Abbas doctor says Palestinian leader to stay in hospital

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ doctor said Sunday that the 83-year-old will be staying another day in the hospital, abruptly reversing a previous announcement that he would be discharged and adding to the uncertainty surrounding the Palestinian …

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Sean Hannity has a surprising reaction to MSNBC host’s blog controversy

Fox News host Sean Hannity had a surprising reaction to the controversy around MSNBC host Joy Reid and her past blog posts – he says she deserves a second chance.

Here’s Hannity’s statement

The talk radio and cable news opinion host posted a statement about Reid on his website Friday after recent revelations from her controversial blog website surfaced.

“Over the last few days the conversation surrounding the comments made by TV personalities has dominated the news cycle,” Hannity said in the statement. “We have covered them as well, going over previous tweets, statements and on air opinions. One of these individuals, MSNBC’s Joy Reid, has now apologized for her previous blogs and commentary.”

Reid had first apologized when the posts were uncovered, then blamed a hacker, but recently apologized again without mentioning the dubious hacker when more posts were published.

“It’s good to see Joy (who is no fan of mine) starting to take responsibility for her past remarks,” he continued. “My suggestion is that she follows up with the groups and people who she offended, and learn from all of this. Her apology should be accepted, and she should be given a chance to make it right, and not fired.”

“We have all fallen short”

“Someone needs to take the lead in cable news and stop the ‘crush, fire them, and destroy hosts you may disagree with’ environment,” Hannity added. “I guess as the number one rated host in cable, I’ll start.”

“I am grateful for this microphone and the platform given to me everyday by my audience,” he said. “I am a believer in the freedom of speech for all Americans. I am also a believer in second chances.”

“And as someone who believes in forgiveness,” he concluded, “I have to say, we have all fallen short.”

Crush, fire and destroy

Hannity was referring to the campaign mounted by left-wing organizations to drive his advertisers away over various stories they painted as controversial. One such controversy exploded when Hannity pressed on with a false story about the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich – Fox News later retracted the story and the family has since sued the news network.

Here’s the CNN news video about the story:

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How to travel the world with 2 little kids: Teach them that every step counts

Raj Gill

Raj Gill

Quitting your job and selling your house and all of your possessions to travel the world is something many people find themselves daydreaming about when they feel their lives have fallen into a state of predictable motion. A fair number of rather reasonable arguments typically dissuade most people from pursuing the notion.

But the feeling of being an alien in a foreign land is intoxicating. I often thought of leaving California behind and breaking with my routine to embrace the unknown and in so doing becoming an alien to everything, including myself. The fire continued to rage in my mind, and when I spoke to my partner about it, I learned that the same fire burned inside her as well. Within two months, we sold our house, all of our belongings, quit our jobs and bought four one way tickets to Australia; two adults and two children.

I felt embarrassed telling my friends and family about our decision and worried that it would make me seem irresponsible. The idea of leaving a great job and uprooting our family was met with as much judgmental condemnation as one would get for choosing to drink or gamble with abandon. I avoided speaking of our intentions again until we were just about to board a plane that would take us away from California. I updated my status online that described our exodus, and with 40-liter backpacks strapped on our respective backs, our three-year-old boy gripping tightly to my hand and our five-year-old boy gripping tightly to my partner’s, we boarded the plane and never looked back.

We spent the summer in Australia, surfing Bondi Beach, walking Graffiti Alley in Melbourne and sunbathing along the Sunshine Coast. After three months, we had exhausted the amount of time we were permitted on our Australian visas. With summer transitioning to fall, we set our sights on New Zealand.

Much of our time in our previous life was spent losing ourselves in Yosemite and Lassen National Parks or trail running the Marin Headlands and Point Reyes. We often hiked through the pine forests of Tahoe or the redwood forests nestled behind the Mendocino coastline. We made a pact before the trip that this particular quality of our lives would travel along with us, and we did just what most outdoor adventurers would do upon landing in Nelson airport: salivated at the thought of conquering the great tracks of New Zealand’s South Island.

Our first hike with the boys began with exploring a pocket of nestled beauty called the Abel Tasman, located on the northeast coastline of the South Island. We took a water taxi that dropped us off on a small exposed sandbar in an estuary that existed for only a few hours, expanding as quickly as the tide receded into the Tasman Bay and disappearing upon its return. We ferried the boys across one at a time on our backs, moving slowly through the surprisingly crisp, knee-deep water that bridged the exposed and isolated raft of yellow sand to the thin Tasman coastline.

We approached this tramp with our boys with a sink or swim attitude, wholly accepting our punishment of having to carry them on our backs should they not rise to the challenge. Our parenting style had always differed from those in the community we left a few months prior. We allow them to fall and scrape their knees, to make their own mistakes, to concede defeat in the face of a valiant effort. We pushed them to try before they could accept their own presumed limitations. My partner and I controlled the wind that passed across their boughs in a manner meant to strengthen their branches but not break them. They would, more often than not, surprise themselves upon rising up and working through their own challenges.

We assumed the 22-kilometer hike would be a pretty strong gust, but to our surprise, we found that the adults were trying to keep pace with the boys. We were evidently the weak links in the chain. Was it their center of gravity that made tramping come more easily to them or the efficiencies of their metabolic engine that constantly turns over calories for energy like a Ferrari turns petrol into horsepower? Their enthusiasm and seemingly endless supply of energy that remained, even after concluding the day-long tramp with burgers at The Fat Tui, motivated us to tramp progressively longer and more difficult terrain. Soon we felt confident in our plan of tramping across New Zealand with our sights set on accomplishing an expert-level overnight hike up Mt. Robert to the Angelus Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park.
* * *
I peered across the shifter to my partner and said, “There’s only one direction we can go and that’s forward.” We were all alone on the one-way road that hugged Mount Robert. Just ahead of us, the gravel gave way to mud, stretching a quarter mile ahead of us. I scanned ahead and saw that the first half of the road had a forgiving upward slope, but then a handful of orange traffic cones were scattered in front of a section of road that appeared to go vertical. I slammed the shifter into first gear, revved the engine of the rented Honda Fit and held my breath until we reached the other side. My quads were on fire from riding the clutch while lifting my body above my seat to be able to see the road. When we summited past the cones and fell back onto level and graveled road, I turned to my partner and saw her hands wrapped white knuckled around the “Oh Shit Handle” that had been previously dangling freely just above her head.

“It wasn’t that bad,” I said as her dilated pupils relaxed and her eyes rolled in that special way that lets me know I have no idea what I am talking about.

After we parked, we collected our gear and tried to focus on the moment instead of on what lay ahead of us: 24 kilometers over 36 hours. We moved quickly through the small section of beech forest that separated the car park and the start of the aptly named Pinchgut Track. A thick canopy of beech trees retained the water in the air, humidifying the organic plumes of earthy aromatics emanating from the detritus scattered across the forest floor. Microbeads of water sat atop green carpets of moss blanketing the decaying stumps and fallen branches lining the trail.

Exposed tree roots snagged the boys’ boots more times than I could count. My shoulder ached from having to reach my arm out quickly and grip whatever fabric I could to prevent the boys from falling flat on their faces several times, so I called an impromptu family meeting. My partner and I established a rule that we have repeated on every hike since and have now woven into the philosophy we teach the boys: Every step matters, every step is important, every step counts, and how you take that step directly affects the outcome of how you move forward towards the next one. A rock is a rock, whether it’s in the car park, on the trail, in a river crossing or on top of a mountain, but the consequences of tripping over it can vary depending on the circumstance, from insignificant to deadly.

The mid-morning sun began to penetrate the canopy ahead of us, revealing the exposed path leading us to the start of the serial switchbacks that would carry us up 800 meters over 90 minutes. Under our boots, soft earth turned into coarse and dry gravel. The flora transitioned from green ferns to mountain wildflowers and the clear blue sky stretched out towards infinity overhead. Purple and red foxgloves began to fill the empty spaces along the trail.

As we made our ascent, Lake Rotoiti’s blue expanse beckoned us, offering up its cold and crisp waters to rinse the sweat off our skin and resolve the dryness in our throats. My muscles began to burn again. The day hikers that had passed us expanded their distance, while the ones we had previously passed were reducing it. This expansion and contraction between the groups persisted, and in this way, we all accordioned our way up the mountain.

We reached the start of the Robert Ridge Track with another shift in climate and terrain. The wind gusts were strong atop the ridge, and with our guts pinched from the switchbacks, the cold and crisp alpine air cooled us down while also taking some of the weight off our tired legs as it pushed against our backs. We reached the Relax Shelter and exchanged pleasantries with day hikers taking a break before heading back down Paddy’s Track on the opposite side of the ridge. Children on the ridge, we grew to learn, were an unusual sight, given the reactions we received. Responses were split between admiring the boys’ courage (and our patience) and skeptical optimism.

We split from the group and continued along the ridge, not knowing that that would be the last time we would see another hiker while on the ridge. After a few hours, the trail grew narrow and slowly began to recede into the mountain beneath us. The sky continued to reflect the blue from Lake Rotoiti; however, quickly shifting light grey clouds could be seen swirling further up the ridge, waiting for our arrival. We were approaching the Julius Summit, nearly 1,800 meters above sea level, when a drop in pressure and temperature caused the water in the air to suddenly condense all around us. We stopped and became mesmerized at witnessing the birth of a cloud. A wisp of white candy floss suddenly materialized from nothing, swirling in a funnel created by two disparate pressures colliding in a moment. The nascent tuft of white air released and drifted like a leaf trapped in a whirlpool, fixed in constant motion, until its mass grew large enough to be ejected from the turbulent air.

After stopping for lunch to let rain pass ahead, we pressed on. The clouds gathered and dispersed for several kilometers, occasionally releasing their contents upon us but never enough to hinder our momentum. We summited the mountain and found being positioned above everything around us, including the clouds, allowed the trail markers to be easily visible as we scanned ahead. The ridge began to slope downward and our legs felt the relief of not having to work as hard; however, the recent rains made our descent more difficult than previously presumed.

Over the next kilometer, I realized the risk my partner and I took in bringing the boys on the tramp. I accepted my punishment by moving a few meters ahead, releasing my pack from my back, then returning back to the boys in order to ferry them one at a time across the difficult and dangerous terrain, only to collect my pack and start all over again at the next sign of apparent risk. We moved in this way until we reached an expansive scree field that buried several trail markers in its path. I turned to my partner and we discussed the risks of moving forward or turning back. Having already experienced the difficult terrain as I ferried the boys down the wet cliffside, I was worried how much more difficult it would be to repeat it while working against gravity. On the other hand, the terrain ahead of us was unknown, offering a variety of unknown possibilities. “A rock is a rock,” we reminded ourselves.

This fractured landscape wouldn’t let me move ahead and ferry the boys across it as I had before. We had to move slowly, as a unit, across the scree field, lifting the boys to rocks they couldn’t climb onto and holding their hands as they jumped down from ones they could. To the boys, it was fun to rock climb. But we had not come across another human since we started on the ridge. The boys didn’t realize that if something happened, a response would not be immediate, but we did. To compound our worry, the sun seemed to drop faster across the horizon than our descent on the cliff, and should another scree field lie further ahead on our path, we would have to cross it in the dark.

The mantra that we established at the start of our tramp carried us across without incident. We breathed a sigh of relief and silently hoped that we wouldn’t need to cross another scree field on our path to the hut. The boys, on the other hand, were excited at the prospect of scrambling across another. In the end, we ended up going past several more, and fortunately they were only a few meters across. We didn’t hesitate when we scanned ahead to find boulders had collapsed the trail ahead of us; we were still riding off the adrenaline from having successfully traversed what ended up to be the longest and most difficult scree field on the ridge. We discovered that this irregular trail — solid ground with sections of scree intermixed — carried a rhythm in its terrain. We glided swiftly across the wet rock and loose gravel as our steps harmonized to it, moving back up the ridge and arriving at the top of the valley as twilight fell across our shoulders.

When the boys asked how much further until we arrived to the hut, I lied. “It’s just passed the next trail marker,” I replied, buying us a few hundred meters of silence before they asked again. “I meant to say past the next trail marker . . . or the one after that,” I said, all the while, secretly wishing that my non-answer was true. My stalling wouldn’t last, and their motivation could dissipate when they realized I had no idea how much further until we arrived at the hut.

We tramped with the clouds above our heads and below our feet, and fortunately, everything at eye level was clear, albeit damp. We stopped as a gust of wind pushed us off the trail, and after allowing it to pass, we stepped back onto the ridge and saw that the wind pushed the clouds away from the valley to the east, exposing a series of ponds spread across the mountain. It was getting darker. Although it was becoming more difficult to see the worry on my partner’s face, I could feel it radiate off of her body. What was even more troubling was the sudden awareness of the boys’ silence; there were no more questions about when we would arrive, no brotherly banter, just silence and their pace had slowed.

The boys were tired and needed to take a break. The weight on my shoulders grew heavier. The air was transitioning from dark blue to purple, and I knew that taking a break would all but ensure we would be tramping in the dark. I sprinted into the fog to scout ahead, leaving my pack behind.

I returned in a few short minutes with a smile from ear to ear. I threw my pack over one shoulder and instructed the boys to get up and muster as much courage and energy as they could because the hut was in the valley just below us. A hundred or so meters ahead of us was the trail that led down into the valley. As we sprinted towards the branch, the sky opened up, basking us in a light that had previously fallen beneath the top of the alpine ridge. The air quickly transitioned from purple to blue carried by strands of yellow that shimmered off Lake Angelus and poured over the edges of the hills that bordered the valley. We ran to the edge of the ridge and peered down over the valley below; the momentary silence was broken by laughter coming from the boys.

“Every step counts,” I said, as we broke from the ridge and moved down the loose gravel trail that would lead us to shelter.

Tired, hungry and cold, but filled with relief, we slowed our pace, knowing there was nothing more to worry about beyond securing a bunk space. I looked up and saw the yellow lights growing bigger and brighter the closer we got to the hut. The light began to leak from the windows and illuminate the porch, then the wire boot brush on the ground next to the steps to the deck, then the last few meters of the trail. The dark receded to reveal a dozen smiling faces watching our every step as we drew closer to them. I heard the people clapping as the yellow light illuminated the face of my youngest and then his brother. The boys stopped, unsure of what was happening, and looked back at us with both confusion and surprise in their smiles.
* * *
The next morning, we joined a table of fellow hikers for breakfast. The boys spoke of their courage across the wet scree and informed the table of our mantra, “Every step counts.” Over the course of the next half hour, the hut began to empty. Our brief respite needed to come to an end.

We took the track down the mountainside, winding back and forth across several arteries flowing with water; our socks that had dried overnight were drenched within the first kilometer. We followed the water through mud and marshland, ferrying the boys across rushing streams and carrying them over my head across waist deep rivers until the path brought us to the edge of the beech forest that we started from. The forest canopy brought respite from an unrelenting midday sun but blanketed the remainder of the trail in a persistent twilight.

As we passed another kilometer deeper into the forest, the temperature began to drop and the boys began asking how much longer again. Our youngest was becoming more vocal with his narrative of the status of his body and mind. We encouraged them to keep moving by distracting them with topics in mammalian and plant biology, zoology, philosophy and English. This worked for a spell, until the discussion began to grow exponentially more complex with every “but why?”

I could hear whimpers from our youngest. I stopped to lean down and asked him if he was OK, if he needed to be picked up. He said he did, that his legs hurt, but he thought he would be able to continue on if he only had his “Buggies” — two ladybug snuggle toys he has slept with every night of his life. We carried our sleeping bags, food and water on our backs; “Buggies” had been deemed nonessential and remained behind in the car.

Before starting the hike, my partner and I agreed that if the boys could no longer go on of their own free will, we would accommodate their needs, either by picking them up or ending the tramp and turning back around. We wanted them to hit their wall, feel their boughs creak and bend, and let them decide for themselves. My son brought something different to the table: a quid pro quo. I wondered how far he would be willing to take it. We decided that my eldest and I would sprint ahead until we reach the car, drop our gear off and retrieve the Buggies to motivate him to finish the tramp.

I reminded my eldest son of our mantra: “Every step counts.” We took a deep breath and started sprinting up the trail while my partner kept a walking pace with our youngest. We ran two kilometers up through the forest, jumping over rocks and exposed roots that crossed our path, until reaching the car park and finding leaf litter blanketing our rental car. I threw my pack in the trunk and opened the back door, finding Buggies next to a half-eaten leftover carrot cake in the rear cup holder. I grabbed Buggies, stole a bite of cake and handed the rest to my son. “Don’t tell your brother we ate his cake.”

We ran down the path, two plush ladybugs in hand, and I trusted my eldest to keep his own pace as I began to sprint back to meet the others. Only a kilometer away from the car park, my youngest son dropped my partner’s hand and began screaming and crying with joy while running towards his long lost friends. After he settled down, he kept repeating, “I can do this now, I can do this now.” He squeezed one bug in each hand and picked up his pace as he started to move up the path. The three of us continued, collecting our eldest son along the way. The boys fell silent; they were focused on finishing now. My partner and I were silent too, astonished at the resolve our boys displayed. We reached the car park and turned back towards the forest, sharing a collective sigh of relief and pride. With little fanfare, we returned to the car, dropped it in gear and slowly drove past the head of the trail we had conquered, the momentary silence broken by a voice from the backseat: “Hey, where’s my cake?”

Read more from Salon.com…

Exclusive: LetsIntern co-founder’s influencer marketing startup Chtrbox gets angel funding

Gurugram-based skills assessment company Aspiring Minds had acquired Swarup’s previous entrepreneurial venture, LetsIntern.com, a web and mobile platform for finding internships. It had a network of 4 million students and more than 22,000 organisations.

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Iraq’s election may have had widespread voter fraud – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Wednesday marks the deadline in Iraq for reporting incidents of voter fraud. Iraqis from across the political spectrum all say that incidents of cheating were higher this time than in any of Iraq’s previous elections, and most blame irregularities and problems with a new electronic voting system. While it is a truism that Iraqis disappointed in their results often imagine cheating rather than acknowledge their own failures to appeal to a broader electorate, there is enough anecdotal evidence and real questions about the system to merit investigation.

Facebook (and Whatsapp) remain the major ways many Iraqis consume news. In recent days, an Arabic article titled the “Lying Boxes” has been widely circulated among both Kurdish and Arab, Sunni and Shiite political leaders. It provides a deep dive into accusations that the electronic voting system employed for the first time this month was a complete failure on multiple fronts.

The Independent High Election Commission, a body that long ago lost its independence and is now staffed by apparatchiks from the major parties, contracted with a mysterious and little-known Korean company to provide ballot boxes that scan votes and uplink them to a central database upon the closure of polls. That Korean company had little track record, has little behind it but a webpage, and the single international election Iraqis say it previously managed in Kyrgyzstan ended in disaster.The company provides no photos of its operations in Kyrgyzstan, leading to further questions about whether its claims of operations there are true. There is also a question why the IHEC contracted with a company office in Poland and signed the contract in Turkey if Miro System is truly is based in South Korea beyond simply a name on a registry absent an address.

The alleged problems get worse. Iraqi leaders also say a preliminary audit by the United Nations of the elections management system, the data archive system, and the survey/statistical system had failed. Nevertheless, the IHEC went forward. On election day, some candidates say the receipts produced by the boxes did not match figures uploaded to the central count, and some candidates say some boxes returned zero votes for themselves when they were where the candidates themselves voted. Nor do the USB serial numbers from the boxes necessarily always match.

While the IHEC has reportedly received upward of 1,000 complaints, it appears disinclined to order a manual recount, let alone to cancel the elections, for two reasons. First, they and much of the Iraqi political class fear violence could occur if a recount strips some politicians (especially from Muqtada al-Sadr’s list) of seats. And second, because they do not want to cast doubt on the legitimacy of electronic voting. Many Iraqis shrug and say that cheating benefited some disenfranchised others, but most people will be brought into a ruling coalition one way or another.

This is wrong-headed, and the IHEC should order a partial, random manual recount (perhaps of 25 percent of the ballot boxes) if nothing else as a backup internal audit to enhance confidence in elections now and in the future. If the IHEC does not do so, many Iraqis think, it will be because they fear they’ll have a major problem on their hands if the audit shows a real discrepancy between the ballots cast and the automated count from the scan.

Such a discrepancy would either indicate software problems or perhaps hacking. But the conspiracies now circulating (some Kurds blame Turkey or Masoud Barzani’s dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party for some of the bizarre results coming out of Iraqi Kurdistan, while others blame Gulf states for hacking to benefit Muqtada al-Sadr as their new anti-Iranian tool) erode confidence in Iraqi democracy far more seriously. There is no indication the flash drives and data transfers were secure.

It’s always possible that allegations of voting box irregularities are the result of sour grapes on the part of those lists and parties who did worse than expected, but the idea that an audit would undercut confidence in future elections is wrong-headed; indeed, the reality is the opposite. It is positive that Iraqi elections are unpredictable and Iraqis wish to hold incumbents and the broader political class to account, but that too does not justify the possibility of cheating and manipulation.

One Iraqi politician from a major political bloc found it ironic that the only item the U.S. and Iranian embassies appeared to agree on in Baghdad was to ignore the allegations of voter fraud for the sake of stability. This is unacceptable.

The future confidence in Iraqi democracy is far more important than the inconvenience of a manual recount. The political jockeying can continue (a handful of seats may be in question, especially in Iraqi Kurdistan and perhaps with some of the Shiite-dominated lists as well), but no future government will be fully legitimate in voter eyes if questions over the authenticity of results are swept under the rug.

As Ronald Reagan said in a different context, “Trust, but Verify.” Iraqi voters deserve verification.

Read more from American Enterprise Institute…

Gallup Shows Support For Gun Control Drops Over Time

Immediately after Parkland, support for gun control was huge. It seemed like everyone wanted new gun control measures to be put in place. Oh, maybe not your average Bearing Arms reader, mind you, but in the population as a whole? It was big.

Many of us knew that all we needed to do was hold on for a while. It always seemed that historically, gun control rhetoric gained support initially after some kind of attack, then dropped back down after a time. People apparently jumped on the gun control bandwagon based on emotion, but then soon jump back off because they realize they were being dumb.

At least, that’s what it sure looked like. It seems that Gallup agrees.

Americans’ support for tougher gun laws hit a 25-year high in March. In the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in a March Gallup poll, 67% of Americans indicated their support for tougher restrictions on guns. This was the highest level of support for more stringent gun laws in the U.S. since 1993. Americans’ support for tougher gun laws has generally trended up since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and has now returned to levels last seen prior to 2000.

In other words, people aren’t jumping up and down for gun control anymore.

It’s not really surprising, though, when you think about it. After something horrible, people are looking for answers, for something that will make damn sure nothing like this happens again. I get it. This is a reaction that I think is probably pretty normal. Even ardent Second Amendment supporters can start to rethink their positions for a brief time.

But in the end, there’s the reality that the problem wasn’t the tool used in the shooting, but the tool using it in the first place. Vehicle attacks like the one recently in Toronto illustrate just how the problem rests in the people, not the weapon (it should be noted that the Toronto van attack had more casualties than the Santa Fe High School shooting).

People settle down, let things simmer, then realize that guns aren’t really the problem, so their minds change on gun control.

That means there’s a brief window for lawmakers to push through anti-gun bills through legislatures with anything approaching public support. That’s what happened down in Florida, when they passed a law making it illegal to sell a firearm of any kind to anyone under 21, not just the handguns as the law previously stipulated.

Unfortunately, though, lawmakers have a problem. They may pass those laws with public support, but by the time re-election comes around, that same public isn’t in favor of those laws. That previous support won’t necessarily protect them from the angry mob known as the electorate, especially when pro-gun activists are very good at mobilizing to oust traitorous politicians who betray their trust. Having the support of the public in one instance doesn’t insulate you later.

What lawmakers need to understand is what we’re seeing from Gallup. Just weather the storm and it will end. Despite the media push after Parkland, it too has failed to create real, lasting support for anti-gun extremism. That’s a very good thing.

The post Gallup Shows Support For Gun Control Drops Over Time appeared first on Bearing Arms.

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Empowering veterans in civilianhood: Reshaping the narrative through the VET OPP Act – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise


Download the PDF

Chairman Arrington, Ranking Member O’Rourke, and distinguished members of this subcommittee:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear here today, as you consider tangible measures to uplift our nation’s veterans in their transition from war to work and successful civilian lives. It is an honor.

Veterans are the unacknowledged permanent ambassadors of national service. How we publicly portray veterans directly relates to how society conceptualizes military service, including what happens to an individual during that service. In an all-volunteer force, reputation is key to the attractiveness of joining a profession that can end in death or permanent disability.

To encourage young men and women to join its ranks, the Department of Defense relies heavily on programs and benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those who choose to wear the nation’s uniform, as well as those who choose not to, are influenced by how well Congress and the VA care for veterans’ post-service reputations and for their physical bodies.

The types of legislation that Congress passes, and the programs and benefits the VA prioritizes, powerfully shape the veteran narrative. Crucially, it influences veterans’ own perception of their identity and worth in the post-service context.

From Citizen-Soldiers to Soldiers-Citizens: Creating Identity

The proposed Veterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan Act of 2018, or VET OPP Act, reflects how veterans grow their post-service civilian identity in a whole-health manner. It recognizes that having a fourth high-level, prominent institutional VA mechanism—a Veterans’ Economic Opportunity and Transition Administration, headed by its own under secretary—can light the pathway to success for post-service veterans, similarly to how Department of Defense mechanisms involving training, sense of purpose, and a shared community shape young civilians into successful soldiers.

Currently, approximately half (50.3 percent) of active duty enlisted personnel are 25 years old or younger. Somewhat fewer (43.8 percent) of the entire military force are in that age bracket.1 Developmentally speaking, this is the “emerging adulthood” period—a period of rapid development involving key struggles surrounding personal identity. The military offers concrete answers to common existential questions, reinforcing them through experience, during this normative period.

The positive self-regard cultivated during military service becomes a focal point of the psychological changes that often distinguish the period of transition out of the military. Research from Columbia University reveals that veterans experience grief-like symptoms at the loss of their previous military identity which in turn augments all the stressors of a life transition, when facing the initial instability of civilian life and lacking the order and purpose that characterized their service.2

The media and the public overwhelmingly call this experience of veteran transition stress PTSD and erroneously believe that the majority of all post-9/11 veterans have a mental health disorder. Unfortunately, since funded research at VAs and military treatment facilities prioritizes PTSD research, and since the preponderance of well-intentioned veteran legislation post-9/11 emphasizes mental health disorders, the public, potential employers, and veterans themselves are trapped in the inaccurate and harmful “broken veteran” narrative cycle.3

Identity, Education, and Employment: Pathway to Veteran Success

Currently, over half of employers believe that veterans do not have successful careers after leaving the military. Half do not think that veterans pursue a college or vocational school degree, but 62 percent believe veterans need to acquire more hard and soft skills before they are ready for non-military roles.4 Veterans themselves tend to agree that they need “soft” or communication skills. Both veterans and employers nearly unanimously agree on the benefit of internship or apprenticeship programs for veterans as they seek to reenter the civilian workforce. And post-9/11 veterans especially see education as crucial to their continued success.

The VA currently has a suite of educational assistance, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and education and career counseling programs, as well as broadly defined shared transition assistance program (with the Departments of Labor, Defense, and Homeland Security), which make accessible all the tools veterans need to progress from war to work. But these are at the bottom of the totem pole within the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). The VA’s nearly century-old structural design impedes its own ability to help veterans achieve that success. Its outdated manufacturing-economy outlook, which informs VBA’s 1917-based disability model sees a service-connected condition only through the terms of a permanent earnings loss, and works as a perverse incentive against veterans entering the workforce. With all of the VBA’s energies directed towards its backlog of nearly half a million disability claims, its institutional resources are concentrated on the disability system to the unsurprising neglect of its education and economic programs. One small example: If you visit the VA’s Office of Employment and Economic Impact website, within VBA, it tells you that “it is no longer available” and to maybe check out the Department of Labor. Coincidentally, a majority of veterans report that navigating the VA’s administrations and benefits is their top challenge in transition to civilian life.5

The very VA economic opportunity programs veterans stand most to profit by are operating with the proverbial millstone around their necks.

Conclusion

In the 21st century information age, education iskey to employment, and employment is the door to a successful transition to civilian life. Education and employment combined give veterans the crucial tools to reforge civilian identities stronger even than their military ones. The psychic rewards of work, productivity, and a career cannot be underestimated, which is corroborated by the trueveteran narrative: Veterans, it turns out, are immensely successful. Empirical data shore that up by showing how veterans with increased levels of education are wealthier, healthier, and more civically engaged than even their civilian peers over the life course. Additional research establishes the links between these outcomes, and reduced rates of dependence, disability, and criminality.

This is the veteran narrative that should predominate. The goal of the nation’s veteran economic opportunity programs should be to enable soldiers to be fully functional members of society, animated by a strong civilian identity. As early as the Revolutionary War, General George Washington had felt intuitively that veterans needed to maintain a sense of self after military service, recommending in his Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States that veterans funnel their energies as soon as possible into active pursuits, and “prove themselves not less virtuous and useful as Citizens, than they [were] persevering and victorious as soldiers.”

The VET OPP Act can trigger this shift, as Congress elevates and frees already existing VA economic opportunity and transition assistance programs through shifting them structurally into a fourth VA administration. Our nation ought to provide transitioning servicemembers with the means and opportunity to succeed in their civilian lives and to invest their talent and ability in the American economy.

Thank you again for the honor of this opportunity. I look forward to answering any questions from the committee.

1 Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy (ODASD) (MMC&FP) (2015). Demographics One Source: Profile of the Military Community. http://download.militaryonesource.mil/12038/MOS/Reports/2015-Demographics-Report.pdf.

2 Meaghan C. Mobbs, George A. Bonanno. “Beyond War and PTSD: The Crucial Role of Transition Stress in the Lives of Military Veterans.” Clinical Psychology Review 59 (2018) 137-144.

3 Rebecca Burgess, “Economic Opportunity, Transition Assistance, and the 21stCentury Veteran: The Case for a Fourth VA Administration,” AEI, March 2018, http://www.aei.org/publication/economic-opportunity-transition-assistance-and-the-21st-century-veteran-the-case-for-a-fourth-va-administration/.

4 Edelman Insights, “2017 Veterans’ Well-Being Survey: Focus on Employment, Education, and Health,” October 2017, https://www.slideshare.net/EdelmanInsights/2017-veterans-wellbeing-survey.

5 Corri Zoli, Rosalinda Maury, and Daniel Fay, Missing Perspectives: Servicemembers’ Transition from Service to Civilian Life, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University, November 2015.

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