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Author: Will in Chicago    Date: 2014-07-15 10:35:08

Good morning.

Today is our 4, 664th day in Afghanistan.

We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:

US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2333
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1124

We find this morning's Cost of War passing through $1, 549,399, 605, 723.

In new from the war in Afghanistan, the only prisoner of war from the conflict is now back on active duty. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is back to work on an army post, although he may still face an investigation over his disappearance.

Fast forward to late May when the 28-year-old was freed in exchange for five senior Taliban members held by the U.S. military. The news of Bergdahl's freedom initially was met with jubilation, but it quickly turned as many called for an investigation into his disappearance and captivity. Some critics accused the soldier of deserting his comrades in war.

Less than two months later, the Army announced Monday that Bergdahl has completed medical care and mental counseling at an Army hospital in San Antonio.

He is going to get back to work, the Army said.

The soldier will soon take a desk job at Fort Sam Houston, said U.S. Army North spokesman Don Manuszewski.

Bergdahl will be assigned to a unit responsible for homeland defense, civil support operations and security cooperation programs involving countries such as Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas.

I wish Sgt. Bergdahl well in his new assignment and in adjusting to his new life. I hope that his critics will give him some peace and remember that people are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Perhaps he may even get the welcome home parade that his home town had to cancel because of an uproar over his return, fed in no small part by right wing politicians and pundits.

We have heard and read a lot about the problems with healthcare in the Veterans' Administration. Now, another issue is being raised -- problems in paying benefits to veterans.

The VA Office of Inspector General found that thousands of cases were subtracted from the VA case log even though people were still working on them, according to testimony that will be provided to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee at a hearing on Monday night.

Investigators also discovered that the VA did not follow up with veterans who were granted temporary 100 percent disability payments. The VA was supposed to follow up to see if their health had improved. Because it didn’t, the VA has overpaid veterans about $85 million since 2012, and could potentially over-pay another $370 million in the next five years.

The agency’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the office responsible for providing various kinds of monetary compensation to those who served in uniform, “continues to face challenges to ensure veterans receive timely and accurately [sic] benefits and services,” Linda Halliday, an assistant inspector general at the department, will say in testimony to the panel.

Halliday’s office found serious problems with a special initiative the department began in 2013 to provide benefits to veterans who have been waiting to receive them for longer than two years. Roughly 7,800 of the older cases were subtracted from the VA backlog, even though processors were still working on them, according to Halliday.

Halliday also said that other processing responsibilities within the department have suffered because so much emphasis had been placed on whittling down the compensation backlog.

There is also a report that a National Guardsman went on a shooting spree Monday and took his own life.

An Army National Guardsman left a suicide note in his northern Utah home before killing a college student and one other person early Monday, then fatally shooting himself at another home, authorities said.

Jared Tolman, 23, wrote that he was sorry, and that what he was about to do was selfish, said Logan Police Lt. Rod Peterson.

He is reported to have sent a series of unanswered text messages to Mackenzie Madden before he kicked down the door of her apartment two blocks from Utah State University shortly after midnight.

He then fired an assault rifle multiple times at Madden and a 25-year-old man, both people he knew, police said.

Madden, 19, was a sociology major at the university in Logan, a city of about 48,000 people 80 miles north of Salt Lake City. Officers responding to 911 calls found her and Johnathon Jacob Sadler dead inside the unit.

It's unclear if Tolman knew beforehand that Sadler was in Madden's home, Peterson said.

The gunman then went to another apartment a few miles away, authorities said, to look for a man he believed was involved with Madden. But the man was not home because he was staying with family.

At that point, "Tolman turned the gun on himself," Peterson said.

My hope is that we have more mental health care in this country. One wonders what help this young man needed.

As Iraq looks to be on the verge of civil war, the U.S. military has completed its review of Iraq's security forces.

Pentagon leaders are now reviewing the military’s initial assessment of Iraq’s security forces and it may be some time before decisions are made about what additional assistance the U.S. should provide as the Baghdad government battles Sunni insurgents.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has read the completed assessment. A Pentagon spokesman said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has received it but hadn’t had a chance to review it yet.

Defense officials declined to detail the report, but Dempsey has said the frequent updates he has received describe an Iraqi force that is logistically challenged and would have a hard time going on the offensive against the Islamic State extremist group. And the infiltration of the Sunni insurgents into the Iraqi security forces further complicates any possible move to embed U.S. military advisers with Iraq units.

“There will be a matter of some time here as we work our way through what the assessment says,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said. “Everybody knows and shares a sense of urgency about what’s going on in Iraq but it’s more important to get this issue right than to get it quick. You can expect senior leaders here in the Pentagon to take the time they need to digest this material ... before recommendations can be made to the commander in chief and to the inter-agency about how to move forward.”

Meanwhile, there are reports that North Korea is testing more weapons.

Another day, another defiant weapons test from North Korea.

A day after launching two ballistic missiles from a base near the border with archrival South Korea, Pyongyang on Monday fired a barrage of artillery shells into waters near its eastern sea border with the South. Officials in Seoul have confirmed nearly 100 missile, rocket and artillery tests by North Korea this year, an output seen as significantly higher than past years.

The regular test-firings of short-range projectiles, analysts say, are the latest signal that the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, is determined to do things differently than his father, dictator Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011.

Analysts see no end to the test-firings in sight

Nor does it seem that we have an end to war or the concerns of veterans. May the day come soon when there is indeed peace in this world, so that children will one day have to learn about what war is in history classes.

42 comments (Latest Comment: 07/15/2014 20:47:34 by Mondobubba)
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