Ten years after the launch of the Iraq War, a number of critics and analysts have been pointing to war’s extravagant financial cost—to say nothing of its toll on human lives. But a surprising report shows that nearly 150 years after the Civil War's conclusion, the U.S. government is still paying relatives of veterans.
An analysis from the Associated Press found that more than $40 billion annually is being spent on veterans and survivors of wars dating from the Spanish-American War of 1898 up through the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
There are only two recipients of Civil War benefits, both children of veterans and receiving $876 per year.
Although their names are being kept private, the AP estimates that they were both born between 1920 and 1930, meaning their parents were themselves upward of 80 when their children were born.
Juanita Tudor Lowrey, 86, received Civil War benefits tied to her late father from the age of 2 until her 18th birthday.
Military veteran and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson said the government should consider means testing veterans as the burden on the federal debt continues to grow.
"Without question, I would affluence-test all of those people," Simpson told the AP.
Simpson co-chaired President Barack Obama’s deficit reduction committee in 2010, which offered a number of recommendations for reducing the federal budget defecit.
And while it would be natural to assume the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are the most costly, the payments to Vietnam War veterans nearly double the cost of our two current wars, $22 billion and $12 billion, respectively.
Simpson said a number of new ailments added to veterans coverage, including heart disease, has been driving up costs.
"That has been terribly abused," he said.
Meanwhile, World War II still costs the federal government about $5 billion a year. And the Korean War still costs taxpayers about $2.8 billion annually.
Amazingly, $20 million is still being paid each year to 2,289 family members of veterans from World War I, many of whom are over 100. But perhaps even stranger, 47 benefit recipients were not even born until after the war ended.
Two men made a daring daylight escape from a Canadian prison yesterday, using ropes dangling from a hijacked helicopter. A helicopter arrived at the prison near Montreal; as it hovered, "two of the inmates came out and appeared to attach themselves to cables that were attached to the helicopter," said a CTV reporter. "The helicopter then took off with these two men suspended underneath and it flew away, much to the surprise and astonishment of everyone in the area." A witness called it a "James Bond moment."
An Australian casino is trying to recover $33 million (US) after an “Ocean’s 11″-like scam was discovered.
The Herald Sun reported that a foreign guest staying at the Crown casino in Melbourne cheated in eight hands of cards during a short time frame. The scheme was discovered a few weeks ago, according to sources, and the guest was removed from the extravagant space he was staying in the middle of the night.
The scam was conducted with the help of an employee at the Crown, who has been fired. The Crown thinks this employee was using the facilities camera system to advise the high-roller on bets. The Australian has more from a security consultant on how this could have been done:
Casino security consultant Baron Stringfellow said it would be simple to intercept some casino surveillance systems.
“It’s very easy to intercept the signal from many casinos that don’t take precautions,” he told ABC radio.
“The problem with casinos is that they think they’re unbeatable but we see over and over again that they’re not.”
Mr Stringfellow said the person who was fed the security camera images would have had a wireless microphone that transmitted to a tiny wireless earpiece worn by the high roller.
“It’s virtually invisible if you cover it with a bit of your own hair.”
Atheist activists are taking legal action against the U.S. Treasury. Their target? Currency.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a church-state separatist group, put out a press release on Tuesday announcing that the organization was joining 19 other plaintiffs in challenging “In God We Trust” on federal currency.
The challenge, being made in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was filed on Feb. 1 — and a familiar face in the battle over the First Amendment will be leading the charge.
Well-known atheist activist Michael Newdow, who has fought incessantly to have U.S. courts rule that recitations of the “Pledge of Allegiance” in public schools are unconstitutional (the utterance includes the words ”Under God”), will be representing the group.
“Our government is prohibited from endorsing one religion over another but also prohibited from endorsing religion over nonreligion,” FFRF’s Dan Barker said in the release. “The placement of a monotheistic ideal on our nation’s currency violates this stricture and is therefore unconstitutional.”
In the complaint, non-believers allege that “In God We Trust’s” presence on currency is problematic in that it is purportedly “proselytizing, discriminatory and a per se establishment of monotheism.” These accusations, in the eyes of non-believers, constitute a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
For all of the debate and conversation about Obamacare’s potential impact on Americans’ wallets — and the economy on the whole — few likely saw coming the controversial health care law’s effect on family pets.
In an apparent “unintended consequence,” as CBS News calls it, the cost of medical equipment in veterinarian offices is going up, with some pet doctors reportedly already announcing that they plan to pass the burden on to consumers.
The reason? Obamacare imposes a new tax that will raise the cost of much-needed supplies.
Many vets may encounter an increase in medical devices and equipment as a result of a provision in the health care law that places a 2.3 percent federal excise tax on various health technologies. This tax, implemented to help fund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare), was never intended to impact pets.
CBS explains why the tax issue is having an impact on veterinarians:
How does this work? Medical devices used only on animals are exempt. However, items including IV pumps, sterile scalpels and anesthesia equipment, which are medical devices that have a dual use, meaning they can be used on people and animals, will be taxed. [...]
The American Veterinary Medical Association represents 82,000 vets. At this point, they don’t know how much this new tax will indirectly cost them. The organizations members are waiting to hear from more device makers.