U.S. Air Force probed for scrapping costly planes bought for Afghans
October 10, 2014
By Andrea Shalal
AAF C-27A at Kabul Intl Airport
(Reuters) - A U.S. government watchdog agency is asking the Air Force to explain why it decided to destroy 16 aircraft initially bought for the Afghan air force and turn them into $32,000 of scrap metal instead of finding other ways to salvage nearly $500 million in U.S. funds spent on the program.
John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, asked Air Force Secretary Deborah James to document all decisions made about the destruction of the 16 C-27A aircraft that were stored at Kabul International Airport for years, and what the service planned to do with four additional planes now in Germany.
"I am concerned that the officials responsible for planning and executing the scrapping of the planes may not have considered other possible alternatives in order to salvage taxpayer dollars." Sopko said in a letter to James that was dated Oct. 3 and released Thursday by his office. Sopko also asked if any other parts of the planes had been sold before they were destroyed by the Defense Logistics Agency. Sopko's office has been investigating the matter since December 2013 after numerous non-profit groups and military officials raised questions about funds wasted on the planes.
The U.S. government spent $468 million to buy and refurbish 20 older C-27A airplanes from Alenia, a unit of Italy's Finmeccanica SpA , but later canceled the program because a lack of spare parts was severely limiting their availability for military use. Instead, the Pentagon decided to buy four larger C-130 planes built by Lockheed Martin Corp to do the work. Sopko asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and James about their plans for the remaining four aircraft, which were never sent to Afghanistan, noting that his team had been due to inspect the planes.
What is TTIP? And six reasons why the answer should scare you
by Lee Williams
Tuesday, 7 October 2014
Marching through London yesterday against the ‘secret’ EU/US deal which is backed by all three main political parties.
The trade negotiations are an assault on democracy. I would vote against them except… hang on a minute, I can’t
Have you heard about TTIP? If your answer is no, don’t get too worried; you’re not meant to have.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. As a bi-lateral trade agreement, TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. It is, as John Hilary, Executive Director of campaign group War on Want, said: “An assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”
Since before TTIP negotiations began last February, the process has been secretive and undemocratic. This secrecy is on-going, with nearly all information on negotiations coming from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests.
But worryingly, the covert nature of the talks may well be the least of our problems. Here are six other reasons why we should be scared of TTIP, very scared indeed:
1 The NHS
Public services, especially the NHS, are in the firing line. One of the main aims of TTIP is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could essentially mean the privatisation of the NHS.
The European Commission has claimed that public services will be kept out of TTIP. However, according to the Huffington Post, the UK Trade Minister Lord Livingston has admitted that talks about the NHS were still on the table.
2 Food and environmental safety
TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients. By contrast, the EU allows virtually no GM foods. The US also has far laxer restrictions on the use of pesticides. It also uses growth hormones in its beef which are restricted in Europe due to links to cancer. US farmers have tried to have these restrictions lifted repeatedly in the past through the World Trade Organisation and it is likely that they will use TTIP to do so again.
The same goes for the environment, where the EU’s REACH regulations are far tougher on potentially toxic substances. In Europe a company has to prove a substance is safe before it can be used; in the US the opposite is true: any substance can be used until it is proven unsafe. As an example, the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics; the US just 12.
3 Banking regulations
TTIP cuts both ways. The UK, under the influence of the all-powerful City of London, is thought to be seeking a loosening of US banking regulations. America’s financial rules are tougher than ours. They were put into place after the financial crisis to directly curb the powers of bankers and avoid a similar crisis happening again. TTIP, it is feared, will remove those restrictions, effectively handing all those powers back to the bankers.
CDC: 110 Million Americans Have STDs At Any Given Time
October 6, 2014
Nearly 20 million cases of a sexually transmitted disease infection are reported each year in the United States and the number could be higher because many sufferers don't show symptoms. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – While the national media focus on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the patient in Dallas, the CDC is reminding Americans that sexually transmitted diseases are an ongoing but hidden epidemic.
In the United States, nearly 20 million cases of new STD infections are reported each year, reports Live Science. Since infections can persist for a long time, and because some victims are not even aware they have a disease and can easily spread it to others.
Based on data from 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the eight most common sexually transmitted diseases are: chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B virus (HBV), genital herpes, HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis and trichomoniasis.
About 50.5 million current infections are in men while 59.5 million are in women, for a total of 110 million Americans with STDs at any given time. Fifty percent of new infections occur in young people from ages 15-24 and gonorrhea is the most commonly reported STD in that age group. Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported STD in the United States. The most commonly reported infection is chlamydia. But since many who are infected don’t show symptoms, the number could be far higher than the 1.4 million in 2012, a rate of 457 cases per 100,000 people.
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