Archive for October, 2010


Billions in Afghanistan aid dollars unaccounted for: audit

by Staff Writers – Washington (AFP) Oct 28, 2010 fROM http://www.terradaily.com

Nearly 18 billion dollars earmarked for reconstruction in Afghanistan remain unaccounted for, snagged in a “labyrinth” of contract bureaucracy, a sweeping US government audit has shown.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said 17.7 billion dollars was obligated over three years to nearly 7,000 contractors, but the Pentagon, State Department and US Agency for International Development were unable to say how much money has been spent.

The audit addresses fiscal years 2007 through 2009, but the problems go back to 2002 when the United States began funding Afghan reconstruction, because “much of the data available from the agencies prior to 2007 was too poor to be analyzed,” the report said.

And years into the reconstruction there is still no central government database to monitor the projects from various US agencies and departments, SIGAR found in its report, which was seen Thursday by AFP.

“Prior to this audit report there was no comprehensive study on contractors and the money the US is spending through contractors on Afghan reconstruction,” said special inspector general Arnold Fields in the first such snapshot of the reconstruction contracting environment in war-torn Afghanistan.

“This audit is crucial because if we don’t even know who we’re giving money to, it is nearly impossible to conduct system-wide oversight.”

Reconstruction is a key component in a US-led anti-insurgency effort which seeks to stabilize the volatile south and east of Afghanistan, in part by helping Afghan farmers and improving local government.

Asked about the report, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said it did not come as a surprise and that the administration has been working to improve accountability.

“I don’t think we’re surprised that as we’re going through this, we’re going to have reports like this that show weaknesses,” Crowley told reporters.

He said the report would contribute to “our efforts to improve our cooperation with the Afghan government and improve the ability of the Afghan government to be responsible and accountable for the support that we do provide.”

The SIGAR said its report, addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and US ambassador to Baghdad Karl Eikenberry, “shows that navigating the confusing labyrinth of government contracting is difficult, at best.”

It said the Department of Defense alone has four organizations set up to track Pentagon-funded contracts, but they do not share information. Cross-agency information sharing is also minimal, it found.

SIGAR, mandated by Congress to try and track reconstruction spending, identified nearly 7,000 contractor groups, including for-profit and non-profit groups as well as government agencies involved in Afghanistan.

Among the largest contracts, it said, is a deal worth 1.8 billion dollars to a US-based company to train Afghanistan’s national police forces, and 691 million dollars to an Afghan construction firm to build military facilities.

The future of the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan is believed to be in jeopardy because of President Hamid Karzai’s threatened ban on private security guards, which aid organizations rely on for protection.

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Banking Group Asks US Supreme Court To Hear Federal Reserve Bailout Case

 From http://dailybail.com

This is not the same case as Mark Pittman’s FOIA request to the Treasury for Citigroup asset-guarantee details.  The issue here is much larger in scope and would require the Federal Reserve to disclose information on all emergency programs and recipients. 

This is the real transparency test.

And it’s incredibly infuriating.  Few even care about the bailout details any more.  We’re just pissed off that the Federal Reserve won’t tell us what they did.  It’s an affront to an open Democracy, but also proof that all along we’ve never had an open Democracy.  Jefferson rots in his grave. 

And count me as one of the few who still cares about the details.  I want to know what’s been stuffed inside Maiden Lane I, II and III, and what type of toxic assets the Fed took as collateral.  We already know they own Red Roof Inns.  Let’s see what else is in there.

Story inside.  Plus legal briefs.  And 2 videos – one new, one classic.  Very classic. 

By Brent Kendall

Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- An association of large commercial banks on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling that ordered the Federal Reserve to disclose information about the banks that borrowed from its discount window and other emergency lending programs during the financial crisis.

In its petition to the high court, the Clearing House Association said disclosure of the information “threatens to harm the borrowing banks by allowing the public to observe their borrowing patterns during the recent financial crisis and draw inferences–whether justified or not–about their current financial conditions.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the U.S. solicitor general, the government’s lawyer at the high court, would not be seeking Supreme Court review on behalf of the Fed.

But since the banking group is pressing forward with the case, the Supreme Court will later have the option to invite the federal government to file a brief expressing its views on the case.

Bloomberg LP’s Bloomberg News sought the Fed disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act and sued the Fed when it denied their requests. The news organization sought the names of the borrowing banks, loan amounts, origination dates and the collateral involved.

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March that the Fed was required to disclose documents about bank borrowing from its last-resort lending programs.

The Fed’s Board of Governors and the Clearing House Association have argued that the ruling could severely undermine the Fed’s ability to implement lending programs critical to the economy and monetary policy.

After the 2nd Circuit refused in August to reconsider the case, it stayed its ruling for 60 days to give the parties the opportunity to petition the high court.

source – dow jones

Legal trail of links provided by reader ‘Cheyenne’:

The district court decision ordering the Fed to comply with Pittman’s FOIA request…

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=595858462510045956&q=federal+reserve+bloomberg+freedom+preska&hl=en&as_sdt=400002

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision affirming the district court’s order…

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3477959921372842887&q=federal+reserve+bloomberg+freedom+preska&hl=en&as_sdt=400002

Related: the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision reversing another district court judge who ruled against Fox in its FOIA case against the Fed…

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=16783570369097718250&q=federal+reserve+bloomberg+freedom+preska&hl=en&as_sdt=400002

Video:  Dylan Ratigan with TARP Inpsector General Neil Barofsky – Oct. 26, 2010

Ratigan starts out hot, though Barofsky won’t take the bait.  Fed transparency, Mark Pittman, the Citigroup asset guarantee, lies from Obama — it’s all in here.

  • “Keep printing Mr. Ben.”

Video:  The Federal Reserve owns the bankrupt Red Roof Inns

The historic battle for FED transparency – complete story background:

Internet Reception Reaches Summit of Mount Everest

From http://www.myfoxny.com

(AFP) – Climbers at the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, will now be able to make video calls and surf the internet on their cell phones, a Nepalese telecom group claimed Thursday.

Ncell, a subsidiary of Swedish phone giant TeliaSonera, said it set up a high-speed third-generation (3G) phone base station at an altitude of 17,000 feet (5,200 meters), near Gorakshep village in the Everest region.

“Today we made the [world’s] highest video call from Mount Everest base camp successfully. The coverage of the network will reach up to the peak of the Everest,” Ncell Nepal chief Pasi Koistinen said in Kathmandu.

The installation will also help tens of thousands of tourists and trekkers who visit the world’s highest mountain every year.

Climbers who reached its 29,029-foot peak previously depended on expensive and erratic satellite phone coverage and a voice-only network set up by China Mobile in 2007 on the Chinese side of the mountain.

“This is a great milestone for mobile communications, as the 3G high-speed internet will bring faster, more affordable telecommunication services from the world’s tallest mountain,” said Lars Nyberg, chief executive of TeliaSonera, which owns 80 percent of Ncell.

The 3G services will be fast enough to make video calls and use the internet, said the company, which also claims the world’s lowest 3G base — at 4,595 feet below sea level in a mine in Europe.

Despite the installation in Everest, telecom services cover less than one-third of the 28 million people of Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world.

TeliaSonera said it planned to invest $100 million in the next year to ensure that cell phone coverage increases to more than 90 percent of the Himalayan nation’s population.

The 3G network on Everest puts TeliaSonera ahead of state-controlled Nepal Telecom, Indian-owned United Telecom and China Mobile.

Around 3,000 people have climbed to the Everest summit since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to conquer the peak in 1953.

Copyright 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

Nicolas Sarkozy warned by German Chancellor not to unveil  £150m ‘bling’ presidential jet

By Allan Hall from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

With riots in the streets and poll ratings in the basement, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is under pressure from both home and abroad to delay delivery of a refitted jet that will cost the taxpayer £151million.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among those who have apparently told the luxury loving Sarkozy that now might not be the best time to take charge of the aircraft that is said to be dripping with ‘bling’.

German sources say she advised Sarkozy earlier this week, at a meeting where the pair cut a controversial deal aimed at protecting the euro, to ‘hold back’ on taking deliver of the aircraft currently undergoing a series of final test flights over the Indian Ocean and South Pacific French administered islands.

Bling jet: The refurbished offical Airbus for President Nicolas Sarkozy cost £150millionThe refurbished offical Airbus for President Nicolas Sarkozy cost £150million: It is seen here landing in New Caledonian after a training flight on Wednesday
Luxury: The plane is said to feature a bed, shower and a conference roomLuxury: The plane is said to feature a bed, shower and a conference room

Mrs. Merkel, who takes her official flights aboard a choice of two aircraft, is concerned along with other European leaders that such blatant excess might only further fuel the French protests against unpopular austerity measures.

With French lawmakers voting yesterday to pass the bill raising the minimum retirement age to 62 from 60, the new presidential aircraft — an Airbus A330-200 dubbed ‘Air Sarko One’ – was being prepared for its flight to France.

Mr Sarkozy is said to be locked in talks with everyone from his image advisers to the treasury about the possibility of parking the plane somewhere until the fighting mood in France dies down.

Team Sarkozy seems divided. Those who think the aircraft should fly in, the tricolour of France blazoned across its tail, point out that they have already given a nod to the new age of austerity by agreeing to refurbish a 12-year-old aircraft instead of buying a new one.

But opponents see it as one more Marie Antoinette-esque gesture from a president whose bodyguards are working overtime to protect him in the wake of the convulsions his policies have caused.

Entente cordiale: Angela Merkel pulls a face during an EU summit in Brussels. She is said to have advised President Sarkozy not to unveil the aircraftEntente cordiale: Angela Merkel pulls a face during an EU summit in Brussels. She is said to have advised President Sarkozy not to unveil the aircraft

Leaders of the Socialist opposition are portraying its purchase as proof of his continuing distance from reality.

‘We understand that the president has been very demanding about the fittings and that they are quite luxurious,’ said René Dosière, a Socialist MP from recession-hit northern Picardy.

‘At a moment when he is already so unpopular, I imagine this could cause him to lose more points.’

Already the costs of the plane have been budgeted to the defence ministry rather than the Elysee Palace. It can accommodate a Sarkozy entourage of 60, has a conference room seating 11, an office and a presidential bedroom suite.

‘The A330 will meet the many international travel needs of the head of state — for example, those related to the next presidency by France of the G-20 and the G-8,’ said Col. Francis Pollet, head of resource management of the defence ministry.

Unrest: Protesters burn flares during a march through Paris against pension law reformUnrest: Protesters burn flares during a march through Paris against pension law reform

A weekend opinion poll by Journal du Dimanche showed Sarkozy’s approval rating at 29 percent, the lowest in memory for any French president.

The defence ministry insists that the plane will not be replete with luxuries, despite the presidential bedroom, private shower and fitted galley kitchen.

One of his spokesmen threatened legal action earlier this year against a plumber who said he was told to install a luxury bath – a statement later retracted as ‘a joke’.

‘There is very little that they can achieve on an A330 that can’t be achieved on a normal business jet,’ said Doug McVitie to the New York Times.

The managing director of Arran Aerospace, a consulting firm in Dinan, France, added: ‘How often do they have to travel such long distances requiring a bed and a shower.

‘These aircraft are just an attempt to make a statement through ostentation.’

Earnings of FTSE 100 chiefs up 55% over past year

BRIAN GROOM and JIM PICKARD – http://www.irishtimes.com – Friday, October 29, 2010

FTSE 100 company directors saw their total earnings soar by an average of 55 per cent during the past year in a startling recovery from short-lived restraint during the recession, according to research to be published today.

The findings from Incomes Data Services (IDS), the pay monitoring group, are likely to reawaken controversy over executive pay.

The average FTSE 100 chief executive took home £4.9 million (€5.5 million) in total earnings in the year to June, according to IDS. That represented 88 times the average pay of all full-time workers – down slightly from a peak multiple of 94 in 2008, but sharply up on 10 years ago, when corporate chiefs earned 47 times the average wage.

Basic salary grew by only 3.6 per cent for FTSE 100 chiefs last year, but their pay packages were boosted by a resurgence in bonus payments, the value of share option gains and long-term incentive plans.

IDS warned that “the business as usual” approach of FTSE remuneration committees after such a short period of restraint risked upsetting shareholders. Across the FTSE 350, total board pay went up by an average 45 per cent.

“It seems the days of earnings restraint by FTSE 350 directors were short-lived. It is as though the recession never happened,” said Steve Tatton, editor of the IDS Directors’ pay report.

“It stands in stark contrast to the coalition government’s concerns about pay fairness and calls for senior executives in the public sector to accept pay cuts.”

Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of the Unite union, said ordinary workers would be “angry” about the news given that they have suffered pay freezes, shorter hours or lost their jobs during recent months.

“It shows that David Cameron’s phrase ‘we’re all in it together’ is pretty shallow,” he said.

Nasa unveils bold plans to send humans ‘one-way to Mars to colonise planet’

Humans could be sent one-way to Mars under ambitious plans being investigated by Nasa to permanently colonise other planets in space.

By Andrew Hough Published: 7:30AM BST 28 Oct 2010  From http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Space agency officials confirmed feasability studies were under way to asses whether astronauts could be permanently sent to the red planet, or its moons, to establish human colonies.

The multi-billion pound mission, titled Hundred Years Starship, is being spearheaded by the Ames Research Centre, one of Nasa’s main research centres, based in Moffett Field, California.

Officials from the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are also heavily involved in turning the science fiction idea into a reality.

Early estimates put the cost of such a mission, which has “just started” at more than £7 billion and could be achieved by 2030.

Scientists have been given £600,000 government grant – including £100,000 from Nasa – to start research into the idea, according to US reports.

The world’s billionaire’s, including Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, have been asked to help fund the project.

Pete Worden, the Ames director, confirmed the plans to a conference in San Francisco at the weekend.

“You heard it here. We hope to inveigle some billionaires to form a Hundred Year Starship fund,” he told the Long Conversation event at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

“The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds. Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.

“Within a few years we will see the first true prototype of a spaceship that will take us between worlds.”

Such a space journey would take up to nine months with volunteers embarking on the mission knowing they would never return to earth.

This is because the cost of returning astronauts to earth would make the project prohibitively expensive. Supplies would be sent to make them self-sufficient.

Such a mission would be gruelling for humans with forbidding conditions including sub-zero temperatures and a thin atmosphere.

Mr Worden said Mr Page was keenly interested in the project.

“Larry asked me a couple weeks ago how much it would cost to send people one way to Mars and I told him $10 billion and his response was, ‘can you get it down to 1 or 2 billion’,” he said.

“So now we’re starting to get a little argument over the price.”

But he admitted that he did not know how such a mission would work in reality.

“How do you live in another world? I don’t have the slightest idea,” he said.

“If you’re a conservative, you worry about it killing us; if you’re a liberal, you worry about us killing it.

“I think things like synthetic biology have lot of potential for that. I think rather than make an environment on Mars like Earth, why don’t we modify life … including the human genome … so it’s better suited to [Mars]?”

A DARPA spokesman later confirmed details of the mission.

“A key element of the study is exploring models by which sustained co-investment by the private sector in these areas can be incentivised,” he said.

“The study is currently in the early formulation stage, but will be entirely open and unclassified, with more details forthcoming in early 2011.”

It comes as researchers claimed such a human mission was technologically feasible and was cheaper returning astronauts to earth.

Their new study, in the Journal of Cosmology, found the costs of safely returning a crew would eat up the majority of such a mission’s budget.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch, from Washington State University and Paul Davies, from Arizona State University, said four volunteer astronauts could undertake the first mission to permanently colonise Mars.

“A one-way human mission to Mars would not be a fixed duration project as in the Apollo program, but the first step in establishing a permanent human presence on the planet,” they said.

“There are many reasons why a human colony on Mars is a desirable goal, scientifically and politically.

“The strategy of one-way missions brings this goal within technological and financial feasibility.”

They added: “Nevertheless, to attain it would require not only major international co-operation but a return to the exploration spirit and risk-taking ethos of the great period of Earth exploration, from Columbus to Amundsen, but which has nowadays being replaced with a culture of safety and political correctness.”

Such a mission would come with natural “ethical considerations”, they admitted.

Friday, October 29, 2010 From http://refreshingnews9.blogspot.com
A Chinese scientific research centre has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the US as maker of the swiftest machine, a media report said Thursday.

The Chinese made Tianhe-1A system has 1.4 times the horsepower of the current top computer, which is at a national laboratory in Tennessee, the US, a newspaper reported.

Although the official list of the top 500 fastest machines, which comes out every six months, is not due to be completed next week, Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer scientist who maintains the official supercomputer rankings, said the Chinese computer “blows away the existing No. 1 machine”.

“We don’t close the books until November 1, but I would say it is unlikely we will see a system that is faster,” he said.

Officials from the Chinese research centre, the National University of Defense Technology, are expected to reveal the computer at a conference in Beijing Thursday.

Tianhe-1A, which is housed in a building at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, can perform 2.5 times 10 to the 15th power mathematical operations per second that is 29 million times faster than one of the earliest supercomputers, built in 1976, the newspaper report said.

The race to build the fastest supercomputer has become a source of national pride as these machines are valued for their ability to solve problems critical to national interests in areas like defence, energy, finance and science.

For decades, the US had a clear edge, developing most of the underlying technology that goes into the massive supercomputers. Some of the top US systems simulate the effects of nuclear weapons, while others predict weather and aid in energy research.

In 2002, the US lost its crown as the supercomputing kingpin for the first time in a stunning fashion when Japan unveiled a machine with more horsepower than the top 20 American computers combined.

The US government responded in kind, forming groups to plot a comeback and pouring money into supercomputing projects. The US regained its leadership status in 2004, and has kept it, until now, says the report.

Over the last decade, the Chinese have steadily inched up in the rankings of supercomputers. Tianhe-1A stands as the culmination of billions of dollars in investment and scientific development, as China has gone from a computing afterthought to a world technology superpower.

“What is scary about this is that the US dominance in high-performance computing is at risk,” said Wu-chun Feng, a supercomputing expert and professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Modern supercomputers are built by combining thousands of small computer servers and using software to turn them into a single entity. In that sense, any organisation with enough money and expertise can buy what amount to off-the-shelf components and create a fast machine.

The Chinese system follows that model by linking thousands and thousands of chips made by the American companies Intel and Nvidia. But the secret sauce behind the system – and the technological achievement – is the interconnect, or networking technology, developed by Chinese researchers that shuttles data back and forth across the smaller computers at breakneck rates, Dongarra said.

“That technology was built by them,” Dongarra said. “They are taking supercomputing very seriously and making a deep commitment.”

The scary actual U.S. government debt

From www.theglobeandmail.comNEIL REYNOLDS  OTTAWA— From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail

Increase text size Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff says U.S. government debt is not $13.5-trillion (U.S.), which is 60 per cent of current gross domestic product, as global investors and American taxpayers think, but rather 14-fold higher: $200-trillion – 840 per cent of current GDP. “Let’s get real,” Prof. Kotlikoff says. “The U.S. is bankrupt.”

Writing in the September issue of Finance and Development, a journal of the International Monetary Fund, Prof. Kotlikoff says the IMF itself has quietly confirmed that the U.S. is in terrible fiscal trouble – far worse than the Washington-based lender of last resort has previously acknowledged. “The U.S. fiscal gap is huge,” the IMF asserted in a June report. “Closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 per cent of U.S. GDP.”

This sum is equal to all current U.S. federal taxes combined. The consequences of the IMF’s fiscal fix, a doubling of federal taxes in perpetuity, would be appalling – and possibly worse than appalling.

Prof. Kotlikoff says: “The IMF is saying that, to close this fiscal gap [by taxation], would require an immediate and permanent doubling of our personal income taxes, our corporate taxes and all other federal taxes.

“America’s fiscal gap is enormous – so massive that closing it appears impossible without immediate and radical reforms to its health care, tax and Social Security systems – as well as military and other discretionary spending cuts.”

He cites earlier calculations by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that concluded that the United States would need to increase tax revenue by 12 percentage points of GDP to bring revenue into line with spending commitments. But the CBO calculations assumed that the growth of government programs (including Medicare) would be cut by one-third in the short term and by two-thirds in the long term. This assumption, Prof. Kotlikoff notes, is politically implausible – if not politically impossible.

One way or another, the fiscal gap must be closed. If not, the country’s spending will forever exceed its revenue growth, and no one’s real debt can increase faster than his real income forever.

Prof. Kotlikoff uses “fiscal gap,” not the accumulation of deficits, to define public debt. The fiscal gap is the difference between a government’s projected revenue (expressed in today’s dollar value) and its projected spending (also expressed in today’s dollar value). By this measure, the United States is in worse shape than Greece.

Prof. Kotlikoff is a noted economist. He is a research associate at the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research. He is a former senior economist with then-president Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers. He has served as a consultant with governments around the world. He is the author (or co-author) of 14 books: Jimmy Stewart Is Dead (2010), his most recent book, explains his recommendations for reform.

He says the U.S. cannot end its fiscal crisis by increasing taxes. He opposes further stimulus spending because it will simply increase the debt. But he does suggest reforms that would help – most of which would require a significant withering away of the state. He proposes that the government give every person an annual voucher for health care, provided that the total cost not exceed 10 per cent of GDP. (U.S. health care now consumes 16 per cent of GDP.) He suggests the replacement of all current federal taxes with a single consumption tax of 18 per cent. He calls for government-sponsored personal retirement accounts, with the government making contributions only for the poor, the unemployed and people with disabilities.

Without drastic reform, Prof. Kotlikoff says, the only alternative would be a massive printing of money by the U.S. Treasury – and hyperinflation.

As former president Bill Clinton once prematurely said, the era of big government is over. In the coming years, the U.S. will almost certainly be compelled to deconstruct its welfare state.

Prof. Kotlikoff doesn’t trust government accounting, or government regulation. The official vocabulary (deficit, debt, transfer payment, tax, borrowing), he says, is vulnerable to official manipulation and off-the-books deceit. He calls it “Enron accounting.” He also calls it a lie. Here is an economist who speaks plainly, as the legendary straight-shooting film star Jimmy Stewart did for an earlier generation.

But Prof. Kotlikoff’s economic genre isn’t the Western. It’s the horror story – “and scarier,” one reviewer of his book suggests, than Stephen King.

Veteran Suicides Outnumber US Military Deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan

From http://www.truth-out.org/

More than 1,000 veterans in California under 35 died after returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan between 2005 and 2008 – three times as many California service members who were killed in conflict overseas, according to a recently published Bay Citizen report.

Investigative journalist Aaron Glantz studied the cases of Reuben Paul Santos, Alex Lowenstein and Elijah Warren to shed light on a growing trend among Afghanistan and Iraq veterans who have died through high-risk behavior and suicide after being discharged. In particular, veterans who returned home to California died through motorcycle and motor vehicle accidents and unintentional poisoning; in addition, veterans were two and a half times as likely to commit suicide as Californians of the same age who had not served in the military.

Glantz, who has reported on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2005, decided to focus on veterans in California because “it’s important to look at our own community. [Santos] was this young man that was from a community that was literally right down the street. That’s how silent this epidemic is.”

Santos returned from the military to his home in Daly City in 2003. He attempted to battle depression with a variety of treatments, from poetry to video games and, eventually, turned to psychiatric treatment. But according to Glantz, a number of bureaucratic obstacles prevented Santos from receiving adequate treatment once he recognized that he needed health care for psychiatric trauma.

Currently, veterans receive five years of free health care following their discharge; when Santos left the military in 2003, veterans were only eligible for two years of free health care – and Santos did not begin to experience symptoms until three years at home.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression symptoms “don’t emerge right away,” Glantz said. When Santos did apply to for treatment at the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), Glantz said, he “got the runaround,” often being transferred among therapists and having to retell his experiences in the war over and over. According to the report, Santos enrolled in a study treating veterans with PTSD six months before his death; after nine weeks with the same therapist, Santos left the study, while his doctor rated him as having “no clinical anxiety at that time.”

Santos hung himself three months later. “He finally got treatment, but it was too late,” Glantz said. “Reuben’s death was preventable. He passed away six years after his return, so there were opportunities for the story to have had a different ending.”

Lowenstein and Warren never attempted to receive mental health before committing suicide in 2010 and 2008, respectively. According to the report, less than half of returning veterans register at VA facilities for mental health treatment. A 2008 Rand Corporation study found that only half of veterans who need care seek it, as many traumatized soldiers remain silent to conform to a longstanding Army taboo against mental health care.

“VA and DOD [Department of Defense] appear to have a policy for veterans called ‘Don’t look, don’t find,'” said Paul Sullivan, a Gulf War veteran and executive director of Veterans for Common Sense.

Since 2008, Glantz said, policies have slowly shifted in a positive direction for veterans. “Under President Obama, the amount of money spent on veterans has increased dramatically,” Glantz said. “Under President Bush, there was a real head-in-the-sand attitude. That’s begun to change.” But the VA has a lot of ground to cover to make up for lost time, he said. “We started so late in the game.”

Specifically, Glantz recommends that veterans receive automatic registration with the VA, rather than having to seek it out on their own after their mental health begins to deteriorate. “Santos, Warren and Lowenstein should all have been automatically enrolled in the VA when they left the military. They should not have to fight a democracy to get in the system.”

Overall, Glantz said, it is the VA and not the veterans that should uphold a standard of proactive behavior. “The VA needs to make themselves more friendly to these young men and help them come forward if they need help,” Glantz said. “Out of one million veterans, only half are turning up at the VA, which means the VA needs to do a better job of reaching out to them.”