American Legion Daily News Clips 4.27.20

Good morning my fellow non-essential quarantiners today is Monday, April 27, 2020 which is a Monday. In April. And we’re quarantined. Which means bars are closed.

Your inspirational quote for the day…

Walk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams to another land
Maybe you’re tired and broken
Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken
And thoughts unclear
What do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through
A box of rain will ease the pain
And love will see you through

Weird facts for today….

Dr. Seuss invented the word "nerd."

"Spoonfeed" is the longest English word with its letters in reverse alphabetical order.

Octopuses and squid have three hearts.

Apologies for the lack of clips on Thursday and Friday last week, I took an unexpected trip. I have some carry over stories from those days.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

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NBC News: Veterans Affairs has provided few answers around coronavirus study, advocates say

"It feels like they’ve talked about everything but [the study]," a Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman said.

April 26, 2020, 6:00 AM EDT / Updated April 26, 2020, 8:48 AM EDT

By Phil McCausland and Jonathan Allen

Veterans advocates say they are frustrated at the lack of transparency around the Department of Veterans Affairs’ use of the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus.

After the release of a preliminary study of veterans hospitalized with COVID-19 last week that showed that hydroxychloroquine — an anti-malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump — had no benefit and caused a greater rate of deaths, the groups want answers and are worried that they may have been misled by the agency on its recent purchase of the drug.

Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that the results of the study were "incredibly troubling for a number of reasons" and that the VA needed to provide answers.

"Why were veterans who were receiving treatment from a federal agency being treated with an unproven and speculative drug?" he asked in a statement. "What was the approval process used by doctors, patients and their families in discussing and agreeing upon this treatment option? At what point did the VA know that the results were this dire and when did they act upon those results? What are the VA’s current procedures for approving and administering the drug?"

The study, which included results from 368 patients, is the largest examination of the drug’s effect on patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Researchers concluded that there was a greater prevalence of death among those who took the drug compared to those who received only standard care.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie briefly mentioned the study in an interview with MSNBC last week, downplaying its results.

"That’s an observational study," he said. "It’s not a clinical study. It was done on a small number of veterans — sadly, those of whom were in the last stages of life, and the drug was given to them. And I have to also say that we know the drug has been working on middle-age and younger veterans."April 22, 202010:46

A VA spokeswoman also pushed back on the idea that the agency was testing the drug on patients even though it has not been scientifically evaluated for its uses to treat COVID-19.

"VA is not testing hydroxychloroquine," said Christine Noel, the agency’s press secretary. "It is using it to treat COVID-19 in cases where Veteran patients and their providers determine it is medically necessary, and in a manner consistent with current FDA guidance."

Noel said that the study was not a clinical trial, calling it "an analysis of retrospective data regarding hospitalized patients," and that the drug was "provided to VA’s sickest COVID-19 patients, many times as a last resort."

More than 370 veterans have died of the coronavirus, and about 5,800 are confirmed carriers, according to the agency’s numbers Wednesday.

Butler told NBC News that the drug and the study were briefly mentioned in two weekly meetings that veterans service organizations like his have had with agency leaders, including Wilkie.

Multiple attendees of the meetings said they are not open discussions with the organizations. Instead, they said, the VA says how it is handling various challenges, and then leaders take a few questions curated ahead of time.

Butler said the VA first characterized a large purchase of the drug as having been made for its patients who suffer from lupus or arthritis — conditions the drug has been scientifically proven capable of treating. At the most recent meeting Wednesday, leadership briefly touched on the study but quickly moved on, he said.

"In our notes from a week ago, it appeared Wilkie said that they are standing by for medical guidance on hydroxychloroquine," he said. "We took that as meaning they were not using it."

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Veteran Affairs Committee, sent questions to the VA about its large order of hydroxychloroquine after the study was released.

"After this order was put in, we asked about the purpose of this order, and we were told it was for routine treatment of lupus and arthritis," Tester said in his request for information.

Tester also asked whether the patients were being treated after having provided informed consent, what guidance the VA provided to facilities using the drug and whether it was engaged in any further studies.

As of late last week, his office was still waiting for the VA to respond.April 22,09:53

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, one of the largest veterans service organizations in the country and one that represents many elderly veterans, said it was very concerned about the study and had many questions about the plan behind it and how it was rolled out.

Terrence Hayes, the VFW’s director of communications, met with the VA leadership twice last week, and he said he has received few answers and heard little about it.

"It feels like they’ve talked about everything but [the study]," he said.

It is not just advocacy groups that are upset that veterans were used in a study for a drug that has only anecdotal support within the medical community, which Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned could be a false hope.

Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said that while the results may be preliminary, he found the data released by the VA to be concerning, saying it showed that it "may be premature to treat veterans" with the drug, "particularly in light of NIH recommending these drugs not be used." NIH is the National Institutes of Health.

"I’m not convinced we’re ready for widespread off-label use of hydroxychloroquine at VA — especially when the administration hasn’t done enough research on its safety and efficacy for treating COVID-19," he added. "When it comes to treating our veterans, we must rely on expert opinion and the proven science that leads to consistent guidance across the country."

Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, an Iraq War veteran who is Democratic member of Takano’s committee, went further, saying he was outraged that the VA appeared to turn veterans into experimental subjects to support an unproven treatment touted by the president.

"I think the most important thing is we need to keep veterans safe, not necessarily being test labs for the president to score political points," Gallego said.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage and alerts about the coronavirus outbreak

As the pandemic has spread across the U.S., veterans service organizations have said numerous times that the country’s second-largest government agency, charged with caring for the nation’s veterans population, has remained tight-lipped in its response to the spread of the coronavirus.

Many say they are concerned about reports that some veterans hospitals across the country have run short of personal protective equipment, even as the VA continues to say it has enough in stock.

The lack of specificity and media availability by the department’s leadership has some concerned.

"The largest health care provider in the country and the backstop for the civilian health care system isn’t out front being heard from and having questions asked of it on a daily basis," Butler said. "From the basic standpoint of a democratic society facing one of the largest health crises in a century, that seems incorrect and inappropriate."

CORRECTION (April 26, 2020, 7 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of the communications director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He is Terrence Hayes, not Terrance.

Stripes: South Korea rebuts rumors about Kim Jong Un’s health, but still no sign of North Korean leader

By KIM GAMEL AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 27, 2020

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea is confident that reports suggesting Kim Jong Un is ill are unfounded, a senior official said in one of the firmest rebuttals to a swirl of speculation about why the North Korean leader has made no public appearances in two weeks.

The comments by the South’s unification minister, who oversees policy with the North, were made Sunday in a closed-door forum and released on YouTube on Monday.

“Our government has enough intelligence-gathering capabilities that it can say with confidence that there are no unusual trends,” the minister, Kim Yeon-chul, said in dismissing the reports about the North Korean leader’s health.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un remained out of sight amid concern over potential instability in the region if the leader of the nuclear-armed state is incapacitated.

The North Korean leader expressed his gratitude to workers building a tourist zone in the eastern coastal area of Wonsan, state-run media reported Monday, but no details or photos were published.

Satellite images released by the monitoring website 38 North this weekend showed that Kim’s train has been parked in the area, giving credence to earlier claims by South Korean officials that the young leader was spending time at his palatial, seaside compound.

His last known public appearances were around April 11 when he was shown in photos presiding over a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s political bureau and inspecting an air defense unit in a western part of the country.

Speculation, including unconfirmed reports that he may be “gravely ill” after surgery or was isolated because of the coronavirus pandemic, mounted after he failed to appear at celebrations marking the April 15 birthday of his late grandfather and the North’s founder Kim Il Sung, a major holiday.

President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials also have dismissed the reports.

The unification minister called the flood of rumors an “infodemic” and said the government has said “nothing unusual” was afoot in North Korea based on a careful assessment of several sources of information. Kim declined to provide details about the intelligence due to the secret nature of the work.

He singled out the original report by the online publication Daily NK citing a single source in the country as saying that Kim had undergone heart surgery on April 12 at Hyangsan clinic north of Pyongyang and was recuperating at a nearby villa.

Daily NK has said the clinic was reserved for use for the Kim family in 2014 after the portly, chain-smoking leader began suffering from “medical issues.”

“The Hyangsan clinic is a general health center. It’s not a place to perform operations,” the unification minister said, adding that Kim has been absent from the public eye for extended periods before.

South Korean presidential foreign policy adviser Moon Chung-in also was quoted by CNN as saying that “Kim Jong Un is alive and well.”

“He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13. No suspicious movements have so far been detected,” Moon said.

gamel.kim
Twitter: @kimgamel

Military Times: Trump tweets that he’s instructed the Navy to ‘destroy’ any Iranian gunboats that harass US warships

Shawn Snow

5 days ago

President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that he has instructed the Navy to “destroy” any Iranian gunboats that harass American warships at sea.

Trump’s tweet comes in the wake of 11 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels harassing six U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf on April 15.

“I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” Trump tweeted.

At the Pentagon on Wednesday, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, a former commander of American nuclear and space forces, welcomed Trump’s tweet as a useful warning to Iran. He drew a parallel between last week’s naval encounter in the Gulf and Wednesday’s space launch, which said was “just another example of Iranian malign behavior.”

"And it goes right along with the harassment from the fastboats. … You put those two things together and it’s just more examples of Iranian malign behavior and misbehavior,” Hyten said.

Iran considers the heavy U.S. military presence in the Middle East a threat to its security.

Trump did not cite a specific Iranian provocation in his tweet or provide details. Senior Pentagon officials gave no indication that Trump had directed a fundamental change in military policy on Iran.

“The president issued an important warning to the Iranians,” David Norquist, the deputy secretary of defense, said at a Pentagon news conference when asked about the tweet. “What he was emphasizing is, all of our ships retain the right of self defense.” Norquist called the tweet “a very useful thing.”

Officials from U.S. Central Command and U.S. Navy Forces Central Command could not immediately be reached for comment.

NAVCENT detailed in a previous news release that the IRGC vessels “repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches” of several U.S. warships while the American vessels were conducting air integration exercises with U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

The 11 Iranian ships carried out an “unsafe” and “unprofessional” interaction with the following U.S. warships: the expeditionary mobile base vessel Lewis B. Puller, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Paul Hamilton, Cyclone-class of coastal patrol boat Firebolt, Cyclone-class patrol ship Sirocco, and Coast Guard ships Wrangell and Maui.

NAVCENT said the Iranian ships “repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds” and even came within 50 yard “closest point of approach” of the Puller and 10 yards of Maui’s bow.

The ships’ crews attempted to warn the Iranian vessels using “bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long range acoustic noise maker devices," NAVCENT said.

After roughly an hour, Iranian ships responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio signals and “maneuvered away from the U.S. ships,” NAVCENT detailed.

“The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) “rules of the road” or internationally recognized maritime customs, and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area,” NAVCENT said in the release.

NAVCENT said the Iranian ships “repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds” and even came within 50 yard “closest point of approach” of the Puller and 10 yards of Maui’s bow.

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. Central Command, warned in March that tensions with Tehran have not come down and may be exacerbated by the high number of COVID-19 deaths in Iran. McKenzie said CENTCOM believed Iran was under-reporting the number of COVID-19 deaths inside the country.

He cautioned that virus may be increasing pressure on Iranian leaders that could push the authoritarian regime to turn outward “to marshal against a common foe."

AP: Second lawsuit filed in West Virginia VA hospital deaths

John Raby, The Associated Press

4 days ago

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A woman is suing the federal government over the 2018 death of her husband from a wrongful insulin injection at a West Virginia veterans hospital.

Norma Shaw’s lawsuit is the second one filed against Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie in the past month involving the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. Both suits allege a “widespread system of failures” at the hospital.

Shaw filed the federal lawsuit Monday in the death of her husband, George Nelson Shaw Sr., an 81-year-old retired member of the Air Force.

Federal prosecutors have said they are probing the deaths of up to 11 patients at the hospital.

The Washington Post reported Monday that evidence in the case is being presented to a grand jury, who could offer charges soon.

Norma Shaw’s lawsuit said her husband was admitted to the hospital on March 22, 2018, for lower extremity swelling, fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath. He died on April 10, 2018. A physician determined the cause of death was heart disease and advanced dementia but did not make a mandatory referral to a state medical examiner for an autopsy.

Nine months later, his body was disinterred. An autopsy performed at an air base in Dover, Delaware, found four insulin injection sites on both arms and one leg. His death was ruled a homicide, the lawsuit said.

It said no physician order was issued for the injections and that the hospital failed to securely store insulin and prevent its access by unauthorized personnel. It alleges an employee who administered the injection was not qualified to be a nursing assistant and that hospital staff failed to take appropriate action to stop the employee from giving the shots.

It also said similar sudden deaths occurred on at least seven other occasions from July 2017 to June 2018.

Hospital and Veterans Affairs leadership failed to investigate and document the factors that led to the other deaths and failed to notify patients and families about the unexplained pattern of events that could have prevented future deaths, including Shaw’s, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit, first reported by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, seeks unspecified damages. A hospital spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The lawsuit was filed by Charleston attorney Tony O’Dell, who also filed a notice of a pending lawsuit in October with the Department of Veterans Affairs in the 2018 death of John William Hallman. The notice said the 87-year-old Navy veteran died at the Clarksburg hospital in 2018 from an insulin shot he did not need and caused his blood sugar to spike.

The first lawsuit involving the insulin shots was filed last month by Melanie Proctor in the death of her 82-year-old father, former Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott. That death also has been ruled a homicide.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said the VA inspector general told his office about the opening of a medical and criminal investigation of the hospital in July 2018, after at least nine patients were diagnosed with unexplained low blood sugar.

The Democrat said VA officials had told him a “person of interest” was no longer in contact with any veterans at the facility.

The VA is the government’s second-largest department, responsible for 9 million military veterans.

Military.com: VA Needs to Do More to Protect Medical Staff, Former Secretary Says

23 Apr 2020

Military.com | By Patricia Kime

Former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin has high praise for VA employees caring for veterans and supporting the department’s public health mission during the novel coronavirus pandemic. But he said VA leaders must act more aggressively to protect workers from exposure to the relentless virus.

The VA has performed "beautifully" in caring for veterans during the pandemic and has taken its mission as a public health backstop "very seriously," making hospital beds available to non-veteran patients as needed where hospitals are overwhelmed, he said.

But the department must do more to protect doctors, nurses and employees from contracting the deadly coronavirus, Shulkin said. As of April 23, 1,937 VA staff members have been confirmed with COVID-19 and 20 have died, including Vianna Thompson, a 52-year-old nurse at the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System who died April 7, and two co-workers.

Shulkin said reports of the VA rationing personal protective equipment, or PPE — shortages VA leadership, including Secretary Robert Wilkie, have repeatedly denied