many quarters here that the greatest danger was Assad, because of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis. The problem is that a very large part of the rebels (80% by some estimates) are jihadists, who have their eye on Israel next. For this reason, the presence of rebel forces at the border of the Golan is carefully monitored. These are not Syrian nationalists fighting for a better Syria. They have international aspirations with regard to a caliphate – a Middle East, at the very least, united under Islamic law. What is more, a good number of the rebel fighters have come from beyond Syria (many are Europeans, but some Arabs who are Israeli citizens have gone to fight).

See this report by Ari Soffer on the Syrian rebels:

“Although the Syrian opposition is primarily comprised of Sunni Muslims (Syria’s majority population), rebel battalions are far from ideologically homogeneous. They range from Al Qaeda to the Muslim Brotherhood, and from privately-funded Salafist brigades to groups still ostensibly committed to a secular Syrian state…”

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/180622#.U5nb8ptZrIU

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And lastly, there are Hamas and smaller Islamists groups in Gaza. In addition to the 100,000 rockets and missiles said to be in the possession of Hezbollah, it is estimated that the Gaza groups, most particularly Hamas, have another 70,000. This according to Itai Brun, director of research in the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence branch, among others.

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/06/11/170-000-Missiles-Currently-Aimed-at-Israel

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Yesterday afternoon, a rocket was launched from Gaza into southern Israel. Israel responded with an airstrike late last night that took out 33-year-old Mohammad Awwar, who had al-Qaeda connections. He has participated in many terror attacks, said the Shin Bet, and was planning more.

And here I must ask a question: Would we have hit Awwar last night if there had not been a rocket launched? If he was known to be planning additional attacks – and his whereabouts were known – how long would we have waited?

Be that as it may, the position of Israel right now is that Abbas, as head of the unity government, has responsibility for the rocket, must take over Gaza, and eliminate the rocket cache.

While the US does not hold the PA responsible, unity government or not. Said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said: “we acknowledge the reality that Hamas currently controls Gaza.”

http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/US-Palestinian-Authority-not-liable-for-Wednesdays-Gaza-rocket-strike-on-Israel-358072

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A grim posting – even without mention of the jihadi (ISIS) takeover in parts of Iraq and Syria, with threats to Jordan imminent.

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4354/isis-jordan

Or what’s happening with Iran.

The obvious must be stated here: We are seeing the fruits of Obama policies. Matters did not have to be so grim.

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Let’s end with an item (multiple items, really) that are upbeat and informative: From israel21c, 18 Israeli inventions that could save your life:

http://israel21c.org/health/18-israeli-inventions-that-could-save-your-life/

06/12/14

The World’s Five Most Important Oil Fields

Much has been made about the role that hydraulic fracturing – or fracking — has played in revolutionizing the energy landscape, unlocking vast new reserves of oil trapped in shale rock. This “tight oil” is pouring into the global pool of oil supplies at a crucial time, preventing oil prices from spiking in an age of high demand and geopolitical turmoil.

But the world still relies overwhelmingly on conventional oil production from existing fields, many of which are in decline. The Middle East has dominated the world of oil for half a century and as the list below shows, it remains king. Here are the top five most important oil fields in the world.

1. Ghawar (Saudi Arabia) The legendary Ghawar field has been churning out oil since the early 1950s, allowing Saudi Arabia to claim the mantle as the world’s largest oil producer and the only country with sufficient spare capacity to act as a swing producer. Holding an estimated 70 billion barrels of remaining reserves, Ghawar alone has more oil reserves than all but seven other countries, according to the Energy Information Administration. Some oil analysts believe that Ghawar passed its peak perhaps a decade ago, but Saudi Arabia’s infamous lack of transparency keeps everyone guessing. Nevertheless, it remains the world’s largest oil field, both in terms of reserves and production. It continues to produce 5 million barrels per day (bpd).

2. Burgan (Kuwait) Just behind Ghawar is another massive oil field located in the Middle East. The Burgan field was originally discovered in 1938, but production didn’t begin until a decade later. The field holds an estimated 66 to 72 billion barrels of reserves, which accounts for more than half of Kuwait’s total, and it produces between 1.1 and 1.3 million bpd.

3. Safaniya (Saudi Arabia) The Safaniya field is the world’s largest offshore oil field. Located in the Persian Gulf, the Safaniya field is thought to hold more than 50 billion barrels of oil. It is Saudi Arabia’s second largest producing field behind Ghawar, churning out 1.5 million bpd. Like Saudi Arabia’s other fields, Safaniya is very mature as it has been producing for nearly 60 years, but Saudi Aramco is working hard to extend its operating life.

4. Rumaila (Iraq) Iraq’s largest oil field is the Rumaila, which holds an estimated 17.8 billion barrels of oil. Located in southern Iraq, Rumaila was highly sought after when the Iraqi government put blocks up for bid in 2009. BP and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) are working together to develop the giant field along with Iraq’s state-owned South Oil Company. The field now produces around 1.5 million bpd, but its operators have plans to boost that production to 2.85 million bpd over the next couple of years.

5. West Qurna-2 (Iraq) Also located in southern Iraq, the West Qurna-2 field is Iraq’s second largest, holding nearly 13 billion barrels of oil reserves. The West Qurna field was divided in two and auctioned off to international oil companies. Russia’s Lukoil took control of West Qurna-2 and successfully began production earlier this year at an initial 120,000 bpd. Lukoil plans on lifting production to 1.2 million bpd by the end of 2017. The neighboring West Qurna-1 field – operated by a partnership of ExxonMobil, BP, Eni SpA, and PetroChina – holds 8.6 billion barrels of oil reserves. They hope to increase production from 300,000 bpd to more than 2.3 million bpd over the next half-decade.

It’s clear that the Middle East is still the center of the universe when it comes to oil. Despite their age, these supergiants remain the oil fields of tomorrow. And as the tight oil revolution in the U.S. plays out, these fields will remain, and the world will continue to depend heavily on the fortunes of a few countries in the Middle East.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Here-Are-The-Worlds-Five-Most-Important-Oil-Fields.html

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

06/12/14

Yancy and Tahmooressi, California’s Treatment of Veterans and Military: The Next Scandal?

By: Susan Knowles
Gulag Bound

Human Events; Stand for Truth

VA-I-careOur U.S. Veterans have made the news lately following allegations that the Veterans Administration (VA) in at least several states have allowed veterans to die while waiting to be seen for medical treatment. Veterans were allegedly placed on “secret lists” that gave the illusion they were being treated by physicians within the required 30 day time period. The VA has denied the existence of such lists and the Secretary of the VA, Eric Shinseki, remains in his position despite public outcry demanding his resignation.

If these allegations are proven to be true, and whistleblowers are stepping forward to corroborate the allegations, then this will prove to be shameful treatment of our American Heroes. Prior to the families and other whistleblowers speaking out, veterans died without recourse.

What follows are three stories with an alarming similarity of mistreatment. They all involve veterans and an active duty U.S. Marine who waits for help from this government. While the stories that follow are unrelated to each other they may be representative of a somber trend.

The first story comes out of Los Angeles, CA where it was recently learned that approximately 60 bodies of our veterans have been kept in the Los Angeles County morgue for over a year and a half, awaiting proper burial.

The morgue initially reported that the bodies had been unclaimed and that they weren’t sure how long they had been there. The VA, in turn, claimed that they were never notified by the morgue that the bodies had been processed and were ready for burial.

The LA County Morgue wrote in an email that, “…there were about 60 decedents of probable veteran status that have awaited disposition for about a year as a result of a personnel change in the Veterans Affairs Office and stringent identification/eligibility processes required by the VA.”

Cindy Van Bibber, spokesperson for the VA denied the claim and responded by saying that, “There’s personnel changes every day but that certainly doesn’t take away from the service that we provide any veteran.” She went on to specify that, “At no point” did the morgue contact the VA and tell them about the bodies. Van Bibber concluded by saying that, “We definitely weren’t contacted or we would have had a service for the veterans.” Each organization maintains their innocence in the matter while blaming the other.

Since the allegations were first brought to light, the VA quickly moved at least 28 of the bodies to the Riverside National Cemetery, in Riverside, CA for proper burial. The law requires that all veterans receive a proper burial.

Richard Burns, a Marine Veteran, who volunteers his time at the Riverside National Cemetery, said, “I think it’s incomprehensible,” referring to the disrespect shown to the men and women who have died for this country. He went on to say that, “It’s kinda sad that these people don’t get the proper care they deserve even after death.”

To date, no one has been held responsible in either the Los Angeles County Morgue or the VA for this egregious oversight.

In another story, out of the City of Imperial, CA, 32 year old Tommy Yancy, a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, was allegedly beaten to death by five police officers on Mother’s Day. Yancy, served in the 259th Field Unit following the attacks of 9/11 and suffered from PTSD, according to reports. He was initially pulled over for not having a front license plate on his car as required by California law.

A video of the incident was posted on YouTube and a statement about the attack was written in the “about” section. In part, the posting reports that, “Yancy was attacked by a police K-9 unit, hit by a Taser, and then was attacked by five police officers until he succumbed to the beating and died.”

Video: Tommy Yancy’s beating and killing in the City of Imperial
 

A witness on the scene who videotaped the encounter with police can be heard screaming, “How long before you guys call an ambulance? Call an ambulance!” According to the witness, following Yancy’s death, the family has not been permitted to see his body, nor have they been given a cause of death.

The police argue that Yancy “Swung at and officer and attacked the K-9” while witnesses claim that this occurred near the end of the video. Another witness stated, “All this for one guy who wasn’t even resisting arrest.” The officers did attempt to resuscitate Yancy at the scene without success.

To date, little information has been forthcoming in the news, and to my knowledge, nothing has been reported either nationally or outside of the City of Imperial.

Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, USMC

Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, USMC

There is another story that is just beginning to make the headlines. It is the story of U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who has been held in two Mexican prisons since crossing the Mexican border on March 31, 2014.

Sgt. Tahmooressi, who suffers from PTSD, was moving to San Diego, California to receive treatments at the VA. He had everything that he owned in his car, including three guns that he legally owned. He was heading near the border at night to meet with friends.

Upon leaving a parking lot, Sgt. Tahmooressi made a wrong turn and unknowingly headed directly toward the border. He ended up in a lane of traffic with an inability to get over to the correct lane that would have allowed him to make a U-turn away from the Mexican border. There is only one far left lane that allows vehicles to return to the U.S. without crossing over the border into Mexico. If a vehicle misses the turn it will have no alternative but to proceed ahead into Mexico. Sgt. Tahmooressi was in the far right lane and was unable to cross over all lanes of traffic quickly enough, due to traffic, before finding himself at the border crossing.

Immediately upon being stopped at the border checkpoint, Tahmooressi reportedly told the Mexican officials about the guns he had in his car and called 911 in the U.S. when he feared that the Mexican officials would be confiscating his guns.

Not only were his guns confiscated but Tahmooressi was arrested and placed in a maximum security prison and charged with gun trafficking; a crime with a sentence of twenty years in prison.

Tahmooressi eventually was told by the prisoners that he was going to be “raped and tortured.” He escaped from that section of the prison but was subsequently placed in solitary confinement and shackled to his bed, where his hands and feet were chained to the bed. He stayed in this position for over 30 days. He is currently in a maximum security prison outside of Tijuana where it is rumored that the drug cartel is known to have arranged killings of those that they did not want alive.

Since March 31, 2014, there has been no assistance from Secretary of State John Kerry nor the President of the United States to free this Marine who served two tours in Afghanistan, saving eight Marines from the Taliban, and in a separate incident saving a fellow Marine from bleeding to death after the Marine stepped on an IED and lost both of his legs. Tahmooressi suffered a concussion when his vehicle hit an IED during his tour in Afghanistan.

Hunter-Duncan-Jr

Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-R)

Only Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Florida) have stepped forward, thus far, to help the Marine. Hunter is asking for a pardon from the Governor of Baja State near Tijuana and has criticized John Kerry for his inaction in this matter.

“There is no response from the administration,” Hunter said, “and frankly, I think he (referring to John Kerry) sees this kind of stuff as under him. He’s the great coordinator of world catastrophes right now, why would he help a young Marine trapped in Mexico?”

As of the writing of this article, no official response has been forthcoming from the White House about helping to free Sgt. Tahmooressi.

Are these three situations a trend of how our government views our military and veterans or are these situations merely isolated incidents? Many people believe that Sgt. Tahmooressi, instead of being helped immediately, will eventually be used by this administration to push the agenda of amnesty. Perhaps the trading of one Marine for amnesty for potentially millions of illegals is already in the works.

——- GB ——-

Knowles-Freedoms-FlightSusan Calloway Knowles, is a licensed California psychotherapist, former practicing California attorney, author, and political/cultural blogger. Her website is SusanKnowles.com. Susan’s book, a political fiction, is entitled Freedom’s Fight: A Call to Remember and is available on Amazon. Susan can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

The article appearing on this site is the property of Susan J. Knowles. It is protected by U.S. Copyright Laws, and is not to be downloaded or reproduced in any way without the written permission of Susan J. Knowles. Copyright 2014 Susan J. Knowles All Rights Reserved.

 

Article references: see at Stand for Truth

06/12/14

VA Crises Getting Lost in Scandal Overload

By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media

President Obama is embroiled in two Veterans Affairs scandals: 1) fabricated documents and secret waiting lists for health care, with dozens of veterans dying while waiting for appointments; and 2) waiting lists for disability benefits. The former is now the subject of a criminal investigation opened by the Phoenix office of the FBI just days after the release of a bipartisan letter from 21 U.S. senators to the Department of Justice calling for a criminal investigation.

“Evidence of secret waiting times, falsification of records, destruction of documents, and other potential criminal wrongdoing has appalled and angered the nation, and imperiled trust and confidence in the Veterans Health Administration,” the senators wrote in the letter, which was sent late last week to Attorney General Eric Holder.

“The spreading and growing scale of apparent criminal wrongdoing is fast outpacing the criminal investigative resources of the IG, and the revelations in the interim report only highlight the urgency of involvement by the Department of Justice,” they wrote.

That story was receiving a lot of media attention until the President announced his swap of five members of the Taliban high command for one American deserter, and since then, there has hardly been any coverage of it. It was even being labeled a scandal in the mainstream media, with some arguing that, unlike Benghazi and the IRS, this one was a real scandal. But that was because they could argue that it was a scandal that began during previous administrations, and thus there was no specific blame on Obama’s shoulders.

The other scandal, unresolved disability benefits, has received even far less attention in the news even though it is also a systemic, long unaddressed problem.

The Obama administration’s inability to address the veterans’ disability backlog is a stain on the reputation of our nation, making it harder for veterans suffering from physical disabilities or PTSD to afford food, shelter, and the comforts of life after service.

But, as Obama misleadingly stated last month, “we launched an all-out war on the disability claims backlog.” His statements are like those about the war on poverty—a lot of rhetoric, but not much movement.

“And in just the past year alone, we’ve slashed that backlog by half,” continued President Obama in his May 21 speech. “Of course, we’re not going to let up, because it’s still too high. We’re going to keep at it until we eliminate the backlog once and for all.”

The disability claims backlog hasn’t been slashed under President Obama; it has only grown. He is able to claim that disability claims have been slashed in half because he is selectively measuring from the point where they skyrocketed to a whopping 611,000 in March 2013.

In contrast, it was reported this week that 57,000 veterans have been waiting more than 90 days to visit a doctor for the first time, and a Veterans Affairs representative has announced that the department has begun contacting these veterans immediately.

But the veteran disability backlog has only gone downhill since Obama took office: “The ranks of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits grew from 11,000 in 2009, the first year of Obama’s presidency, to 245,000 in December [of 2012]—an increase of more than 2,000 percent,” reported Aaron Glanz for the Center for Investigative Reporting in March 2013.

According to NBC News, a new report called “The Red Tape Report” by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America came out last February. It said that progress had “stalled” at 400,000 veterans waiting. But in April the numbers dropped a little more, to 344,000, as reported by The Washington Post.

These numbers are still unacceptable. But the media have allowed President Obama to boast about minor achievements that aren’t achievements at all. He is deceiving the public by choosing the highest point and measuring against it, while ignoring his historical numbers—and the real-life impact of his inaction.

Quite frankly, the Veterans Affairs Department is doing a bad job on disability benefits as well as on the health care waiting lists, which are a travesty. At a nighttime House hearing this week, Philip Matkovsky, representing the Veterans Affairs Department, said that he expects the numbers released regarding veteran health care waiting times will only get worse, given that they are still uncovering the true numbers in light of the systemic fudging of scheduling data.

President Obama should not simply have expressed “regret” over former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation—he should have acted much sooner. And he should deal with the disability backlog instead of claiming false victories that use statistical deceit at the expense of our veterans.

It does seem that the Office of Inspector General is getting serious about the health care waiting list scandal. Richard J. Griffin, Acting Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said at the June 9th hearing that he had sent criminal investigators to 69 locations besides Phoenix to look into allegations of criminal misconduct, and that he was working with the Department of Justice to determine whether the behavior of some employees merits criminal prosecution.

But some in the media like to explain the veterans health care scandal as Congress’ fault, in terms of a lack of funding. “Unlike Benghazi, the IRS and most other GOP-hyped scandals, the VA scandal is real—and now that they’ve got a big scalp, with the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki, they’re sure to be hungry for more, because that’s just the way that they roll,” wrote Paul Rosenberg for Salon. In fact, both Democrats and Republicans expressed their concern about the VA waiting list scandal.

Rosenberg quoted MSNBC’s far-left commentator Rachel Maddow as saying that “…Veterans are treated more like food stamps, or education, or any other kind of funding that Republicans won’t pass in the House and that they will filibuster in the Senate, because they don’t want to pay for it.”

Rosenberg and Maddow were not only commenting on the VA health care scandal, they were commenting on Congress’ treatment of veterans in general. And they’re off the mark.

As the Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Jeff Miller (R-FL) pointed out at the June 9 hearing, “VA has requested and Congress has funded IT enhancements to include a new scheduling system, which has been dubbed a failure by [the Government Accountability Office (GAO)]. The scheduling replacement project was $127 million over nine years, and it was hindered by management weaknesses.”

And is the disability wait time scandal really a matter of a lack of funding by Congress? As I wrote in 2013, 67 U.S. senators, including 34 Democrats, sent a letter to the President asking him to resolve this travesty. “In the last four years, the number of claims pending for over a year has grown by over 2,000 percent, despite a 40 percent increase in the VA’s budget,” wrote the congressmen at the time. “As a reminder, during this same time period, Congress has given VA everything it has asked for in terms of more funding and more employees; however, this has not eliminated the backlog of claims.” The budget for the VA was $140 billion for 2013, second only to the Department of Defense. Clearly there is a lack of leadership in this area; how far to the top does it ascend?

And in April, the Republican-dominated House Ways and Means Committee “fully fund[ed] a request from the Obama administration to spend $173 million on a VA benefit management system, which aims to allow for a faster, paperless process to handle disability claims.” (The VA has promised to eliminate its backlog by 2015.)

This ball is in the President’s court, not that of Congress.

“Critics, however, say the shrinking backlog is something of a farce, the result of an administrative maneuver that has not delivered results for the veterans in the backlog, but has instead moved them into a different waiting line,” write two authors for the National Journal. “As of May 10, the VA’s number of appealed claims stood at 274,660, almost 100,000 more than the 174,891 appeals in late 2009.”

The third wait list—the number of appeals for veteran disability benefits—is increasing due to errors in initial processing, according to the National Journal. And, it reports, “Once in the appeals process, veterans can wait in limbo for an average of two and a half years.”

Consider the way that the veterans’ health care providers have dealt with scheduling, for an eye-opening perspective. According to witnesses at the June 9 hearing, a veteran is often “blind scheduled” months out for an appointment, a process that fails to account for a veteran’s personal schedule. Veterans then might receive their notification of an appointment by mail instead of by phone. According to Dr. Debra A. Draper, representing the GAO, this notification letter sometimes arrived after the appointment had been missed, or, if the address was wrong, the veteran may never have received a notification at all. Then these veterans are marked down as no-shows for missing their appointments, which they’ve waited so long for in the first place—wasting everyone’s time and resources.

All of these veteran problems need to be addressed by the President and the media, not just the most sensational one.

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.