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Author: TriSec    Date: 02/21/2017 12:23:33

Good Morning.

We'll dive right in - I've got two things that are connected that you might think shouldn't be. I personally have a friend that has been addicted to opioid pills for about 20 years now. He seems to be in a clean phase these days, but knowing his pattern, it's only a matter of time before there is another relapse.

These pills need to come from someplace - most addicts have many creative and illegal ways of obtaining these things. My friend is quite adept at doctor-shopping, and he's always under the care of somebody new whenever a relapse occurs.

But for others, there's an easier way - you could just steal drugs from a V.A. hospital.

WASHINGTON -- Federal authorities are stepping up investigations at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers due to a sharp increase in opioid theft, missing prescriptions or unauthorized drug use by VA employees since 2009, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press.

Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff at federal hospitals - the vast majority within the VA system - siphoned away controlled substances for their own use or street sales, or drugs intended for patients simply disappeared.

Aggravating the problem is that some VA hospitals have been lax in tracking drug supplies. Congressional auditors said spot checks found four VA hospitals skipped monthly inspections of drug stocks or missed other requirements. Investigators said that signals problems for VA’s entire network of more than 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics, coming after auditor warnings about lax oversight dating back to at least 2009.

“Drug theft is an area of concern,” Jeffrey Hughes, the VA’s acting assistant inspector general for investigations, told AP. He said the monthly inspections could help the VA uncover potential discrepancies and root out crime.

Both the inspector general’s office and the Drug Enforcement Administration said they have increased scrutiny of drug thefts from the VA, with the DEA reporting more criminal investigations.

It’s not clear if the problem is worse at the VA than at private facilities, where medical experts and law enforcement officials say drug theft is also increasingly common in a time of widespread opioid abuse in the U.S. But the VA gets special scrutiny from lawmakers and the public, given Americans’ esteem for ex-servicemembers served by the agency and because of past problems at the VA, especially a 2014 wait-time scandal in which some patients died.

“Those VA employees who are entrusted with serving our nation’s wounded, ill and injured veterans must be held to a higher standard,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The drug thefts will be among the challenges facing newly confirmed VA Secretary David Shulkin, who served as the department’s undersecretary of health while the drug problem was growing. At his confirmation hearing this month, Shulkin said he was proud that the VA identified the opioid addiction problem before others did and “recognized it as a crisis and began to take action.”

Still, the VA acknowledges it has had problems keeping up with monthly inspections and said it was taking steps to improve training. It also said it was requiring hospitals to comply with inspection procedures and develop plans for improvement.

It did not respond to AP requests made three weeks ago to provide a list of VA facilities where drugs had been reported missing or disciplinary action was taken, saying it was still compiling the information.

Reported incidents of drug losses or theft at federal hospitals jumped from 272 in 2009 to 2,926 in 2015, before dipping to 2,457 last year, according to DEA data obtained by AP. “Federal hospitals” include the VA’s more than 1,100 facilities as well as seven correctional hospitals and roughly 20 hospitals serving Indian tribes.

The inspector general’s office estimates there are nearly 100 open criminal probes involving theft or loss of VA controlled substances.

Moving on, we'll pay a visit to Iraq. Over the last few years, our involvement in Iraq has fallen further and further off the front pages. Which is probably a good thing for Mr. Trump, as it seems we're still not going anywhere soon. While active combat operations may have ended under President Obama, we're still there in an 'advisory' role, and there are rumblings that our involvement may be ramping up. If you remember, it was almost a year ago now that a 'significant campaign' was started to retake Mosul. The city was never actually completely retaken, and that's fallen off the headlines now, too. The quagmire is only getting deeper.

One thing, it seems, that will not change under President Donald Trump is the United States military's occupation of Iraq after Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday that he believed "we'll be in this fight for a while."

During his presidential campaign, Trump claimed that he had opposed the Iraq invasion from the start and boasted repeatedly that he had an undisclosed plan to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS or IS).

But that plan may end up being the same endless war, launched in 2003 by then-President George W. Bush and continued by his successor, President Barack Obama.

After meeting with military commanders and Iraqi leaders on Monday, Secretary Mattis announced that "he is open to any request from his military commanders to aid the battle to retake Mosul and launch a major battle to oust IS from the base of its so-called caliphate in Raqqa, Syria," AP reported.

And despite calls for the U.S. military to retreat after the so-called Battle of Mosul, Mattis indicated that U.S. involvement in Iraq will likely continue, telling reporters, "I imagine we'll be in this fight for a while and we'll stand by each other."

On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haideral-Abadi announced the start of a ground offensive on western Mosul, "where Islamic State militants are under siege along with an estimated 650,000 civilians," Reuters observed.

In response, Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr reportedly called on the Iraqi government on Monday to "demand that all occupying and so-called friendly forces leave Iraq" after the battle "in order to preserve the prestige and the sovereignty of the state."

According to Reuters, "Mattis declined to address Sadr's remarks directly, describing them as an internal political matter."

During the press conference, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend similarly declined to say how long the U.S. will stay in Iraq, telling reporters: "I don't anticipate that we'll be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul...I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they're going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul," AP reported.

The plan to remain part of the protracted conflict, particularly to aid in retaking the ISIS stronghold, goes against statements made by Trump on the campaign trail. Among other things, he said that the "U.S. doesn't gain anything" in helping Iraq recapture Mosul.

Finally today, speaking of war, there's an under-the-radar resolution that's been signed by about a dozen lawmakers. It's calling for Mr. Trump to request a formal declaration of war against ISIL, allegedly in an effort to restrict his war powers. Fat Chance, as the saying goes - although one Republican has signed on.

Twelve House Democrats and one Republican are calling on President Donald Trump to formally declare war against the Islamic State and submit a resolution to Congress that limits his war powers — a request that is not likely to be heeded.

The letter, led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and obtained by POLITICO, comes as the Pentagon is considering options for ramping up its nearly three-year campaign against ISIL and follows a request by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan for thousands more troops in a war against the Taliban now entering its 16th year.

“For too many years, Congress has ignored these ongoing wars,” the lawmakers write. “Our brave service members face countless dangers for our nation and we owe it to them to act on an AUMF without delay.”

The lone Republican signatory calling for the authorization for use of military force is Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina. Jones last week became the only Republican to back a bill co-sponsored by House Democrats to create an independent commission to investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The letter is also signed by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a leading candidate in the race to chair the Democratic National Committee.

Lawmakers are urging Trump to submit a draft war resolution that provides “specific information on the geographic, combatant and tactical scope” of the war against ISIL. They are also asking for it to include a sunset provision and repeal the 2001 AUMF that authorized force against those responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The 2001 resolution, they write, “has served as a blank check for war.”

But alas, Congress will continue to roll in the surf like the bloated whale carcass that it is, and nothing more will come of this.


21 comments (Latest Comment: 02/21/2017 20:41:15 by Raine)
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