Archive for July 30th, 2007

We guess it’s not just a problem for U. S. soldiers – here’s a story about our “allies” – (at this writing, a British Pound is worth $2.02 USD)

RAF typist who hurt thumb is awarded eight times more than soldier who lost leg

An RAF typist who injured her thumb at work is to be paid almost half a million pounds by the Ministry of Defence.

The civilian’s award is almost 30 times the amount a serviceman would receive for the same injury.

It is eight times more than a soldier would receive for losing a leg and almost double the amount he could expect if he lost both legs.

The £484,000 payout was condemned by former soldiers, politicians and servicemen’s charities who fear it will severely damage morale.

The woman, believed to be in her 20s, developed a repetitive strain injury while typing computer data.

She claimed it left her unable to work and caused her to become depressed, and she started legal action against the MoD.

Tory defence spokesman Liam Fox said: “I think it is indicative of a very weird set of priorities that those who are injured carrying out orders are less well compensated than those who are typing up the orders.”

Critics claimed it was an insult to the 2,626 British servicemen who have been injured fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Defence analyst Major Charles Heyman said: “An award like this to a civilian who is never going to be in fear of her life drags down morale.

“It shows where the MoD’s priorities lie and those don’t appear to be with the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The soldiers will be shocked and astounded as they all know people with severe injuries who got nothing like that.”

Jerome Church, secretary of the British Limbless Ex-servicemen’s Association, said: “It would be laughable if it wasn’t so outrageous.

“Hearing about this would certainly upset the soldiers coming back from war zones with serious injuries.”

The woman was working as a data input clerk for the RAF when she developed an injury in her right hand.

It was later diagnosed as de Quervain’s tenosynovitis – a repetitive strain-type injury in which the tendons at the base of the thumb become inflamed.

The woman claimed her injury left her unable to work and also caused her to become depressed.

She sued the MoD and it was revealed that she was awarded a total of £484,000 in compensation and associated costs.

Legal sources estimated that her total costs for the action would be unlikely to amount to more than £50,000, meaning she would pocket about £434,000.

This dwarfs the sums offered to serving members of the armed forces who could expect a one-off payment of just £16,500 for the same injury.

It is almost double the £285,000 a soldier can expect if he loses two limbs while fighting for his country.

The official tariff of compensation for injuries lists £28,750 for someone blinded in one eye; £57,500 for the loss of a leg and just £8,250 for injuries associated with surviving a gunshot wound.

Serving military personnel operate under what are called Queen’s Regulations.

Under these rules they give up certain rights normally available to British employees.

MoD personnel are employed under civilian working laws which make suing for compensation easier.

An RAF spokesman would say only: “The MoD takes the welfare of our personnel, particularly those serving on operations, very seriously.

“Where we have a legal liability to pay compensation for a work related injury we do so.”

•Sergeant Trevor Walker, who lost a leg while serving in Bosnia, would welcome any compensation.

His limb was shattered by a shell from a Serbian tank as he was building a road with the Royal Engineers in May 1995.

Despite 13 operations it had to be amputated above the knee the following year and he applied for £150,000 compensation.

But the MoD refused to pay because it had decided – without telling troops – that the compensation rules would not apply to soldiers injured while serving in the former Yugoslavia.

If Sergeant Walker, from Gillingham, Kent, had been serving in Northern Ireland, which was at peace, it would have paid out under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Overseas Scheme.

His lawyers appealed to the High Court, claiming the Government behaved unfairly by changing the rules without telling troops, but lost the case.

The married ex-soldier has described the effect on his life of losing his leg: “Just the simple things, like playing with the kids to the extent that what you used to do, you can’t do it.

“Walking from A to B, where previously I would have not bothered about walking four or five miles, just for a breath of fresh air, now it’s a couple of hundred metres.”

˜Private Steve Baldwin, 22, was badly injured in a bomb attack in Iraq which killed three of his friends of the 1st Battalion Staffordshire Regiment in 2005.

Most of his body was scarred, he almost lost his right arm and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Compensation: £10,000.

From The Daily Mail


By Walter F. Mondale
Sunday, July 29, 2007; B07

The Post’s recent series on Dick Cheney’s vice presidency certainly got my attention. Having held that office myself over a quarter-century ago, I have more than a passing interest in its evolution from the backwater of American politics to the second most powerful position in our government. Almost all of that evolution, under presidents and vice presidents of both parties, has been positive — until now. Under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it has gone seriously off track.

The Founders created the vice presidency as a constitutional afterthought, solely to provide a president-in-reserve should the need arise. The only duty they specified was that the vice president should preside over the Senate. The office languished in obscurity and irrelevance for more than 150 years until Richard Nixon saw it as a platform from which to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1960. That worked, and the office has been an effective launching pad for aspiring candidates since.

But it wasn’t until Jimmy Carter assumed the presidency that the vice presidency took on a substantive role. Carter saw the office as an underused asset and set out to make the most of it. He gave me an office in the West Wing, unimpeded access to him and to the flow of information, and specific assignments at home and abroad. He asked me, as the only other nationally elected official, to be his adviser and partner on a range of issues.

Our relationship depended on trust, mutual respect and an acknowledgement that there was only one agenda to be served — the president’s. Every Monday the two of us met privately for lunch; we could, and did, talk candidly about virtually anything. By the end of four years we had completed the “executivization” of the vice presidency, ending two centuries of confusion, derision and irrelevance surrounding the office.

Subsequent administrations followed this pattern. George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle and Al Gore built their vice presidencies after this model, allowing for their different interests, experiences and capabilities as well as the needs of the presidents they served.

This all changed in 2001, and especially after Sept. 11, when Cheney set out to create a largely independent power center in the office of the vice president. His was an unprecedented attempt not only to shape administration policy but, alarmingly, to limit the policy options sent to the president. It is essential that a president know all the relevant facts and viable options before making decisions, yet Cheney has discarded the “honest broker” role he played as President Gerald Ford’s chief of staff.

Through his vast government experience, through the friends he had been able to place in key positions and through his considerable political skills, he has been increasingly able to determine the answers to questions put to the president — because he has been able to determine the questions. It was Cheney who persuaded President Bush to sign an order that denied access to any court by foreign terrorism suspects and Cheney who determined that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Rather than subject his views to an established (and rational) vetting process, his practice has been to trust only his immediate staff before taking ideas directly to the president. Many of the ideas that Bush has subsequently bought into have proved offensive to the values of the Constitution and have been embarrassingly overturned by the courts.

The corollary to Cheney’s zealous embrace of secrecy is his near total aversion to the notion of accountability. I’ve never seen a former member of the House of Representatives demonstrate such contempt for Congress — even when it was controlled by his own party. His insistence on invoking executive privilege to block virtually every congressional request for information has been stupefying — it’s almost as if he denies the legitimacy of an equal branch of government. Nor does he exhibit much respect for public opinion, which amounts to indifference toward being held accountable by the people who elected him.

Whatever authority a vice president has is derived from the president under whom he serves. There are no powers inherent in the office; they must be delegated by the president. Somehow, not only has Cheney been given vast authority by President Bush — including, apparently, the entire intelligence portfolio — but he also pursues his own agenda. The real question is why the president allows this to happen.

Three decades ago we lived through another painful example of a White House exceeding its authority, lying to the American people, breaking the law and shrouding everything it did in secrecy. Watergate wrenched the country, and our constitutional system, like nothing before. We spent years trying to identify and absorb the lessons of this great excess. But here we are again.

Since the Carter administration left office, we have been criticized for many things. Yet I remain enormously proud of what we did in those four years, especially that we told the truth, obeyed the law and kept the peace.

The writer was vice president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

From The Washington Post

OK – there are between 50 and 60 million people in the U.S. who suffer from allergies of all types.  The cost of those allergies is nearly $7 billion a year – $5.7 billion in medication, $300 million in office visits, and $700 million in lost productivity from days of work missed. (The statistics are from the Asthma and Allergy Association of America.)

A team of doctors in the U. K. have discovered a drug, with almost no side effects, that could “signal the end to all allergies.”  (Read the story in the Daily Express.)

We’re taking bets – will it be available in America?  If so, how much will a prescription cost?  Remember – there has to be a way for Big Pharma to make up that $6 billion!

Say “When.”