THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 43

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 43

…“Tough pickle, very tough pickle, Saied,” the taxi driver states the obvious…

in-a-pickle-001

“There are others who want me dead.” claims Aldona Afridi.

“Lucky for you, I stayed on this side of the Bosporus. So someone is after you, I don’t care that you are a criminal, I like you. How can such a nice man be in such a pickle? I will take you anywhere you want to go, no charge.”

“I do not know where to go… I mean I know where I want to go, but there one continent and an ocean to cross to get there. You see, I have valuable information for the Americans, but cannot seem to talk to the right people.”

“Tough pickle, very tough pickle, Saied.” Mehmet stops to decide whether any of his connections could possibly assist this pathetic man and his mysterious dilemma. “What do you have to trade, maybe I can find a way……stolen jewels, smuggled drugs, American dollars?”

“I only have this,” Aldona reaches for his left ankle.“

“That is a nice shoe, but the people who might help will require more.”abdullah-ashtaar-001

He hands his 3×5 “key to Istanbul” over to him.

“OOOooooo, Abdullah! This is better than money, a favor cashed in.”

“But what does this get me?”

“Who do you want to talk to and where?”

He gives over a meaningless name in a place in the United States.

“Oh really, you will need more than a telephone for this. Get into my taxi you Afridis, I think I know a way to talk to Galveston Texas. Hang on now.”

During their excursion through Istanbul’s maze-laden streets, Mehmet Ali explains where they are going. It turns out that he knows the operator of Turkey’s state owned radio station, his brother-in-law actually and if anyone could make this long distance connection, he could.

Three mosques, two idled street markets, and 20 minutes later, Mehmet and his passengers motor up to a dj-001building, topped off not with a dome but several antennae of different configurations. It is still early, 2:30 in the morning early, but this is a station that does not sleep.

103.00 METEOR RADYO FM utilizes the tallest spire on a deserted building with a sole lonesome announcer (Abad the Mad Morning Turk) at the microphone. There is a citywide buzz about the fracas at Sultan Ahmet Mosque; dead bodies always generate high audience participation.


THE RETURN TRIP

103-radyo-fm-001

Episode 43


page 41

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 19

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 19

…May the name of Aldona Afridi hereby be erased from Talibanistan records, as if he never existed!…

meanwhile-caption-001

“He must be dead, Sheikh Nutkani. No one can survive in water that cold… what a fool!” Nae Tan-Dan assumed he would play by the rules, finding it hard to believe that Aldona Afridi would act so rashly.

Shaikh Nutkani

“If he is dead, we must act on our plan sooner than we wanted. If he isn’t dead, he will wish he were.” The former Taliban tribesman is outraged, appalled that this scientist would betray his duty. He is not however, without his wits. “You must find another source for the laser access codes. Surely there is a failsafe protocol built into the system.

May the name of Aldona Afridi hereby be erased from Talibanistan records, as if he never existed!

“The United Korea will honor its end of the bargain, Sheikh. Nae Tan-Dan has the loyalty of all his people.” Third person references denote self-importance.

The reprehensible twosome reassembles their entourage of cars and men, speeding off into the Near East dawn, each to his own clandestine objective.horizontal-line5

Fading automobile noises signal a reprieve for the severely exposed Aldona Afridi. He has spent the last hour clinging to the drive shaft of his ferry refuge, giving e tenuous lease on life. Bleeding from a flesh wound to his upper arm, due solely by regaining dry land, he needs to come with a more well thought out plan. There are signs that he has not been completely forgotten, the fresh siren sounds of activity, likely not from concerned ambulance medics, not mention the helicopters.

Where will he go, is the question of the moment? This nondescript and aptly unnamed tribal village has some 500,000 clansmen/women and not one would open their drafty homes to help a stranger, let alone a hunted one. The logical thing to do is to change his identity, but that is currently a longshot option.escape2-001

He decides that his best chance is on the other side of the river, bridges being few and far in-between, then take his chances from there. He needs to convince himself that lowering his body temperature once again is a good idea.

But that he does with a polar bear’s approach, so he tackles the fifty meter swim to provisional independence; independence not freedom, with freedom attained only with asylum status for him and his family at a rare Western Embassy.


THE RETURN TRIP

No Safe Haven by Larry Selman

No Safe Haven by Larry Selman

Episode 19


page 18

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 14

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 14

…A suddenly apprehensive Afridi gazes at the slow-moving water before him, the crescent moon reflecting back the ripples. He could not be party to stifling mankind’s advancement past it…

“To keep our solar system free of those who want to conquer it, we need the firing codes for the Sang-Ashi Probe,” The Sheikh is impatient.

“Sang-Ashi will protect itself, if the occasion warrants. I built in superior internal defenses,” Afridi is confused.

“We need to have manual control over it…..and we need it now!” The Sheikh’s arms are shaking angrily.

World Space Consortium

World Space Consortium

“You want access to the manual dump mode for the laser control!?” Trepidation replaces restlessness for Afridi. If all this is about sabotaging the World Space Consortium, of which Talibanistan and the United Korea Peninsula are not a part, he wants no part of any such strategy. To him personally, Space Colony 1 is to be exalted, not grudged with bad intent. The Sheikh and Nae Tan-Dan must be forgetting that the person they are asking to betray the World had expressly expressed interest in participating in the project they wish to destroy. “I have to get some air, to help me remember the code.”

“If you must Afridi, but you must be quick about it. Tan-Dan must leave for his country as soon as possible.”

Afridi is stalling, “I have too many passcodes in my brain, please excuse me.”

It is way past late at night, technically morning on this side of the planet and the men in the car are becoming annoyed with the delay. They go on conspiring with their mischievous machinations when Afridi toddles off to wrestle with his wits, albeit to contemplate a rueful ruse.

A suddenly apprehensive Afridi gazes at the slow-moving water before him, the crescent moon reflecting back the ripples… He knew the codes by heart… But his thoughts are dominated by his dearest Fatima and his two little girls… He could not be party to stifling mankind’s advancement past the Moon…

Adrenaline begins to spike into his bloodstream. For the first time in 15 years, rebellion not submission, takes hold of his spirit. He is 15 meters from the chilly stream when he decides to sprint toward the water, the soles of his shoes digging furiously into the loose gravel, spitting out pebbles with every determined stride. But for all his physical fitness he dreads the temperature of the chilly water ahead.

He thinks about stopping short, giving one last glance over his shoulder, only to see that his sudden bolt had not gone unnoticed. Fortunately for him, there are no high-powered military weapons in the hands of his pursuers; who would think that a mild-mannered scientist would “go over the wall”, with Talibanistan’s most powerful Sheikh a stone’s throw away.

That element of surprise would be his only ally this evening. Once he dives into the river,Image result for bullets and water swimming as fast as his clothed body would allow, gunfire from the lone small caliber handgun poke holes in the liquid swirling around him. The gun owner is a pretty fair marksman, prompting Afridi to assess his best option, which happens to be a ferryboat which is docked on the far bank of the river.

Things are not looking so good at the moment, yet it would get worse when one bullet grazed his left arm. Temporarily stunned, he snatches safety from the jaws of peril. He rolls over to play dead, realistically sinking slowly under the red water and the belly of the powered passenger boat… which he remembers as having a hollowed-out section to the aft that houses the propeller.

AIR!


  THE RETURN TRIP

mastermind-001

Episode 14


page 13 (end ch. 1)

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 13

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 13

…Excuse me Comrade Aldona; this is Comrade Nae Tan-Dan, our main liaison to the great nation of Korea and the constructor of our glorious plan…

mastermind-001

Aldona Afridi is becoming more restless by the second. Everything about this strange encounter has trouble written all over it.

Oddly, no one in the limo makes a move; the newcomers cover ground in a hurry to join an already crowded limo.mastermind-001

“It is good to see you again Sheikh Khan-Nutkani,” states the smallest of the group, speaking with an accent not indigenous to the region.

“Glory to Allah, Comrade Dan, I am hoping your news is as good as Comrade Afridi’s”

“It is even better; phase one of the operation has been carried out. Fredrick Cabell has been neutralized.” The dwarfish man sticks his chest out as if he were waiting for a medal to be pinned on it.

“Excellent, excellent; time is growing short Dan.”

Afridi suddenly has the feeling that there is a plan that he is not in on. And what is with all this “comrade” stuff all of a sudden.

Comrades

“Oh excuse me Comrade Aldona; this is Comrade Nae Tan-Dan, our main liaison to the great nation of Korea and the constructor of our glorious plan.” Nutkani’s introduction is lavished with admiration.

“I was not aware we were working on the same project?” Afridi has a shrinking perception of just what the goals of the Sang-Ashi Probe are exactly.

“Let us say that you have your talents and I have mine.”

“Comrades, let me say that both of your talents will be needed to defeat the greatest threat to our stature in the world since the unlawful attacks on our founding state. That is why you are here; to help each of our nations stare down imperialism!” Khan-Nutkani refers to the endless Afghan War and inspired by the chance to settle the score. “Afridi, you hold the key; Comrade Tan Dan needs to open the door, and between us, we must slam the door on Universe Expansionism!”

Nae Tan-Dan seems to have a {short} leg up on Afridi and is poised to carry out a plan. Aldona Afridi is still mostly in the dark, but a sliver of light is seeping through some seedy cracks.Sang-Ashi Probe

“To keep our solar system free of those who want to conquer it, we need the firing codes for the Sang-Ashi Probe.”

“Sang-Ashi will protect itself, if the occasion warrants. I built in superior internal defenses.”

“We need to have manual control over it…..and we need it now!” The Sheikh’s arms are shaking angrily.


THE RETURN TRIP

Image result for expansionism

Expansionism by Robert Bertino

Episode 13


page 12

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 11

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 11

…Why yes, Shaikh Kamran Khan-Nutkani! Our Korean friends assure me that the invisibility cloak worked like a three-armed lucky Buddha

talibanistan-001

Meanwhile… that very same day, somewhere in Talibanistan, the geographical territory once occupied by: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and all the other “-stans

Sang-Ashi

“Tell us Afridi, are we sure that our Sang-Ashi Probe got through America’s Henchman Satellite Killer Network. Our source at their Pentagon tells us that that it was on high alert 7 months ago.”

Image result for mitAldona Afridi, MIT educated, has a particular set of talents where long-range satellites are concerned.

Why yes, Sheikh Kamran Khan-Nutkani! Our United Korean friends assure me that the invisibility cloak worked like a three-armed lucky Buddha.”

The Sheikh is as intimidating as he looks; lavishly robed, weathered by years of mountain life and

a radical Muslim to his very core. He has a calculating glint in his eye.

The Talibanistani’s foremost expert in laser technology squirms uneasily in a normally comfortable seat, but then again an armored limousine rarely is used to hold a sensitive meeting of such world-changing magnitude. Neither is Afridi at home with himself, having invested his design talents to construct an infamous weapon. He is also collaborating with the famously treacherous Koreans, which does nothing to soothe his restless conscience.

“Our alliance with Korea is essential to the success of our goal,” the Sheikh reminds the man, an arm’s length away.

“Our satellite is safe and ready to take out the spy satellite that has been making our alliance so miserable.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Hotbed for Mischief

Episode 11


page 11

Britbox Beatbox Bumbles – WIF Eye On Britannia

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Bloody Curious

Facts About the

Expansive

British Empire

The British Empire was by far the biggest empire in human history, which doesn’t sound as impressive if we just leave it at that. Consider this; at its height, the tiny island famous for being damp and cold controlled around 24% of Earth’s total area, ruling over 23% of the world population. It was a hugely influential entity, too. Many of our modern technologies first originated there, and its effects can still be seen in many nooks of modern life.

For all of its merits, though, the British Empire was also one of the most controversial empires to have ever existed. While many other European nations had their own territorial empires around the world, the excesses of colonialism are inherently associated with the Brits. For good reason, too, as it was the biggest one of them all, and perfected many of the techniques later used by other colonial powers to keep their numerically-superior colonial subjects in control. Some of them have been extensively discussed in modern discourse – like its prominent role in the establishment of the slave trade – though many of them have been left out of history books.

Because of its size and global influence at its peak, there are still many surprising – and shocking – facts from across the once-mighty British Empire most of us don’t know about.

7. The First Evil Corporation

The British Empire existed as a monarchy throughout its existence, though the true credit for its rapid rise around the world could be squarely given to the East India Company. Think of it as a private firm with its own standing army and patronage from the monarch, as the EIC was instrumental in wrestling control of Britain’s colonies in South and Southeast Asia all on its own.

What most of us forget, though, is that the EIC also pioneered the blueprint for all ‘evil corporations’ to come after it. Its whole business model was set up around efficiently securing the natural resources from its colonies, with support from the central British state in exchange for a bulk of those resources and military backing. It was also the recipient of the world’s first corporate bailout in 1773, when the EIC ran into massive debt and caused banks across Europe to crash. It could be compared to the Wall Street Bailout of 2008, except the EIC was way bigger and more intertwined with global trade at that time than any of those banks ever would be.

6. 1857 Sepoy Revolt

There’s no doubt that the EIC was one of the most successful corporations in history, with control over some of the most resource-rich and populous parts of the world at its peak. What started out as a loose group of merchants just trying to set up trading outposts in the East turned into a state of its own, with little to no oversight from the British government in its early days. If you’re wondering why we don’t hear about it as much as other successful business ventures in history, it’s because of the 1857 revolt in British-controlled India.

While the EIC had a standing army of its own, it wasn’t enough to control a territory as diverse and politically-complicated as India. That’s where the sepoys came in. An anglicized word for sipahi – which translates to soldier – they were soldiers picked from local populations to help the EIC army maintain control of the territory. That plan worked quite well for a while, too, until they decided to coat the rifle cartridges with pig and cow meat.

While the reasons behind the rebellion were diverse and numerous (much like all rebellions), the cartridges turned out to be the final straw. You see, the cartridges had to be picked with the teeth before being reloaded into the rifles, which was offensive to Hindu and Muslim sepoys. It gave way to one of the most brutal rebellions in the history of the British Empire, as the rebels came shockingly close to wrestling control of the whole territory. It caused quite a bit of outrage in Britain, too, as stories of rebels murdering British civilians living in India made its way there.

The rebellion was eventually suppressed, though it fundamentally changed how Britain dealt with its colonies. It marked the end of the East India Company, and put the British Indian territory directly under the monarch. It would stay that way until India’s independence in 1947.

5. Influence On Nazi Ideology

When we talk about the Nazis in the modern context, there’s always an air of shock to it. How could an ideology so opposed to human rights and just generally being nice to others gain a foothold in one of the world’s largest democracies of the time? Many reasons are cited, including the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression. While they may have contributed to it to an extent, what we often forget is that Nazi ideology never had to come out of the woodwork in the first place. The most problematic parts of it were already out in the open and widely-practiced, especially in the British Empire.

Hitler was massively influenced by British subjugation and control of its overseas territories – especially India – as he wanted to replicate it for Germany. He even referred to Eastern Europe as ‘Germany’s India’, though as we all know, that didn’t exactly go according to plan. The British Empire also kind of had a racism problem, as is proven by Churchill’s (and other British politicians’ of the time) frequent remarks on the colonies.

Moreover, many parts of the Nazi ideology were already popular across sections of governments in Europe, largely due to other countries wanting to replicate Britain’s success in their own colonies. A huge part of that was written out of Western history after the Second World War, though Hitler’s admiration for the British Empire remains well-documented. Despite that, the British Empire’s influence over the Nazis and fascists in Europe is almost never discussed.

4. The Bengal Famine

We’re no strangers to the disastrous policies of the British Empire, so much so that apologizing for them is a sort of an in-joke among the Brits at this point. From its infamous ‘divide and rule’ doctrine to the botched partitions of various countries in the wake of its departure from them, we’d say that we could fill a book with it, if there weren’t already many books like that. The fallout of those policies is still clearly visible in almost all of its economically-disadvantaged former colonies, in the form of inflamed racial and ethnic tensions as well as their economic backwardness after decolonization.

The Bengal Famine of 1943, however, is rarely ever mentioned as a part of that fallout, despite being one of the most devastating and controversial events in British Empire’s history. The mere fact that it’s known as a famine instead of a disaster caused by artificial scarcity of resources should tell you something about why it’s so rarely talked about. By some estimates, around 3 million of Bengal’s population died as a direct result of it, and many more were left malnourished for years to come, as it took quite some time for the state of Bengal – and India in general – to recover from it.

While the official position of Britain has always been that it was caused by a natural drought, recent studies have found that it wasn’t that natural after all. It was actually caused by the redirection of the food resources to Britain’s war effort and halted rice imports due to the Japanese invasion of Burma, as well as not declaring it a famine-hit region at the right time (or at any time since then). One study done on soil moisture data from that time concluded that Bengal was under no threat of a drought, and that the factors leading to the famine were purely manmade. To this day, the Bengal famine remains one of the most severe and deadly famines in history.

3. Still The Empire On Which The Sun Never Sets

As we said above, the phrase ‘the biggest empire ever’ doesn’t mean much on its own, as we have no intuitive way of quantifying how big that actually is, especially considering that history is full of massive empires – like the Roman and Mongolian empires. Consider this; at its peak, the British Empire was so huge that it was daytime in at least some of its territory, earning it its unofficial nickname ‘the empire on which the sun never sets’. That’s not to say that it was the only empire like that – as other big empires of the time, like Spain, could also qualify for that description at some point in their history – though Britain held that reputation for far longer than any of them.

While Britain is far from its glory days now, surprisingly, the sun still doesn’t set on it, as it still has many of its former colonies under its control. Apart from the British mainland, there are 14 British territories around the world, and we’re assuming all of them are okay with the arrangement as they’ve not yet asked for independence. Some of those territories are British outposts in uninhabited, remote areas – like its Antarctic base – though they still count as British territory for all intents and purposes.

2. Its Contribution To The Current Conflict In The Middle East

No matter which side of the story you listen to, you’d agree that the Middle East is in kind of a mess right now. With multiple factions – many of them extremist, armed groups – vying for control of vast tracts of countries like Syria and Iraq, there seems to be no end to the conflict. Well, not unless everyone mutually decides to call it quits and go back home. It’s made worse by underlying ethnic tensions between the various groups; tensions that have been unresolved and simmering under the surface for quite some time now. “Surely,” you’d probably wonder, “all of this couldn’t have happened overnight.” And you’d be right, because it didn’t.

In case you missed the title of the article, Britain had a huge role to play in what would inevitably, sooner or later, turn the Middle East into what it is today. It all started with the end of the First World War, when the Ottoman Empire’s territories were divided by Britain, with considerable help from France. Known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, the arrangement divided up the whole region according to spheres of influence and territorial ownership of the victors, with little to no regard for the actual ethnic demographics of the place.

To their credit, they didn’t know that they’d have to give up these territories at some point, as colonialism was still going strong around that time. Many terrorist groups in the Middle East still have the removal of the Sykes-Picot agreement as one of their primary aims, something we don’t even consider when we talk about the current state of the region.

1. The Disastrous Afghanistan Invasion

Afghanistan, for some weird reason, has been the focal point of many global conflicts in its history, right from the Soviet invasion in the ’80s to America’s ‘War on Terror’. Like Russia, many countries have discovered the hard way that Afghanistan isn’t the best place to invade, as it’s still a country largely ruled by independent warlords, with little oversight from the central government. The harsh and vast terrain doesn’t help the chances of invading armies, either.

What may be common knowledge now, though, wasn’t back in the middle of the 19th century, when the British Empire decided to make the same mistake as its later counterparts. Its invasion of Afghanistan in 1938 and eventual retreat in 1942 remains one of the empire’s biggest military defeats, despite its technological strength on the battleground.

It all began when the British army – made up of British and Indian soldiers – toppled the Afghan ruler, Dost Mohammed, and installed Shah Shujah Durrani in his place. While their original plan was to take the country and withdraw all of their forces, two of their brigades had to stay back to keep the peace, including their civilian family members. They eventually grew comfortable with their hold on the country, and decided to kick back and relax a bit in Kabul.

It was all going well till the local population started to revolt, as any occupied population would tend to. Because of the rapidly worsening situation, the British decided to take all of their troops (around 4,500 soldiers and 12,000 civilians) and withdraw back into India in 1842, with a promise of safe passage from the local army general. As you probably guessed, the Afghans did not honor that promise, and the British army was harassed and slowly decimated throughout their long journey back across the treacherous terrain. All in all, the entire British army was killed, except one British and a handful of Indian soldiers.


Britbox Beatbox Bumbles

WIF Eye On Britannia

Bipartisanship , It Does Exist – WIF Politics

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Bipartisan Votes –

The US Government

Isn’t So Divided

For the past few years the media has wanted to portray the American government as divided into Democrats and Republicans, a supposedly black and white dichotomy. The two parties supposedly can never be expected to cooperate, even though many will insist that the parties are functionally the same. This has predated the election of President Donald J. Trump, but his election has certainly supercharged how the conflict is framed.

Don’t you believe it. Many momentous bills have overwhelmingly passed the two chambers of Congress and have been signed by the president while barely attracting a blip of attention. Partisans on both sides of the party lines want to portray the situation with more conflict than there really is even while the majority of both parties cooperate away from the public eye.

10. Patient Right to Know Act

For years, pharmaceutical companies kept doctors and pharmacies from telling patients about more affordable medications through gag orders. The bill to stop these gag orders passed through the Senate with 98-2 votes on September 17, 2018. It was signed by President Trump on October 11.

As anyone with much experience dealing with contemporary healthcare costs knows, these are not trifling expenses. It’s estimated that doctors offering more affordable alternatives will save the public more than $135 million annually. Everyone is entitled to their opinions regarding how much regulation is necessary or productive, but this is a strong indication that there are bipartisan ways to deal with runaway healthcare expenses if we take the time to look for them.

9. VA Choice and Quality Employment Act

The Veterans Affairs office is one of the most heavily criticized services in the US government. With more than $180 billion in the annual budget, it’s one of the larger annual expenses. Yet few will argue that it’s not worth it, considering the sacrifices made by its ostensible beneficiaries. So it was that in 2017, an emergency allotment of six billion in funds was voted into law. The focus of the funding was to provide government-funded medical services to veterans.

A big part of the reason the effort didn’t become a larger news story was that it was signed on August 12, which meant that it was completely overshadowed in the public consciousness by the murder of Heather Hayer during the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Few bills would be able to compete with that in the news cycle.

8. Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act

The National Council on Aging reports that an estimated one in 10 people over the age of 60 has been a victim of elder abuse, and every year another five million suffer from it while roughly only one in every 14 actionable cases is reported. On October 18, 2017, this law was signed with the intention of greatly expanding the enforcement of laws that protect elders. The law required every state to designate an Elder Justice Coordinator that would serve the Bureau of Consumer Protection. It also requires the Department of Justice to make information regarding the investigations public.

Additionally, in what seems directly inspired by a plot in the critically-acclaimed AMC program Better Call Saul, there are increases for penalties regarding interstate fraud. Furthermore, interstate adult protective groups are allowed to operate. In total, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that enforcing this law will cost $21 million, which — if it has a significant impact on rates of elder abuse — seems like a real bargain.

7. Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act

As said earlier, the Department of Veterans Affairs is a very controversial organization. One of the controversies associated with it is that many veterans who should receive coverage or compensation are denied their services erroneously due to incompetent or corrupt decisions by staff members. On June 13, 2017, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass this law, which would increase fines and pension deductions for problem employees, and also stop them from receiving pay during the appeals process.

The inclusion of additional protections for whistleblowers was in large part inspired by the Wait List Scandal of 2014. It came to light that many veterans weren’t receiving medication and other benefits for as many as four months at a time, but that the delays weren’t being recorded or reported. Still, considering that there were a reported 49,000 vacancies in the Veterans Affairs offices at the time the bill was signed, a reluctance to fire employees for any reason is fairly understandable.

6. Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act

Between the heated controversy over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline over Sioux land and what the famous American/Mexican border wall would mean in terms of dividing tribes such as the Tohono O’odham, Native American rights have been more prominent in the news in recent years. But there has been fairly recent good news for those tribes as well. On January 8, 2018, this bill was signed into law, even if it took most of the summer and all of Autumn of 2017 for it to make its way through Congress.

The law allocated 32,000 acres of federal land to three tribes in Oregon. Those were the Umpqua, Coos, and the Siuslaw. The US government does not have the best record when it comes to honoring land grants to tribes, but local leaders expressed that they were pleased with the arrangement.

5. Jobs for Our Heroes Act

As reported by Military Times in July 2018, more than 50% of US veterans have difficulty finding work after the end of their enlistments. There’s apparently not much that the US government feels they can do to change the minds of most employers, but there is one career field where it seems the government feels it can significantly expand employment opportunities for veterans. This bill, which was signed into law on January 8, 2018, has been intended to find veterans work as commercial drivers.

There are two primary ways the bill works to expedite this process. For one, it makes training with heavy machinery during enlistment valid as meeting the requirements for operating heavy civilian vehicles. It also makes health certification provided by VA medical professionals valid for health checks related to civilian driving jobs. Such is the sort of legal red tape that leaves it no wonder that some veterans have trouble finding employment in civilian life.

4. Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act

For those unfamiliar with the term, an excise tax is a tax on a specific good or service. In the case of this law, which was signed on May 10, 2019, it would allow taxes collected on the sales of firearms to be used to buy the land for, and to maintain, shooting ranges, covering up to 90% of the expenses. As one of the bills sponsors, Rob Bishop from Utah, put it, gun ranges are becoming more necessary for proper gun safety training, “As this nation becomes more urbanized.”

Sounds like a bill that would have needed to be concocted by a Republican, right? Actually, no — one of the original sponsors of this bill was Representative Ron Kind. He’s a Democrat from Wisconsin’s Third District. Party lines are much less clearly delineated than it often seems.

3. Medicaid Services Investment and Accountability Act

For those who don’t know, Medicaid is a program where government on the state or federal level provides assistance to low income families in paying their medical bills. Recently, there seems considerable bipartisan interest in expanding it. For example, in the 2018 Midterm election three of the four states with ballot initiatives to increase funding for it passed it, even though the states in question (Idaho, Nebraska, Utah) generally vote conservative and thus would not usually support increasing funding for social programs.

So it was that on April 18, 2019 this bill to bolster Medicaid services was signed. The law increased penalties for companies that mis-classify their medications to receive more government reimbursement, specifically whether the drugs are “innovator” or “non-innovator.” It also provided more protections against medical bankruptcy for spouses, and parents with children who are suffering from conditions that require intensive treatment.

2. Water Infrastructure Improvement Act

Between calamities such as massive flooding in the Midwest in the spring of 2019 and ongoing lead-tainted water in communities nationwide such as Flint, Michigan, dealing with water has recently become a growing problem for the United States. Against this background, despite its un-glamorous nature, six cosponsors evenly divided between the parties attached themselves to this bill in December 2018. It was signed into law on January 14, 2019, a brisk process for any piece of legislation.

This act delegates to local municipalities plans for how to deal with storm water and wastewater. It establishes offices for an ombudsman to expedite the process for municipalities to meet full Environmental Protection Agency standards. There is also, under Section 5, an emphasis on the EPA being required to promote the implementation of natural (i.e. “green”) infrastructure process.

1. Natural Resources Management Act

Sometimes when an act is signed into law, it’s not so much a single bill as a bundle of them. When this act was signed into law on March 12, 2019, it was roughly 120 bills that ranged in focus from public land conservation to water management. Considering recent rumblings in the media that there would be drilling and mining in national park areas, it makes sense that the government would be inclined to demonstrate a commitment to environmental protection.

The most striking single aspect of the act was the setting aside of 1.3 million acres of land for federal protection, including from damage by dam construction. Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley alone had an extra 40,000 acres added, which in the former case makes a lot of sense considering the damage that national park suffered during the 2019 government shutdown. Hopefully we can look forward to more bipartisan environmental initiatives in the near future.


Bipartisanship , It Does Exist

WIF Politics

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode # 177

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #177

…Gadsden County Sheriff, Cyril Odz, a Polish immigrant whose surname has been shortened from Odezicinski, walks up to 12 men carrying a railroad tie to ram Herbert Love’s front door…

Here-Comes-the-Sheriff

Here Comes the Sheriff by Shirley James

James Ferrell has the good sense to roust the Gadsden County Sheriff out of bed for support. He will precede James arrival, some 60 minutes hence, hoping to keep the situation from accelerating into inter-county war; with the knowledge that no matter who occupies the office of sheriff in Calhoun County, it is what Hank Blount says that goes. What is on the mind of Liberty County, God only knows. Perhaps Bristol’s close proximity to the Kingdom of Blount intimidates them.

  Gadsden Sheriff, Cyril Odz, a Polish immigrant whose surname has been shortened from Odezicinski, walks up to 12 men carrying, of all things, a railroad tie, prepared to ram Love’s front door in the quest for their man.

“Put that down, gentlemen, this is my territory.”

“We think there is a fugitive hiding in this house,” the one of the human mob who is tethering the animal hoard claims.

Cyril saunters up to the threshold saying, “Let me in, Herb.” He gives the 12 angry men a sideward glance, smacking of one-upmanship, as he enters.

12 Angry MenAfter a five minute cursory “search”, he tells those outside that there is no fugitive inside. He really isn’t lying, having heard Clete tell him that they just let him go back in Blountstown.

“What about that stolen truck down the road?” quizzes the Liberty lawman. “It was involved in a fatal accident three days ago.”

Calhoun County Florida2    “Mr. Love is pleased to get it back.” Cyril Odz is infuriating them.

James Ferrell will thwart them. “Do you have a man named Willy Campbell in custody?”

“No, he is in the Calhoun County Jail.”

“Where did the alleged accident take place?” James asks pointedly.

“Outside Rock Bluff,” Hansen replies.

“Accident in Liberty County charged and incarcerated in Blountstown, hummm. Wouldn’t have anything to do with the victim, would it? I suggest you tell Mr. Blount to transfer the accused to Bristol. And we look like to speak to the deceased’s girl friend. She is a witness to the accident.”

“You can expect us to be right behind you.” Herb Love nods his approval Ferrell’s way, confident that he will see justice done.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Gadsden County Sheriff-001

Episode #177


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #176

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #176

…what may have happened to his most valued employee, his new truck and the man now pounding on his front door…

The Seminoles by James F. Hutchinson

The sound of barking blue-tick hounds spurs well-meaning fugitive Clete Wilsup on. They have trailed him all the way from the central time zone, though not entirely onEscape2-001 foot, showing no signs of giving up, regardless of jurisdiction.

Seminole Ridge is an interesting topographical feature. The ridge is a part of a 30 mile formation extending well into Georgia and is reminiscent of escarpments carved into the earth by the glaciers. Florida and glaciers are far from synonymous, but so are freedom and Blountstown.

Clete is not a spiritual man, yet he feels like he being led to the Love homestead by some unseen force, The ancient sounds of Seminole Indian drums getting louder the closer he gets. At the peak of the crescendo, the two warrior ponies greet him; he will sprint the final mile up the drive, sapping what is left of his dwindling strength.

   “Herb, do you hear a knock?” wonders Phoebe Love, making sure it is not part of a lifelike dream. Before he can answer, they hear it for sure, with an accompanying, “Mr. Love, let me in! The police is after me!”

“That sounds like, Clete. Where are my pants?” A thousand scenarios have been playing in his brain, in an impossible attempt to guess what may have happened to his most valued employee, his new truck and the man now pounding on his front door.

A chorus of whooping barks spill in with Clete. The door is latched and questions follow.

“Willy’s in the Blountstown jail. A fancy car drove into us, while I was driving, killed a Blount and they be blaming Willy. They wouldn’t listen to me, I tried tellin’ them, but this guy Blount owns the town and the law.”

Love does not hesitate in picking up the receiver on his telephone.

Leah-001“Who is the party you wish to call?” begs the graveyard shift operator.

“James Ferrell in Tallahassee.”

After a dozen or so rings, lawyer Ferrell picks up his end, completing the circuit. “I…uh…. can I call you in the morning?”

“Meet me at the homestead.”

“Herbert, is that you?”

“It is and we have a serious situation to deal with. I made a huge mistake and we have to correct it. Willy is in jail and his apprentice his being chased by dogs.”

Company Town-001 “In Quincy?”

“No, Willy is in Blountstown. Cletus is here.” Herb is beside himself. “I cannot believe I thought we could do business with that man. It sounded like he had changed.”

“Oh my. I’ll be right over.” In the short time he has been e back home, James is very aware of Blountstown justice. And the day he turns down a client who literally supports his entire practice (on permanent retainer by the Pearson-Eastman Journal) is the day he commits professional suicide.

“That was Herb, Abbey. Where are my pants?”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Pants-001

Episode #176


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World Leaders Meet – Presidential Retreat

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Camp David’s

Unique Role in

American History

It was American involvement in the Second World War which led to the selection of the site known to the world as Camp David as a presidential retreat. President Hoover had established a rustic camp in Virginia during his administration, purchasing it with his own money and donating it to the government, but the camp was too rustic for FDR. Accommodating his wheelchair was impossible. FDR preferred to relax on the presidential yacht during his first two terms, but when German U-boats cozied-up to the American coastline the Navy was horrified of the threat to the president they presented. Another site near Washington for the president to relax away from the White House was needed.

The site, selected by Roosevelt personally after considering several options, was one of a series of camps in the Catoctin Ridge, the northernmost extension of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Called Hi-Catoctin by the Works Progress Administration that built it, FDR renamed the camp Shangri La. It was initially staffed by officers and crew of the USS Potomac, the presidential yacht, and has been operated by the Navy ever since as Naval Support Facility Thurmont, from the name of the Maryland town near the base of the mountain upon which it sits. Since then it has been updated, modified, and changed to reflect the personalities and needs of the president’s who have resorted to it, and has appeared on the world stage as the site where major decisions affecting world history have been made. Here are just a few of the roles it has assumed in its over 75-year history.

8. Winston Churchill loved the place for the seclusion it afforded

During World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made several trips to the United States – the first only weeks after Pearl Harbor – and stayed as a guest at FDR’s White House. In May 1943 the war had progressed to the point that another conference between FDR, Churchill, and their delegations was conducted in Washington. During the meetings at the Washington Conference – code named Trident – FDR invited Churchill to spend a weekend at Shangri La. By accepting, Churchill became the first foreign leader to visit the presidential retreat, where the two leaders went fishing, worked on FDR’s stamp collection, and continued their discussions of the situation in Europe, including plans for the invasions of Sicily, Italy, and across the English Channel. An aide commented they were protected from mosquitoes by cigar and cigarette smoke.

Between planning for the liberation of Europe, and discussing the situation in the Pacific, FDR and Churchill relaxed over the brief visit. A longstanding story in the nearby town of Thurmont is that Churchill visited a local establishment and became intrigued with what Americans call a jukebox, feeding it coins on at least one occasion. Whether true or not (some dispute it, though it would not have been out of character) his visit to Shangri La in the spring of 1943 marked the first time the presidential retreat was the site of discussions between world leaders which led to decisions that altered world history. It was during the Trident Conference the decision to invade France in the spring of 1944 was made.

7. Harry Truman hated it because his wife did

Harry Truman was not fond of Camp David. The views from the mountaintop were not pleasing to the Missouri farmer in him, but the real reason he infrequently used the camp was that his wife, Bess, did not like it. She found it boring and dull. It was Truman, however, who designated the site as an official presidential retreat, on land owned by the National Park Service. He also had the camp winterized by installing steam heat in the cabins, and enlarged its grounds. US Navy Construction Battalions – Seabees – did the bulk of the work. Yet he visited only 10 times during his presidency. He preferred the Little White House at Key West.

Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the camp, it was Truman who made it available for the president’s use year-round, and the improvements led to it playing a much larger role in subsequent presidencies. When he did visit, he used the paths throughout the camp and on the mountains to indulge himself in his favorite form of exercise. He took long walks, enjoying the seclusion. Truman, who supposedly once recommended people get a dog if they wanted a friend, had a dog named Feller which he received as a gift and had kept at the camp. He seldom, if ever, asked to see it during his visits, and when he left the presidency to return to Independence, Missouri, the dog remained behind.

6. Eisenhower gave it the name of Camp David

Initially Eisenhower was not enamored of the expense of maintaining a presidential retreat for infrequent use, especially one so near his Gettysburg farm, only about thirty miles away. He planned to get rid of Shangri La, as well as other presidential “luxuries.” His Attorney General, Herbert Brownell, persuaded him otherwise. It wasn’t long before Eisenhower was using the facility frequently, for both business and relaxation. He expanded the camp, held cabinet meetings and conferences there, and installed a three-hole golf course. He renamed it Camp David (in honor of both his father and grandson), stating that the name bestowed by FDR was a bit “fancy.” Numerous world leaders were brought there as the Cold War grew chillier, including France’s Charles de Gaulle, and Britain’s Harold MacMillan.

He also decided to invite the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Kruschev, to visit the facility in 1959. The word camp carried different connotations in the Soviet Union, and Kruschev was at first reluctant. During his visit, which was the first of any Russian leader to the Western Hemisphere, Kruschev toured the country for nearly two weeks, the last two days being spent in private meetings with Eisenhower at Camp David. In Eisenhower’s view the meeting accomplished little in concrete terms, but the press coined the phrase “the spirit of Camp David” as a result of the outwardly friendly nature of the relationship between the Soviet and American leaders. Eisenhower disliked the phrase.

5. Jackie Kennedy loved it because she could ride horses without photographers stalking her

Eisenhower found himself returning to Camp David early in the administration of his successor, John F. Kennedy. Ike made the brief trip down from his farm to meet with JFK in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs invasion. By the time of JFK’s abbreviated presidency many of the facilities were somewhat run down, and the rustic nature of the site did not seem to mesh with the glamorous nature of the Kennedy’s, especially Jackie. But she quickly came to love the facility. Unlike in Washington, or at some of the various Kennedy compounds, she could do as she wished on the grounds without the constant presence of photographers hounding her.

Jackie rode about the estate with other members of the extended Kennedy family, including the president, and the First Couple enjoyed using the skeet range during their visits. Kennedy also allowed family members and officials serving in his administration to use the facility when he was not staying there. President Kennedy once personally went by car, accompanied by a Secret Service agent, to retrieve a wayward guest who had gotten lost on a hike – Supreme Court Justice William Douglas. Kennedy also enjoyed the opportunity to drive his own golf cart, a mode of transportation offered to all at the camp. The president’s cart is referred to as Golf Cart One.

4. Nixon decided to resign after considering his situation there

It was Richard Nixon who had installed the seemingly above ground swimming pool outside the presidential cabin, Aspen. The pool was built above the underground shelter and command post at Camp David, and thus was erected above ground, with landscaping completed to make it appear to be in-ground. As president, Nixon visited Camp David frequently, sometimes on extended stays, and conducted business while relaxing at the facility. He found the setting more conducive to his work than the Oval Office. In 1973 he hosted Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev at the camp, giving him a welcoming gift of a 1973 Lincoln Continental.

According to Nixon’s memoirs, the Soviet was thrilled with the car, and the two leaders took off with Brezhnev driving at high speed on the narrow roads, narrowly avoiding an accident. While at Camp David the two leaders made progress on the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) and agreed that “an objective of their policies is to remove the danger of nuclear war.” But in the back of Nixon’s mind was undoubtedly the unraveling scandal of Watergate. He used the site as the scene for firing John Erlichman and H.R. Haldeman in hopes of containing the scandal. In August 1974, Nixon informed his family that he was resigning the presidency after pondering his fate over a weekend at Camp David.

3. Carter kept Israeli and Egyptian leaders secluded there until they reached a peace agreement

On September 5, 1978, Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel, and Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, joined American President Jimmy Carter at Camp David for peace talks which led to the Camp David Accords. Begin and Sadat did not like one another, and often refused to speak to each other. Carter and his aides had to conduct a shuttle diplomacy between Camp David’s cabins, with Carter prodding the incalcitrant leaders closer to a mutually acceptable position. The talks ground on for nearly two weeks. There were several instances of Begin and Sadat calling off the talks, only to be enticed to continue by Carter.

Carter refused to allow statements to be issued by the delegations from either side, with all information to the press given by his own spokesman, Jody Powell. Neither the Egyptians nor the Israelis were comfortable at the camp; several wrote of its foreboding appearance. The press was kept in nearby Thurmont, but leaks of the tensions between the parties appeared nonetheless. Carter persevered. Though the Camp David Accords have been criticized by many as a failure, there have been no wars between Egypt and Israel since they were signed in 1977.

2. Clinton tried to do the same with leaders including Yasser Arafat

In 2000, President Bill Clinton brought Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli leader Ehud Barak to Camp David to negotiate a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The Palestinians had not been represented in the earlier Camp David talks under Carter, and Clinton hoped to build upon the earlier Accords to arrive at a solution leading to further progress in the overall Middle East peace process. During the talks Barak made concessions, delivered to the Palestinians by Clinton, and later withdrew them. Barak arrived at the summit having failed to observe the conditions of earlier agreements. Arafat believed a meeting of senior leadership was doomed to fail.

The Israelis offered no written proposals, instead delivering them verbally as possibilities contingent upon Palestinian concessions. The 2000 Camp David Summit did not lead to an agreement between the contending parties, and in the aftermath Israeli settlements expanded in the disputed territory, and another Palestinian “intifada” began in October. The implication that the talks failed due to Palestinian intransigence led to the Israeli claim there was no Palestinian desire for a peaceful resolution of the issues dividing the two, and violence continued, worsening by the end of 2000. Two decades later the same issues divide the parties.

1. It was where Dick Cheney took refuge on 9/11

On September 11, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney spent the majority of the day following the terrorist attacks in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) beneath the White House. After President Bush returned to Washington that evening, a meeting was held in the PEOC chaired by the president. From that evening on, for several days, the American public was told that the Vice President had been moved to a “secure location,” though he returned to the White House for meetings several times. That secure location turned out to be Camp David. He arrived by helicopter (Marine 2) that evening, having taken off from the south lawn of the White House, a violation of normal protocol, but one of many that day and night.

When he arrived at Camp David, the VP and his family took up residence in Aspen Cabin, the residence of the president at the camp — another violation of protocol. The president arrived at Camp David on September 15, expressed displeasure that someone had been using his cabin (without his knowledge), and over the weekend brought his closest advisers and their aides to the facility to conduct meetings to discuss the American response. September 11 and its aftermath proved that since it opened as a presidential resort camp in 1942, Camp David, operated by the Navy, secured by United States Marines and the Secret Service, has become an integral part of the apparatus of the United States government. It has become vital to the maintenance of the president’s physical and mental health, and the execution of his office.


World Leaders Meet –

Presidential Retreat