In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
– Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
The bugle echoes shrill and sweet,
But not of war it sings to-day.
The road is rhythmic with the feet
Of men-at-arms who come to pray.
The roses blossom white and red
On tombs where weary soldiers lie;
Flags wave above the honored dead
And martial music cleaves the sky.
Above their wreath-strewn graves we kneel,
They kept the faith and fought the fight.
Through flying lead and crimson steel
They plunged for Freedom and the Right.
May we, their grateful children, learn
Their strength, who lie beneath this sod,
Who went through fire and death to earn
At last the accolade of God.
In shining rank on rank arrayed
They march, the legions of the Lord;
He is their Captain unafraid,
The Prince of Peace… Who brought a sword.
– Joyce Kilmer
Assistant US Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Thomas Countryman, recently visited Israel and held talks with senior Foreign Ministry officials, about the possibility of making the Middle East nuclear-free.
Washington seeks to advance the idea after reaching agreement with Russia about the matter.
The State Department confirmed Countryman’s visit and sources in the U.S. Administration said that Israeli agreement to the idea would be a catalyst for bringing additional countries into discussions on the matter.
The Americans have been attempting to convene an international conference on the subject for some time, without success. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about the idea with pessimism, and said it was “a very tough challenge.”
The Foreign Ministry did not want to respond to the report about Countryman’s visit and told Arutz Sheva that “the subject is a sensitive one, we will not talk about it.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been spending at least $6 billion a year in violation of federal contracting rules to pay for medical care and supplies, wasting taxpayer money and putting veterans at risk, according to an internal memo written by the agency’s senior official for procurement.
In a 35-page document addressed to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, the official accuses other agency leaders of “gross mismanagement” and making a “mockery” of federal acquisition laws that require competitive bidding and proper contracts.
Jan R. Frye, deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics, describes a culture of “lawlessness and chaos” at the Veterans Health Administration, the massive health-care system for 8.7 million veterans.
“Doors are swung wide open for fraud, waste and abuse,” he writes in the March memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post. He adds, “I can state without reservation that VA has and continues to waste millions of dollars by paying excessive prices for goods and services due to breaches of Federal laws.”
Frye describes in detail a series of practices that he says run afoul of federal rules, including the widespread use of purchase cards, which are usually meant as a convenience for minor purchases of up to $3,000, to buy billions of dollars worth of medical supplies without contracts. In one example, he says that up to $1.2 billion in prosthetics were bought using purchase cards without contracts during an 18-month period that ended last year.
He also explains how VA has failed to engage in competitive bidding or sign contracts with outside hospital and health-care providers that offer medical care for veterans that the agency cannot provide, such as specialized tests and surgeries and other procedures. Frye says VA has paid at least $5 billion in such fees, in violation of federal rules that the agency’s own general counsel has said since 2009 must be followed.
Frye alleges further violations in the agency’s purchase of billions of dollars worth of prosthetics and in the acquisition of a wide range of daily medical and surgical supplies. He says many products are bought without the competitive bidding and contracts essential to ensure quality care, effective use of tight dollars and proper government oversight.
“These unlawful acts may potentially result in serious harm or death to America’s veterans,” Frye wrote. “Collectively, I believe they serve to decay the entire VA health-care system.”
VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said in a statement that some of the care the agency pays for is not covered by federal acquisition law. She also said that the agency is trying to manage rapid growth in medical care administered by outside providers, with authorizations for outside medical care jumping 46 percent in the first four months of 2015 over the same period last year.
Dillon said VA officials are urging Congress to pass legislation that would allow an “expedited form of purchasing care” for veterans who need to go outside the VA system. She said the bill “would also resolve legal uncertainties that have arisen” regarding the use of purchasing agreements other than those required by federal acquisition regulations.
VA has been under intense pressure to provide adequate care to the surge of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Frye makes clear in his memo that the agency’s violations of purchasing law have been going on for years and that senior leaders have had many opportunities to revamp their practices.
He discloses his repeated efforts to raise his concerns with other senior officials at the agency but says he was consistently ignored. He also accuses top agency officials of deceiving Congress when they were asked about questionable practices.
VA operates one of the largest health-care systems in the country, spanning 150 hospitals and more than 800 outpatient clinics. The agency has been struggling to serve not only the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, but also a surge in veterans who served in the 1960s and 1970s.
VA has been rocked since last year by revelations about long wait times for veterans seeking treatment for health issues including cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder. McDonald’s predecessor, Eric K. Shinseki, resigned as VA secretary last year after a coverup of months-long hospital wait times became public, and Congress has given the system $10 billion in new funding to ramp up private medical care.
On Thursday, Frye will have a chance to explain his concerns directly to lawmakers. He is scheduled to testify before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee about waste and fraud in the purchase card program.
Frye, 64, is a retired Army colonel who has overseen VA’s acquisitions and logistics programs – one of the federal government’s largest – since 2005. In his role as the agency’s senior procurement executive, he is responsible for developing and supervising VA’s practices for acquiring services and supplies, but he is not in charge of making the purchases. A former Army inspector general, he has held senior acquisition positions over 30 years in government.
Some of his concerns were previously flagged by VA’s inspector general, who has reported for years that weak contracting systems put the agency at risk of waste and abuse. Thousands of pharmaceutical purchases were made without competition or contracts in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, often by unqualified employees, investigators found. And according to documents that have not been made public, the inspector general’s office has warned VA repeatedly that its use of purchase cards needs better oversight.
For the most part, Frye does not explain why the rules are so widely flouted. But he suggests, in this discussion of purchase cards, that the reason may be laziness. He calls these payments an “easy button” way of buying things. Frye told McDonald he became aware in 2012 that government purchase cards were being used improperly by VA. About 2,000 cards had been issued to employees who were ordering products and services without contracts, Frye recounts.
He said his concerns grew after learning that a supervisor in New York had recorded more than $50 million in prosthetics purchases in increments of $24,999 – $1 under the charging limit on each card. In a response to a member of Congress who inquired about the purchases, Shinseki had few answers. “No contract files exist” and “there is no evidence of full and open competition,” Shinseki wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.
Purchase cards, Frye says in his memo, can be a sufficient means of acquiring goods and services for “micro-purchases” up to $3,000. Above that limit, the cards can be used for payment only if there is a certified invoice linked to a properly awarded contract.
Frye’s concerns about payments for outside medical services are rooted in the reality that VA hospitals do not have the resources or specialists to provide all the treatment veterans require, such as obstetrics and joint replacements. For these services, VA normally refers veterans to a list of doctors or labs in their area.
The agency, Frye says, is required to identify providers through a competitive process and contract with them to ensure that the government pays reasonable prices and gets the best value and quality. And contracts help ensure veterans are legally protected if they get poor care or if a medical procedure goes wrong.
But according to Frye’s account, VA spent about $5 billion on outside medical care in both 2013 and 2014 in the absence of contracts, and such practices “extend back many years.” “Based on my inquiry in January 2013, [the Office of the General Counsel] confirmed in writing the fact VHA was violating the law,” Frye says.
Large medical systems similar to VA order many supplies in bulk through a list of approved vendors, identified through a competitive process, to ensure quick delivery for the best price. But VA’s system for these “just-in-time” purchases is deeply flawed, and this is yet another way that the agency wastes money, Frye says.
He writes that there are many types of supplies that are not covered by these arrangements. Instead, they are ordered off the shelf, without competition and for higher prices, from a “shopping list” containing 400,000 items, “indiscriminately and not in accordance” with acquisition laws.
National Guard troops filled the streets of Baltimore in the early morning Tuesday hours, bringing a semblance of calm to a city that was overrun with protesters who had set their sights on police, injuring 15 so far in the melees.
Fox News reported some of the injuries were due to bottles hurled at police, but all are expected to fully recover.
“We went to bed last night and the entire city smelled like smoke,” said Peter Doocy, from Fox News on Tuesday morning. “We woke up this morning and it’s pretty much the same thing.”
Media pictures showed buildings torched and smoking, firefighters on the scene working to put out lingering flames and glass scattered throughout the streets from broken business windows. At least 50 businesses and buildings, including a church, have been damaged by protesters.
Southern Baptist church’s newly built senior center
Convenience store and residence at East Biddle Street and Montford Avenue
CVS pharmacy on Pennsylvania Avenue
Much of last night’s rioting was due to teenagers roaming the streets, Fox News reported. Schools were closed and classes on Tuesday were cancelled.
Meanwhile, 1,500 members of the National Guard are patrolling the streets in tactical vehicles, and hundreds of police officers from outside the city are expected to arrive in the coming hours, Fox News reported.
The scene outside City Hall, where much of the rioting on Monday had occurred, was actually calm and quiet Tuesday morning, due largely to the massive National Guard and police presence that’s been called to the city.
So far, about two dozen people have been arrested, though their charges aren’t known.
The city’s been suffering through hours of violence and thuggery, with media pictures of the scene showing car fires and swarms of angry individuals throwing rocks and breaking business windows. The protests started shortly after the funeral of Freddie Gray, the young black man who died from massive spinal injuries shortly after being taken into police custody.
A curfew that was supposed to have gone into place Monday night is now set for Tuesday evening at 10 o’clock. Much ofthe city’s violence is being blamed on poor leadership, with the mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, fielding particularly harsh fire for comments she made seeiming to suggest the protesters had a real cause and police officers were setting aside space for them to vent.
She’s since backtracked on those comments, and blamed the press for taking her out of context.
This is what she said over the weekend: “While we tried to make sure that [protesters] were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”
Late Monday, facing widespread criticism from her remarks, she said: “I made it very clear that we balanced a very fine line between giving peaceful protesters space to protest. What I said is, in doing so, people can hijack that and use that space for bad. I did not say that we were accepting of it, I did not say we were passive to it. I was just explaining how property damage can happen during a peaceful protest. IT is very unfortunate that members of your industry [media] decided to mischaracterize my words and try to use it as a way to say that we are inciting violence, there is no such thing.”
Meanwhile, members of the media on the scene say the majority of the protesters were residents of the community, and they were destroying buildings, businesses and properties in their own back yards.
I am shaking and tears are flowing down my cheeks as I watch the news and listen to the insensitive, pain inflicting comments made by you in regards to the fall of Ramadi.
“The city itself is not symbolic in any way” oh really are you willing to meet with me and with the families who have lost a son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother, aunt, uncle, grandson, or teammate?
My son Marc Lee was the first Navy SEAL who sacrificed his life in Ramadi Iraq Aug 2, 2006. His blood is still in that soil and forever will be. Remember that was when so many of our loved ones were taken from us. You said that “it’s not been declared part of the caliphate on one hand or central to the future of Iraq.” My son and many others gave their future in Ramadi. Ramadi mattered to them. Many military analysts say that as goes Ramadi so goes Iraq.
What about the troops who sacrificed their limbs and whose lives will never be the same. Our brave warriors who left a piece of themselves in Ramadi. What about the troops who struggle with PTS/TBI who watched their teammates breath their last or carried their wounded bodies to be medevac’d out of Ramadi.
I’ve traveled to Ramadi and visited Camp Marc Lee in 2007. I brought back soil from that city where Marc breathed his last. I interviewed Iraqi General Anwer in 2010 when I returned. I asked him “If you could say one thing to the American people what would you tell them? He paused and with deep emotion said “We will tell our children, our grandchildren, for generations to come we will tell them what Americans have done. There is American blood poured out on our soil.” It seems the Iraqis understand the importance more than you do sir.
You sir owe an apology to the families whose loved ones blood was shed in Ramadi. Ramadi matters to us and is very symbolic to us. You need to apologize to our troops whose bodies were blown to pieces from IEDs and bullet holes leaving parts and pieces behind, Ramadi matters to them. You need to apologize to our troops who endured the extreme temperatures and battled the terrorists in some of the worst battlefields in Iraq, Ramadi matters to them. They carry vivid memories of the battles and the teammates whose future is gone, Ramadi matters to them.
You and this administration have minimized that Ramadi could fall, now you are minimizing that it is falling, but you Sir WILL NOT minimize the sacrifice my son Marc Lee made or any of our brave warriors!
Awaiting an Apology
Dennis Michael Lynch (born August 28, 1969) is an American entrepreneur, documentary filmmaker, and conservative commentator. He is the founder and CEO of TV360Media, a company specializing in the production and distribution of digital film, and often appears as a guest on Fox News and TheBlaze. He is currently running for President of the United States as a conservative Republican.
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