8/ again

Your Time Is Up, Mr. President — the National Guard Is Coming Home – finally some people are standing up to this shit and telling those responsible to back off. let’s hope that they will be an example to the rest of us!

Bush’s Budget Proposal Would Cut Medicare Funding – how does cutting $196 million from healthcare stimulate our economy???

US: 9 Iraq civilians accidentally killed – oops. i was cleaning it and it went off…

Your Time Is Up, Mr. President — the National Guard Is Coming Home
The wisdom from Main Street U.S.A. continues to be vastly better than the “intelligence” propagated by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
February 5, 2008
By Karen Dolan and Ben Manski

Guess what, Mr. President? Your authority to keep state National Guard troops in Iraq has expired. So says a new bill introduced this week to the Vermont Legislature by Rep. Michael Fisher and Sen. Peter Shumlin. It is supported by 30 of their colleagues.

“It is clear that the mission that Congress authorized no longer exists,” said Fisher. “Unless Congress grants a new authorization, the Vermont Guard should revert back to state control.” The Vermont bill states:

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force of October 16th, 2002, having expired, the General Assembly declares that all members of the Vermont National Guard should be promptly and expeditiously withdrawn from Iraq, subject only to the conditions of time and manner specifically required to assure their safety and well-being during removal operations … The General Assembly calls on the Governor of Vermont to take prompt steps as the Commander-in-Chief of the Vermont National Guard to effectuate these purposes.

The Guard are the mainstay of America’s national defense, and as with other American institutions, the Guard’s duties are distributed between the states and the federal government. Unless called into national service, each unit and each individual member of the Guard remains in the service of their respective states.

Five years ago, George Bush called the Guard into national service pursuant to the 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq. The AUMF, passed by Congress in its rush to war, established a limited mission: First, the removal of Saddam Hussein from power; second, enforcement of preceding United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding the elimination of alleged Iraqi WMDs and ballistic missiles. The Vermont bill recognizes that those two mission objectives are complete and that the national service of the Vermont Guard is over; the bill recalls the Guard to state control.

And Vermont is not alone. State legislators in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island plan to sponsor similar legislation. And legislators in several other states, including Maryland, Maine and Wisconsin, have openly declared that they are examining the issue and considering following suit.

This latest chapter in Democracy v. Empire illustrates one of the most significant and perhaps most underreported aspects of the tragedy which is the occupation of Iraq: The wisdom of the American people. For a public that has all but given up hope for congressional action to end the war, this new state-based legal approach takes advantage of a surge of another kind …

In the runup to the ill-fated U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, nearly 200 municipalities passed symbolic resolutions stating all of the reasons that the United States should not invade: The war would be too costly; it was the wrong priority for federal funds that could be better spent in our own crumbling communities; there was no evidence of an imminent threat from Iraq; there was insufficient evidence of WMDs; U.N. weapons inspectors needed time to finish doing their job; hope lay with multilateralism, not unilateralism; and above all, the potential was great for devastating and unnecessary loss of life on all sides.

Unfortunately, the wisdom from Main Street U.S.A. proved vastly better than the “intelligence” propagated by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

In these last five years of occupation, we have seen estimates of the war cost rise to between $500 billion and $3.5 trillion, depending on the source. Four thousand U.S. soldiers and over half a million innocent Iraqi civilians — men, women and children — have lost their lives; hundreds of thousands of others have been seriously wounded. Iraq no longer exists as an independent or intact nation.

In the face of the horrific war toll, world and domestic public opinion have turned sharply against both the foolish presidency and the cowardly Congress. Over 300 cities, towns, counties and states have expressed opposition to continuing the war. Fully half of the U.S. population either affirmatively voted in popular referenda for withdrawal from Iraq, or are represented by elected city councils, town boards or state legislatures that voted for withdrawal. The wisdom of the American people continues unabated.

Now, with the Vermont legislation, the public wisdom may become a reality. Those same legislators who passed anti-war resolutions can now cast votes recalling the Guard from Iraq. Vermont has, once again, led the way. And many other states have been quick to follow.

Mr. President, your time is up. Your authority is over. The people have said their piece. Now they are beginning to bring the women and men of the National Guard home.

Bush’s Budget Proposal Would Cut Medicare Funding
Feb 4, 2008
By Steven Reinberg

MONDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) — President Bush’s new budget proposal would cut $196 billion over five years from both Medicare and Medicaid — programs that provide health care to millions of poor and elderly, federal officials announced Monday.

The proposed cuts are part of a plan to stop Medicare from running out of money in little more than a decade, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mike Leavitt told reporters during a press conference. He said the savings would help keep premiums affordable, maintain the Medicare/Medicaid system, and balance the current Medicare budget.

“The Medicare portion of the budget should be viewed as a stark warning,” Leavitt said. “Medicare on its current course is 11 years from going broke. Americans have become numbed to entitlement warnings as a repeated cycle of alarms and inaction,” he said.

But President Bush and Leavitt are sure to face a Congressional showdown over the budget proposals.

“This administration ought to know that five years’ worth of Medicare and Medicaid cuts totaling $200 billion are dead on arrival with me and with most of the Congress,” Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told the Associated Press.

Not every agency would lose funds in the new budget: The cash-strapped U.S. Food and Drug Administration would receive a nearly 6 percent boost in financing, much of which would go to programs that oversee food safety, agency officials said.

All of these announcements stem from the $3.1 trillion 2009 budget proposal announced by the Bush administration Monday.

According to Leavitt, the majority of the Medicare cuts would come from reductions to fees paid to hospitals, nursing homes and hospices.

Medicare makes up 56 percent of the $737 billion HHS budget, Leavitt said. Cuts in the Medicare budget will become the norm until Medicare itself changes, he said. “We can keep our national commitment, but to do this we need to change our management of Medicare,” Leavitt said.

Under the president’s plan, the annual growth of Medicare spending would slow to 5 percent instead of the 7 percent currently projected. Similarly, spending growth would slow from 7.3 percent to 7 percent for Medicaid.

Medicare is an inefficient system and needs to be changed, Leavitt charged. Changing the system means putting more responsibility into the hands of consumers, enabling them to make their own health-care decisions, he said.

“If consumers were allowed to make the decisions in an efficient market, through electronic medical records, through quality measures, through cost comparisons and choices and incentives, their decisions would be far more precise and wise,” he said. “It would produce better health, and at a lower cost.”

But at least one critic believes a shrinking Medicare budget would hurt consumers and the health-care system.

“President Bush’s proposed cuts to Medicare would hurt older and disabled Americans and take a wrecking ball to many essential hospitals across the country,” Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, said in a prepared statement. “It is indefensible for the President to propose hurting America’s grandparents while maintaining his rabid defense of Medicare overpayments to for-profit health insurance companies.”

Under the Bush proposed budget, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would receive an additional $130 million added for fiscal year 2009, which begins Oct. 1.

“The agency’s 2009 budget includes $2.4 billion, which includes direct budget authority and user fees,” John Dyer, FDA’s deputy commissioner for operations and chief operating officer, said during a Monday afternoon teleconference. “That’s a 5.7 percent increase over the 2008 budget just passed by Congress.”

According to Dyer, the budget would increase resources spent on food safety, modernize drug safety, speed approval of generic drugs and improve the safety and review of medical devices. The budget also includes increases in salaries and up to 1,000 additional employees for the FDA.

The agency, which was shaken by a long list of food recalls and food-linked illness outbreaks in 2007, plans to boost its inspections of domestic and imported food, as well as medical products. It will also target more inspections of high-risk food items, Dyer said.

An industry group applauded the agency’s new emphasis on bringing cheaper generic drugs to the public faster.

“Bringing generic medicines to market in a timely manner is a win-win for the federal government, the generic industry and, most of all, consumers,” Generic Pharmaceutical Association President and CEO Kathleen Jaeger said in a prepared statement.

Other agencies within HHS would either receive no added funding or lose money under the Bush budget proposal. These include the National Institutes of Health, which would see its budget hold steady at $29.4 billion for next year, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which would have $400 million shaved off its current budget of $6.2 billion. Programs aimed at providing health care to the rural poor would see their budgets fall from $6.9 billion to $6.0 billion, the president’s office announced.

In addition to these other agencies, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is looking at a $7.14 billion budget proposal for 2009. The agency hopes to use its money to strengthen energy and homeland security around cities and major ports.

The EPA would also continue to promote energy efficiency and clean air and water standards. The agency intends to use $170 million to fund emergency teams that can address more than one terrorist attack at a time, the agency said in a statement. In addition, the EPA is looking for a total of $563 million for criminal enforcement.

US: 9 Iraq civilians accidentally killed
Feb 4, 2008

The deaths of nine civilians, including a child, in a U.S. airstrike south of Baghdad have raised fresh concerns about the military’s ability to distinguish friend from foe in a campaign to uproot insurgents from Sunni areas on the capital’s doorstep.

Witnesses and Iraqi police said helicopters strafed a house Saturday after confusing U.S.-allied Sunni fighters for extremists in the deadliest case of mistaken identity since November. The U.S. military on Monday confirmed the civilian deaths, but gave few other details of the Army gunship attack.

The bloodshed also points to the wider complications for U.S.-led offensives against insurgents in populated areas: As the firepower increases so do the risks of claiming innocent lives. And each such death potentially frays the crucial alliances between the Pentagon and new Sunni allies, widely known as Awakening Councils.

It was one of these groups that apparently was caught in the clash near Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south of Baghdad — an area where U.S.-led forces stepped up an air and ground assault last month against al-Qaida in Iraq footholds.

A farmer who lives near the site said the Americans retaliated after a mortar attack against a U.S. convoy as it passed a checkpoint manned by Awakening Council fighters.

The soldiers apparently thought the barrage came from the Awakening Council fighters, who fled to a nearby house, said Issa Mahdi.

“After awhile, U.S. helicopters arrived and bombarded the house where the awakening members were hiding,” he said.

Abu Abeer, who said he was guarding a post nearby when the attack occurred, claimed the helicopters were targeting anybody near the house in the village of Tal al-Samar.

“It was a crime and it shows the Americans’ disrespect for Iraqi blood. The U.S. apology will not bring the dead people back to life,” he said, adding he is from the same al-Ghrir tribe as those who were killed.

The U.S. military said only that a child and eight other Iraqi civilians were killed and three others, including two children, were wounded as U.S. troops pursued suspected al-Qaida militants.

Lt. Col. James Hutton, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said the strike involved Army helicopters and no American casualties were reported.

American officers met with a local sheik representing citizens in the area and expressed condolences to the families of those killed, according to a brief e-mailed statement. But the military declined to provide more details pending the results of the investigation.

Some Sunni leaders worry about future cracks in Sunni cooperation with U.S. forces, which the Pentagon credits as a key reason behind a sharp drop in violence in recent months around Iraq.

“Al-Qaida could exploit such mistrust in order to win back some Awakening Council members who defected from it,” said Sunni lawmaker Salman al-Jumaili. “I think that the Awakening Council members have served their country in the best way and any attempt to hurt them, even if it is by mistake, could endanger the political process in the country.”

In November, a leader of one of the Awakening Councils said U.S. soldiers killed dozens of his fighters during a 12-hour battle north of Baghdad. The U.S. military admitted killing 25 men, but said they were insurgents operating “in the target area” where al-Qaida was believed to be hiding.

The U.S. military investigated that incident, but the two versions of events were never reconciled.

A month later, the U.S. military said its forces accidentally killed two people during a raid in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, and that one of them was later identified as an Awakening Council member.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government has nominally embraced the Sunni movements, but has been slow to incorporate them into the Iraqi security forces. It also has come under criticism for failing to draw Sunnis back into the political process.

Two Sunni parliamentary blocs joined forces Monday to form a larger group. Its first priority was to push to amend a new law that will allow thousands of Saddam Hussein-era officials to return to government jobs.

The measure, which was issued a day earlier by the Iraqi presidency council, is the first of 18 U.S.-endorsed reforms to show significant progress. But Sunni leaders have expressed concerns about a clause that calls for the dismissal of 7,000 former security agents under Saddam who still hold government jobs. Many also fear Shiites will find a way to purge more Sunnis from government posts.

In a separate development, U.S. and Iraqi officials will meet later this month to negotiate future relations and the long-term presence of American forces in Iraq, officials said.

President Bush and al-Maliki signed a “declaration of principles” on Nov. 26 that set the foundation for a potential long-term U.S. troop presence in Iraq as part of an “enduring” relationship.

Mirembe Nantongo, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said “all different aspects of the relationship and framework” would be discussed. But Nantongo said overall American troop numbers would not be part of the upcoming talks.

In northern Iraq, Turkish warplanes attacked dozens of Kurdish rebel targets in Iraq as part of a U.S.-backed campaign to chip away at guerrilla strength without a ground offensive across the border.

The planes hit 70 targets that were “detected and verified by intelligence sources,” the Turkish military said in a possible reference to the U.S. intelligence it is receiving.

The Turkish government has fought for more than two decades against Kurdish rebels who seek autonomy in southeastern Turkey. For years, the rebel group has launched attacks into Turkish territory from virtual safe havens in northern Iraq.