Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why the Veterans of Foreign Wars Is So Important

The United States has engaged in wars for over a century. Most have been noble in nature; to ensure that life, liberty and property of the residents of the nation and other nations are not forfeited to the whims and greed of dictators and tyranny. However, not all wars were fought for such lofty ideas. They may have started that way, such as Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm but they soon became a means unto themselves that have led to such never-ending wars and conflicts like those currently being engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Regardless of the motives of leaders, politicians and the military-industrial complex there is one group of men and women who bear the brunt of these war decisions made from the safe and lofty walls of Washington, D.C. and other castles in the sky -- the veteran and their families.

There are several wonderful organizations that try and help meet the needs of these veterans. Those include The Wounded Warrior Project, The American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America and many others. One of the most powerful, influential and respected veteran organizations is The Veterans of Foreign War, a.k.a VFW.

The VFW has a long, tried, tested and true history of putting the veteran of a war and their families as the first and only agenda of their programs. They have the strongest pro-Veteran lobby in Washington, D.C. and have become the veteran's Capitol Hill watchdog on all issues, legislation, policies and laws that affect veteran causes.

Here are just a few examples of the kinds of work and tireless effort the VFW expends to ensure that all American veterans and their families are having their needs met.

AV Act Now Law

The VFW was in the White House yesterday to witness President Obama sign the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act into law. The new law allows the VA to hire more psychiatrists, collaborate with local non-profit mental health organizations, and expand its successful peer support networks. It strengthens and expands the mental health programs and services currently available to service members and veterans. What the SAV Act doesn’t do is go far enough, according to VFW National Commander John Stroud, who said dropped provisions from the final bill would have improved mental health partnerships between the VA and the Reserve Components, and required DOD to review less-than-honorable discharges that may have been associated with undiagnosed PTSD. The VFW will work with Congress to insert those critically important issues into the next suicide prevention legislation.

VFW, Independent Budget Testify Before House VA Committee

On Wednesday, Ray Kelley, Director, National Legislative Service, accompanied the Independent Budget partners at the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s budget hearing. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, opened the hearing by laying out the VA’s current budgetary needs and stating that the cost will continue to increase for years to come as Vietnam veterans age and more current conflict veterans enter the system with complex, multifaceted medical conditions—noting that historically, VA sees the usage and cost for care peak for each generation of war fighters 40 years after the conflict ends. Read the Independent Budget’s VA Budget Recommendations Report. Watch the full hearing (hearing starts at approximately the 35:00 minute mark).

VA Choice Card Survey

The VFW is having good response to their request for members to take their second VA Choice Card Survey. They are asking those of you who completed the first survey last December to take the survey again, so that they can track any changes in your experiences. Members who did not take the first survey are strongly encouraged to share their experiences in accessing VA health care. Your input is critical in helping the VFW evaluate the progress of the Veterans Choice Program and in holding VA accountable for delivering timely non-VA care to veterans. Take the survey. To learn more about the Veterans Choice Program or to share your stories with the VFW, click here.

Senate Approves Carter as Defense Secretary

Yesterday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved Dr. Ash Carter to become the new Secretary of Defense. He was deputy secretary of defense from 2011 to 2013, and before that, he oversaw the buying of the military’s newest weapons systems and technologies, as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. During the Clinton Administration, he was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy.

Troops to Share Millions in SCRA Violation

This week, the Justice Department announced that, under a settlement with five of the nation's largest mortgage servicers, 952 service members and their co-borrowers are eligible to share $123 million for non-judicial foreclosures that violated the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Section 533 of the SCRA prohibits non-judicial foreclosures against service members who are in military service or within the applicable post-service period, as long as they originated their mortgages before their period of military service began. The five mortgage servicers are JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A.; Wells Fargo Bank N.A. and Wells Fargo & Co.; Citi Residential Lending Inc., Citibank, NA and CitiMortgage Inc.; GMAC Mortgage, LLC, Ally Financial Inc. and Residential Capital LLC; and BAC Home Loans Servicing LP, formerly known as Countrywide Home Loans Servicing LP (Bank of America). For more information and points of contact about SCRA payments, click here.

There are more living veterans in the United States than at any other time in the country's nearly 300 year history. We have called upon these men and women to go into places, do things and even sacrifice life and limb in order to preserve our freedom and American way of life. However, many of them come home wounded in mind and body and we simply ignore them and their families after they have surrendered so much of their own freedom and way of life. The homeless rate among today's veterans is higher than at any other time in history. The poverty among them and their families is at an all-time high. This is the kind of situation that cannot stand and no American should continue to tolerate such neglect of those who have paid so much.

Support the veterans in your town or city and get involved with your local veterans group on some level no matter how small.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Savannah Guthrie May Replace Brian Williams at NBC Nightly News

REAL ANCHOR CHOPS or JUST ANOTHER PRETTY TALKING HEAD?

It is rumored that Savannah Guthrie may be at the top of the list as the replacement for Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News.

Williams got himself in a lot of hot water over the last few weeks when allegations surfaced that his reporting of an incident in Iraq may have been an outright lie. This has led others to begin investigating other reports given by Williams over the years in which his reporting of events in Katrina and other stories may have been pure fabrications to garner headlines and place him in a favorable light.

Currently Williams is in the biggest fight of his professional career to keep his job at NBC, however, regardless of the outcome confidence in his future reporting will always be lacking.

A lot of names have surfaced over these last several days concerning who would replace him at the anchor desk that has been filled over the years with the likes of Tom Brokaw (1982-2004), who held that post longer than any other journalist. His predecessors were Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, only it was called the Huntley-Brinkley Report when they began co-anchoring the news in 1970. Upon the retirement of Huntley, David Brinkley teamed up with John Chancellor and the network renamed the news hour NBC Nightly News. After Brinkley retired Chancellor went solo and the anchor desk as remained a one-man show ever since.

Brokaw stepped down in 2004 and Williams got the nod. Considered one of the best reporters in the business Williams carved out quite a niche for himself in the world of journalism, however, that house of cards is now coming down all around him.

Since the fib-debacle several replacements have been mentioned ranging from old stand-by reporters like Katie Couric to even bringing back Brokaw or Jane Pauley to fill the void until a suitable full-time anchor can be found. The whole reason these last two names have been bandied about was to bring back a sense of professionalism and trustworthiness to NBC’s news reporting.

However, Guthrie’s name keeps popping up in the circles that matter in both New York and Washington, D.C. so getting to know what this journalist is all about may help explain the interest in her.

First, this would be NBC’s first full-time female Nightly News solo anchor. Also, Ms. Guthrie’s credentials are quite impressive. She was born in Australia when her American parents were stationed there and received her degree in journalism from the University of Arizona in 1993 graduating Cum laude. Guthrie went on to get her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University. She has risen through the ranks beginning with small stations in Missouri and Arizona. Her biggest career break began with a job at a Washington, D.C. station which put her front and center as an important local reporter after the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. It was her reporting of the Pentagon aftermath that caught the attention of network execs for NBC news. They hired her as a NBC correspondent and eventually named her the network’s White House correspondent in 2008. Having also worked as a litigator Guthrie was assigned as NBC New’s Chief Legal Analyst. By 2012 she co-hosted the Today Show after Meredith Vieira decided to move on.

It would appear that Savannah Guthrie has the credentials, the experience and likely the tough skin needed to fill the position of news anchor for a major network news show. What remains to be seen is does she have the integrity everyone thought Brian Williams had. If she gets the nod we may soon know.

The only other question is can Savannah replace Bri-Bri for the periodic Jimmy Fallon news-rap on The Tonight Show?

Save the Internet From Big Brother

People have been so diligent to ensure that big corporations like Time Warner, Comcast and others don't take over the internet they forgot about the biggest corporation of them all -- The U.S. Government.

Beware of President Barack Obama’s secret 332-page “Net Neutrality ” document. It is nothing more than a Fed take-over via its own brand of federal bureaucracy.

SAVE the INTERNET from UNCLE SAM!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Star Trek Crossover Craze

What Began With TNG Continues Like No Production Has Done Before

Star Trek crossover events became quite common beginning with the very first episode of Star Trek the Next Generation when DeForest Kelley donned an Einstein-esque wig and appeared as an aging Doctor McCoy being escorted on a tour of the new Enterprise-D by Lt. Commander Data.

This kind of historic endeavor continued with visits from James Doohan as Captain Scott and finally a two-parter starring Leonard Nimoy as Spock. It was revived with the appearance of Nimoy, again as Old-Spock for the two latest big screen alternate reality Trek films from JJ Abrams.

The tradition was carried on with future advents of Trek that included crossovers featuring Q in Deep Space 9 and Voyager; Captain Picard in Deep Space 9 and the great Ricardo Montalban reprising his infamous role of Khan from the original series in the hit Star Trek film “The Wrath of Khan,” which was the highest grossing Trek film until the new version by JJ Abrams, but Khan still remains the all-time fan favorite Kirk nemesis as was indicated by the character’s return in “Star Trek: Into Darkness.” Even Kate Mulgrew (Captain/Admiral Janeway) is no stranger to the crossover connection having had a cameo in a couple of TNG big screen films.

Of course the greatest crossover episode of Trek was DS9’s homage to the original series’ “The Trouble With Tribbles,” in which the DS9 crew were grafted onto the TOS Enterprise and thanks to modern technology were able to interact with the original cast in the DS9 episode titled “Trials and Tribble-ations” which also saw the return of Arne Darvin (actor Charlie Brill) performing the same character he did 30 years earlier.

This crossover phenomena has moved over into the independent Trek features as well.

Two of the original series actors, Walter Koenig and George Takei have done guest appearances on Star Trek Phase II (aka New Voyages). The episode "World Enough and Time" starring Takei is considered by Trek fans to be one of the best independent episodes ever filmed.

Tim Russ picked up on the indie approach to Trek. Along with producer Sky Conway and actor Walter Koenig he produced, directed and starred in the first full-length indie Trek film titled “Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.” Russ was able to gather some impressive past Trek talent for this production including Mr. Koenig (TOS), Nichelle Nichols (TOS), Gary Graham (ENT), Ethan Phillips (VOY), Garrett Wang (VOY) Chase Masterson (DS9), J.G. Hertzler (DS9), Cirroc Lofton (DS9), Grace Lee Whitney (TOS), Crystal Allen (ENT), Lawrence Montaigne (TOS) and Alan Ruck (Trek film "Generations"). Some of these venerated Trek stars reprised their original characters while others took on new roles for the indie project.

Actor Vic Mignogna, the producer and star of “Star Trek Continues” not only plays Captain Kirk in this award-winning, highly successful indie Trek series but has also played Kirk in another indie called “Star Trek Farragut.” Mignogna has appeared in “Star Trek Phase II,” the very first professionally done Trek indie, as a Klingon and also as a Cardassian for Tim Russ’ latest indie project “Star Trek: Renegades”which is being reviewed by CBS/Paramount for a pick-up to the network’s lineup of shows.

Speaking of "Renegades" Tim Russ has amassed another star lineup of past Trek actors for this highly anticipated independent feature that may turn up on network television as a weekly series. Along with Russ (VOY) comes the aforementioned Vic Mignogna (STC), Walter Koenig (TOS), Robert Picardo (VOY), Gary Graham (ENT), Manu Intiraymi (VOY), Richard Herd (VOY), and Grant Imahara (STC). This, along with “Of Gods and Men” is likely the largest ensemble of Trek actors in one production ever recorded. Mostly recently it was released that the lead actress from "Renegades," Adrienne Wilkinson will be performing in the fourth episode of "Star Trek Continues."

If what has transpired in the past and present is any indication for the future of the franchise then Star Trek crossover performances will continue giving those films and episodes the necessary push into old and new fans’ consciousness. Did someone say Q for the third alternate reality Trek?

May it continue to live long and prosper.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

It's the Ladies' Turn

Females are finally getting their due in the world of sci-fi films, TV shows, novels and comics

There have always been a few strong women characters in the SF genre, women like Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Buffy, X-Men’s Jean Grey, Storm, Mystique and Stargate SG-1‘s Samantha Carter. However, for the most part when it came to superheroes that world was dominated by the men in which Superman, Batman and Wolverine ruled supreme.

That is all about to change and it certainly is well past time. The increase of female participation over the years in sci-fi conventions, at comic book venues and most importantly, at the box office has awakened the money machine in Hollywood and within the publishing world.

It was recently announced that Marvel will unveil its first ever all-female Avengers team known as Avengers “A-Force” The same writer for this venture also revived Ms Marvel late last year and made her character more relevant to the 21st Century by making her an American Muslim.

In film fans have seen female characters who once stood behind their leading men in purely a support capacity now being elevated to more take charge independent characters. Some of those women have been Spiderman’s Gwen Stacy portrayed by actress Emma Stone, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Iron Man character Pepper Potts and most recently the television debut of Marvel’s Agent Carter series in which the role of the female spy must overcome the male dominated prejudices in the post-World War II working world and proves that just because her reproductive organs are on the inside doesn't mean she isn't as capable as any man to do the job.

Women are coming to their own in worlds once the domain of men and are proving to be not only just as competent but far lovelier to watch as they find themselves in much demand. Perhaps a female Doctor Who isn't too far in the future.