A mixed bag, this week before Veteran's day.
Of course the most important issue for everyone today is voter turnout. Did you vote today?
We can start this week with a wee bit of good news. It appears that the jobless rate among veterans has dropped "again"
as the story notes. It is military source, so the story does include the required breathless quote from Der Fuehrer, though.
The Labor Department's final jobless report before Veterans Day showed the unemployment rate for all veterans came down slightly to 3.0% in October, and fell a full percentage point for post-9/11 veterans, to 3.5%.
The overall veteran unemployment rate is down from 3.1% in September, according to the new report, released Friday.
The 3.5% rate for post-9/11 veterans, classified as Gulf War-era II veterans by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was down from 4.5% in September, but the rate for post-9/11 veterans has shown more fluctuation than those for veterans of all eras. In August, the post-9/11 veterans unemployment rate was 3.4%.
Overall, the economy added 128,000 jobs in October, the BLS said, but the unemployment rate for the U.S. population as a whole ticked up from a 50-year low of 3.5% to 3.6%, possibly due to the General Motors strike, which ended last week.
On Twitter, President Donald Trump said, "Wow a blowout JOBS number. This is far greater than expectations. USA Rocks!"
Among the major labor groups in the general population, the unemployment rates showed little or no change in October, the BLS reported. For both adult men and adult women, the rate is 3.2%.
The unemployment rate for veterans of all eras of 3.0% compared to the 2.9% unemployment rate for all veterans in October 2018, it said.
The unemployment rate for all male veterans in October was 2.6%. For all female veterans, the rate was 5.7%, compared to 3.0% for all female veterans in October 2018. The unemployment rates for women veterans have also shown more fluctuation than those for males.
Of course good news is always tempered with bad. We've noted this off and on for years, but once again "burn pits" are creeping back into the news. Got cancer? Many veterans of Iraq do.
Lloyd Blair joined the Marine Corps as an 18-year-old itching for a fight after hijacked planes rocketed into the World Trade Center towers and set the world on fire. He pulled two tours in Iraq. The first landed him in the hell of Fallujah where some of the bloodiest fighting took place.
There he was, not long out of high school, fighting in the desert, ducking bullets while carrying 40, 50 pounds of full battle rattle on his back.
The stench of human feces flowing out of Fallujah in shallow creeks suffocated the air. There was smoke everywhere. "I mean, there was stuff burning all the time in Fallujah," says Blair, who is 35.
He didn't give a second thought to the smoke billowing from the burn pits where the military torched its own trash, not until he was diagnosed with testicular cancer after he came home.
Cancer doesn't run in his family, said Blair, who lives in Lee's Summit. So he was confused about why the cancer that befell Lance Armstrong had found him. Looking for answers online, he came across hundreds of other worried veterans with the same diagnosis.
A McClatchy investigation of cancer among veterans during nearly two decades of war shows a significant increase in cancer cases --like Blair's -- treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.
The review, based on VA health care data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, found the rate of treatments for urinary cancers -- which include bladder, kidney and ureter cancers -- increased 61 percent from fiscal year 2000 to fiscal year 2018.
The rate of treatments for blood cancers -- lymphoma, myeloma and leukemia -- rose 18 percent in the same period. For liver and pancreatic cancer treatments the increase was 96 percent, and for prostate cancer it was 23 percent.
The VA has disagreed with McClatchy's findings, however data from its own cancer registry provided to McClatchy also shows a significant rise during a similar time frame.
McClatchy chose to look at the rate of veteran cancer treatments beginning in fiscal year 2000 to see what happened in the years following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when U.S. forces were involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The rate of cancer treatments for veterans at VA health care centers peaked earlier this decade and has declined over the past several years, but is significantly higher than before 9/11.
We'll wrap up today with a story I have mixed feelings about. Man's Best Friend also serves in uniform, and those war dogs suffer the same tribulations as their human counterparts. Like soldiers, they too die in combat, but as canines, there is little to no recognition. After the Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi raid, our president has heaped praise on the military canine team that was possibly instrumental in bringing him down. This has inspired a Senator to propose new awards (and a Democrat at that). While I don't disagree on principle, can't we get this urgency with human veteran issues?
A New Jersey Democrat is urging the Pentagon to expedite service medals for the military K9 unit responsible for taking down notorious Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Sen. Bob Menendez, the lawmaker responsible for introducing legislation to create the Defense Department's first official award for military working dogs, sent a letter last week to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, advocating for speedy commendations for the handlers and dogs involved in the Oct. 26 raid -- most notably the Belgian Malinois that chased Baghdadi into a tunnel before he detonated a suicide vest.
"Military Working Dogs and their handlers have become integral to the defense of our nation. If we, as a nation, can strap a Kevlar vest on a dog and send them into battle, then we should be able to honor these guardians of freedom and their handlers with the recognition they deserve," Menendez said in a news release Thursday.
"I can't think of any K9 team more fitting for this honor that Conan and his handler," he wrote, referencing the dog's name, which has not been publicly verified.
Newsweek was first to report the dog's alleged name, which was subsequently mentioned by President Donald Trump on Twitter. However, the Pentagon maintains the name is classified for security reasons.
Last week, Trump tweeted a doctored photo of the dog receiving the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor. It melded an image of the president presenting the medal to Army medic James McCloughan, who was the first person to be awarded the MoH by Trump in 2017, with a photo of the dog.
"The President's Twitter stunt only undermines their service and sacrifice," Menendez said of the photo. "Instead of giving them a fake medal, let's bestow these heroes with the official recognition they deserve."
So - we've got a Mayor's election here in Waltham, and a number of my friends and neighbors are up for various elected offices in-town. What's going on in your ballot box?