Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Defend Slain Marine's Father from payinging Damages to the Phelpsies and WBC

VFW National Commander calls upon members to assist fallen Marine's Dad

Kansas City, Mo, March 31, 2010
-- The national commander of the nation's largest organization of combat veterans is furious about the recent Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court decision ordering Albert Snyder, the father of a slain Marine to pay legal costs to the Westboro Baptist Church.

Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., led by Fred Phelps, has for years been taunting grieving mourners at military funerals nationwide. During the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder's funeral in 2006, the anti-gay group praised the loss of the young Marine as well as other of the nation's young servicemen and women, calling their deaths a by-product of a nation that tolerates homosexuality.

"This is a travesty at best and borders on the obscene, said VFW National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., of Sussex, Wis. "The irony in this whole situation is that the blood and sacrifice of our nation's heroes have enabled this group to spread their message of hate. Yet, they celebrate when one of America's best pays the ultimate sacrifice preserving that right of free speech," the Vietnam veteran said.

"Mr. Snyder has already confronted the difficulties of burying his Marine son and then bringing a lawsuit against this group of hate-mongers. It is absolutely wrong for the court to order him to shoulder a financial burden on top of everything else. That is why VFW national headquarters will be making a donation to the fund that has been established to assist in paying the legal costs. Additionally, I am asking that each of the more than 1.5 million members of the VFW do what they can to assist Mr. Snyder, even taking the time to offer a him note of support and encouragement."

A fund has been set up to help Mr. Snyder pay the court costs. None of the money will be for attorneys, who are graciously representing him pro bono.

To contribute, go to, or send a check payable to "Al Snyder Fund" to: Barley Snyder LLC, 100 East Market Street, York, PA 17401.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vietnam War Pilot Buried

30 March 2010
Nearly four decades after his plane was shot down over Laos, the remains of Major Curtis Daniel Miller were laid to rest Monday in his home state of Texas.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Akaka Legislation Passes Senate

Military healthcare programs not protected yet

Washington D.C., March 26, 2010 — The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is saluting the U.S. Senate today for passing S. 3162 to explicitly recognize all Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare programs as meeting the minimum essential coverage standards of the new national healthcare law.

S. 3162 was introduced Wednesday by Senate VA Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii). The Bill now goes to the House of Representatives for action.

In separate legislation, S. 3148 was introduced by Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Chairman Jim Webb (D-Va.) as a companion bill to H.R. 4887, which was introduced by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and approved last Saturday by a vote of 403-0. It would protect all military Tricare programs, as well as non-appropriated fund health plans. The VFW wants the Senate to vote on S. 3148 when it reconvenes after its upcoming two week recess.

"National healthcare will help many veterans who are currently not receiving DOD or VA care," said Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wis., "but missing from the original legislation was language that would clearly protect all military Tricare and VA healthcare programs. We hope that the healthcare programs provided by the nation's two largest federal departments will soon be protected as meeting the minimum essential coverage standards of the new law. America's veterans, service members and families need to be assured that the VFW is committed to ensuring these vital programs are secured for them and that we will continue to advocate tirelessly on their behalf until the job is done."

What prompted additional congressional action was not what the new healthcare bill provided, but what it did not. Buried in four lines of text in a 2,400-page document was recognition for only Tricare for Life and veterans' healthcare programs just under chapter 17, of Title 38, as being accepted as minimum essential coverage under the new law. There was no mention of other Tricare programs or other Title 38 recipients, for instance — dependents, widows or children.

"Bill language is important because it becomes the law of the land," said Tradewell. "I am extremely proud of Senator Akaka for his efforts and getting his bill passed, and for the efforts of Senator Webb, as well as Congressman Skelton for comprehending that the military Tricare program is too important not to include."

"America's veterans, military and their families deserve strong champions in Congress like Akaka, Webb and Skelton, plus Senate VA Committee ranking member Richard Burr (R-N.C.), House VA Committee ranking member Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), and House Armed Services Committee ranking member Buck McKeon (R-Calif.).

Friday, March 26, 2010

US Trains With ROK

26 March 2010
The U.S. and the Republic of Korea recently completed the ''Key Resolve/Foal Eagle 2010'' training exercise.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Medal of Honor Day
25 March 2010

Today is National Medal of Honor Day and the award was recently given, posthumously, to a native of Hawaii, Private First Class Anthony Kahoohanohano.

VFW Apologizes for Harsh Accusation New national healthcare law still requires fixing

Washington D.C.,  March 25, 2010 The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. issued a written apology to the president and congressional Democratic leadership today for suggesting that the lack of explicit language to protect military and veterans' healthcare programs was an act of betraying America's veterans.


"I apologized for using too harsh of a word," said Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wis.  "I also wanted to assure them that the VFW is well aware and most appreciative of their strong support of America's veterans, servicemembers and their families. 


"But I did not apologize for our strong advocacy on the issue," he said. 


"The new national healthcare bill signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday is flawed, not because of what it provides, but because of what it does not protect — all the healthcare programs provided by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs."


Tradewell said a problem was recognized in the bill late last week by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who introduced legislation to specifically protect all military Tricare programs, as well as nonappropriated fund health plans.  His bill passed Saturday by a vote of 403-0, but its introduction and passage raised a serious question: What else was missing from the national healthcare bill?


Buried on page 333 of a 2,400-page document were four lines of text that only recognized Tricare for Life and veterans' healthcare programs under chapter 17, Title 38, as being accepted as minimum essential coverage under the new law.  No specific language to protect other Tricare programs or other Title 38 recipients — dependents, widows or children — could be found.


"We know why the House had to pass the Senate version intact, but bill language is important because it becomes the law of the land," said Tradewell.  "The VFW could not sit idly by and watch legislation get passed that did not protect all the healthcare programs provided by the nation's two largest federal departments.  We have constituents, too, and they look to us to watch their backs on Capitol Hill."


The VFW is now working with members of Congress from both parties to submit amendments or legislation to fix the new national healthcare law, and applauds the corrective actions taken by Skelton as well as those of Reps. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) and Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), and Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.).


"All DOD and VA healthcare programs should have been written into the original bill, and the VFW will never apologize for trying to influence legislative language that does not protect those hard earned healthcare programs," said Tradewell. 


"We have never been against national healthcare, but we do take issue with any legislation that does not honor the promises made to America's veterans, servicemembers and their families.  We look forward to working with the White House and Congress to fix this problem immediately."

U-2 Spy Plane Evades the Day of Retirement

The U-2 spy plane, the high-flying aircraft that was often at the heart of cold war suspense, is enjoying an encore.

Four years ago, the Pentagon was ready to start retiring the plane, which took its first test flight in 1955. But Congress blocked that, saying the plane was still useful.

And so it is. Because of updates in the use of its powerful sensors, it has become the most sought-after spy craft in a very different war in Afghanistan.

As it shifts from hunting for nuclear missiles to detecting roadside bombs, it is outshining even the unmanned drones in gathering a rich array of intelligence used to fight the Taliban.

All this is a remarkable change from the U-2's early days as a player in United States-Soviet espionage. Built to find Soviet missiles, it became famous when Francis Gary Powers was shot down in one while streaking across the Soviet Union in 1960, and again when another U-2 took the photographs that set off the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Newer versions of the plane have gathered intelligence in every war since then and still monitor countries like North Korea.

Now the U-2 and its pilots, once isolated in their spacesuits at 70,000 feet, are in direct radio contact with the troops in Afghanistan. And instead of following a rote path, they are now shifted frequently in midflight to scout roads for convoys and aid soldiers in firefights.

In some ways, the U-2, which flew its first mission in 1956, is like an updated version of an Etch A Sketch in an era of high-tech computer games.

"It's like after all the years it's flown, the U-2 is in its prime again," said Lt. Col. Jason M. Brown, who commands an intelligence squadron that plans the missions and analyzes much of the data. "It can do things that nothing else can do."

One of those things, improbably enough, is that even from 13 miles up its sensors can detect small disturbances in the dirt, providing a new way to find makeshift mines that kill many soldiers.

In the weeks leading up to the recent offensive in Marja, military officials said, several of the 32 remaining U-2s found nearly 150 possible mines in roads and helicopter landing areas, enabling the Marines to blow them up before approaching the town.

Marine officers say they relied on photographs from the U-2's old film cameras, which take panoramic images at such a high resolution they can see insurgent footpaths, while the U-2's newer digital cameras beamed back frequent updates on 25 spots where the Marines thought they could be vulnerable.

In addition, the U-2's altitude, once a defense against antiaircraft missiles, enables it to scoop up signals from insurgent phone conversations that mountains would otherwise block.

As a result, Colonel Brown said, the U-2 is often able to collect information that suggests where to send the Predator and Reaper drones, which take video and also fire missiles. He said the most reliable intelligence comes when the U-2s and the drones are all concentrated over the same area, as is increasingly the case.

The U-2, a black jet with long, narrow wings to help it slip through the thin air, cuts an impressive figure as it rises rapidly into the sky. It flies at twice the height of a commercial jet, affording pilots views of such things as the earth's curvature.

But the plane, nicknamed the Dragon Lady, is difficult to fly, and missions are grueling and dangerous. The U-2s used in Afghanistan and Iraq commute each day from a base near the Persian Gulf, and the trip can last nine to 12 hours. Pilots eat meals squeezed through tubes and wear spacesuits because their blood would literally boil if they had to eject unprotected at such a high altitude.

As the number of flights increases, some of the plane's 60 pilots have suffered from the same disorienting illness, known as the bends, that afflicts deep-sea divers who ascend too quickly.

Relaxing recently in their clubhouse at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif., the U-2's home base, several pilots said the most common problems are sharp joint pain or a temporary fogginess.

But in 2006, a U-2 pilot almost crashed after drifting in and out of consciousness during a flight over Afghanistan. The pilot, Kevin Henry, now a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, said in an interview that he felt as if he were drunk, and he suffered some brain damage. At one point, he said, he came within five feet of smashing into the ground before miraculously finding a runway.

As a safety measure, U-2 pilots start breathing pure oxygen an hour before takeoff to reduce the nitrogen in their bodies and cut the risk of decompression sickness. Mr. Henry, who now instructs pilots on safety, thinks problems with his helmet seal kept him from breathing enough pure oxygen before his flight.

Lt. Col. Kelly N. West, the chief of aerospace medicine at Beale, said one other pilot had also been disqualified from flying the U-2. Since 2002, six pilots have transferred out on their own after suffering decompression illnesses.

Still, most of the pilots remain undeterred, and the Air Force is taking more precautions. Holding an oxygen mask to his nose, one pilot, Maj. Eric M. Shontz, hopped on an elliptical machine for 10 minutes before a practice flight at Beale to help dispel the nitrogen faster. Several assistants then made sure he stayed connected to an oxygen machine as they sealed his spacesuit and drove him to the plane.

Major Shontz and other U-2 pilots say the planes gradually became more integrated in the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But since the flights over Afghanistan began to surge in early 2009, the U-2s have become a much more fluid part of the daily battle plan.

Major Shontz said he was on the radio late last year with an officer as a rocket-propelled grenade exploded. "You could hear his voice talking faster and faster, and he's telling me that he needs air support," Major Shontz recalled. He said that a minute after he relayed the message, an A-10 gunship was sent to help.

Brig. Gen. H.D. Polumbo Jr., a top policy official with the Air Force, said recent decisions to give intelligence analysts more flexibility in figuring out how to use the U-2 each day had added to its revival.

Over beers at the clubhouse, decorated with scrolls honoring the heroes of their small fraternity, other U-2 pilots say they know their aircraft's reprieve will last only so long.

And the U-2's replacement sits right across the base — the Global Hawk, a remote-controlled drone that flies almost as high as the U-2 and typically stays aloft for 24 hours or more. The first few Global Hawks have been taking intelligence photos in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But a larger model that could also intercept communications has been delayed, and the Air Force is studying how to add sensors that can detect roadside bombs to other planes. So officials say it will most likely be 2013 at the earliest before the U-2 is phased into retirement.

"We've needed to be nimble to stay relevant," said Doug P. McMahon, a major who has flown the U-2 for three years. "But eventually it's bound to end."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rep. Israel Resolution Honoring Cold War Veterans Passes in the House of Representatives

Sunday March 21, 2010,12&itemid=820

Washington, DC– On Sunday, Rep. Steve Israel's (D – Huntington) resolution honoring Cold War Veterans (H.Res.900) passed in the House of Representatives. The resolution supports the goals and ideals of a Cold War Veterans Recognition Day to honor the sacrifices and contributions made by members of the Armed Forces during the Cold War.

"Our Cold War Veterans answered President Kennedy's call as we embarked on a path full of hazards. They maintained and defended missile silos and checkpoints. They served on remote B-52 bomber bases and storm-tossed Navy ships. And when they returned, there were no parades, no public thanks, they went quietly into their jobs," said Rep. Israel. "Today we say thank you to our Cold War Veterans who kept the world safe, who kept the peace, who saved the world from an unimaginable nuclear catastrophe."

Rep. Israel has been an advocate for veterans, securing more than $3.4 million in back payments for Long Island veterans, supporting improvements for veterans health care and other veterans benefits, and introducing legislation to help homeless veterans.

Rep. Israel serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. He previously served on the House Armed Services Committee.

H Res. 900 in its Final Form

We were extremely disappointed that they removed the reference to a specific day, but in the end, we weren't willing to give up on a 50% solution, just because we weren't getting the 100% solution. We felt in this case that something was better than nothing.


What this resolution does get the veterans is Congressional recognition for the sacrifices made by them during the Cold War, and this now serves as a stepping stone to further legislation that will actually be a specified day on the calendar.

This is just a small incremental step to the final solution. That's the way Congress works…. It's a very rare thing when we can get huge revolutionary things done in one go. We have to compromise to get a small step in the right direction, and make more compromises further down the road to get further. In order to get the remaining 434 members to vote for it, the committee told us we would have to strip the reference to May 1. The good thing is, it was a unanimous vote. There is clearly support for this, in its current form, so hopefully in the future, we can get an exact day specified.

Page 1
H. Res. 900
In the House of Representatives, U. S.,
March 21, 2010.
Whereas the Cold War involved hundreds of military exercises
and operations that occurred between September 2, 1945,
and December 26, 1991;
Whereas millions of Americans valiantly stood watch as mem-
bers of the Armed Forces during the Cold War; and
Whereas many Americans sacrificed their lives during the
Cold War in the cause of defeating communism and pro-
moting world peace and stability: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) honors the sacrifices and contributions made by
members of the Armed Forces during the Cold War; and
(2) encourages the people of the United States to
participate in local and national activities honoring the
sacrifices and contributions of those individuals.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Secretary Shinseki Announces $3.3 Million for New Orleans Contract Will Prepare Site for New Facility

WASHINGTON (March 22, 2010) - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki has announced the award of a $3.3 million contract by the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for pre-construction services for
VA's new medical center in New Orleans.

"This contract brings VA's health care system closer to the Veterans of
New Orleans and the Gulf Coast," said Secretary Shinseki. "The contract
is proof of VA's commitment to Louisiana's Veterans, to provide them
with 21st century, Veteran-centric care."

This is the first of several contracts to provide a new state-of-the-art
VA medical center consisting of an inpatient hospital, outpatient
clinic, diagnostic and treatment facility, rehabilitation facility,
administrative space and research laboratories.

The contract also calls for a 2,000-car parking garage, energy plant,
utilities, road and lighting.  The new VA medical center will be located
on Canal Street in the mid-city section of New Orleans.

Last year, VA spent nearly $1.5 billion in Louisiana on behalf of the
state's 312,000 Veterans.  VA operates medical centers in Alexandria and
Shreveport, plus outpatient clinics and Vet Centers across the state and
three national cemeteries.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

After 24 Hour Delay lawmakers do the right thing and vote on veterans legislation

Republicans Block Votes on Veterans Legislation in House

They failed to vote on honoring even Veterans of Iwo Jima as well as long unrecognized Cold War vets among others 7 vets bills hijacked by Health care debate. This is everything I hate about politics. One word : SHAMEFUL

Rep. Steve Israel (D - New York) speaks on the House floor about Republicans' refusal to discuss resolutions honoring veterans

Cold War Veteran Bill Delayed By Health Care Debate H.Res.900

Rep. Steve Israel (D - New York) speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives in honor of Cold War Veterans and in support of H.Res.900, a resolution introduced by Rep. Israel recognizing the contributions of America's Cold War Veterans.

6:58 P.M. -
DEBATE - The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H. Res. 1119. Considered under suspension of the rules.
Ms. Bordallo moved to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution, as amended.

H. Res. 900:
supporting the goals and ideals of a Cold War Veterans Recognition Day to honor the sacrifices and contributions made by members of the Armed Forces during the Cold War and encouraging the people of the United States to participate in local and national activities honoring the sacrifices and contributions of those individuals

At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed.

Friday, March 19, 2010

VA Kicks Off Disabled Veterans Winter Clinic More than 400 with Disabilities Expected in Colorado

WASHINGTON (March 19, 2010) - More than 400 injured Veterans have signed
up to take part in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic
in Snowmass Village, Colo., the largest adaptive event of its kind in
the world, scheduled from March 28 through April 2.

"This VA Winter Clinic is an extension of the superb rehabilitative care
Veterans receive daily at VA medical centers across the county," said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  "Through sports and
other forms of recreation therapy, we can greatly improve the quality of
life for many of our nation's heroes."

On March 11, Shinseki led the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony of
the Paralympics in Vancouver, Canada.  Since 2005, VA has had a
partnership with the U.S. Paralympics that establishes VA's Winter
Sports Clinic as a pipeline to provide participants to American
paralympic teams engaged in national and international competition.

The Winter Sports Clinic, which is sponsored by VA and the Disabled
American Veterans (DAV), teaches Veterans with disabilities about
adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing.  It also introduces them to a number
of other adaptive recreational activities and sports.  This year's event
will feature Veterans from the current conflicts in Iraq and

Now in its 24th year, the clinic is an annual rehabilitation program
open to U.S. military Veterans with traumatic brain injuries, spinal
cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain
neurological problems and other disabilities, who receive care at a VA
medical facility or military treatment center.

To meet the unique needs of participants, an estimated 200 certified ski
instructors for the disabled and several current and former members of
the U.S. Disabled Ski Team will serve as instructors.

"The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic is the highlight of
the year for many of our nation's most profoundly disabled Veterans,"
said DAV National Commander Roberto Barrera. "There is no event that
comes close, either in terms of participation or the availability of
rehabilitative events for the Veterans who make the journey.  We're
proud to again co-sponsor this event with our partners at VA and look
forward to another year of Miracles on a Mountainside."

At the six-day event, Veterans also learn rock climbing, scuba diving,
snowmobiling, curling and sled hockey.  Other highlights include a
self-defense workshop taught by the U.S. Secret Service and the
attendance of Olympic Alpine skier Bode Miller.

VA is a recognized leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies,
and operates more than 1,400 sites of care, including 153 medical
centers.  DAV is a non-profit, congressionally chartered Veterans
service organization with a membership of more than one million wartime
disabled Veterans.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

U.S. Army Bloggers Roundtable: Adventurers of the Year

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 12:51:05 -0500

We interviewed Army Wounded Warrior Lt. Col. Marc Hoffmeister, recently named by National Geographic as one of their "Adventurers of the Year." Hoffmeister discussed his journey from being severely injured in Iraq to successfully climbing Mount McKinley (also known as Denali) as part of Operation Denali. Hoffmeister was the team leader of a group of wounded warriors who set out to climb the 20,320-foot summit in order to symbolize their strength and perseverance over adversity. On June 16, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. local time, Hoffmeister and two other soldiers successfully reached the summit. In April 2007, Hoffmeister was severely injured while serving in Iraq when an IED outside of Al Hillah blew up his humvee. Hoffmeister was evacuated to Germany and then back to the U.S. where he had eight surgeries on his arm and endured months of painful rehabilitation.

To view the latest updates to the Bloggers' Roundtable, please visit

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Va Spends 60 Million For Workers IT Training

Learning Tree International's new Veterans Affairs contract worth up to $60M

Associated Press

Last update: March 12, 2010 - 12:10 PM

RESTON, Va. - Learning Tree International,
which sells professional development
courses for IT workers, said it has
contracted with the Department of Veterans
Affairs to provide training services.

The one-year agreement, with options to
renew, is worth up to $60 million.

The training started Feb. 22, the company
said late Thursday.

Learning Tree anticipates revenue of $10
million to $15 million under the agreement
during its first year.

The company's stock added 31 cents, or 2.4
percent, to a fresh 52-week high of $13.47 in
afternoon trading.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chuck Norris Cold Warrior Turned 70 On March 15th

This man has been kicking people square in the head for 70 years ... to the day.

That's right, Carlos Ray "Chuck" Norris woke up this morning (actually Chuck Norris doesn't sleep, he waits) at the ripe old age of three score and 10. And there's no question that he could still kick your organs inside-out just for breathing the same air as he does.

Anyway, despite our best efforts we could not find an address for Mr. Norris to send him a birthday cake (made of nunchucks), so we've had to settle with a round up of our 70 favorite Chuck Norris facts. One bonus fact first: As decreed by Mr. Norris himself, Norris facts don't have to actually be, uh, true.

Keep reading and enjoy ...

1. Since 1940, the year Chuck Norris was born, roundhouse-kick-related deaths have increased 13,000 percent.
2. On his birthday, Chuck Norris randomly selects one lucky child to be thrown into the sun.
3. Chuck Norris mistakenly sent Jesus a birthday card on Dec. 25. Jesus was too scared to correct Chuck Norris and to this day Dec. 25 is known as Jesus's birthday.
4. Chuck Norris was born three months premature, because he had asses to kick.
5. Rather than being birthed like a normal child, Chuck Norris instead decided to punch his way out of his mother's womb.
6. And on the first day Chuck Norris was created ... and he took care of everything else later that afternoon.
7. Chuck Norris once kicked a horse in the chin. Its descendants are known today as giraffes.
8. Chuck Norris can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.
9. Chuck Norris drives an ice cream truck covered in human skulls.
10. Chuck Norris can touch MC Hammer.
11. James Cameron wanted Chuck Norris to play the Terminator. However, upon reflection, he realized that would have turned his movie into a documentary, so he went with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
12. Chuck Norris destroyed the periodic table, because Chuck Norris only recognizes the element of surprise.
13. Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.
14. Chuck Norris once ate a whole cake before his friends could tell him there was a stripper in it.
15. The role of Alf in the hit 80s TV show was played by Chuck Norris's penis.
16. Chuck Norris sleeps with a pillow under his gun.
17. Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.
18. According to Einstein's theory of relativity, Chuck Norris can actually roundhouse kick you yesterday.
19. Chuck Norris can divide by zero.
20. Chuck Norris doesn't wear a watch. HE decides what time it is.
21. Chuck Norris can win a game of Connect Four in only three moves.
22. They once made a Chuck Norris toilet paper, but there was a problem: It wouldn't take shit from anybody.
23. Police label anyone attacking Chuck Norris as a Code 45-11.... a suicide.
24. The original title for Alien vs. Predator was Alien and Predator vs Chuck Norris.
25. Chuck Norris ordered a Big Mac at Burger King, and got one.
26. There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.
27. If you spell Chuck Norris in Scrabble, you win. Forever.
28. Chuck Norris has the greatest Poker-Face of all time. He won the 1983 World Series of Poker, despite holding only a Joker, a Get out of Jail Free Monopoly card, a 2 of clubs, 7 of spades and a green #4 card from the game UNO.
29. Chuck Norris got a blow up doll pregnant.
30. Google won't search for Chuck Norris because it knows you don't find Chuck Norris, he finds you.
31. There is no chin behind Chuck Norris' beard. There is only another fist.
32. In an average living room there are 1,242 objects Chuck Norris could use to kill you, including the room itself.
33. It takes Chuck Norris 20 minutes to watch 60 Minutes.
34. Chuck Norris counted to infinity - twice.
35. Chuck Norris uses a night light. Not because Chuck Norris is afraid of the dark, but the dark is afraid of Chuck Norris.
36. Aliens DO indeed exist. They just know better than to visit a planet that Chuck Norris is on.
37. When you say "no one's perfect", Chuck Norris takes this as a personal insult.
38. Chuck Norris once shot down a German fighter plane with his finger, by yelling, "Bang!"
39. Chuck Norris never wet his bed as a child. The bed wet itself out of fear.
40. If at first you don't succeed, you're not Chuck Norris.
41. Chuck Norris CAN believe it's not butter.
42. We live in an expanding universe. All of it is trying to get away from Chuck Norris.
43. Chuck Norris invented black. In fact he invented the entire spectrum of visible light. Except pink. Tom Cruise invented pink.
44. Chuck Norris played Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun and won.
45. Chuck Norris' first job was as a paperboy. There were no survivors.
46. When Chuck Norris does a push-up, he isn't lifting himself up -- he's pushing the Earth down. Observe ...

47. A Handicapped parking sign does not signify that this spot is for handicapped people. It is actually in fact a warning, that the spot belongs to Chuck Norris and that you will be handicapped if you park there.
48. Chuck Norris is the only man to ever defeat a brick wall in a game of tennis.
49. The phrase 'dead ringer' refers to someone who sits behind Chuck Norris in a movie theater and forgets to turn their cell phone off.
50. What was going through the minds of all of Chuck Norris' victims before they died? His shoe.
51. Contrary to popular belief, the Titanic didn't hit an iceberg. The ship was off course and accidentally ran into Chuck Norris while he was doing the backstroke across the Atlantic.
52. For some, the left testicle is larger than the right one. For Chuck Norris, each testicle is larger than the other one.
53. Godzilla is a Japanese rendition of Chuck Norris' first visit to Tokyo.
54. When Bruce Banner gets mad, he turns into the Hulk. When the Hulk gets mad, he turns into Chuck Norris.
55. Human cloning is outlawed because if Chuck Norris were cloned, then it would be possible for a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to meet another chuck Norris roundhouse kick. Physicists theorize that this contact would end the universe.
56. There are no such things as tornadoes. Chuck Norris just hates trailer parks.
57. When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
58. Chuck Norris and Mr. T walked into a bar. The bar was instantly destroyed, as that level of awesome cannot be contained in one building.
59. Chuck Norris does not follow fashion trends, they follow him. But then he turns around and kicks their ass. Nobody follows Chuck Norris.
60. The Great Wall of China was originally created to keep Chuck Norris out. It failed miserably.
61. When Chuck Norris says "More cowbell," he MEANS it.
62. Chuck Norris once sued Burger King after they refused to put razor wire in his Whopper Jr., insisting that that actually is "his" way.
63. Every time someone uses the word "intense", Chuck Norris always replies "you know what else is intense?" followed by a roundhouse kick to the face.
64. If, by some incredible space-time paradox, Chuck Norris would ever fight himself, he'd win. Period.
65. Chuck Norris invented a language that incorporates karate and roundhouse kicks. So next time Chuck Norris is kicking your ass, don't be offended or hurt, he may be just trying to tell you he likes your hat.
66. When an episode of Walker Texas Ranger was aired in France, the French surrendered to Chuck Norris just to be on the safe side.
67. Chuck Norris is so fast, he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head.
68. In a fight between Batman and Darth Vader, the winner would be Chuck Norris.
69. The square root of Chuck Norris is pain.
70. Chuck Norris once participated in the running of the bulls. He walked.

You can find more Norris facts at the totally awesome, unofficial Norris encyclopedia here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cold War artifacts sought

Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH — The Clinton County Historical Museum is in search of Cold War artifacts for its upcoming exhibition, "Mutually Assured Destruction," which opens in June on Museum Day.

The exhibit title references a military strategem employed by the United States and the Soviet Union from the 1940s to 1990s to prevent nuclear annihilation.

Historical Museum Director/Curator Carol Blakeslee-Collin wants to speak to B-47, B-52 and FB-111A flyboys as well as secure a 1980s Plattsburgh phone book.

"There were four pages of instructions of what to do in case of an attack warning, replete with maps of evacuation routes and a list of what to take with you," she said. "You should take extra socks, a crowbar and a will. The Civil Defense person, James P. O'Connor, said 'Our plan is to get as far away as you can and hope for the best.'"

The Federal Emergency Management Agency cited Plattsburgh as having one of the best evacuation plans in the country.

"Of course, they helped them do it."

Blakeslee-Collin is also in search of mid-century photographs that depict the shortage of housing, crowded streets and beach.

"That's when one-way streets in Plattsburgh came about because of all the traffic."

She's also on the hunt for vintage photographs of the shopping mall built on the north side of Route 3 in Plattsburgh.

"That's when a lot of car dealers sprang up around the base. I need to talk to the dealers themselves. We're going to have some audio interviews in the exhibit."

The museum received an exhibit grant from the Association of Air Force Missileers.

"We have a number of artifacts from the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron from Major Charles Kaczor, who lives in Connecticut. He's in his mid-80s. There's another critical person, Jeffrey Stephens. He lives in Morton, Il. He called me one day. We had some microfilm from Kaczor that had been declassified. He (Stephens) wanted it transcribed."

The data included a report of what happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"This piqued my interest as a journalist," Blakeslee-Collin said. "The Atlas (Missile) sites weren't all finished at the time of the crisis. People don't know what it is, don't remember it and what Plattsburgh was like at the time."

"The three-prong exhibit examines the military, gives a picture of the Cold War with a timeline from (Winston) Churchill's Iron Curtain speech to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and what was happening in Plattsburgh," she continued. "Six thousand military personnel landed in Plattsburgh. That was huge in a town of 20,000."

There were 12 Atlas Missile sites in a 50-mile radius of Plattsburgh.

"That's a fascinating part of the Cold War story," Blakeslee-Collin said. "They began to build them in the middle of that year, 1960. A couple were finished during the Cuban Missile Crisis. They rushed to bring the others to alert. All were officially inspected. They were obsolete by 1965. They left as quickly as they came."

Peru resident Lynn Wilke has loaned food from his fallout shelter.

"He could hear the planes 24 hours a day revving on the runways. They were on 24-hour alert."

Blakeslee-Collin received medical equipment from Troy.

"We have a huge list of artifacts. There's a bomb at PARC. I'm trying to get Bruce Steadman to loan it to us. I have a Geiger counter. I need one of those watches that glow in the dark with radium in it. It makes a Geiger counter work. We need something hands-on. We thought that would be great for kids."

The exhibit includes Home & Garden magazine pictures depicting the ideal fallout shelter as well as a family communication plan. From the protesters, there will anti-nuclear war literature from a Plattsburgh-based peace group.

"We have the video 'Duck and Cover,'" Blakeslee-Collin said. "We're going to show that."

E-mail Robin Caudell at:


WHAT: Artifacts needed for "Mutually Assured Destruction," a Cold War exhibit.

WHEN: Opens June 5.

PHONE: Carol Blakeslee-Collin at 561-0340

E-MAIL: director@

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Veterans Affairs to hold southwest Iowa events

By Mike Brownlee, Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 10:52 AM CST

The Veterans Affairs Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System will
hold two events in southwest Iowa communities later this month.

The VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Shenandoah will observe
its one-year anniversary on March 23, while in Carson, the VA's
outreach initiative will provide information and counseling about VA
and other veteran-related benefits.

Shenandoah's clinic, 512 S. Fremont St., opened in February 2009 and
was the third of four clinics the VA opened or expanded in Nebraska
and western Iowa over the last two years.

"The veterans in western Iowa were very proactive in saying they
wanted and needed a clinic down there," said Will Ackerman, public
affairs officer for VA Nebraska-Western Iowa. "We're very excited to
have been able to bring one to them."

One of the major goals of the rural clinics like the one in
Shenandoah, Ackerman said, is to reduce the travel necessary to
receive care. Before the Shenandoah clinic, veterans in the area were
forced to drive to Omaha or Lincoln, Neb.

"It's kind of like family practice. It's in your community, you get to
know the provider and they get to know you," Ackerman said. "It's more
a community minded environment than you'd have if you went to a big
city healthcare center."

The Shenandoah clinic serves about 950 veterans, according to Ackerman.

An open house will be held on March 23 from 1 until 3 p.m. at the
facility. Veterans who want to learn more about the services offered
at the clinic and by the VA, along with those who want to check
eligibility, are encouraged to attend the event.

The Shenandoah clinic also has added a part-time mental health and
social worker position, an important post with two wars being waged
right now, Ackerman said.

At the Carson Community Center, 316 S. Commercial St., area veterans
will have officials at their disposal on March 26 and 27 to learn
about eligibility rules and benefits offered by the VA.

"The rules have changed over the last 25 to 30 years," Ackerman said.
"Some of these (older) veterans who weren't eligible before are now
eligible. This is a chance to go out there and help people enroll for

The program runs from noon to 8 p.m. on March 26 and 8 a.m. to 11:30
a.m. on March 27.

Officials from the state of Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs,
veteran service agencies, county veteran service officers and military
transition advisors will also be present.

"The VA health care system today is recognized as one of the best in
the country," Ackerman said. "The vets have served honorably, and
they've earned their benefits. Our sole mission is to serve veterans
who have served us."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Please sign this VA Disability Reform Petition

Dear Sean,

Can you help us gather 7,000 signatures by next Saturday?

Last month's Storm the Hill trip was the first step towards getting disability reform passed this year, so that vets don't have to fight for their benefits. Now, it's time to take the next step, and build momentum for this long-overdue fight.

We're urging members of Congress to sign on to support disability reform. Their support is crucial to winning this fight, but yours is even more important. Can you take a minute to add your name to our open letter?

Our goal is to gather 7,000 signatures in support of disability benefits reform before the 7th anniversary of the war in Iraq, next Saturday, March 20th.

Click here to add your name and show support for reforming the broken VA disability claims process.

There is no better way to honor the men and women who have bravely served our country than by ensuring they don't have to fight to receive the benefits they deserve.

Add your name here and help us make sure that veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan get their benefits, not endless red tape.

Thank you for your support.



Tom Tarantino
Legislative Associate
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

VFW Fires Back at Defense Official

Don't pin budget blame on servicemen or retirees

Washington, D.C., March 11, 2010 — "Any attempt to link rising military personnel costs with shrinking military readiness is total nonsense," said Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., who leads the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., the largest and oldest major combat veterans' organization.

"If the Defense Department needs a larger budget for personnel programs, then let the VFW carry that message to Congress. Just don't pin the budget blame on servicemembers and military retirees."

Tradewell's ire is targeted at the new DOD undersecretary of personnel and readiness, Clifford L. Stanley, who in testimony yesterday before the personnel subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said "Rising personnel costs could dramatically affect the readiness of the department."

His predecessor, Dr. David Chu, took the same position in a January 2005 Wall Street Journal article, by saying "The amounts have gotten to the point where they are hurtful. They are taking away from the nation's ability to defend itself."

"What's hurtful," said Tradewell, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wis., "is a continuing perception that DOD is more concerned about the budget than they are about recruiting and retaining a professional volunteer force that's been at war now for more than eight years."

According to Wednesday's testimony, last year was the military's most successful recruiting year since the establishment of the all-volunteer force in 1973. Stanley, a retired Marine Corps major general, said in order to continue that recruiting trend, "The department must provide a compensation package comparable and competitive to the private sector. At the same time," he said, "we must balance the demands of the all-volunteer force in the context of growing equipment and operations costs."

The VFW national commander said any attempt to compare the wages and benefits of those who are fighting a two-front war and those who are not is pointless. "The military contract requires extended time away from family under extremely hazardous conditions, with being hurt or killed on the job a very real possibility. No civilian contract requires the same conditions for employment," he said.

"War is expensive and so is the cost of fielding an all-volunteer military, as well as retaining the best so that they can lead the force while training their successors. Our troops only ask for our respect and for better pay, better benefits, and better support programs for themselves and their families," said Tradewell.

"It is a sacred responsibility that this nation provides her defenders something more tangible than just the privilege of fighting and dying for their country."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Plays written by Sophocles 2500 years ago are being used to teach Soldiers and medical staff about PTSD and patient care.

Japan confirms Cold War-era 'secret' pacts between with Washington, ending long denial

TOKYO - Japan confirmed for the first time Tuesday the existence of once-secret Cold War-era pacts with the U.S. that tacitly allowed nuclear-armed ships to enter Japanese ports in violation of Tokyo's postwar principles.

While declassified U.S. documents have already confirmed such 1960s agreements, Tuesday's revelation broke with decades of official denials.

The investigation is part of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's campaign to make his government, which was elected last year, more open than that of the long-ruling conservatives, who repeatedly denied the existence of such pacts.

Among the secret pacts the panel acknowledged was a tacit agreement that allowed U.S. nuclear-armed warships into Japanese ports, violating a Japanese commitment not to make, own or allow the entry of nuclear weapons.

"It's regrettable that such facts were not disclosed to the public for such a long time, even after the end of the Cold War era," Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told a news conference.

Speculation about the existence of such secret pacts have been swirling in Japan for years, so the panel's findings likely won't shock most Japanese, although it will likely exacerbate distrust of the previous administrations. That sentiment could help Hatoyama's government, whose approval ratings have been sliding ahead of this summer's upper house elections.

Okada said the investigation wouldn't affect the U.S.-Japan security alliance, under which nearly 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan. The U.S. is obliged to respond to attacks on Japan and protects the country under its nuclear umbrella.

Tokyo's ties with Washington have been strained since Hatoyama took office last September because of a dispute over the relocation of a key U.S. Marine airfield on the southern island of Okinawa.

The purpose of the investigation, Okada said, was to regain public trust in Japan's diplomacy.

He added that it was possible that before 1991, when the U.S. stopped carrying battle-ready nuclear weapons, U.S. vessels might have carried nuclear weapons as they entered Japanese waters or entered Japanese ports.

There is strong aversion to nuclear weapons in Japan, the only country to suffer atomic bombings - in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

The panel, led by University of Tokyo professor Shinichi Kataoka, said that while documents showed that Washington and Tokyo appeared to have differing interpretations about allowing nuclear-armed ships into Japanese waters, it was likely that Tokyo and Washington shared an unspoken understanding permitting them to make port calls in Japan.

The panel also concluded that the two sides agreed not to press this delicate issue too much out of fear it would interfere with their security alliance.

Secretary Seeks Fast Track to Process Claim

Focus on 200,000 Veterans Expected to File Claims under New Agent Orange
Presumptives over Next Two Years

WASHINGTON (March 9, 2010) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
announced today an aggressive new initiative to solicit private-sector
input on a proposed "fast track" Veterans' claims process for
service-connected presumptive illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure
during the Vietnam War.

"This will be a new way of doing business and a major step forward in
how we process the presumptive claims we expect to receive over the next
two years," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. "With
the latest, fastest, and most reliable technology, VA hopes to migrate
the manual processing of these claims to an automated process that meets
the needs of today's Veterans in a more timely manner."

Over the next two years, about 200,000 Veterans are expected to file
disability compensation claims under an historic expansion of three new
presumptive illnesses announced last year by Secretary Shinseki.  They
affect Veterans who have Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease and
B-cell leukemias.

In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and
who have one of the illnesses covered by the "presumption of service
connection" don't have to prove an association between their medical
problems and military service.  This "presumption" makes it easier for
Vietnam Veterans to access disability compensation benefits. Vietnam
Veterans are encouraged to submit their claims as soon as possible to
begin the important process of compensation.

Along with the publication of proposed regulations for the three new
presumptives this spring, VA intends to publish a formal request in
Federal Business Opportunities for private-sector corporations to
propose automated solutions for the parts of the claims process that
take the longest amount of time.  VA believes these can be collected in
a more streamlined and accurate way.

Development involves determining what additional information is needed
to adjudicate the claim, such as military and private medical records
and the scheduling of medical examinations.

With this new approach, VA expects to shorten the time it takes to
gather evidence, which now takes on average over 90 days.  Once the
claim is fully developed and all pertinent information is gathered, VA
will be able to more quickly decide the claim and process the award, if

The contract is expected to be awarded in April with proposed solutions
offered to VA within 90 days.  Implementation of the solution is
expected within 150 days.

"Veterans whose health was harmed during their military service are
entitled to the best this nation has to offer," added Secretary
Shinseki. "We are undertaking an unprecedented modernization of our
claims process to ensure timely and accurate delivery of that

Last year, VA received more than one million claims for disability
compensation and pension.  VA provides compensation and pension benefits
to over 3.8 million Veterans and beneficiaries.  Presently, the basic
monthly rate of compensation ranges from $123 to $2,673 to Veterans
without any dependents.

Disability compensation is a non-taxable, monthly monetary benefit paid
to Veterans who are disabled as a result of an injury or illness that
was incurred or aggravated during active military service.

For more information about disability compensation, go to
Additional information about Agent Orange and VA's services and programs
for Veterans exposed are available at

Monday, March 08, 2010


Seroquel, a potentially deadly drug has been linked to the deaths of soldiers returning from war. Yet the FDA continues to approve it.

NOTE from Larry Scott, VA Watchdog dot Org ... Use our search engine for more information about ...

... the "drug cocktail" ...

... Seroquel ...


Are Veterans Being Given Deadly Cocktails to Treat PTSD?

A potentially deadly drug manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has been linked to the deaths of soldiers returning from war. Yet the FDA continues to approve it.

AlterNet / By Martha Rosenberg ing_given_deadly_cocktails_to_treat_ptsd

Sgt. Eric Layne's death was not pretty.

A few months after starting a drug regimen combining the antidepressant Paxil, the mood stabilizer Klonopin and a controversial anti-psychotic drug manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, Seroquel, the Iraq war veteran was "suffering from incontinence, severe depression [and] continuous headaches," according to his widow, Janette Layne.

Soon he had tremors. " … [H]is breathing was labored [and] he had developed sleep apnea," Layne said.

Janette Layne, who served in the National Guard during Operation Iraqi Freedom along with her husband, told the story of his decline last year, at official FDA hearings on new approvals for Seroquel. On the last day of his life, she testified, Eric stayed in the bathroom nearly all night battling acute urinary retention (an inability to urinate). He died while his family slept.

Sgt. Layne had just returned from a seven-week inpatient program at the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati where he was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A video shot during that time, played by his wife at the FDA hearings, shows a dangerously sedated figure barely able to talk.

Sgt. Layne was not the first veteran to die after being prescribed medical cocktails including Seroquel for PTSD.

In the last two years, Pfc. Derek Johnson, 22, of Hurricane, West Virginia; Cpl. Andrew White, 23, of Cross Lanes, West Virginia; Cpl. Chad Oligschlaeger, 21, of Roundrock, Texas; Cpl. Nicholas Endicott, 24, of Pecks Mill, West Virginia; and Spc. Ken Jacobs, 21, of Walworth, New York have all died suddenly while taking Seroquel cocktails.

Death certificates and other records collected by veteran family members show that more than 100 similar deaths have occurred among Iraq and Afghanistan combat vets and other military personnel, many of whom took PTSD cocktails that included Seroquel and other antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, sleep inducers and pain and seizure medications.

Since the 2008 publication of "The Battle Within," the Denver Post's expose of a "pharmaco-battlefield" in Iraq, in which troops were found to be routinely propped up on antidepressants, the Department of Defense has sought to curb the deployment of troops with mental health problems to combat zones. The DOD has also stepped up monitoring of soldiers who have been medicated, according to the Hartford Courant, and with good reason: 34 percent of the 935 active-duty soldiers who made suicide attempts in 2007 were on psychoactive drugs.

But the U.S. Army's Warrior Care and Transition Office reports that soldiers are dying after coming home, many in Warrior Transition Units that were established in 2007 to prepare wounded soldiers for a return to duty or civilian life. According to the Army Times, between June 2007 and October 2008, 68 such veteran deaths were recorded -- nine were ruled suicides, six are pending investigation and six were from "combined lethal drug toxicity." Thirty-five were termed "natural causes."

The mysterious deaths -- and an alarming track record -- have cast renewed scrutiny on Seroquel. Although it has not been approved for treatment of PTSD, Pentagon purchases of Seroquel nearly doubled between 2003 and 2007. Elspeth Ritchie, medical director of the Army's Strategic Communications Office told the Denver Post the drug is "increasingly utilized as an adjunct for PTSD."

The Seroquel Scandals

It would be hard to find a drug with a wider fraud footprint than Seroquel -- at least one that's still on the market.

One of its first backers, Richard Borison, former chief of psychiatry at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, lost his medical license, was fined $4.26 million and went to prison for a swindle involving Seroquel's original clinical studies.

AstraZeneca's U.S medical director for Seroquel, Dr. Wayne MacFadden, had sexual affairs with two different women doing research on Seroquel, a study investigator at London's Institute of Psychiatry and a Seroquel ghostwriter at the marketing firm, Parexel. According to court documents, MacFadden even joked about the conflicts of interest with one paramour.

Last year, the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica reported that Chicago psychiatrist Michael Reinstein, who wrote 41,000 prescriptions for Seroquel, received $500,000 from AstraZenenca. Meanwhile, a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune discredited influential studies by AstraZeneca-funded Charles Schulz, MD, chief of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota.

Seroquel was even promoted by the disgraced former chief of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine, Charles Nemeroff, who was accused by congressional investigators of failing to report $1 million in pharmacological income -- in AstraZeneca-funded continuing medical education courses.

And until a Philadelphia Inquirer expose last year, Florida child psychiatrist Jorge Armenteros, a paid AstraZeneca speaker, was chairman of the FDA Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee responsible for recommending Seroquel approvals.

In a trial that began in New Jersey last month, AstraZeneca is defending itself in one of 26,000 lawsuits, denying that Seroquel caused diabetes in Vietnam veteran Ted Baker, who was prescribed Seroquel for PTSD. Last year, London-based AstraZeneca agreed to pay $520 million last year to settle suits pertaining to clinical trials and illegal Seroquel marketing.

Yet, instead of reconsidering a drug linked to an alarming number of deaths and marred by at least eight corruption scandals in 13 years -- Seroquel was even prescribed to a 4-year-old Massachusetts girl, Rebecca Riley, before her death -- the FDA continues to issue approvals for new uses for Seroquel.

Seroquel was first approved to treat schizophrenia in 1997. The FDA subsequently expanded its use, approving it for "acute manic episodes associated with Bipolar I Disorder" in 2004, "major depressive episodes associated with Bipolar Disorder" in 2006 and "maintenance treatment for Bipolar I Disorder" in 2009.

Last April, the FDA opened the door to prescribing Seroquel to people who have not even been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, approving Seroquel as "an additional therapy in patients suffering from depression who do not respond adequately to their current medications."

Not that Seroquel needed a boost; its $4.9 billion in sales in 2009 signals usage far beyond the 1 percent of the population with schizophrenia and the 2.5 percent with bipolar disorder. North Carolina's Medicaid spends $29.4 million per year on Seroquel -- more than any other drug, according to the Charlotte News and Observer.

Most recently, in December, Seroquel was quietly approved for children between the ages of 10 and 17 who are diagnosed with bipolar mania and children between 13 and 17 with schizophrenia. It was a stealth end-of-the-year decision, announced not by the FDA itself but by AstraZeneca. (The change was reflected in an entry on Seroquel's FDA approval page that notes "Patient Population Altered.")

'When six people die from peanut butter we shut the factories down'

With veteran deaths in the news, family members hope the unsolved mysteries surrounding Seroquel-linked deaths of soldiers could finally force AstraZeneca to take responsibility for its product.

Stan and Shirley White lost two sons to war. Robert White, a staff sergeant, was killed in Afghanistan in 2005, when his Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. But the death of Robert's younger brother Andrew, who survived Iraq only to succumb to a different battle, is in some ways "harder to accept" says his father.

Like Eric Layne, Andrew was taking Seroquel, Klonopin, Paxil and prescription painkillers for PTSD after returning home from his Iraq tour. Like Layne, he deteriorated physically and mentally on the prescribed cocktail until experiencing a sudden, inexplicable death.

"When six people die from peanut butter we shut the factories down, but at least 87 military men have died in the past six years on Seroquel and similar drugs and no alarm sounds," Stan White told AlterNet.

When White informed his representatives, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, of Andrew's unexplained death, they were helpful, as was Tammy Duckworth, the VA's Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. But packets White distributed to news organizations, Congress and the White House were acknowledged only by First Lady Michelle Obama, who forwarded hers to the VA, and Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. In letters to White, both remarked that therapy, not just drugs, should be part of PSTD treatment.

A 2008 investigation by the VA's Office of Inspector General into the deaths of Andrew White and Eric Layne was inconclusive, finding "no apparent signal to indicate increased mortality for patients taking the combination of Quetiapine, Paroxetine, and Clonazepam when compared with patients taking other similar combinations of psychotropic medications."

"The direct impact of non-prescribed medications in these patient deaths cannot be determined," investigators concluded.

SSGT (Ret) Tom Vande Burgt's Army National Guard company was stationed outside Baghdad at the same time that Eric and Janette Layne were serving, in 2004 and 2005, but his story has a happier ending.

Like White and Layne, he was prescribed a PTSD cocktail that included Seroquel, along with Klonopin and the antidepressant Celexa, but as tremors, sleep apnea and enuresis (bedwetting) developed, his wife, Diane, questioned the high dosage, off-label use of a bipolar drug like Seroquel. After her husband was taken off his meds abruptly and it was discovered there were no records of the drugs being sent to him (or the doses) by a VA primary care doctor -- mistakes that "could have cost him his life," according to Diane -- the Vande Burgts filed a complaint with the VA Office of the Inspector General. It, however, found no wrongdoing, concluding the treatment was within the VA's "standard of care."

Under the care of a private psychiatrist, Vande Burgt's cocktail only grew, but eventually he went off the drugs with the help of his doctor, and his sleep apnea, urinary problems, tremors, weight gain, depression, mood swings, lethargy and paranoia subsided.

The way Vande Burgt describes it, Seroquel "drugs vets up" to such a degree that they "don't dream at all."

"It wipes out the hypervigilance factor," he told AlterNet via e-mail. "But as soon as the meds are decreased, the hypervigilance and anger and trust issues come raging back, worse than before."

Now the Vande Burgts, who live in Charleston, West Virginia, coordinate a PTSD support group and a Web site that emphasize nondrug solutions and the need for soldiers and veterans to have an advocate present during care for PTSD and traumatic brain injury to ensure clear communication between doctors and patient. Tom also uses the services of Give an Hour, a program in which local therapists donate one hour of therapy a week to veterans, soldiers and families dealing with PTSD.

"There is no cure for PTSD, especially in a magic pill," the Vande Burgts told AlterNet. "Good old-fashioned talk therapy and support groups are tried and true … all the others are just quick fixes that add to the problem, not addressing the root of the problem."

AstraZeneca: Too Big to Regulate?

Seroquel's ability to cause cardiac arrest and sudden death is well-known.

A search of the U.S. National Library of Medicine database yields 20 articles linking "Seroquel" and "sudden death," 24 linking "Seroquel" and "QT prolongation" (a heart disturbance that can led to death), 55 linking "Seroquel" and "toxicity," as well as such terms as "cardiac arrest" and "death."

A 2005 article in the Journal of Forensic Sciences says Seroquel was detected in 13 postmortem cases and the cause of death in three, observing that "little information exists regarding therapeutic, toxic, and lethal concentrations."

A 2003 article in CNS Drugs reports, "some patients have died while taking therapeutic doses," of atypical antipsychotics like Seroquel and that "toxicity may be increased by coingestion of other agents."

"The second-generation antipsychotics were termed 'atypical' based on misconceptions of enhanced safety and efficacy," Dr. Grace Jackson, a former Navy and Veterans Administration psychiatrist and author of Drug-Induced Dementia and Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs, told AlterNet in an interview. ("Atypical" antipsychotics supposedly function differently from "typical" antipsychotics and are thought to cause fewer side effects.)

"In 2002 and 2003, according to a VA study published in 2007, 20 to 30 percent of demented veterans [veterans with brain conditions including organic and psychiatric psychosis] died within the first 12 months of beginning treatment with an antipsychotic," said Jackson. "When you combine antipsychotics with antidepressants, benzodiazepines and antiepileptics -- especially in Iraq/Afghanistan veterans who have likely sustained traumatic brain injuries -- you have potential lethality from sleep apnea, endocrine anomalies and opioid intoxication."

Seroquel's record of causing sudden cardiac death was on the docket at last year's FDA hearings, which Stan and Shirley White and Janette Layne attended.

According to Dr. Wayne Ray, who testified before the FDA's Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee, one study involving 93,300 users of antipsychotic drugs -- half of whom were on atypical antipsychotics -- showed that such users were at no less than double the risk of a "sudden, fatal, pulseless condition, or collapse … consistent with a ventricular tachyarrhythmia occurring in the absence of a known, non-cardiac cause."

Ray, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, published the findings in an article titled "Atypical antipsychotic drugs and the risk of sudden cardiac death," in the New England Journal of Medicine last year.

Unwilling to let Seroquel's approval prospects sink just because it's dangerous, the FDA's Marc Stone, a medical reviewer, donned his AstraZeneca hat at the hearing. In a presentation rebutting Ray's testimony, he asked how the death certificates in these cases were accurate when "paramedics are more likely to identify some deaths as sudden cardiac deaths?"

"Smoking as an important risk factor for sudden cardiac death is unlikely to appear in the Medicaid claims data used in this study," Stone continued, and, "How do we know smoking wasn't a factor in the deaths -- or that antipsychotic users aren't less likely to 'communicate symptoms of cardiac disease to medical personnel?'" He also pointed out that "Mental illness severe enough to require antipsychotic drugs … may also increase the chances of someone being homeless or living alone with little social contact," apparently forgetting that the purpose of the FDA hearings was to approve Seroquel for non-mentally ill people with anxiety and depression.

Elsewhere, Seroquel for PTSD gets good reviews.

"These data are encouraging for adjunctive treatment with a second-generation [atypical] antipsychotic in patients who have partially responded to an SSRI or an SNRI [antidepressants]," says the American Psychiatric Association's March 2009 Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Matthew J. Friedman, one of its four authors, is executive director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD -- and an AstraZeneca consultant.

"Quetiapine improves sleep disturbances in combat veterans with PTSD," wrote Mark Hamner in a 2005 Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology article. Hamner is medical director of the PTSD clinical team at the Ralph H. Johnson Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Charleston, SC -- and an AstraZeneca consultant.

"Atypical antipsychotics also have an emerging place in PTSD pharmacology, particularly for symptoms of paranoia, intense hypervigilance, arousal, extreme agitation, dissociation, psychotic-type flashbacks, and brief psychotic reactions," writes Cynthia M. A. Geppert in a 2009 Psychiatric Times article. She is chief of consultation psychiatry and ethics at the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Health Care System -- and recipient of three AstraZeneca grants.

Meanwhile, critics and activists ask: What protections are afforded to veterans enrolled in Seroquel studies -- some combining Seroquel with other drugs -- that AstraZeneca-funded doctors conduct at VA medical centers?

Many say that Big Pharma, embedded in academic institutions, medical schools, military medicine, government entitlement programs and the FDA itself is too big to regulate, like Wall Street firms. But others say the incarceration of VA Chief of Psychiatry Richard Borison in 1998 is proof the system works. (Of course, he will be out soon.)

As veterans continue to come home from Iraq, even as more are deployed to Afghanistan, PTSD will continue to threaten their mental health. The untold number who will have survived the wars only to die at the hands of deadly pharmaceutical cocktails is a scandal the FDA -- and the Pentagon -- cannot afford to ignore.

"Treating PTSD does not have to be drugging up our soldiers and Marines in order to keep boots on the ground," says Diane Vande Burgt. "Our soldiers and Marines are not dispensable to save a dollar."

Martha Rosenberg frequently writes about the impact of the pharmaceutical, food and gun industries on public health. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and other outlets.


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

Senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka We can never forget that caring for veterans is a cost of war, and must be treated as such. Our recommendations are for stronger funding to help disabled veterans train for new careers, provide support to family caregive

Hawaii Sen. Akaka
wants more money
for Veterans Affairs

Associated Press

HONOLULU — Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka supports
a $380 million increase in discretionary funding
above President Obama's budget proposal for
the Veterans Affairs Department.

The proposal also has the support of Akaka's
Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Akaka said Monday in a Washington news
release that the nation should never forget that
caring for veterans is a cost of war. He says he
looks forward to working with other senators
and the administration to build on what he called
the president's "strong VA budget proposal."

Akaka says he and the committee are calling for
stronger funding to help disabled veterans train
for new careers, to provide support to family
caregivers, and to invest in medical and
prosthetic research.

Medal of Honor Winner Ed Freeman

You're a 19- year -old kid.
You're critically wounded and dying in the jungle in the Ia Drang Valley.
November 11, 1965.
LZ X-ray , Vietnam .

Your infantry unit is outnumbered 8-1 and the enemy fire is so intense, from 100 or 200 yards away,
that your own Infantry Commander has ordered the MediVac helicopters to stop coming in.
You're lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns and you know you're not getting out.
Your family is 1/2 way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you'll never see them again.

As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.

Then - over the machine gun noise - you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter.
You look up to see an unarmed Huey. But ... it doesn't seem real because no Medi-Vac markings are on it.

Ed Freeman is coming for you.

He's not Medi-Vac so it's not his job, but he's flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire anyway.

Even after the Medi-Vacs were ordered not to come.

He's coming anyway.

And he drops it in and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 2 or 3 of you on board.
Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire to the doctors and nurses.

And, he kept coming back!! 13 more times!!

He took about 30 of you and your buddies out who would never have gotten out.

Medal of Honor Recipient,
Ed Freeman, died last Wednesday at the age of 80, in Boise , Idaho .

May God Rest His Soul.

I bet you didn't hear about this hero's
passing, but we've sure seen a whole bunch
about Tiger Woods. . . 

Medal of Honor Winner
Ed Freeman

Shame on the American media !!!

Now ... YOU pass this along on YOUR mailing list.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Erik Loney | KXLY4 Reporter

NEWMAN LAKE -- For five years at the height of the Cold War a squadron
of airmen at Fairchild Air Force Base were charged with managing a
squadron of nine Atlas ICBMs. Now, more than 40 years later, you can
get a glimpse inside one of those missile bases.They were the men of
the 567 Strategic Missile Squadron. Activated for duty on April 1st,
1960, the 567th was put in charge of a group of nine silos filled with
the country's first generation Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
(ICBM).At nine different locations - Deer Park, Newman Lake, Rockford,
Croskey, Lamont, Bluestem, Wilbur, Egypt and Crescent – the
coffin-style launch bunker and associated support facilities were
built to support the Atlas missiles.

Take a tour through a Cold War ICBM site

March 5, 2010

For five years at the height of the Cold War a squadron of airmen at
Fairchild Air Force Base were charged with managing a squadron of nine
Atlas ICBMs. Now, more than 40 years later, you can get a glimpse
inside one of those missile bases. KXLY4's Erik Loney reports.

The sites were the top priority of the US Government and no expense
was spared in their construction. Each one cost more than $4 million
dollars.The Atlas E missile complex consisted of the main launch bay
and an underground tunnel to the Launch Control Center. There was also
a bunk room and kitchen. Most Atlas E sites were built on approximately 20 acres with 5 acres contained inside a 7 foot chain link fence.

Spokane's Don McCabe, 68, was a member of the 567th SMS and
was assigned to work at the sites. Teams of five airmen would work
24-hour shifts, with two crew members being required to be awake and
alert at all times in case the call to launch came in to strike at
America's Cold War enemy."I had heard it was a city in Russia but
exactly where I have no idea," McCabe said.The call to get the
missiles ready to launch never came but McCabe said they were always
ready."The two commanders, the crew commander and deputy commander
each had a key and they would have to insert keys and turn at same
time to effect a launch," he said."It was a pretty awesome
responsibility when you stopped to think about it," McCabe said. "But
I didn't worry about it, I just did my job."The sites were shut down
in 1965 and later sold to private citizens. A California man owns the
Atlas site in Newman Lake. It's currently empty but caretaker and
historian Charlie Lynch says the owner hopes to retire to the nuclear
bomb proof bunker someday. With walls several feet thick and an
18-inch thick solid steel door that takes 755 hand cranks to open the
bunker was built to withstand a nuclear blast. The Newman Lake site's
owner plans on doing a little remodeling when he retires to the
site."He's going to remodel the place" Lynch said. "Wood floors and
big screen TVs … it will be a real nice place to live."

If you want to see this interesting piece of local military history Lynch offers
tours of the Newman Lake site on the weekends by appointment. Call
509-216-0956 to set up a tour. Donations are accepted.For more
information about the 567th Strategic Missile Squadron click here to
check out their unofficial homepage.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Broken VA Claims System Tops VFW Legislative Agenda

600 War Veterans to Storm Capitol Hill Tuesday

Washington D.C., March 5, 2010 – A broken Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims system will be the top legislative issue next week when more than 600 war veterans storm Capitol Hill for the annual legislative conference of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.

"VA healthcare is world-class, but the VA's benefits administration is the key to everything the VA does — and that key is broken," said Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., the nation's largest and oldest major combat veterans' organization.

The VA claims backlog for disability, compensation, education and appeals currently exceeds 1.1 million, which results in average waiting times ranging from 180 days for new claims to be adjudicated to two years for appeals. Worse still, according to Tradewell, is the adjudication error rate.

The VA cites a system-wide error rate of 17 percent, but the VA Inspector General reported error rates ranging from 25 to 38 percent in VA regional offices in Virginia, Alaska and Maryland for three of the most commonly filed claims — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and illnesses related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.

"Asking a veteran to wait half of a year or more for a rating decision that could have a one-in-three chance or more of being incorrect is absolutely unacceptable," said Tradewell, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wis.

"Veterans have earned the right to better service from our nation, and VA has the undeniable responsibility to properly review and take corrective action on claims processed at regional offices with abysmal quality standards."

Tradewell is scheduled to testify Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees in room G-50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Aside from the claims issue, other VFW high interest items include the proper care and treatment of servicemen and women veterans returning home with traumatic injuries to mind and body, the need for an integrated information technology system to bring the VA into the 21st century, veterans' unemployment, homelessness, and military caregivers and survivor benefits, among others.

Joining Tradewell at the three-day legislative conference will be VFW and Ladies Auxiliary leaders from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Europe, Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. They will carry the VFW legislative agenda to their congressional members and staffs following the Tuesday testimony.

The conference kicks off Monday at the Hyatt Regency-Crystal City with the presentation of VFW national awards and special guest speakers who include VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

National awards to be presented are the VFW Congressional Award to Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.,), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; the VFW News Media Award to Army Times Publishing Company; a VFW Gold Medal and Citation to the Army's Old Guard; and VFW Teachers Awards to Patricia Mazure of Taylor Elementary School in Trenton, Mich., Mark D. Leet of Simons Middle School in Flemingsburg, Ky., and William V. Melega of Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Monday conference will stream live on, and video of Tradewell's testimony will be available online Tuesday afternoon.