V.A. has to repay veteran denied disability check 60 years ago

The year Leroy MacKlem lost his veterans disability compensation for a bad hip, gasoline cost 27 cents a gallon, a Yankee shortstop named Rizzuto was the American League’s most valuable player and President Harry S. Truman ordered production of the hydrogen bomb. It was 1950.

He is about to get it back. All of it.

In a case as much about government bungling as one man’s perseverance, the Department of Veterans Affairs said last week that it would end years of litigation and repay Mr. MacKlem, 88, for six decades’ worth of disputed disability compensation, about $400,000…

To which Mr. MacKlem, a World War II veteran from Portland, Mich., replied, “I’ll believe it when I get the settlement…”

In 1944, he received a medical discharge and was assigned a 20 percent disability rating for service-connected arthritis in his hip, entitling him to disability compensation. Mr. MacKlem later went to work in a plastics factory in Detroit.

But in 1950, the Veterans Administration, as it was then known, severed his compensation, saying that his pain resulted from the “natural progress” of his pre-service injury. His monthly payments of $105 ended.

And there the case sat for 56 years.

In 2006, Mr. MacKlem — for reasons his lawyer could not explain — decided to appeal, saying the department made a “clear and unmistakable error” in its 1950 decision. A regional office in Detroit rejected his argument, and he submitted a notice of disagreement.

Then a curious thing happened. Mr. MacKlem received a letter in June 2007 saying that a review officer had concluded that the 1950 ruling was indeed wrong and that he should be granted retroactive benefits. Mr. MacKlem was not supposed to get that letter…A few weeks later, the department sent him another letter saying that the June notice was only a draft and that his benefits would not be restored. He appealed. And while his appeal was pending, a federal court ruled in 2009 that the department’s “extraordinary award procedure” for reviewing compensation awards larger than $250,000 or for retroactive payments dating back more than eight years was illegal.

In 2010, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled that the department had to reinstate Mr. MacKlem’s award because it had been reversed under that now illegal “extraordinary award procedure…” This month, a federal appeals court upheld that decision

“I’ve always had the feeling that the government was hoping that I would die so they wouldn’t have to pay,” said Mr. MacKlem, a widower with no children. Disability payments to veterans with no immediate survivors are returned to the department, Mr. Viterna said.

Having watched my closest friend more than once forced into battling the VA to keep benefits for injuries that kept him in hospital for 16 months after the war – I don’t doubt in the least that some petty-minded bureaucrat felt it his duty to screw some poor grunt who risked his life in one of the few worthwhile wars this nation has fought in centuries.

Obama proposing a tax credit for natural gas-powered trucks

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

President Barack Obama pitched a plan on Thursday to boost U.S. use of natural gas and open more land for offshore drilling during a campaign-style tour aimed at bolstering confidence in his economic stewardship.

At a stop in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Democratic president sought to counter Republican criticisms of his energy policies as he proposed tax incentives for companies to buy natural gas trucks, which would help build demand for abundant domestic supplies of the fuel…

Obama said the United States needs an “all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy” to develop energy resources at home and that doing so would create American jobs…”A great place to start is with natural gas,” Obama said during a visit to a UPS facility in Las Vegas, which received stimulus funding to invest in liquefied natural gas vehicles and build a public LNG refueling station.

“We’ve got a supply of natural gas under our feet that can last America nearly a hundred years,” he said. “Developing it could power our cars, our homes, and our factories in a cleaner and cheaper way. The experts believe it could support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade…”

Using domestic natural gas as a cleaner alternative to importing foreign oil has been heavily promoted by Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens and has attracted support from both sides of the aisle in Congress.

Still, Obama’s natural gas truck proposal, which would need congressional approval, could face an uphill battle to make it into law. Republicans, campaigning on promises to cut government spending, would likely resist costly energy subsidies…

Obama also announced that the Interior Department will hold the last scheduled offshore lease sale of the government’s current five-year drilling plan in June, offering 38 million acres for development in the central Gulf of Mexico…

Analysts said those results were a sign that drilling is rebounding in the Gulf after the administration temporarily shut down deepwater exploration after the BP disaster.

The Oil Patch Boys are still whining, of course, about oversight and regulations being resumed. They became accustomed to doing just about anything they wished during the Bush/Cheney years. Reality began to return with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – not that oil companies ever cared much for reality if it hinders profits.

NatGas tech is already advanced enough that some auto companies that sell pickup trucks will be offering a natural gas option in addition to clean diesel. For less than the additional cost of diesel. That’s pretty amazing.

We have the first natural gas-powered bus fleet in the country here in Santa Fe and it is a boon keeping our clean air clean. The cost in gasoline equivalent has risen over the years to $1.61/gallon. With serious federal help, it could be less.

Barney Frank to wed his partner, Jim Ready, in Massachusetts

Rep. Barney Frank, the most prominent gay member of Congress, is getting married.

The Democrat, who is retiring from the House at the end of this term, will marry his partner, Jim Ready, in a Massachusetts ceremony. No date has been scheduled and no other details were provided…

Frank, 71, and Ready, 42, have been together since spring of 2007. The congressman told The New York Times in an interview after he announced his retirement that he wanted to spend more time with Ready, a photographer who also owns a business doing custom awnings, carpentry, painting, welding and other handyman services.

In 2007, Ready made headlines when he was arrested for growing marijuana in the backyard of his Maine home. Frank acknowledged in 2009 that he was present at the time of Ready’s arrest. The Boston Globe reported Ready pleaded guilty to civil possession of marijuana, and the charge was later dropped.

Frank, a liberal firebrand known for his quick wit, was first elected to the House in 1980. As chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank co-authored the most sweeping changes to banking industry regulations since the Great Depression…

There are four openly gay members of Congress, all Democrats: Frank and Reps. Jared Polis of Colorado, David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

That last sentence certainly says something about the most advanced, forward-looking and democratic corner of the country. But, then, the bastion of revolutionary separation from colonial England, the heart and soul of the abolition of slavery – would be expected to do no less than continue the region’s history of support for civil rights.

So, Barney – mazel tov!

Get the non-denial denials out – New Vatican corruption scandal

Told you Carlo – make waves, you’re history!

The Vatican was shaken by a corruption scandal Thursday after an Italian television investigation said a former top official had been transferred against his will after complaining about irregularities in awarding contracts.

The show “The Untouchables” on the respected private television network La 7 Wednesday night showed what it said were several letters that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was then deputy-governor of Vatican City, sent to superiors, including Pope Benedict, in 2011 about the corruption.

The Vatican…confirmed that the letters were authentic by expressing “sadness over the publication of reserved documents…”

Vigano…said in the letters that when he took the job in 2009 he discovered a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices…

In another letter to the pope…Vigano says he discovered the management of some Vatican City investments was entrusted to two funds managed by a committee of Italian bankers “who looked after their own interests more than ours.”…In one single financial transaction in December, 2009, “they made us lose two and a half million dollars.”

The program interviewed a man it identified as a member of the bankers’ committee who said Vigano had developed a reputation as a “ballbreaker” among companies that had contracts with the Vatican, because of his insistence on transparency and competition

On March 22, 2011, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone informed Vigano that he was being removed from his position, even though it was to have lasted until 2014…

In early April, Vigano went over Bertone’s head again and wrote directly to the pope, telling him that he had worked hard to “eliminate corruption, private interests and dysfunction that are widespread in various departments…”

Despite his appeals to the pope that a transfer, even if it meant a promotion, “would be a defeat difficult for me to accept,” Vigano was named ambassador to Washington in October of last year after the sudden death of the previous envoy to the United States.

The pope is “inspired” by Vigano’s efforts to clean up corruption. Which brings up the question — how does such inspiration lead to taking Vigano off the inspiring job he was doing?

Sorry, papa — sounds like the same old saw from the capo of a deposed and corrupt group of bankers — whining about the new guy who was destroying all the benefits they worked hard to create, lining their pockets.

New Mexico county holds man in solitary for 2 years without a trial — found guilty in $22 million lawsuit

A man who was held in solitary confinement for two years and was forced to pull his own tooth because he was denied dental health, has been awarded $22 million for violation of his constitutional rights.

Stephen Slevin, 58, from New Mexico, was awarded the sum of money – one of the largest federal civil rights settlements in history involving an inmate – after accusing Dona Ana County jail of essentially forgetting about him while he was in custody, not giving him the healthcare he needed and treating him inhumanely.

Outside the federal courthouse in Santa Fe today, Mr Slevin said it was never about the money for him but more about sending a message that prisoners should be treated more humanely…

“Prison officials were walking by me every day, watching me deteriorate. Day after day after day, they did nothing, nothing at all, to get me any help.”

The 58-year-old was arrested in August 2005 and charged with driving while intoxicated and receiving a stolen vehicle near Las Cruces. His lawyer said that, due to his history of mental illness, he was placed into solitary confinement. Civil rights attorney Matthew Coyte revealed it was here that his client started to deteriorate.

He said: ‘They threw him in solitary and then ignored him. He disappeared into delirium, and his mental illness was made worse by being isolated from human contact and a lack of medical care…’

While Slevin was in solitary confinement, his toenails grew so long they began to curl around his feet, he developed bedsores, fungus and dental problems and lost a lot of weight, according to the lawsuit…

Mr Slevin was eventually released after 22 months as a pre-trial detainee and the charges against him were dismissed…

The county had recently offered to settle the case for $2 million…despite previously denying there was a lack of medical care and that, as government employees, county officials deserved immunity from liability.

You should know two things about this incident: [1] Don’t judge every part of New Mexico law enforcement by this case; [2] If he had been a serious criminal, DWI-repeater or violent felon – he would have been out of jail in no time at all.

Dome of freshwater building up in Arctic Ocean

UK scientists have detected a huge dome of fresh water that is developing in the western Arctic Ocean. The bulge is some 8,000 cubic km in size and has risen by about 15cm since 2002.

The team thinks it may be the result of strong winds whipping up a great clockwise current in the northern polar region called the Beaufort Gyre. This would force the water together, raising sea surface height, the group tells the journal Nature Geoscience.

“In the western Arctic, the Beaufort Gyre is driven by a permanent anti-cyclonic wind circulation. It drives the water, forcing it to pile up in the centre of gyre, and this domes the sea surface,” explained lead author Dr Katharine Giles…

“In our data, we see the trend being biggest in the centre of the gyre and less around the edges,” she told BBC News.

Dr Giles and colleagues made their discovery using radar satellites belonging to the European Space Agency (Esa). These spacecraft can measure sea-surface height even when there is widespread ice cover because they are adept at picking out the cracks, or leads, that frequently appear in the frozen floes.

The data (1995-2010) indicates a significant swelling of water in the Beaufort Gyre, particularly since the early part of the 2000s. The rising trend has been running at 2cm per year…

Winds and currents have transported this fresh water around the ocean until it has been pulled into the gyre. The volume currently held in the circulation probably represents about 10% of all the fresh water in the Arctic…

What we see occurring is precisely what the climate models had predicted,” said Dr Giles.

“When you have clockwise rotation – the fresh water is stored. If the wind goes the other way – and that has happened in the past – then the fresh water can be pushed to the margins of the Arctic Ocean…

If the fresh water were to enter the North Atlantic in large volumes, the concern would be that it might disturb the currents that have such a great influence on European weather patterns. These currents draw warm waters up from the tropics, maintaining milder temperatures in winter than would ordinarily be expected at northern European latitudes…

Which is how global warming can reduce localized temperatures. But, don’t try to explain this to someone who has trouble with the Earth being round, evolution as a scientific theory and gravity influencing more than fly balls.