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Arrogance, fraud and waste at top of VA

first_imgYet when a government investigator reached the Invictus organizer, Victoria Gosling, she was unable to recall Bari’s name. Some “personal friendship.”The basis on which Bari’s expenses on the trip were covered was also phony – an email, apparently doctored by Shulkin’s chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, VA’s third-ranking official, to make it appear that he would be receiving an award in Denmark.There was, in fact, no such award, but the assertion was adequate to justify his wife’s travel at government expense, according to the VA inspector general’s report.Following these revelations, Simpson announced her retirement Friday. Shulkin said he would reimburse the government for his wife’s travel and would also write a check to the treasury for the Wimbledon tickets, which cost thousands of dollars on the secondary market.Shulkin, the lone holdover from the Obama administration in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, was summoned by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly for a talk on Thursday; he is now fighting to keep his job.If straight talk and transparency are essential qualifications, the optics are not good. More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motorists Categories: Editorial, OpinionThe following editorial appeared in The Washington Post.Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who oversees an agency of some 375,000 workers and more than 1,200 health-care facilities, issued a directive last summer instructing managers to cut costs by limiting employee travel to “essential” trips.Not two weeks later, he undertook a taxpayer-financed boondoggle to London and Copenhagen in the company of his wife, top-ranking officials and a half-dozen security personnel.In addition to a few meetings and a conference, the 10-day trip featured several days of shopping, sightseeing jaunts through castles and palaces, a river cruise and freebie tickets to the women’s tennis finals at Wimbledon.His European adventure, which cost the public at least $122,000, plainly violated the spirit of government rules and almost definitely the letter.center_img Now, after months of arrogant, evasive and plainly dishonest statements from both Shulkin and VA employees seeking to justify the trip, followed by a government investigation that found “serious derelictions” involving the trip, the VA secretary has allowed that “the optics of this are not good.”The “optics”?Try the facts.“There’s nothing inappropriate about this,” Shulkin said last fall, after The Post reported that about half his trip involved sightseeing and shopping, and that the government had also paid the flights and a per-diem for his wife, Merle Bari.He dismissed the story as “poor reporting.” In fact, The Post account was accurate.Shulkin doubled down on his dissembling by denying that the Wimbledon tickets had been given to him by organizers of the Invictus Games for wounded and disabled soldiers and veterans, which would violate government rules barring gifts to public officials.In an ethics review triggered by The Post report, he insisted the tickets had been presented legitimately – yes, by a top organizer of the Invictus Games – not because of his position but owing to his and his wife’s “personal friendship” with the organizer.last_img read more

Letters to the Editor for Friday, April 26

first_imgGillibrand should take in immigrantsI would gladly donate $100 toward the transportation costs of a busload of illegal immigrants, sprinkle in some MS13 gang members, and deliver them to the home of our very own foul-mouthed phony Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.She loves these people so much. It only seems right that she should fill her home with them.She has said that there is no such thing as illegal immigrants.She wants to give them our hard-earned Social Security money, free medical coverage, free education and the right to vote.P.T. Barnum one said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”He could have been talking about the donors to Gillibrand’s presidential campaign.Ray WeidmanLatham More from The Daily Gazette:Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?Cuomo calls for clarity on administering vaccineEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusGov. Andrew Cuomo’s press conference for Sunday, Oct. 18EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motorists Categories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionSt. Clare’s workers need pensions nowI was a St. Clare’s hospital employee for 38 years. It was always a Catholic hospital. Sister Senata and Sister Bonavita were present.Before the closure was announced, we knew there were problems.In the beginning, I thought Ellis would take care of us, since several of us nurses had some of our training at Ellis.I also thought New York state would help us, since the budget is so large and so much money is wasted. I have made phone calls to my local congresswoman with no success.February 1, March 1 and April 1 have all passed and needed money is lost.We need our retirement now.Carol A. Armitage, RNMiddle Grove Oppose changes to Medicare policiesAs an oncologist in the Capital District region, I have serious concerns with Medicare proposals that could put patient access to Medicare Part B drugs, like chemotherapy, at serious risk.For example, Medicare’s proposal to lower drug costs by establishing an International Pricing Index (IPI) model would ultimately not result in lower out-of-pocket patient costs.Instead, it would potentially limit patient access and disrupt important cancer therapies for our seniors.The IPI model inserts third-party vendors with no clinical expertise between cancer patients and their oncologists, which risks introducing an unnecessary barrier in the delivery of treatment for the New Yorkers who are diagnosed with cancer every year. While third-party vendors disrupt patient access, the mandatory nature of the model undermines initiatives already established that are voluntary, value-based care models that have yielded positive results for patients and payers on quality and cost.Recently I met with some New York lawmakers in Washington, including the offices of Sen. Charles Schumer and Reps. Paul Tonko and Yvette Clarke, to provide this underappreciated perspective on this issue based on the cancer patients I treat daily. For my patients, as well as the thousands of other cancer patients across New York, I urge our lawmakers to oppose Medicare policies that undermine critical access to important cancer therapies.We must work together to put a stop to Medicare’s dangerous experiment on senior care and continue to evolve value for our patients’ lives.Ira Zackon, MD Albany Papers are littering up streets, propertyWith Earth Day here, people are thinking about waste, littering, plastics pollution and other environmental issues.So, it is with interest that I find poor environmental behavior by our own Daily Gazette.Recently, on Salina, Nott and Gerling streets, I saw several dozen copies of the “Your Niskayuna” weekly section, each in its own blue plastic bag, littering front yards, driveways, sidewalks and the street (a few were on porches).Questions: Is every Northside house supposed to receive one of these? How many people want them? How are carriers delivering them? I find this indiscriminate delivery of a non-essential newspaper item objectionable. Perhaps The Gazette sees this as a way to increase readership, that people reading “Your Niskayuna” will want to read the rest of the paper. I would like see the statistics on that.On Saturday, April 27, the Northside of Schenectady is holding a Clean-Up Day, sponsored by Marty’s Hardware.I am curious to see how many blue bags will be fished out of street drains, extricated from hedges and picked up off sidewalks.The Gazette should rethink its policy on the mass distribution of weekly newspaper supplements and stop contributing to our litter problem.Margaret NovakSchenectadyEditor’s Note: Both the plastic bags and the newspapers are recyclable.last_img read more

Hidden strengths

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Chelsfield to take over Global Switch

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Leeds’ £24m Danish deal

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Solihull park letting lifts M42 market

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Iowa Caucus meltdown shines light on tech, human failures

first_imgThe Iowa Democratic Party will face tough questions Tuesday about how the technology and structure it designed for transparency and efficiency at its caucuses instead delivered neither.The failure to produce a result came amid mounting concerns about election integrity in the United States.The state party deployed a new phone app for precinct chairmen to report results at the same time it deployed a new system for tabulating winners. Both appear to have failed. Precinct chairmen found it difficult to use the app to report results to party headquarters and instead resorted to calling a hotline. The hotline got so jammed up that they were waiting for 30 minutes or more for someone to answer. Then the party reported there were “inconsistencies” in the count and decided to withhold announcing results until at least Tuesday.“The first time tech is used like this, there’s almost always glitches,” Herb Lin, a professor of cyber policy and security at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution said. “It’s very hard to get it right the first time. The question now is what sort of testing was done before we got to the caucuses, was it realistic and was development rushed?”Lin said that the new app was developed in the interest of speed but the result was the opposite. “We’re not there yet. The short answer is, ‘No, this technology wasn’t ready for election day.’”Monday night’s problems cannot just be blamed on the machines. In order to provide more visibility into the arcane math that goes into caucus results, this year the party asked precincts to report results from the first and second round of voting.Precinct officials were prompted to report two data points each for at least 12 candidates, plus “other” and “uncommitted.” That’s 28 different data points, all being delivered via an app they had never used before.In 1,765 precincts, enough people may have transposed numbers or otherwise gotten tripped up and it became a major headache.After all that, the party had to tabulate a third number, called ‘state delegate equivalents,’ which is used to make an official result.Then even the redundancies failed.When questions about the app were raised earlier in the day, the party insisted that if users were uncomfortable, they could fall back to the old system of calling into a hotline, but the wait times were so long, some precinct chairs gave up.All of that said, the quirky nature of the caucuses, where large numbers of people are counted together in public with a paper trail, means eventually clear results will emerge, some predicted.“The delayed results and perception of chaos are embarrassing, but at least we’ll know the correct results soon, when all of the local results are finally communicated and cross checked,” J. Alex Halderman, professor of cybersecurity specializing in elections at the University of Michigan said.He said the spectacle should serve as a cautionary tale about electronic and internet voting.“Imagine how much worse things would be if people were actually voting online. We might never know who actually won, or they might have to scrap the entire process and start over. This is exactly why internet voting is not nearly ready for prime time,” he said.Topics :last_img read more

Trump takes ‘The Beast’ for a lap around Daytona

first_imgUS President Donald Trump took “The Beast” — his heavily armored Cadillac limousine — for a lumbering lap of honor around the Daytona racetrack on Sunday in front of tens of thousands of cheering fans.Trump, who is gearing up for a re-election battle in November, was the ceremonial starter of the NASCAR Daytona 500 race, issuing the traditional order, “Gentlemen, start your engines!”The president’s motorcade then led the field of 40 race cars on a parade lap of the revered course — a first for a US president, according to NASCAR officials. Trump thanked the “tens of thousands of patriots” gathered at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, describing the race as “pure American glory.””No matter who wins,” he told the crowd, “what matters most is God, family and country.””Rubber will burn, fans will scream and the great American race will begin,” he said in remarks met with chants of “USA, USA!”Travelling from his Mar-a-Lago weekend resort, Trump arrived at the racetrack on Air Force One, accompanied by his wife Melania, son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner.The plane did a low flyover of the track, which has a capacity of about 100,000 spectators. Some fans in the crowd held up signs supporting Trump and chanted, “Four more years!”Florida is a key state in the election, and Trump has already been campaigning hard to persuade voters to return him to office in the November vote.”The Beast” is the popular name for the US president’s specially-designed car. The current model is reported to weigh about 10 tons and have bomb-proof windows five inches (13 centimeters) thick.Topics :last_img read more

Long layoff makes it tough for Pogba, says Solskjaer

first_imgManchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says French midfielder Paul Pogba has been out of action for so long he faces a real challenge to get fully fit and back in the team.Pogba, whose future at the club has been the subject of much speculation, is still recovering from an ankle injury that has restricted him to eight United appearances this season. He last featured in a 4-1 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day.”Paul knows he has to work hard to get back to his best,” Solskjaer told British media. “He has been out now for so long now, it’s a challenge to get back into shape.” Pogba was not part of the United group that spent the mid-season break at a training camp in Spain but Solskjaer confirmed the 26-year-old was given permission to do his recovery work somewhere else.”He’s taken off his cast and started running on the treadmill now, so he’s getting closer,” said the Norwegian.When asked if Pogba would play for the club again he added: “Well of course, I’d like to say that as soon as he gets fit, he’ll be good enough to play for the team. I’m sure Paul’s desperate to play for us again.”United, who are ninth in the Premier League, trail fourth-placed Chelsea by six points with the clubs meeting at Stamford Bridge later on Monday.Topics :last_img read more

Coronavirus: Indonesian citizens aboard Diamond Princess to be put in 28-day quarantine after returning home

first_imgTwo elderly Japanese people aboard the ship who were infected died on Thursday, AFP reported.The quarantine period set by the government is longer than what was required for the 200 Indonesian nationals airlifted from Wuhan and cities in Hubei province in China — the outbreak epicenter — who returned home last week after a 14-day quarantine in Natuna, Riau Islands.Yurianto said there were fears those who had been given a clean bill of health and permitted to disembark from the cruise ship might be carrying the virus without showing any symptoms.Read also: Govt mulling evacuation of Indonesians from Diamond Princess: Muhadjir The government is set to put 74 Indonesian crew members from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan into a 28-day quarantine, with stricter screening measures in place, once they set foot in Indonesia, the Health Ministry has said.”We have set a policy for those returning from the cruise ship in Japan to be [quarantined] for two times the incubation period [of the coronavirus], or 28 days of observation,” the ministry’s disease control and prevention directorate general secretary, Achmad Yurianto, said on Friday.The decision was made after 634 of the 3,711 people onboard the British-American-owned Diamond Princess tested positive for the virus — including four of the 78 Indonesian crew members — making the vessel anchored in Yokohama the biggest coronavirus cluster outside the epicenter in China. “Thus, once they return home, we will do a thorough examination. Not only a physical examination, but also tests for the virus,” Yurianto said as quoted by kompas.com, “We will refer to them as PDPs [patient under observation] and do a total screening, which is important prior to putting them into quarantine.”He said that during the quarantine, health authorities would put the PDPs into different clusters. For instance, those who had had contact with their infected colleagues or those who had been ill while aboard the ship, though not from coronavirus, would be kept separate from those who had not.An estimated 600 Diamond Princess passengers who tested negative for the virus have disembarked since the two-week quarantine period ended on Wednesday, the cruise ship operator said.The remaining hundreds of passengers and the 74 Indonesian crew members are still awaiting clearance to disembark, which is expected to be issued Saturday, Yurianto said. They may only return to their respective countries if they test negative, otherwise they will be admitted to hospitals in Japan.President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said on Friday that the government had prepared several options to evacuate the 74 Indonesian crew members from the cruise ship, including to take them home on a ship or via plane.”We have also prepared the hospitals, but we have not made any decisions in relation to the location [for the quarantine],” he said, adding that Jakarta would soon make a decision on the evacuation plan. (hol)Topics :last_img read more