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Exclusive: Inside the VA’s spin-and-stonewall machine

by Michelle Malkin on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

This is article 300 of 300 in the topic US Military

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.03.16 AMExclusive: Inside the VA’s spin-and-stonewall machine
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2014

The Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is very concerned.

No, the communications specialists in the agency are not concerned with veterans in need. They’re not concerned with citizens and public officials requesting public information. They’re not concerned with journalists seeking the truth.

What these entrenched government employees care most about, above all else, is the business of spin and stonewalling.

The VA mouthpieces are preoccupied with covering their ample bureaucratic backsides, withholding data, monitoring critics, fending off watchdogs and running constant interference for their corrupt, negligent agency.

In a string of internal email documents I obtained from last fall, several VA press staffers spent seven months dragging their feet on a Freedom of Information Act request filed in March 2013 by disabled vet and attorney Benjamin Krause. He and other vets wanted to know how exactly the VA’s communications budget was being spent on public relations campaigns, advertisements, online publications and contracts.

VA spokesman Mark Ballesteros warned his colleagues in an October 2013 email that he had read Krause’s veterans advocacy website, DisabledVeterans.org. As I reported last week, Krause’s investigative site exposed and explained the VA’s red-flag system for dissatisfied veterans and also blew the whistle on Federal Protective Service officers harassing sick veterans protesting shoddy care in San Diego.

Ballesteros wrote that Krause’s website “appears to have a distinct anti-VA tone.” He advised the VA’s taxpayer-funded public affairs specialists: “We should proceed cautiously with this one.”

What exactly did that mean? Ultimately, the office supplied data in response to Krause’s request — but not before Ballesteros imposed what appears to be a selective, pre-FOIA release policy based on viewpoint discrimination. “Let’s ensure the material is socialized before we provide it to the organization,” Ballesteros told his colleagues.

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As Krause explained it to me, the VA “is using systems that allow it to track the influence of Congress and negative reporting” across traditional and social media. Color-coded weekly and monthly “media analysis briefs” cheer on the VA’s spin-control penetration on Twitter and Facebook. Bar charts, maps and ratings track congressional critics and activists.

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Last fall, the office kept paranoid tallies of pro and con statements on the ever-growing backlog of VA cases. Last fall’s media analysis reports obsessed over “mitigating” widespread criticism — from social media to “Fox and Friends” to “The Daily Show” — of VA bonuses and shoddy care.

It was in the course of probing those monitoring efforts that Krause discovered that “the VA Public Affairs thinks my website is ‘anti-VA’ instead of ‘pro-Veteran’ and is using viewpoint-centric censoring within its FOIA office,” he told me.

It certainly may not be the first time.

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, whose statements are tracked by the VA propaganda machine, also has run into the stone wall. As of last week, the VA was sitting on nearly 100 separate requests for information from the House panel. Sixty-eight of those requests have been pending for more than 60 days. There are three outstanding requests from 2012.

When I called attention to the internal VA documents involving Krause’s FOIA request, Miller told me in a statement:

“These emails are troubling, but they are not at all surprising.

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NY-22: Laughable lies of liberal Republicans

by Michelle Malkin on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

This is article 25 of 26 in the topic 2014 Elections

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 11.51.02 PMSupport Claudia Tenney for Congress

NY-22: Laughable lies of liberal Republicans
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2014

How do you spell “sidesplitting chutzpah“? In New York’s 22nd congressional district, it’s spelled: R-I-C-H-A-R-D H-A-N-N-A. He’s the liberal GOP incumbent trying to cling to public office by smearing the Marine mom, small-business owner, lawyer and conservative state assemblywoman poised to take his seat next week.

Claudia Tenney is as rock-solid of a Republican as they come: pro-life, pro-limited government, pro-Second Amendment, pro-entrepreneur, pro-American worker. As one of New York’s top conservative legislators, Tenney has been unafraid to challenge the powers that be in both political parties. As an attorney, she has fought valiantly against cronyism and corruption. She has opposed the New York Democratic machine on everything from in-state tuition discounts for illegal aliens to taxpayer slush funds to dirty casino-government deals.

Tenney is the insurgent challenger in the June 24 primary to unseat Hanna, who is the third most liberal GOP member of the House. Hanna is also a member of the left-wing “Republican Main Street Partnership” — the pro-bailout, pro-debt, pro-amnesty, anti-drilling group infested with lobbyists and fronted by Beltway barnacle turned Tea Party-bashing lobbyist Steve LaTourette.

Because no Democrat is running for the seat, the NY-22 primary is effectively a general race. It’s a ripe electoral opportunity for the right. Tenney has grassroots support from New York tea party activists, the New York State Conservative Party, the New York State Right-to-Life Committee, former GOP Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, as well as the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms PAC and the conservative women’s political action committee ShePAC.

Hanna, by contrast, has the backing of deep-pocketed D.C. special interests that have thrown nearly $1.5 million into the race. The “American Unity” super PAC, funded by billionaire gay marriage supporter Paul Singer, has kicked in more than a half-million dollars on gay marriage crusader Hanna’s behalf. The group also has shoveled $125,000 to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, whose operatives are waging war against conservative tea party primary challengers across the country. The “American Unity” super PAC’s ads absurdly slam Tenney as “not a conservative” and fudge the facts to falsely accuse her of supporting tax hikes.

Another blatant lie: tying Tenney to Democratic corruptocrat Sheldon Silver, whom Tenney was the first state legislator to call on to resign after his tax-subsidized payoffs to cover up sexual harassment claims were exposed.

A similar attack campaign by something called the “Patriot Prosperity PAC” parroted the patently false claims that Tenney supports tax hikes and called her “out of touch.”

But it’s liberal incumbent Hanna and his D.C. backers who are the elitists out of touch not only with GOP voters, but also with mainstream Americans. Hanna is a soft-on-borders, U.S. Chamber of Commerce-supported pol pushing amnesty and massive increases in foreign tech visas.

Tenney, by contrast, opposes amnesty, expansions of illegal alien benefits, and the cheap-labor tech visa racket. “Millions of Americans are out of work, and politicians in Washington, like my opponent, want to bring in millions more to take high-paying, high-tech jobs we desperately need here and for our American citizens,” Tenney says.

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Exposed: How the VA red-flags “disruptive” vets

by Michelle Malkin on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

This is article 299 of 300 in the topic US Military

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 3.01.11 AMExposed: How the VA red-flags “disruptive” vets
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2014

Imagine how much better off America’s veterans would be if the federal government spent more time delivering actual care and less time compiling tyrannical lists. The death-inducing secret waiting lists for patients are just the tip of the iceberg.

Did you know, for example, that the VA keeps a database on “disgruntled” and “disruptive” vets that results in arbitrarily restricted care?

Disabled Air Force veteran and veterans advocate/attorney Benjamin Krause has been raising questions about the system for months and warning his peers. Under the VA policy on “patient record flags” (PRFs), federal bureaucrats can classify vets as “threats” based on assessments of their “difficult,” “annoying” and “non-compliant” behavior.

The VA manual says the flags “are used to alert Veterans Health Administration medical staff and employees of patients whose behavior and characteristics may pose a threat either to their safety, the safety of other patients, or compromise the delivery of quality health care.”

That last phrase is priceless. Untold numbers of vets are dead, and legions more have languished because of the VA’s failure to deliver “quality health care.” The Office of Special Counsel just confirmed to President Obama this week that vets across the country were exposed to contaminated drinking water, dirty surgical tools, untrained doctors and neglectful nurses — and that whistleblowers were retaliated against or ignored.

Yet, the VA’s soulless paper-pushers seem more preoccupied with flagging and punishing “disruptive” vets who have dared to complain about their disgraceful treatment and abuse.

Get this: Among examples of patients’ behavior referred to the VA’s “Disruptive Behavior Committees” (yes, that’s what they’re called): venting “frustration about VA services and/or wait times, threatening lawsuits or to have people fired, and frequent unwarranted visits to the emergency department or telephone calls to facility staff.”

As Krause explains, the Disruptive Behavior Committees are secret panels “that decide whether or not to flag veterans without providing due process first. The veteran then has his or her right of access to care restricted without prior notice.”

Veterans need look no further than the IRS witch hunts for reason to fear abuse of this monitoring system. The definition of “disruptive” is completely arbitrary. That’s not just my opinion. The VA inspector general concluded last spring that the bureaucracy “does not have a comprehensive definition of what constitutes disruptive behavior.”

Krause writes: “While I am sure some veterans need some form of a flag, I am also aware of numerous veterans who were unfairly targeted for a variety of unreasonable reasons.” Krause told me this week that “the bean-counters” may have flagged at least one veteran for being “too expensive.” And “trouble-makers” who are educated and know their rights are especially vulnerable. It’s absolutely chilling.

“This discussion of patient record flags has me fired up,” Krause explained, “because of the clear unconstitutional nature of the program.

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A fed-up veteran blasts VA’s “lie, delay, deny” abyss

by Michelle Malkin on Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

This is article 296 of 300 in the topic US Military

A fed-up veteran blasts VA’s “lie, delay, deny” abyss
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2014

“They don’t care.”

As Obama administration officials pivot like haywire jewelry-box ballerinas to divert attention away from the nationwide Veterans Affairs disgrace, a reader who has been fighting the system urged me to urge Capitol Hill and the American public to stay focused.

This former Special Forces soldier and medic served his country for 25 years. He worked in the health care field managing military field medical clinics. “I know how health care is supposed to run, even in austere or low-budget environments,” he says. And in his nightmarish, ongoing experience, the VA is an epic, deadly, monstrous failure. He minces no words: “They’re getting billions of dollars, and they treat veterans like s-t. There’s no accountability, no buy-in, among civilian unionized employees. We mean nothing to them. It’s like going to the DMV for your health care.”

Over the past four years, the veteran tells me, he has been under direct VA care for two major line-of-duty-related injuries, including one combat-related injury. One of the medical centers that treated him — or rather mistreated him and maltreated him — is the Coatesville, Pa., VA. It’s the same facility where four vets died due to medical malpractice, leading to nearly $1.4 million in settlements to vets’ families, according to The Center for Investigative Reporting.

The harrowing cases included two fatal failures to monitor patients, improper management of a psychiatric patient, and wrongful diagnosis or misdiagnosis of a patient.

These details are all too familiar to my reader. “I have been misdiagnosed, had a missed diagnosis, and had delays of care lasting months,” he says. “My records have been lost, changed, split and mismanaged.” He has experienced firsthand the same “slow-walking” of care that millions of other VA patients have encountered and scores have died from — a systemic modus operandi of “lie, delay, deny.”

The vet gets a catch in his voice as he relates a horrible anecdote. After refusing to return to the Coatesville facility and seeking treatment at another VA clinic one day, he became nauseous. Instead of allowing him to lie down on a gurney, a nurse made him vomit outside so he wouldn’t soil the bed. He believes the office was open not to treat patients, but as a front for nurses to pick up extra shifts. He has encountered similar degrading and condescending treatment across the VA system.

When he appealed for help and advocacy within the system, the veteran was met with a stone wall of “Not My Job”-ism. Through denials of care, contraindicated medications, repeated mistakes and delays of pharmacy items, he endured callousness, humiliation and stigmatization. “When I get angry, they call me ‘crazy.’” Classic blame-the-victim tactics from the VA abusers.

Big Government politicians want to throw more funding at the VA, as usual. The veteran offers a scathing reality check: “There is ample money to address the needs of American veterans,” he says. “The problem is far deeper and more dangerous than just secret waiting lists.

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Military bases: Obama’s new illegal alien dumping grounds

by Michelle Malkin on Thursday, June 12th, 2014

This is article 433 of 443 in the topic Immigration

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 12.10.00 AMMilitary bases: Obama’s new illegal alien dumping grounds
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2014

A source tipped me off last week to a curious occurrence: It seems that two planeloads of illegal aliens were recently shipped to Massachusetts. The first reportedly landed at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford. According to my tipster, approximately 160 illegal immigrants arrived on that flight and stayed nearly a week before being transferred to a Department of Homeland Security site and then released.

The second flight was reportedly diverted from Hanscom to Boston’s Logan Airport this past weekend. I am told that both Massachusetts and New Hampshire officials were on hand. I reached out to Hanscom AFB for confirmation, but did not receive a call back by my deadline.

Question: How many other military bases are stealthily being used to redistribute, house, process, and release the illegal border crossers?

What we do know for sure is that the Obama administration has already converted several other military bases across the country into outposts for tens of thousands of illegal aliens from Central and South America.

San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force Base opened its doors as an illegal immigrant camp last month. Port Hueneme Naval Base in Ventura County, California will shelter nearly 600 illegal border-crossing children and teens. The Fort Sill Army post in Lawton, Oklahoma, was ordered on Friday to take in 1,200 illegal aliens despite the objections of GOP Gov. Mary Fallin, who blasted the White House for blindsiding her and her state:

“The Obama administration continues to fail in its duty to protect our borders and continues to promote policies that encourage, rather than discourage, illegal immigration.”

A makeshift detention center in Nogales, Arizona is being used as the central clearing station for the latest illegal alien surge. The deluge is a threat to national security, public safety, and public health – not to mention a slap in the face to the law-abiding men and women in uniform on those bases and a kick in the teeth to law-abiding people around the world patiently waiting for approval of their visas.

Meanwhile, a law enforcement source in Texas tells me this week that countless illegal aliens are being released into the general public despite testing positive for tuberculosis. “The feds are putting them on public transportation to God knows where,” he said.

Another source, working in the Border Patrol in south Texas, tells me: “Our station, along with every other station, is flooded with women and small children. One lady yesterday had a baby as young as 8 months. And they’re coming over with pink eye and scabies. So getting them medically cleared becomes a priority. They’ll be here for almost a week, so we provide them with formula and diapers. We have a catering service contracted to feed them because it’s too many for us to feed on our own. And of course they end up being released because every family housing facility is full. They’re supposed to show up for immigration court at a later date, but they don’t.”

Same old, same old. I’ve reported for years on the feds’ catch-and-release games and deportation Kabuki. The “notice to appear” letters – known as “run letters” — are a notorious joke in open-borders circles.

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What happened to Marine deserter Wassef Ali Hassoun?

by Michelle Malkin on Sunday, June 8th, 2014

This is article 294 of 300 in the topic US Military

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 9.29.30 AMWhat happened to Marine deserter Wassef Ali Hassoun?
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2014

Ten years ago this month, U.S. Marine Wassef Ali Hassoun disappeared from Camp Fallujah in Iraq. After a five-month military investigation, he was charged with desertion and theft, brought back to Virginia’s Quantico Marine base and then transferred to North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune for trial.

Yet, a full decade later, Hassoun is as free as a bird.

The accused deserter’s whereabouts are unknown. No trial ever began. No punishment ensued. And our leaders in Washington don’t seem to be doing a thing about this.

Hassoun was born in Lebanon and immigrated with his family to Utah in 1999. A few years later, he joined the Marines as an Arabic translator. On June 20, 2004, Hassoun bailed on guard duty at his base in Fallujah. He took his military-issued gun and his Muslim prayer rug. Military records obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune showed that he was “torn between military loyalty and his Muslim beliefs.”

According to the internal probe, he undermined intelligence-gathering operations by refusing to translate questions about Islam. He balked at raising his voice to suspected jihadi imams and sheiks. He openly threatened to “walk out the front gate and leave.”

The Muslim Marine told his colleagues he supported Hezbollah terrorist attacks on Israel. Members of his unit told investigators he was “anti-American” and listened to jihad sermons on propaganda CDs. Hassoun had received spiritual counseling from Navy Lt. Cmdr. Abuhena Saifulislam, a Muslim military chaplain tied to a radical Wahhabist outfit under federal investigation, according to Hoover Institution fellow and journalist Paul Sperry.

A bizarre video by Hassoun’s Islamist “kidnappers” showed him blindfolded with a sword above his head. But his fellow Marines suspected it was all staged and the “abduction” a collaborative fake. What did the purported hostage-takers want in return for the shady, disgruntled American serviceman? The release of jihadists in “U.S.-led occupation prisons.” Translation: Gitmo detainees. (Americans would never negotiate such a reckless trade, right? Oh, wait.)

In an even weirder twist, Hassoun somehow resurfaced at the U.S. embassy in Lebanon a few weeks after he walked away from his base. His family was rumored to have enlisted the aid of an Islamist group associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hassoun denied desertion charges, came back to the U.S. for trial and then deserted a second time after failing to return to Camp Lejeune after visiting family in Utah. In 2011, Hassoun’s family sought a $1 million book and movie deal in Hollywood. One of his brothers said the fugitive Marine was with family in Lebanon.

Ten summers after he abandoned his post, double-deserting Hassoun is still on the run and has yet to be held accountable.

It’s worth reminding Americans about Hassoun’s story in light of President Obama’s exploding Bowe Bergdahl scandal. By all appearances, this administration has no intention of taking action on longstanding allegations that Bergdahl, like Hassoun before him, deliberately abandoned his post in 2009. Defiant Obama said he makes “no apologies” for the treacherous deal, even as reports of Bergdahl’s renunciation of U.S. citizenship and conversion to Islam have surfaced in the past 48 hours.

Soldiers on the ground have described how Bergdahl’s disappearance catalyzed deadly coordinated attacks by the Taliban on numerous U.S. outposts in Afghanistan.

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Flashback: A reminder about Bowe Bergdahl’s desertion problem

by Michelle Malkin on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

This is article 293 of 300 in the topic US Military

While many people jumped aboard the Bowe Bergdahl bandwagon, I was not one of them. His release today in exchange for five Taliban commanders who had been in custody at Gitmo underscores troubling questions that have persisted since his alleged abduction.

Longtime readers will recall questions raised here about the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance. Here’s a flashback from my July 20, 2009 blog post:

My prayers are with the family of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier seen on the Taliban abduction video released this weekend. The Jawa Report has the full clip.

All Americans should hope and pray for his release from jihadi custody.

There’s one question I have, though, about strange details initially reported on the case — details which have been deleted from later wire dispatches. Read:

The circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture weren’t clear.

On July 2, two U.S. officials told the AP the soldier had “just walked off” his base with three Afghans after his shift. He had no body armor or weapon and they said they had no explanation for why he left. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

On July 6, the Taliban claimed on their Web site that five days earlier “a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison” and was captured by mujahadeen.

In the video, Pfc. Bergdahl said he was lagging behind a patrol when he was captured.

Details of such incidents are routinely held very tightly by the military as it works to retrieve a missing or captured soldier without giving away any information to captors.

The question is: Which account is accurate?

The first account strongly suggests desertion, a la Wassef Ali Hassoun.

The second account might provide an explanation for why Pfc. Bergdahl had no armor or weapon on him when captured.

The third account is totally at odds with the other two.

Follow-up questions:

Were the AP’s sources mistaken?

Did the AP botch the reporting?

Or is the disturbing first account the right one? Knowing, as the AP pointed out, that “[d]etails of such incidents are routinely held very tightly by the military,” wouldn’t the two U.S. officials have been extremely careful in passing on such sensitive details to the media on July 2?

And what about the “three Afghans” that Pfc. Bergdahl reportedly “just walked off” with after his shift?

Who are they?

Did they have security clearances at the base?

Did any or all of them work as translators?

Are they still missing?

Did one of them serve as the English-speaking questioner on the Taliban video?

Is anyone else puzzled by the completely conflicting stories? Will the Associated Press explain them?

What’s going on?

***

More strangeness via the Oregonian blog:

Kim Harrison Dellacorva, who moved from Idaho last fall and lives in the Pearl District of Northwest Portland…is listed on military documents as Bergdahl’s godmother. She ran the extracurricular performing arts school in Ketchum that Bergdahl attended.

A military casualty assistance officer knocked on Dellacorva’s door June 30, after Bergdahl was reporting missing from his company’s outpost in Afghanistan’s Paktika province. At the time, nobody knew where he was or what happened to him.

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The data-mining body monitors in our schools

by Michelle Malkin on Saturday, May 31st, 2014

This is article 249 of 253 in the topic Education

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 7.59.29 AM
Gwendolyn’s BMI report card

The data-mining body monitors in our schools
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2014

Like millions of other American parents, my husband and I received a warning letter from the BMI police last week. Our active, healthy 8th-grade daughter is “very lean,” according to her school-administered “Fitnessgram.” The national student body monitors think this is a public health problem.

The obesity report card lectured that because our daughter’s body-mass index is “very low,” we “should make certain” that she “is eating a healthy diet that includes the appropriate number of calories.” Thanks, geniuses. We had no idea such measurements were taking place, and we wondered whether we were alone in objecting to this unsolicited Nanny State dispatch. We’re not.

In New York, mom Laura Williams blew the whistle on how her perfectly healthy daughter Gwendolyn was branded “overweight” by her Fitnessgram. City schools sent the reports home to nearly 900,000 students in their backpacks. Gwendolyn showed the assessment to the New York Post last week, exclaiming: “I’m 4-foot-1, and 66 pounds, and I’m like, what?!”

Thanks to the Williams family’s whistleblowing and a huge public backlash, Big Apple schools will now change the way the fitness reports are distributed to families. But changing the delivery route doesn’t address the expansive government encroachment on our children’s health based on dubious science.

Gwendolyn’s absurd classification exposes the unreliability of BMI ratings, which many public health scientists admit are inadequate health predictors. The Centers for Disease Control itself says that “the accuracy of BMI varies substantially according to the individual child’s degree of body fatness” and doesn’t distinguish between “excess fat, muscle or bone mass, nor does it provide any indication of the distribution of fat among individuals.”

Yet some school districts have pushed to incorporate BMI results in physical fitness grades, and dozens of states have adopted the BMI-snitching Fitnessgrams, which are marketed by an outfit called the Cooper Institute. The group contracts with New York, Texas, California and a total of nearly 70,000 schools across the country to provide training, administration, data collection and dissemination of its reports. Big Brother is big business.

One of the Cooper Institute’s most prominent members of its board of directors: Big Government Republican Mike Huckabee, who spearheaded mandatory student BMI reports in 2003 while he was governor of Arkansas. Huckabee has sided with first lady Michelle Obama’s meddling initiatives on childhood obesity — which he calls an “issue of national security.” Public health bureaucrats use exactly such hyperbolic rhetoric to justify increasing their powers, budgets and control.

Riding the manufactured obesity-crisis wave, BMI report card promoters are pushing for far more radical data-mining intrusion. A little-noticed study published in the journal Health Affairs a few years ago on “state surveillance of childhood obesity” proposes getting around federal family privacy protections by declaring obesity a “public health threat” at every state level. This would allow agencies to invoke “public health protection powers” to allow unfettered sharing of student BMI data.

These obesity police also advocate circumventing legislative debate by “simply adding a new function to state-run registries and databases” and slipping height and weight monitoring into immunization information-gathering systems.

Exploiting the captive student population for childhood obesity health research, grants, contracts and new tech boondoggles is yet another method of fattening Fed Ed’s overstuffed coffers.

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Michelle Obama’s control-freak lunch program

by Michelle Malkin on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

This is article 66 of 66 in the topic Food/Natural Remedies

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 2.07.07 AMMichelle Obama’s control-freak lunch program
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2014

Look out, everyone: The nation’s school lunch lady, Michelle Obama, is mad. With her federal nutrition program under fire across the country and now on Capitol Hill, Mrs. Obama put out a “forceful” call to arms this week to “health activists,” according to The Washington Post.

She’s cracking the whip. Her orders are clear: There must be no escape. The East Wing and its sycophants zealously oppose any effort to alter, delay or waive top-down school meal rules.

Big Lunch must be guarded at all costs.

Progressives blame kid-hating Republicans and greedy businesses for the revolt against Mrs. Obama’s failed policies. But the truth is right around the corner in your students’ cafeterias. Districts are losing money. Discarded food is piling high. Kids are going off-campus to fill their tummies or just going hungry.

According to the School Nutrition Association, almost half of school meal programs reported declines in revenue in the 2012-13 school year, and 90 percent said food costs were up. Local nutrition directors are demanding more flexibility and freedom. Look no further than school districts in Los Angeles and Chicago.

As I noted in 2011, the L.A. Unified School District pronounced the first lady’s federally subsidized initiative a “flop” and a “disaster.” Principals reported “massive waste, with unopened milk cartons and uneaten entrees being thrown away.” The problem has only worsened. The Los Angeles Times reported last month that the city’s students throw out “at least $100,000 worth of food a day — and probably far more,” which “amounts to $18 million a year.”

Draconian federal rules dictate calorie counts, whole-grain requirements, the number of items that children must put on their trays, and even the color of the fruits and vegetables they must choose. Asked for a solution, LAUSD Food Service Director David Binkle told the Times bluntly: “We can stop forcing children to take food they don’t like and throw in the garbage.”

Or you can do what Arlington Heights District 214 in Michelle Obama’s home state of Illinois just did: Vote yourselves out of the unsavory one-size-fits-all mandate. Last week, the state’s second largest school district decided to quit the national school lunch program altogether. Officials pointed out that absurd federal guidelines prevented them from offering hard-boiled eggs, hummus, pretzels, some brands of yogurt, and nonfat milk in containers larger than 12 ounces.

The district will deliberately forgo $900,000 in federal aid and instead rely on its own nutritionist to devise healthy choices that students actually want. One local parent summed it up well: “(T)he government can’t control everything.”

As more schools look to withdraw, you can bet on the White House to ramp up the Republican-bashing rhetoric. Mrs. Obama’s advocates have already taken to social media to complain about Big Business special interests. But let’s remember: Mrs. Obama has been working the food circuit since 2005, when the wife of newly elected Sen. Barack Obama was named to the corporate board of directors of Wal-Mart processed foods supplier TreeHouse Foods Inc. — collecting $45,000 in 2005, $51,200 in 2006, and 7,500 TreeHouse stock options worth more than $72,000 for each year.

Fact: The first lady has been the most insatiable crony at the center of the Fed Foods racket.

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The VA’s deadly bureaucratic drones

by Michelle Malkin on Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

This is article 288 of 300 in the topic US Military

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 4.25.25 AMThe VA’s deadly bureaucratic drones
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2014

At least 40 American veterans are dead thanks to bureaucratic delays at Veterans Affairs clinics. But you wouldn’t know it from VA Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki’s bland and bloodless demeanor at a Senate hearing Thursday. He droned on like an apathetic office manager fielding complaints about the copier being jammed.

Shinseki told the Senate panel he “can’t remember” getting warnings from federal watchdogs last fall about ghost clinics and double-scheduling schemes. He said he was “not aware” of explosive book-cooking allegations like the ones at a Fort Collins, Colo., VA facility, where employees were ordered to make their records show that veterans got appointments within 14 days of the day requested, whether or not it was true.

In response to bipartisan disgust with the VA’s serial incompetence and fatally long wait times, oblivious Shinseki blathered about “customer satisfaction surveys.” And when it came time to deliver his calculated sound bite about being “mad as hell” at mounting allegations of criminal fraud and neglect, Shinseki’s perfunctory tone echoed a jaded 411 operator: “City and state, please?”

Asked whether VA employees who alter records should be fired, Shinseki’s deputy Robert Petzel said he didn’t know “whether that’s the appropriate level of punishment.” Shinseki interjected that a whopping 3,000 VA workers, including senior managers, had been “involuntarily removed” for misconduct last year — only to admit that an unknown number of those had simply been reassigned or allowed to retire.

In true paper-pusher form, the VA’s top brass have ordered yet another study to assess how and why the VA ignored years of other studies, reports and audits of the department’s waste, fraud and abuse. Showing even more tone-deafness, Shinseki bragged openly about his close friendship with top White House aide Rob Nabors, who is now overseeing the kabuki “review” of his department’s failures.

Can you spell crony whitewash?

Pressed on why he hadn’t reported illegal data falsification to the FBI, Shinseki demurred that it was the inspector general’s call, not his.

In other words: The buck stops somewhere else.

Attorney General Eric Holder hid behind the VA inspector general, too. There are no plans for a DoJ probe into the secret waiting lists at the Phoenix VA hospital, where scores of sick vets languished for months before perishing. Question: Why is activist zealot Holder so content to wait for the IG?

Given this administration’s shady record of crushing whistleblowers, railroading IGs and replacing them with dirty lapdogs, Shinseki’s vow to “get to the bottom” of this latest deadly scandal while Holder and the FBI sit on the sidelines stinks to high hell.

Taking care of the nation’s war veterans is an obligation that has existed since the days of the Continental Congress. But for decades, under both GOP and Democratic administrations, the men and women who served our country have been literally left to die by government caretakers.

Fifteen years ago, I reported on VA bureaucrats who took better care of administrative buildings and vacant hospitals than their own patients. Back then, an independent General Accounting Office found that the agency was spending more than $1 million a day to sustain unneeded hospital buildings.

Click to continue reading “The VA’s deadly bureaucratic drones”
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