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U.S., Sixteen other countries agree to rules for private security contractors operating in war zones September 20, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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The United States and sixteen other countries including Great Britain, Iraq, and Afghanistan have entered into an agreement purportedly to ensure that private military contractors in war zones opperate under some form of international law, rather than in a lawless void. The United States has some 8,000 private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan protecting civilian staff, diplomats, and business leaders.

The countries collectively produced a document called the “Montreux Document” defining obligations of private military contractors during armed conflicts.  The agreement also catelogues 73 good practices defining criterea to both vet prospective firms and direct their progress.

Private military contractor Blackwater Worldwide of North Carolina has been made infamous since the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in September of 2007 at the hands of Blackwater contractors. Since then there has been much international debate as to what jurisdiction, if any, has the authority to prosecute contractors if they are deemed to have commited a criminal act.

The Montreux Document, though the product of a three year joint initiative is not legally binding on the member countries nor on private contractors. It appears the debate will continue to rage on.

Department of Defense increasing presence of civilian contractors in Afghanistan September 17, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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Washington Post writer Walter Pincus notes an increase in proposed contracts to civilian companies to operate in Afghanistan. It seems this will coincide with a potential “surge” in the ever-bloodier warfront in Afghanistan.

“The military is stretched very thin, and to keep low the deployments numbers, there is a tendency to go to contractors who have played a huge part in Iraq,” said Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.)

Defense Contracts Foretell Military Buildup in Afghanistan

By Walter Pincus

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 14, 2008; Page A23

The Defense Department is seeking private contractors to carry out a variety of tasks — such as clearing land mines, building detention facilities and providing fuel — to assist U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which are set to grow following President Bush‘s announcement last week that he will expand military operations there.

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Are you receiving the proper amount in Workers’ Compensation benefits? March 12, 2008

Posted by Herb Chestnut in Uncategorized.
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I had an Informal Conference today.  For those of you who have not gotten to this stage yet, an Informal Conference is your opportunity to discuss a problem you are having with your claim with the District Office of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP).  The conference is normally held by telephone and involves the claimant (you) or your attorney, the insurance carrier (or its attorney) and a claims examiner from the OWCP.  There is no special method required to request the conference.  A letter from one of the parties  identifying an issue to the District Office where you claim is pending is all that is required.  Even though the conference sounds, like its name, informal, it is a very important part of the process.

Getting back to my conference, one of the issues was average weekly wage (AWW).  Generally, AWW is calculated by first determining if the claimant worked substantially the whole year prior to the injury.  If so, was this work with the same employer or, at least, similar employment?  If so, the wages are simply calculated, divided by 52 and an AWW is determined.  There are several problems which rear their ugly heads, such as: what constitutes “substantially the whole year” and what type of job qualifies as “similar employment”.  According to cases decided under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act (LHWCA), 37 weeks is the benchmark for the term “substantially the whole year”.  Therefore, if you have worked 37 out of the last 52 weeks, you may qualify. 

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