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Welcome to CombatCounselor Chronicle, an E-zine dedicated to giving you the most current, pertinent information on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based CBT available.

Chris Sorrentino, a.k.a CombatCounselor, is a leader and expert in cognitive behavioral therapy. He combines 30 years of experience in psychology with the discipline from having served as a U.S. Air Force officer for 20 years, 4 of those in combat zones, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2005.

The Leader in Military and Veteran Psychology ... Follow Me to Mental Health!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tax Scams and Tax Robbers...Bilking America(ns) BIG TIME!

I do not know about you, but I stress over money more than anything.  As I discussed in last week's post, one of the primary causes of conflict in relationships today is financial ... MONEY ... or lack thereof. I discussed credit and credit scores as a source of conflict in my last post, educating you on some pitfalls and secrets, and telling you how to stay on top of your credit score (Vantage or FICO) and avoid potential problems down the road.

I saw a story on "Rock Center with Brian Williams" last night about tax refund fraud and the IRS. Apparently, this has become a very lucrative crime with scumbags stealing identities (very easy) and filing made-up tax returns IN YOUR NAME ... TO THE TUNE OF $5 BILLION LAST YEAR!

If you have worked with or for the federal government, you have witnessed WASTE in unfathomable proportions, fraud and abuse as well, but waste is rampant! Government departments and contractors waste HUNDREDS OF BILLION$ EVERY YEAR and this $5 billion scam is just the tip of the iceberg!

Medicare fraud, social security and disability fraud, and now tax fraud, if there is a way to defraud the government or waste taxpayer dollars, someone has figured it out.

There was another story on the same program about Carnival Cruiseline and the fact that they pay only 0.6%, that is less than one percent, in international, federal, state...etc. taxes! Not only that, they have bilked the US Coast Guard and Navy  out of over $2 million over the past year in recovery operations for their poorly maintained fleet alone. That does not include the millions being spent on the Costa Concordia (one of their ships) clean-up effort. Their CEO is the proud owner of the Miami Heat basketball team and one of the richest men in Florida, yet his company (Carnival) rips-off billions from United States citizens every year ... what a great American!

Bank of America, Pfizer, and hundreds of other behemoth corporations pay 0.0% in tax to our government to the tune of over $70 BILLION every year by taking their accounts offshore and exploiting tax laws that are so complex and detailed the IRS has difficulty understanding them.  Really?  $70 million gone and nobody cares?  I pay more in taxes than Bank of America?  What a great country!

I have witnessed, first-hand, government/contractor waste on a huge scale recently.  I cannot go into detail because of pending litigation, but this one contractor AND THE GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING OFFICER supposedly "overseeing" the contract, are wasting many millions of dollars annually and this is just one relatively SMALL contract! If the Department of Defense would join us in the 21st Century and take the steps necessary to give our military confidentiality when seeking mental healthcare, this particular contract would not even be necessary! A contract a few simple policy changes would eliminate all together wastes tens, if not hundreds, of millions each year. How absurd is that?

With all of that being said, why the hell do the White House, Congress, Pentagon, and many other federal entities primarily target personnel and benefits when things get tight? Why do they not focus on the massive amounts of fraud and waste within our own government, bilking American taxpayers out of HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS ANNUALLY and running up our deficit INTO THE TRILLIONS!

We should not stand for this ANY LONGER! If you are sick and tired of government/contractor fraud, waste, and abuse, LIKE and SHARE THIS POST with all of your friends.

Until we citizens, the American taxpayers, the people who elect these morons and pay their salaries, say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and unite in defiance, these frauds, wastes, and abuses will continue unabated.



God bless you and our great nation, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tuition Assistance (TA) Suspension Versus Military Suicides...Let's Get Our Priorities Straight!

C.T. Sorrentino, LtCol, USAF (Ret)
aka CombatCounselor
Air Force Tuition Assistance (TA) suspension is a TEMPORARY SOLUTION to a short-term problem ... SUICIDE is a PERMANENT SOLUTION to a temporary problem.  TA is a very popular program, recruiting and retention tool, and valuable entitlement to our military men and women.
With sequestration comes program cuts, usually "soft" programs like TA over weapon system programs like to beleaguered F-35 program. So the temporary "suspension" of TA has troops up in arms and rightfully so. The White House Petition asking the president to save the TA program has garnered over 80,000 of the 100,000 required signatures to force Obama to address the issue. I started a White House Petition several months back when the criteria for presidential action was just 10,000 signatures and few petitions came close to that mark, so 80,000+ signatures is quite a milestone...congratulations!
My previous petition was similar to the one I recently started and even though tens of thousands saw my pleas for action, we received only 71 of the required 150 signatures to even get the petition viewable on the website, and WAY SHORT of the 10,000 signature requirement. What does that tell you about the priorities of our citizens? 71 signatures out of 25,000+ possible ... NOT A VERY GOOD CONVERSION RATE.
More men and women in uniform COMMITTED SUICIDE last year than were KILLED IN COMBAT! 6,900+ Military and Veterans die by their own hand each year and the negative stigmas against anxiety, depression, PTSD, and mental health treatment in the military are the cause.
We (military men and women and Veterans) learn NOT TO ASK FOR HELP for these very real and debilitating psychological problems because we fear being ostracized by superiors and peers, losing our security clearances, and/or possibly losing our careers.  Until military men and women are GIVEN CONFIDENTIAL TREATMENT and the IGNORANCE OF OUR LEADERS are addressed, our heroes will continue to take their own lives!
Please read my articles on these stigmas, one of which (THE STIGMA KILLING AMERICAN HEROES) was recently published in De Oppresso Liber magazine. There is also a recent post on our WHITE HOUSE PETITION, asking President Obama to address this extremely important issue and allow our troops to receive CONFIDENTIAL TREATMENT, thereby reducing the stigmas, I have discussed very briefly here, over time.
Please sign our WHITE HOUSE PETITION and read more about the issue elsewhere in this blog:
If our military men and women put as much effort into saving 7,000 lives each year as they do trying  save an ENTITLEMENT that will only benefit them personally, our petition would succeed in record time. It is time to start thinking about someone other than yourselves, character traits like "empathy" (being able to put yourself in sometime else's shoes, feeling their pain, etc) and "selflessness", which is one of the Air Force Core Values by the way, and put your effort into more critical activities.  It is time to be selfless and end these absurd yet deadly stigmas, empathizing with those afflicted by painful memories and emotions instead of ensuring that YOU have that AA Degree by the time you jump ship for the private sector.
Key Words: PTSD,suicide,military,stigma,stigmas,troops,co confidentiality,confidential,mental,health,treatment,ignorance,career,security,clearance,CombatCounselor

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Help end military suicides and the negative stigmas surrounding PTSD and mental health treatment in the military

More of our men and women in uniform die by their own hand than are killed in combat! Nineteen (19) military/veterans commit suicide each day and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a factor in many of those deaths. Miltary men and women DO NOT HAVE THE CONFIDENTIALITY available in the private sector when seeking treatment for their problems (e.g. PTSD, depression, anxiety), causing negative PTSD and mental health treatment stigmas. Because troops fear losing their career or security clearance, they REFUSE TO SEEK TREATMENT, many killing themselves instead. END THE STIGMAS NOW, today, by giving confidentiality to our military, before one more hero dies by his or her own hand! 

Read more in The CombatCounselor Chronicle:

To put things in perpective and give you an idea of how lost our citizens are, how apathetic Americans have become, how ignorant some can be, read this:
Movie studio Warner Brothers Pictures +WBPictures ID has generated nearly $4,000,000 in donations from thousands of Veronica Lake fans through Kickstarter to fund a movie based on the popular series.  "The Veronica Mars Movie Project", launched on March 13, 2013, has attracted 59,209 contributors in less than 2 weeks and has generated $3,855,258 in funds FOR WARNER BROTHERS STUDIOS!
March 25th, 2013 
What does this say about our priorities as a nation, our values (or lack thereof), when over 59,000 people donate their hard earned money and valuable time, to visit the Kickstarter website and donate $4 million, that is $4,000,000, to a movie studio just so they can see a stupid TV show on the big screen ... give me a break!  

In the time it took for Warner Brothers to generate $4 million from 59,000 Veronica Mars fans to fund a movie, over 275 military and Veterans have committed suicide. Would you not think that signing a petition to end suicide in the military would garner more support than a movie?  We are not even asking for money, just a signature to bring this tragic cause to the attention of our president, a man not well known for his concern for our military or Veterans. 

Unfortunately, our recent White House Petition came 99,937 signatories short of the 100,000 required to get presidential visibility, but WE WILL NOT GIVE UP! Stay tuned for more updates, more activism, AND MORE PETITIONS! 

Bless all of you who signed and campaigned so hard for our cause ... ESPECIALLY YOU HUNTER! 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

60 Minutes Story ... The BIG 3 Credit Bureaus and Institutional Terrorism

A major contributor to relationship and marital discord is financial difficulties.  If a couple or family is having money problems or disagreements about financial arrangements or decisions within the relationship, there are bound to be problems.  Money and money problems are the number one cause of unhappiness and arguments within relationships in the United States.  Money problems can result from one or both being financially irresponsible or, in some cases, may come from outside the relationship with neither person being to blame.  It is that outside influence, specifically credit reporting fraud or mistakes, which is the focus of this story.

I was watching 60 Minutes on CBS recently and there was a story on the three national credit bureaus, Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian, and the fact that ten percent (10%) of Americans, one in every 10, have errors on their credit reports.  I was even more shocked to learn that one out of five of us, five percent (5%), have errors on our credit reports BAD ENOUGH TO HURT OUR CREDIT SCORES!  I will get back to these problems, huge problems in-fact, a little later, but first I want to understand the credit reporting process a little better.

I am one of a minority of Americans who check their credit reports and FICO scores regularly.  I visit one of the “BIG 3” every four months for a free credit check through DO NOT CONFUSE AnnualCredit, where you can get a FREE credit report once a year from each of the BIG 3 credit reporting agencies, with, a website that will charge you for services and mimics the free site in order to sway you into purchasing “credit monitoring”.  

Most people do not need credit monitoring and can monitor their own credit by doing what I do, checking my credit on one of the BIG 3’s websites every four months, in doing so, checking three times a year FOR FREE and ensuring there are no errors or identity theft occurring.  For example, I will check Experian in March, Trans Union in July, and Equifax in November each year.  I normally enter a recurring reminder on my Microsoft Outlook calendar or Google Calendar, making it easier to remember.  The only problem you may encounter is trying to check a report to soon and wasting a little time, so make sure you wait at least a year before trying to check your credit with each agency.

There is a new rating system replacing the old “FICO” score, which ranged from 300 to 850, called the “VantageScore”, which is based on information from your credit report.  Your credit information may differ among the BIG 3 national credit reporting agencies and, as a result, your VantageScore based on each of those reports may vary.  A VantageScore ranges from 501 (being very bad) to 990 (being very good) and, from Experian at least, you also receive a RISK GRADE in the following ranges:
A: 900–990
B: 800–899
C: 700–799
D: 600–699
F: 501–599
You are also assigned one of five applicable CREDIT CATEGORIES based on your risk grade, including “High Risk” (F); “Non-Prime” (D); “Prime” (C); “Prime Plus” (B); and “Super Prime” (A) and given a percentile score, indicating where your credit rating ranks, on a scale of 1 to 100 among U.S. consumers.  According to Experian:
“VantageScore is the credit industry’s first credit score developed jointly by the three national credit bureaus. This innovative new approach to credit scoring simplifies the credit granting process for consumers and creditors by providing a consistent, objective score to the marketplace. Credit scoring is used to help potential lenders and users of credit reports quickly measure your credit worthiness and decide the type of risk they are taking by doing business with you. In addition to your credit score, lenders may also consider other factors such as your income, assets, length at current residence and employment history. There are many different scoring models used in today’s marketplace and different criteria used by different lenders. Regardless of what scoring model is used, they all have one purpose: to summarize your credit worthiness.”
Your credit score, now called VantageScore, is used for a variety of things, things you may not be aware of.  Most of us know that your score not only influences, it determines whether or not you will get a loan (home mortgage, car/consumer loan, etc.) and the interest rate that goes along with it.  The better your VantageScore, the lower the interest rate.  With the “prime” interest rate hovering around 3.25% for the past year, one of the lowest in history, those with the best credit will normally be able to get a loan with an interest rate close to prime.  If you have negative entries (late payments, loan defaults/collections, bankruptcy, or foreclosure) on your report, your Vantage Score will drop and the interest rate you receive on your loan will rise exponentially depending on how bad your score is.

Other things affect your VantageScore beside poor payment history and bankruptcy, including how long your credit history is, how many credit accounts you have, the credit limits on those accounts, and the debt to credit limit ratio.  Other things affecting your score negatively are closing accounts and having too many accounts at any given time.  The logarithm used by the BIG 3 to determine your score is a closely held secret and trying to figure it out is not an exact science, but some things you can do to maintain a good credit score are:
1. Make payments on-time
2. Keep a good balance of accounts and credit limits (higher is better)
3. Maintain a reasonable debt to credit limit ratio (not too high and not to low)
4. Use your accounts and credit cards regularly (at least once a year)
5. DON'T close accounts if possible, particularly before shopping for a loan!
Many people do not understand that your VantageScore also influences other areas of your life.  According to Forbes magazine, things, other than loan interest rates, that can be affected by your credit score include your home and car insurance rates, renting a home, getting hired or not, getting utilities for your new home, professional licensing, and even whether or not you will be investigated as a possible TERRORIST … seriously!

Now that you understand the system we are working with, I would now like to get back to the problems with the credit scoring process reported by 60 Minutes and discussed earlier.  Because your credit score has such a large and significant impact on your life in so many areas, there is a failure in the system when five to ten percent of citizens are affected negatively because of errors that ARE NOT THEIR FAULT!  

60 Minutes highlighted the story of one woman who attempted to fix errors on her reports with the BIG 3 for SEVERAL YEARS.  A person with bad credit, with a name and social security number totally unlike hers, was mistakenly being included on HER CREDIT REPORTS!  When she tried to fix the problem, the BIG 3 ignored her request or refused to believe her, EVEN AFTER THE OTHER WOMAN AND HER CREDITORS SIGNED AFFADAVITS SUPPORTING HER CLAIMS!  People lose jobs and houses over things like this and the BIG 3 were totally unresponsive.  60 Minutes indicated that this was not an isolated incident and reported that it appears to be a systemic problem, a problem the BIG 3 refuse to address or fix … another example of Institutional Terrorism ™ at work in America.

My own credit history was flawless, without a late payment or other blemish for over 30 years and a FICO Score very close to a perfect score of 850.  We regularly shopped at Kohl’s, a discount department store chain, for clothes and household items three or four times a year.  Kohl’s offers special discounts for the credit card customers, so we applied for a card and used it every few months.  We have most of our credit card, utility, and other recurring payment accounts on “auto pay”, having the statement balance taken out of our bank account automatically every month.  Because we only shopped at Kohl’s every few months, that option was not possible, so I relied on their email “payment due” reminders and, as a backup, statements mailed to our home to remind me to make a payment.

While paying our bills one weekend, I suddenly remembered that we had shopped at Kohl’s a while back and I had not received an email or statement, so I logged in to their website to see when the payment was due.  I do not know about you, but time flies by and when I saw that our account was over 60 days past due, I was flabbergasted!  I knew it had been a while, but did not realize it had been 60 days.  

I immediately called Kohl’s and told them I was sorry for the late payment, asking to make a payment immediately over the phone.  After doing so, I asked the woman if Kohl’s had reported our late payments to the BIG 3 and she indicated that they had.  I told her that I had not received a reminder email or statement in the 60 days since making the purchases and asked her if she could PLEASE remedy the discrepancy with the credit bureaus, having had “golden” credit for 30 years.  She rudely told me “I guess you are the only customer out of thousands of Kohl’s customers not to receive a statement!”  I told her “yes, I guess I am” and asked her again, very nicely, if she could help us out.  She told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was a liar and that she would do nothing to help me, so I asked her to close our account.  She told me that Kohl’s had already closed our account, again without even notifying us!  

What kind of business reports negative information to the BIG 3 and closes a (very good) customer’s account without ever sending an email, statement, late notice, or calling to find out what was going on?  We shopped almost exclusively at Kohl’s, spending from $2,000 to $3,000 a year at their stores and had a perfect payment history, 53 straight months without a late or missing payment, a pretty good customer by most standards, and Kohl’s closes my account for a simple oversight?  I admitted and continue to assert that, in the end, I AM RESPONSIBLE and should have paid much closer attention to our obligations, but Kohl’s not only failed to help us succeed, THEY INSULTED MY CHARACTER!

As a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, I take great pride in my core values and character, so if you really want to upset me, question my character!  Kohl’s has lost two very good customers, customers who spent in excess of $10,000 over a 5-year period, paying on time in all but the last two months.  So who is the loser here?  Kohl’s and their shareholders … NOT US … we still buy clothes, from J.C.Penney!

The moral of this story is that a small error, particularly one you caused yourself, can cost you BIG TIME when it comes to your credit score.  After Kohl’s reported our two late payments to the BIG 3, our FICO scores dropped from the low to mid-800s to 620!  Thankfully, we were not refinancing our mortgage or buying a car at the time because we would have been turned down or forced to pay an interest rate far above prime … all for a simple mistake and two late payments in 30 plus years.

Because credit scores play such a significant role in our everyday lives, making the difference between success and failure, owning a home or living on the street in some cases, it is critical that the BIG 3 get it right and when they do not, they need to respond quickly and with compassion … but they do not and probably will not UNLESS FORCED TO DO SO.

If my constituents decide to support me for political office, I will go after the BIG 3 and ensure that no more citizens are terrorized by ignorance, incompetence, or lack of concern for customers.  I will fight Institutional Terrorism, as my family experienced with Kohl’s (and other large companies/organizations) and like the poor woman in the 60 Minutes story experienced with the BIG 3.  Why? Because it is the right thing to do and because American citizens deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.   Citizens in general and customers in particular should be given the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically being assumed a liar or con artist.  Innocent until proven guilty?  Maybe in the courts, but not by large organizations like Kohl’s, Experian, Trans Union, Equifax, and others, perpetrating Institutional Terrorism on innocent Americans.

Americans are all struggling financially in this economy, even the richest of the rich have suffered losses ... not that we feel too sorry for the millionaires and billionaires who are "suffering" out there. Financial problems invade many if not most homes across the country, so it is important to communicate effectively with your partner about financial issues, ensuring that both parties are at least informed about the current situation, even if it happens to be bleak.  Relationship success is based on communication and teamwork, particularly when it comes to finances. Four eyes are much better than two are, especially when large organizations, like the BIG 3, think they can act with impunity, ruining lives without a thought about it.  So keep a regular eye on your credit reports by visiting either Experian, Trans Union, or Equifax once every four months at this FREE SITE:

Key Words: Trans Union, Equifax, Experian, Kohl’s, credit reports, FICO, VantageScore, credit, score, bureau, consumers, creditors, lenders, risk, business, payment, bankruptcy, history, accounts, limits, debt, payments, balance, credit card, blemish

Copyright 2013 – C.T. Sorrentino and 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Letter to the Editor, Air Force Times - HAGEL'S OPPORTUNITY (March 11, 2013)

I am assuming that an "editorial" is written by or for (in this case my guess would be Mr. Dorr) "the editor", Ms. Ianotta. In terms of JOINTNESS and BASE CLOSURES, I could not agree more. That is where our like-minded opinions end.
PEOPLE: Even though only 19% of the force stick around for retirement, I disagree with a strictly 401(k)-style retirement. We already have a 401(k)-style option in the Thrift Savings Plan, even if there are no matching contributions. A significant recruiting and retention tool is one of the few pensions still available in America today. Could there be a hybrid retirement, like the type proposed by several sources, where troops could qualify for reduced retirement at the ten year point, drawing the pension beginning at age 60? A combination of the two could help retention and provide a reasonable retirement for those who put their lives on the line for their country.
TOOTH TO TAIL RATIO: Are you assuming Afghanistan will end in 2014 and there will be no more war for the foreseeable future? Wishful thinking! A one-to-two ratio would never allow enough recovery time between deployments if at war, which between the instability in the Middle East, a nut at the helm in North Korea, and China spreading its wings and building aircraft carriers, is highly likely. Our forces are worn out and drastically reducing the force is a temporary solution to a long-term problem. We have seen the cycle over and over, so do not be naive.
EFFECTIVE USE OF THE NATIONAL GUARD AND RESERVE: Most would agree, particularly the Guard and Reserve, that they have been used VERY effectively over the past 20+ years. Probably TOO effectively. There is nothing more there to give if you think they are going to make up the difference for your "tooth to tale ratio". Bless you all!
HEALTHCARE: Is Air Force Times really going to go there? Are you seriously proposing that "those who can afford to pay more" pick-up the slack? We all made the same sacrifices and were promised the same benefits, so I think it is ABSURD to expect higher wage earners pay more for a benefit we were told was "free" and "for life" during recruitment. Maybe Ex-Secretary Panetta could pay back the $1 million in plane trips home during his SECDEF tenure (and only God knows how much he wasted BEFORE becoming Secretary). Maybe we could take all the money wasted on end-of-year "spend-downs" and plow it back into the budget EVERY YEAR. Maybe we could end government and contractor fraud, waste, and abuse instead of giving it lip service. I have seen enough money wasted on just one government contract (the contractor currently has a class action lawsuit also pending against them and an IG complaint from me) to fund Tricare for at least a few months ... ONE CONTRACT!
Air Force Times loses credibility with those kinds of shortsighted suggestions. Where is your loyalty? Who do you think pays your salary? Your readers, active-duty and retired military! Do you think your "suggestions" are popular with other readers?
Maybe you should stick to reporting the news rather than telling the new SECDEF how to run the show. I think he has much smarter, military-savy people on his staff than Military Times does.
Chris Sorrentino, LtCol, USAF (Ret) aka CombatCounselor

Friday, March 1, 2013

Anger Management ... Can You control Your Anger?

It is difficult, if not impossible, to manage or control anger. Control is the problem, not the solution. You can control many things in the world, but when you try to control what is between your ears, you will fail miserably. 

Dealing with anger issues can be very simple, yet extremely difficult, because you have learned to react the way you do. You cannot "unlearn" it because the mind is a one-way street of sorts, once "it" is in there, "it" is there for good. However, you can learn new ways of responding to angry thoughts, changing the context rather than the content. Let me briefly explain. 

You could practice accepting angry thoughts, which cause angry emotions, just as they are, non-judementally, in the present moment. Those thoughts, which may be true or valid, or may not be true or valid, are most likely not productive. So, by accepting the thoughts for what they are, merely thoughts, you can let yourself experience any valid anger rather than pushing it away or you can simply observe the thoughts and not attach any judgment or importance to them. In either case, you now have control over the process (context) and how you react to the thoughts.

I said it is simple because it is. It is as simple as accepting thoughts, sensations, behaviors, memories, and emotions for what they are and without judgement. Becoming competent at doing that is the difficult part. It takes practice, mindfulness practice, every day of the week for the rest of your life. Would you trade a life complicated by anger, anxiety, depression, shame, guilt (etc, etc) for one of calmness and tranquility if I told you it would take only 5 to 30 minutes a day?

The mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapies (DBT, ACT, MBMT) are not just for "crazy" people, but for anybody who is tired of letting their thoughts and emotions run their lives. It is a positive psychology in the sense that we train ourselves to look at negativity as a transient state and is based on the traditions of Zen Buddhism while incorporating modern, effective cognitive behavioral techniques based on the latest scientific research.

There are 15 episodes of BODY-MIND-BEHAVIOR (BMB) BASIC TRAINING on my YouTube channel: CombatCounselor Channel can read more on our website, and my blog, The CombatCounselor Chronicle. You can also follow me on Twitter @CombatCounselor or LIKE my Facebook page: Like CombatCounselor on Facebook . You can also search using the terms mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Don't forget to follow @CombatCongressman on Twitter, subscribe to his blog CombatCongressman Connection, visit his website AND VOTE FOR THOMAS C. SORRENTINO IN THE 2014 MIDTERM ELECTION - MISSOURI'S 6TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT!