Wednesday, June 13, 2018
The VA’s latest betrayal of Vietnam veterans
By Betsy McCaughey
President Trump just signed the Mission Act, which is supposed to help ailing US veterans get prompt care, including the ability to see a civilian doctor on Uncle Sam’s tab.
Don’t count on it.
The fine print shows that vets are guaranteed nothing. The Veterans Affairs secretary is simply empowered to make rules for who gets civilian care. Though Trump and his pick for secretary, Robert Wilkie, favor making it easy for vets, Wilkie’s rules could last only as long as Wilkie remains in office. Worse, they don’t go into effect for two and a half years.
That’s too late for the hundreds of Vietnam vets, now in their 60s and early 70s, who are carrying a dangerous parasite picked up in Asia called liver fluke. Many don’t know it, but it’s a ticking time bomb likely to kill them.
Scandalously, the VA is doing zip to identify and treat these infected vets, even though an ultrasound test can detect liver-fluke infection in minutes and medicine can slow its progression into lethal bile-duct cancer. If there were ever an example of vets needing to be in the driver’s seat about getting outside care, this is it. But the Mission Act requires them to get their VA doctor’s permission first.
Remember the nation’s shock in 2014 when 40 vets died on secret waitlists concocted by VA bureaucrats? That toll is miniscule compared with the deaths being caused right now by the VA’s neglect of vets with liver fluke.
In January, researchers at the Northport, NY, VA found that one out of every five vets tested who remembers eating raw fish in Vietnam — a common practice when rations ran out — is carrying the parasite. More than 100,000 vets could be infected. The parasite lingers in the body for decades, and then — wham — can suddenly cause deadly bile-duct cancer. Some 80-90 percent of them will develop the cancer if their infection goes untreated, according to New York physician Dr. John Cahill, an expert on parasites.
“It’s a huge number,” says Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, associate professor at New York University Langone Medical Center.
Cahill says he’d like to see every vet who ate raw fish while in Vietnam contacted for an ultrasound.
Instead, the VA is serving up gibberish, claiming “there is currently no evidence that vets have higher infection rates than the general population.”
That’s ridiculous. You can’t get infected with liver fluke in the US. The parasite doesn’t exist here. Cahill calls bile-duct cancer “extremely rare” among the US population. The other highest-risk group is Asian-Americans who travel or once resided in Southeast Asia.
Here’s another whopper. The VA is telling vets if they don’t have jaundice or other symptoms, “they don’t need screening.” In fact, Nampiaparampil stresses that by the time those symptoms appear, the cancer has often progressed too far.
The VA claims there’s “no definitive link” between the parasite and cancer. In truth, there’s a pile of research linking the two. Researchers at Tulane and George Washington University proved the link in 2007 in an article “Liver Fluke Induces Cholangiocarcinoma.” So did findings in the journal Cancer Science in 2010, calling liver-fluke infection “the strongest risk factor” for cancer of the bile duct.
The VA double talk is typical. They did the same thing with service-linked ailments from the Gulf War. This time the VA is launching a “large-scale epidemiological study” that will be ready in about two years.
Pile up reports and do nothing. You could pave over Washington, DC, with the reports produced by the VA.
Meanwhile, Facebook and local newspapers are chronicling the deaths of Vietnam vets from liver-fluke-related cancer.
Time is running out. Vietnam vets need to be contacted, tested if they ate raw fish and treated if they have the infection. The Mission Act isn’t going to save them or other sick vets, any more than previous VA “reform” laws, all hailed by self-congratulating Washington pols when they were passed.
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.
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Wednesday, June 6, 2018
PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP PROVIDES RESOURCES FOR VETERANS TO GET THE CARE THEY DESERVE FROM THE DOCTORS THEY WANT
“My pledge to you, our noble warriors, is that my Administration will support you, and your loved ones, and your amazing families every single day, now and always.” – President Donald J. Trump
FUNDING HEALTHCARE FOR OUR VETERANS: Today, the President signed legislation providing our veterans with the funding they have earned through their sacrifices for our country.
· President Trump signed S. 2372, the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018, or the VA MISSION Act of 2018.
· America’s veterans deserve timely access to the highest quality of care possible and funding for the programs that keep them healthy and well.
o That is why President Trump and the Department of Veterans Affairs worked closely with Congress and Veterans Service Organizations to create draft legislation to support our veterans.
· The VA MISSION Act provides $5.2 billion in mandatory funding for the Veterans Choice program until a new consolidated program is implemented, which provides veterans with flexibility to receive care at both Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and private health facilities.
· Since its creation in 2014, more than two million veterans have used the Veterans Choice program and have scheduled more than 41 million appointments in their communities.
STREAMLINING VETERANS CHOICE: The VA MISSION Act consolidates the VA’s community care programs, creating a new, single program for veterans care.
· The VA MISSION Act takes the long-overdue step of consolidating the complex, bureaucratic web created by seven different veterans community care programs into one unified program, simplifying and strengthening healthcare opportunities for America’s veterans.
o The new program is projected to take effect one year from enactment.
· The new consolidated program will increase transparency and accountability, and ensure that veterans receive the right care at the right time with the right provider.
· The bill also accelerates the processing of claims by community providers so that they are addressed in a prompt and timely manner.
· The bill authorizes access to walk-in community clinics, so that veterans have immediate, local access to non-emergency convenience care.
· The new program strengthens the process between the VA and the community healthcare providers who prescribe opioids to veterans.
IMPROVING AND EXPANDING CARE: The VA MISSION Act provides new resources and creates new programs to build on and improve the care our veterans receive.
· The VA MISSION Act expands eligibility for the Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, allowing caregivers for all veterans to access.
· The bill removes barriers for telemedicine, provides additional resources for hiring and retaining healthcare professionals, and establishes mobile deployment teams to support underserved facilities, among other important steps to improve veterans’ care.
· The bill further allows the VA to modernize its assets and infrastructure to serve our veterans in the best possible way.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
Flight or Fright, edited by Stephen King & Bev Vincent, Cemetery Dance, $27.95, reviewed by Jim Brock.
Back when I worked for a living, I took quite a few airplane rides around this country. One night on a flight from Memphis to Chattanooga, Tennessee on Southern Airlines, we experienced quite a bit of turbulence because of a storm and upon landing I heard a boom and saw flames shooting out the front of an engine. I wasn't scared, but I was concerned.
The last flight I took was well before 9/11. Since then I haven't found anywhere I wanted to go that would make me undergo the hassles of airports and airline travel. Flight or Fright has given me seventeen other reasons to avoid airplanes - much more so than just the hassle.
Stephen King and Bev Vincent have assembled an unusual range of authors and an outstanding group of stories featuring some of the greatest names of the past one hundred years and their contributions to the terrors of the sky.
When you see a list that features Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury, you know the editors know what they are doing. The title, Flight or Fright tells you exactly what to expect. My favorites include Matheson and Bradbury but also Dan Simmons, E.C. Tubb, John Varley and Arthur Conan Doyle. These writers have given me untold reading adventures and pleasures for years.
This is a great anthology with a great theme and great editors. It is definitely worth the hassles to take these flights.
Friday, May 18, 2018
THE OUTSIDER - Available May 22nd
An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.
An eleven-year-old boy's violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.
As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.
THE OUTSIDER will be available in hardcover, ebook, and in audiobook read by Will Patton on May 22nd
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Boston Massacre ► Seventy-two Killed Resisting Gun Confiscation in Boston
National Guard units seeking to confiscate a cache of recently banned assault weapons were ambushed by elements of a Para-military extremist faction. Military and law enforcement sources estimate that 72 were killed and more than 200 injured before government forces were compelled to withdraw. Speaking after the clash, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage declared that the extremist faction, which was made up of local citizens, has links to the radical right-wing tax protest movement. Gage blamed the extremists for recent incidents of vandalism directed against internal revenue offices. The governor, who described the group’s organizers as “criminals,” issued an executive order authorizing the summary arrest of any individual who has interfered with the government’s efforts to secure law and order.
The military raid on the extremist arsenal followed wide-spread refusal by the local citizenry to turn over recently outlawed assault weapons. Gage issued a ban on military-style assault weapons and ammunition earlier in the week. This decision followed a meeting in early this month between government and military leaders at which the governor authorized the forcible confiscation of illegal arms. One government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, pointed out that “none of these people would have been killed had the extremists obeyed the law and turned over their weapons voluntarily.” Government troops initially succeeded in confiscating a large supply of outlawed weapons and ammunition. However, troops attempting to seize arms and ammunition in Lexington met with resistance from heavily-armed extremists who had been tipped off regarding the government’s plans.
During a tense standoff in the Lexington town park, National Guard Colonel Francis Smith, commander of the government operation, ordered the armed group to surrender and return to their homes. The impasse was broken by a single shot, which was reportedly fired by one of the right-wing extremists. Eight civilians were killed in the ensuing exchange. Ironically, the local citizenry blamed government forces rather than the extremists for the civilian deaths. Before order could be restored, armed citizens from surrounding areas had descended upon the guard units. Colonel Smith, finding his forces over matched by the armed mob, ordered a retreat.
Governor Gage has called upon citizens to support the state/national joint task force in its effort to restore law and order. The governor also demanded the surrender of those responsible for planning and leading the attack against the government troops. Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock, who have been identified as “ringleaders” of the extremist faction, remain at large.
And this fellow Americans, is how the American Revolution began, April 20, 1775.
On July 4th, 1776 these same extremists signed the Declaration of Independence, pledging to each other and their countrymen their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. Many of them lost everything, including their families and their lives over the course of the next few years. Lest we forget… [Source: Frontlines of Freedom Newsletter | May 11, 2018 ++]
Author Tom Wolfe dies at 87
Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 8:27 AM PT
From various news sources
Tom Wolfe, author of bestselling books including “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “The Right Stuff” has died at the age of 87.
Tom Wolfe loved American culture for all its excess. Groupies, doormen, hippies, astronauts, bankers and frat boys took on a magisterial presence in his writing, and if there was a hint of hypocrisy in their actions, then all the better.
Wolfe reveled in worlds where people stood tall and acted with extravagance and swagger. He often joined the parade himself, author-turned-celebrity in his cream-colored suit, walking stick in hand.
Fervent disciple — if not the high priest — of New Journalism, he brought to his stories techniques often reserved for fiction and dispensed candid and often droll commentary on the obsessions and passing trends of American society. The author of 15 books, fiction and nonfiction, Wolfe is credited with such phrases as "radical chic," "the me-decade" and "the right stuff."
Kurt Vonnegut considered him a genius. Mary Gordon called him a thinking man's redneck. Surfers in La Jolla labeled him a dork after he profiled them. The novelist John Gregory Dunne observed that his writings have the capacity "to drive otherwise sane and sensible people clear around the bend."
Once asked why critics despised him, Wolfe said, "Intellectuals aren't used to being written about. When they aren't taken seriously and become part of the human comedy, they have a tendency to squeal like weenies over an open fire."
One of the most conspicuous voices in American letters, Wolfe died Monday at a Manhattan hospital, according to his agent, Lynn Nesbit. He was 88. He had been hospitalized with an infection, according to the Guardian.
"Tom was a singular talent," said his friend Gay Talese. "He was an extraordinarily active reporter whose unique prose was supported on a foundation of solid research."
Often considered a satirist for his broadly drawn portraits, Wolfe saw himself as a realist and supported the claim with his reporting. "Every kind of writer," he once proclaimed, "should get away from the desk and see things they don't know about."
"Tom had an extraordinarily sharp eye and a commitment to tell the truth," said Jann Wenner, friend and founding editor of Rolling Stone magazine. "He didn't write out of malice. He went to the essence of the matter and called it like he saw it."
His pen may have been caustic, but Wolfe in person was unfailingly courteous, according to Pat Strachan, former senior editor at Little, Brown who worked with him since the late 1970s.
"His publishers and their staffs know that he was an exceptionally good-natured, considerate, and generous man — a kind and brilliant man," Strachan said.
Wolfe got his start in 1963 with a story that he almost couldn't write. He had gone to California to report on renegade car designers working out of garages in Burbank and Lynwood. After racking up a $750 tab at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, he returned to New York and stared at his typewriter, unable to find the right words.
As the deadline neared, he typed up his notes for his editor who planned to reassign the story to another writer. Ten hours and 49 pages later, Wolfe had "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby."
In 1965, the story became a centerpiece for a collection of essays that established his national reputation as a writer who didn't use the English language so much as detonate it. Allusions, dramatic asides, neologisms and flamboyant punctuation became the hallmarks of his style.
Surfers, sitting on the edge of the break, were like "Phrygian sacristans."
Chuck Yeager, punching through the sound barrier above the Mojave, saw the sky turn "deep purple and all at once the stars and the moon came out — and the sun shone at the same time."
A speedboat, racing across Miami's Biscayne Bay, slams against the waves, "throttle wide open forty-five miles an hour against the wind SMACK bouncing bouncing its shallow aluminum hull SMACK from swell SMACK to swell SMACK."
"What Tom did with words is what French Impressionists did with color," said Larry Dietz, editor and friend.
A disciplined writer, Wolfe held himself to a quota of 10 triple-spaced pages a day, but writing was never fun for Wolfe. "It's the hardest work in the world," he said. "The only thing that will get you through it is maybe someone will applaud when it's over."
Thomas Kennerly Wolfe Jr. was born in Richmond, Va., on March 2, 1931. Magnolia-lined streets, his neighbors' accent and his mother's mint tea gave his childhood a genteel, decidedly Southern air. His grandfather had been a rifleman for the Confederacy.
Wolfe claimed that as a child, he would thank God at night for being born in the greatest city in the greatest state in the greatest country in the world.
Wolfe's mother was a landscape designer, and his father was an agronomist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and an editor for an agricultural magazine. He had a sister who was five years younger than him. Watching his father work — seeing scribbled notes on a legal pad transformed into pristine type on the page — sparked Wolfe's ambition to be a writer.
At Washington and Lee University, he helped edit the campus newspaper and co-founded its literary quarterly. He played baseball and was known on the mound for a sinker and slider. When he was 21, he unsuccessfully tried out for the New York Giants.
He received a doctorate from Yale in 1957 in American Studies, and after sending out applications to 53 newspapers, took a job as a reporter for the Springfield Union in Massachusetts. The most difficult phone call he ever made, he said, was to let his father know that instead of becoming a professor, he was going to be a reporter.
He told an interviewer that he enjoyed "the cowboy nature of journalism, the idea that it wasn't really respectable, and yet it was exciting, even in a literary way."
After three years in Massachusetts and two years with the Washington Post, he headed to the New York Herald Tribune where he would show up each day in a $200 cream-colored suit, which he wore as "a harmless form of aggression" against New Yorkers unaccustomed to seeing lighter shades worn during winter.
Once asked to describe the ensemble, he called it "neo-pretentious," but he also discovered the style had an advantage. "If people see that you are an outsider," he said, "they will come up and tell you things."
Writing for the Tribune's Sunday magazine, Wolfe dressed up his stories with scenes, dialogue and a raucous point of view that soon distinguished the New Journalism, a phrase credited to writer Pete Hamill and whose practitioners included Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion and Talese.
"I had the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that I was doing things no one had ever done in journalism," Wolfe said.
His style would inspire a generation of writers, including satirist Christopher Buckley.
"His prose was so brilliant, so alive, so erudite, so thrumming with electricity, and so new that you thought, 'Wow. I didn't realize we were allowed to do this,'" Buckley said. "And into the bargain, the white suit! This was flash of the highest order, and it made thousands of people my age want not only to be writers, but to be Tom Wolfe."
As much as the words themselves, Wolfe's perspective caught the attention of readers and critics. At a time when Vietnam cast a shadow across American life, he discovered something bright in stories about stock cars, Cassius Clay, Hugh Hefner and the club scene in London.
"What struck me … was that so many people have found such novel ways of doing just that, enjoying, extending their ego way out on the best terms available, namely their own," he said.
Wolfe's amazement, however, could strike a withering tone, such as the time he invited himself to a cocktail party held for the Black Panthers in the Park Avenue penthouse of Leonard Bernstein and his wife, Felicia.
The year was 1970, and the gathering was a fundraiser for members of the party who had been held in prison for nine months without trial. In "The Radical Chic," Wolfe savaged the evening with a portrait of the fashionably liberal crowd engaging with militants over canapes.
The story brought to light the conservative side to Wolfe's politics.
"He had this kind of cynicism about liberalism," said writer and friend Ann Louise Bardach. "If you look at what upset Tom, it was the card-carrying, raving, bring-down-the-barricade liberalism, but more than that, he was contrarian and a cynic in the sense that every great reporter is."
He would later attend a state dinner at the White House during the Reagan administration, support President George W. Bush and complain against having to pay too much income tax. Walking the crowded streets of New York, Wolfe would wear a American flag lapel pin that he likened to "holding up a cross to werewolves."
An inveterate New Yorker, Wolfe once said that he could imagine living nowhere else. "Pandemonium with a big grin on it," he called Manhattan and claimed that his favorite past time was window shopping.
Single until he was 47, he met his wife, Sheila Berger, at Harper's magazine where she was an art director. They married in 1978 after a long courtship and kept a two-story town house on the Upper East Side and a home in Southampton, on Long Island.
They had two children, Alexandra, a one-time staffer at the New York Observer and now a freelance writer, and Tommy, who distinguished himself in college as a champion squash player.
Coming off the success of his ambitious and lucrative portrait of the space program, "The Right Stuff," which was made into an Academy Award-winning movie, Wolfe turned from journalism to fiction. Having attacked contemporary novelists for their limited ambitions, he felt it only fair that he try the form himself.
His first novel, "The Bonfire of the Vanities," was serialized in Rolling Stone. A sprawling portrait of New York City in the 1980s, it became a bestseller in 1986.
Three years later, flush with success, he issued a cri de coeur calling "a battalion, a brigade, of Zolas to head out into this wild, bizarre, unpredictable, hog-stomping baroque country of ours and reclaim its literary property."
In 1996, he had a heart attack that required a quintuple bypass, and afterward, he talked about being depressed and foregoing the white suit. "I've never been depressed before," he told Time magazine.
Upon recovery, he reclaimed his sartorial identity and went on to write three more novels: "A Man in Full" in 1998, "I Am Charlotte Simmons" in 2004, and "Back to Blood" in 2012. It was an accomplishment that impressed Talese from the start when Wolfe wrote "The Bonfire of the Vanities."
"Here was a writer who stuck his neck out, criticizing fiction writers and their work," Talese said. "Then he goes ahead and writes a novel. He knows he will get killed critically because everyone in the literary establishment will have it in for him."
Wolfe had his revenge, as Talese pointed out, when his books became bestsellers. He was honored in 2010 by the National Book Foundation for his contribution to American letters.
Tom Wolfe is survived by his wife, Shelia, and his children, Alexandra and Tommy.
Friday, May 11, 2018
Following The Black Elfstone, The Skaar Invasion is the second book of the epic four-part conclusion to the Shannara series from one of the acknowledged masters of the fantasy genre.
The Four Lands are under siege. Wielding a magical ability virtually impossible to combat, mysterious invaders defeat the most fearsome Troll armies, then focus their savagery on the Druid order—and all hope seems lost.
Eventually the invaders reveal a more human face, but understanding their motives in no way mitigates the brutality of their actions. Dar Leah, once the High Druid’s Blade, has crossed paths—and swords—with their ruthless leader before. So he knows that if any hope exists, it rests in the hands of the Druid Drisker Arc, now trapped inside vanished Paranor.
As Drisker races to find the ancient knowledge that could free him, Dar goes in search of Tarsha Kaynin, the young woman blessed with the powerful gift of the wishsong, whose magic could draw Drisker back into the world of the living. But little do they know that what appeared to be a formidable invading force may only be the forerunner of a much larger army—one intent on nothing less than total conquest.