Monday, November 30, 2009

Ten Years Ago Today: The Battle Of Seattle

Compared to the smack down that was 911, the Battle of Seattle pales in comparison. But it was still inspiring to see a small band of black block anarchists exact a price from the pigs for their brutality. Not everyone sits down in the streets and swaddles themselves in the phony innocence of "non-violence." I remember I read "Pacifism as Pathology" for the first time after the WTO was shut down by a crowd of 50,000 people. The bitter white whine from some trustfund (skinfund) activists about a few broken windows and bleeding pigs led me to it. Without the internet-based independent media, I likely never would have known there was even a debate.

Hats off to everyone who made those great days happen. So much would not have been possible without you.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Officer Down: 4 Pigs Die in Targeted Execution

A culture that is meaningless makes the destruction of that culture the only meaning.

This execution follows on the heels of Officer Timothy Brenton's killing in Washington state last month.

4 police officers shot dead at Wash. coffeehouse

By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer Gene Johnson, Associated Press Writer 9 mins ago

PARKLAND, Wash. – A gunman burst into a coffeehouse Sunday and opened fire on four police officers as they sat working on their laptops, killing the three men and one woman in what an official described as a targeted ambush.

Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said officers were looking for one male suspect who fled the scene and haven't ruled out an accomplice, possibly a getaway driver.

It wasn't clear whether the officers even had time to draw their weapons to return fire, Troyer said.

"This was more of an execution. Walk in with the specific mindset to shoot police officers," Troyer said.

Troyer said the officers — all from the Lakewood Police Department — were catching up on paperwork at the beginning of their shifts when they were attacked at 8:15 a.m. Sunday.

Troyer said the attack was clearly targeted at the officers, not a robbery gone bad.

"There were marked patrol cars outside and they were all in uniform," Troyer said.

With no known suspects, there was no indication of any connection with the Halloween night shooting of a Seattle police officer. The suspect in that shooting remains hospitalized.

"We won't know if it's a copycat effect or what it was until we get the case solved," Troyer said. "We don't even have a suspect ID right now."

Troyer would not release the names of the victims in Sunday's shooting. He said Lakewood has a small police force and the deaths represent a loss of 10 percent to 15 percent of the department.

Troyer estimates a couple hundred officers from the Washington State Patrol and multiple surrounding police agencies in the area are at the scene, with some coming on their own time.

"We have no motive at all," Troyer said. "I don't think when we find out what it is, it will be anything that makes any sense or be worth it."

Two employees and a few other customers were in the shop during the attack. All are being interviewed by the Pierce County Sheriff's investigators.

"Some are in shock. They are very upset," Troyer said. "They are the ones who are going to put together for us how this happened."

The Forza Coffee Shop, part of a popular local chain, is on a side street near McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, about 35 miles south of Seattle. The shop is in a small retail center alongside two restaurants, a cigar store and a nail salon.

Brad Carpenter, founder and owner of Forza Coffee, said his staff was OK and being interviewed by police, and that his main concern was with the families of the police officers.

"I'm a retired police officer, so this really hits close to home for me," said Carpenter, of nearby Gig Harbor.

Troyer said the Lakewood officers were two blocks outside their jurisdiction, and the coffee shop was a popular place for officers from surrounding jurisdictions to meet and share information.

Streets around the coffee shop were blocked off late Sunday morning, and a police helicopter hovered over a large crowd of investigators. TV video showed police taking possession of a pickup truck parked in a grocery store in Parkland.

"We are looking at some people. We are looking at some cars. We are looking at some residences," Troyer said.

Troyer said investigators are checking surveillance video from multiple sources, trying to identify a possible getaway car. He urged people to stay away from scenes to avoid interfering and putting themselves at risk.

Dave Gabrielson, a clerk at Foot Mart about a block away from the coffee shop, told the newspaper all was quiet when he opened the store at 8 a.m. About 30 minutes later, "All of a sudden a million cops were zooming up and down the road," Gabrielson said.

He said he saw officers bring a police dog into a nearby apartment complex.

Last month, Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton was shot and killed Halloween night as he was sitting in a cruiser with trainee Britt Sweeney. Sweeney was grazed in the neck.

Authorities say the man charged with that shooting also firebombed four police vehicles in October as part of a "one-man war" against law enforcement. Christopher Monfort, 41, was arrested after being wounded in a firefight with police days after the Seattle shooting. He remains hospitalized in stable condition, the hospital said Sunday.

The officers killed Sunday were a patrol squad made up of three officers and their sergeant. No threats had been made against them or other officers in the region, sheriff's officials said. Their families have been notified.

"We lost people we care about. We're working to find out who did this and deal with him." Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor told reporters at the scene.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said she was "shocked and horrified" by the killings.

"Our police put their lives on the line every day, and tragedies like this remind us of the risks they continually take to keep our communities safe," she said in a written statement. "My heart goes out to the family, friends and co-workers of these officers, as well as the entire law enforcement community."

At Rollies Tavern near the coffee house, the plasma TVs usually tuned to football had Northwest Cable News on. Three bar patrons live next door to the coffee house.

Jerry Arnold, 45, was in bed when he was awakened by sirens. He's lived there seven years and never seen anything close to Sunday's scene.

"I hope they get them. I can't sleep until they do," he said. "Those guys could be hiding in my backyard."


Associated Press Writer Rachel La Corte in Olympia and Photographer Ted S. Warren in Parkland contributed to this report.

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US Journalist Grilled at Canada Border Crossing

Hat tip AK48

U.S. journalist grilled at Canada border crossing
November 26, 2009
By CBC News

U.S. journalist Amy Goodman was stopped at a Canadian border crossing south of Vancouver on Wednesday and questioned for 90 minutes by authorities concerned she was coming to Canada to speak against the Olympics.

U.S. journalist Amy Goodman said she was stopped at a Canadian border crossing south of Vancouver on Wednesday and questioned for 90 minutes by authorities concerned she was coming to Canada to speak against the Olympics.

Goodman says Canadian Border Services Agency officials ultimately allowed her to enter Canada but returned her passport with a document demanding she leave the country within 48 hours.

Goodman, 52, known for her views opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CBC News on Thursday that Canadian border agents asked her repeatedly what subjects she would cover at scheduled speaking engagements in Vancouver and Victoria.

'You're saying you're not talking about the Olympics?'?Canadian border agent

Goodman said she told them she planned to speak about the debate over U.S. health care reform and the wars in Asia.

After much questioning, Goodman said the officials finally asked if she would be speaking about the 2010 Olympics.

"He made it clear by saying, 'What about the Olympics?'" said Goodman. "And I said, 'You mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to push for the Olympics in Chicago?'"

"He said, 'No. I am talking about the Olympics here in 2010.' I said, 'Oh I hadn't thought of that,'" said Goodman.

"He said, 'You're saying you're not talking about the Olympics?'"

"He was clearly incredulous that I wasn't going to be talking about the Olympics. He didn't believe me," Goodman said.

The CBSA declined comment on the incident Thursday.
Searched car, computer and notes

Goodman said her car was searched and the officials demanded to look at her notes and her computer.

Goodman is best known as the principal host of Democracy Now, a U.S. syndicated radio broadcast.

She was coming to Canada as part of a tour to promote a new book, Breaking The Sound Barrier.

"I am deeply concerned that as a journalist I would be flagged and that the concern ? the major concern ? was the content of my speech," said Goodman.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

And The Pilgrims Still Can't Feed Themselves: "Fill The Mayflower" Food Drive

Today is November 26, 2009, and uneducated whites everywhere on Occupied Turtle Island will celebrate Holocaust Denial Day, a holiday they call "Thanksgiving," which celebrates the myth of invaders and invaded sitting down for a happy meal together. The reality is that the pilgrims were starving; they had no idea how to feed themselves in sustainable relationship to the land, so they stole everything in site from the Indigenous people, including their land and their lives.

Now, just like their illegal immigrant forbears, these modern-day pilgrims are still starving, as evidenced by a food drive they held recently called "Fill The Mayflower." Apparently, military families are unable to feed themselves, despite occupying an entire stolen continent and illegally invading several more with billions and billions and billions of dollars worth of extorted, imperial tribute the Occupation government calls "taxes."

The gimmick of the food drive is to fill an eighteen-wheeled truck with donations. These trucks are normally used by the Mayflower moving company to relocate settler families around Occupied Turtle Island, as rootless Euro-Americans, far from their homelands, desperately try to find happiness, using up all their stolen resources and starving themselves in the process.

The future doesn't look too bright for these armed illegals, as their Occupation military continues to deploy them around the world, where they are hated and killed with abandon, as their dwindling supply lines are destroyed, and their families back home are left to starve.

But that's what happens when we deny the most murderous Holocaust in the history of the world.

[See the food drive flyer at Homefront Heroes: Wearing the Armor of God]

'Fill The Mayflower' Helps Military Families

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) ―
Organizers of the campaign are trying to fill a semi with food to benefit military families in need.

"The military; they tend to just sacrifice and they don't typically reach out for help when they really need it and deserve it," Linda Ole Ferguson with Homefront Heroes said. "So it behooves us to just step up and just do it."

People like Kiara Christianson filled their cars and came by to donate to the food drive on Saturday.

"I just think it's great that our service men and women are out there fighting for us and I know their family members really struggle when they're back here, so I just want to do my part," Christianson said.

All the food will go to Buckley Air Force Base, get boxed up, and distributed to families next week.

Buckley has every branch represented, including the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard an active duty National Guard and reserves.

They hope to help at least 300 families have a nice Thanksgiving.

"They typically are most impacted by the down economy for sure. A lot of these families have one member deployed, so the spouse is at home maybe with a couple of little kids and so it's just a really hard time for them," Ferguson said. "So it's just a way for ordinary Americans to reach out and say we appreciate your sacrifice and your service."

Organizers say this year it's tough competing for donations and dollars with so many people in need. But they're hoping those who give so much abroad will find people are just as generous here at home.

The Fill the Mayflower campaign continued on Sunday. They're accepting non-perishable or canned food donations from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the Arvada Elks Lodge.

(© MMIX CBS Television Stations, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DC Agrees to Pay $13M Over Arrests Of Protesters

$18,000 per arrested protester! Sun Tsu meets I Sue.

Here, piggie piggie. Arrest me, arrest me! Yer a sweet little meal ticket I so wanna punch.

DC agrees to pay $13M over arrests of protesters
Associated Press
11/23/09 3:15 PM PST
WASHINGTON ­ The District of Columbia said Monday it has agreed to pay more than $13 million to settle a lawsuit by protesters arrested during demonstrations nine years ago.

The preliminary agreement includes a maximum payment of $18,000 to each of the 680 people who were arrested at the April 2000 protests tied to meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said the maximum payout, including attorneys' fees is $13.3 million. However, because of the cap on individual payouts, the total could be less, depending on how many people come forward.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, of the Partnership for Civil Justice, said that in addition to the $13.3 million for the class, there are some additional payments for specific plaintiffs who claim they were beaten, bringing the total to $13.7 million. Verheyden-Hilliard' s group represented the plaintiffs.

According to the class-action lawsuit, protesters and bystanders were trapped on all sides by police and then arrested in a calculated attempt to disrupt days of planned protests. Many people were held for hours without access to food, water and restrooms, and some were held in stress positions, the plaintiffs alleged.

As part of the settlement, D.C. police assigned to demonstrations and officers from partner agencies will receive enhanced training, said Verheyden-Hilliard.

But Nickles said the police department has already changed significantly since the time of the mass arrests in 2000 and 2002.

"I'm committed to try to get this chapter of sound and fury closed with respect to these demonstration cases," Nickles said.

Earlier this month, the city settled a lawsuit with eight anti-war protesters arrested in 2002, agreeing to pay $450,000.

Verheyden-Hilliard said Monday's announcement sends an important message: "People are willing to spend as long as it takes to vindicate their rights."

The case is known as Becker et al. v. District of Columbia. It's named after Benjamin Becker. Now 25, Becker was a 16-year-old from Baltimore when he came to Washington to protest "against the broad, neoliberal, globalization agenda" with his father, who helped organize the demonstration.

After the arrests, Becker was separated from his father and taken to a juvenile facility.

His father, Brian Becker, ended up being held for hours in a stress position, with his right hand tied to his left foot, the elder Becker recalled. He refused to pay a fine and was the only demonstrator arrested that day who was brought to trial. He was acquitted of disorderly conduct and refusal to obey.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

High Court Refuses To Hear Washington Redskins Case

Just in time for Holocaust Denial Day on November 26. Cap Tip: AK48

High Court Won't Hear Washington Redskins Case
November 16, 2009

The Supreme Court on Monday decided not to weigh in on a 17-year legal challenge by a group of American Indians who contend the Washington Redskins football moniker does not deserve trademark protection because it is racially offensive.

In sidestepping the controversy, the justices did not comment on Harjo v. Pro Football, Inc. The court's refusal to hear the case leaves in place an appeals court ruling that the plaintiffs waited too long to challenge the National Football League trademarks.

Susan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne-Hodulgee Muscogee, and other plaintiffs argued that U.S. trademark laws prohibit registration of a disparaging name. Their appeal was supported by more than 30 law professors, 13 psychology professors who are experts on stereotypes and discrimination, and the Social Justice Advocacy Group, a coalition of nonprofit and religious organizations.

The team was known as the Boston Braves until they adopted the Redskins moniker in 1933 to honor the team's head coach, an American Indian, according to attorneys for the team. The club moved to Washington, D.C., in 1937.

In 1992, Harjo filed suit to have the Redskins trademarks invalidated. She initially won when the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed that the name could be offensive to American Indians.

But the team challenged the decision in federal courts, and U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled, in part, that the challenge was made too long after the first trademark was issued in 1967.

When the plaintiffs appealed, the appeals court noted that the youngest of the plaintiffs was too young to have taken legal action in 1967 and sent the case back to Kollar-Kotelly.

Kollar-Kotelly again rejected the claim, saying that youngest plaintiff waited too long after turning 18 to join the suit. The appeals court upheld the decision in May.

However, the matter is not over. Another group of American Indians filed the same claim two years ago, but their case has been on hold pending the outcome of Harjo's lawsuit.

No court has ever commented on the claim that the Redskins name is racially offensive.

In other business, the court decided to hear the case of an Alabama man sentenced to death for killing a sheriff in 1979.

Billy Joe Magwood was sentenced to death in 1981 for the murder of Coffee County Sheriff Neil Grantham. But a federal judge overturned the sentence, ruling that Alabama had changed its laws to make Magwood's crime eligible for the death penalty.

A panel of judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reversed the ruling and reinstated the sentence.

Magwood then appealed the 11th Circuit decision to the Supreme Court.

From NPR staff and wire reports

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Collapse Watch: Detroit's Unburied Bodies

This is what industrial collapse looks like. Corporate ecoterrorism is not sustainable.

Unburied bodies tell the tale of Detroit — a city in despair
From The Times
November 21, 2009

Tim Reid in Detroit

The abandoned corpses, in white body bags with number tags tied to each toe, lie one above the other on steel racks inside a giant freezer in Detroit’s central mortuary, like discarded shoes in the back of a wardrobe.

Some have lain here for years, but in recent months the number of unclaimed bodies has reached a record high. For in this city that once symbolised the American Dream many cannot even afford to bury their dead.

“I have not seen this many unclaimed bodies in 13 years on the job,” said Albert Samuels, chief investigator at the mortuary. “It started happening when the economy went south last year. I have never seen this many people struggling to give people their last resting place.”

Unburied bodies piling up in the city mortuary — it reached 70 earlier this year — is the latest and perhaps most appalling indignity to be heaped on the people of Detroit. The motor city that once boasted the highest median income and home ownership rate in the US is today in the midst of a long and agonising death spiral.

After years of gross mismanagement by the city’s leaders and the big three car manufacturers of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, who continued to make vehicles that Americans no longer wanted to buy, Detroit today has an unemployment rate of 28 per cent, higher even than the worst years of the Great Depression.

The murder rate is soaring. The school system is in receivership. The city treasury is $300 million (£182m) short of the funds needed to provide the most basic services such as rubbish collection. In its postwar heyday, when Detroit helped the US to dominate the world’s car market, it had 1.85 million people. Today, just over 900,000 remain. It was once America’s fourth-largest city. Today, it ranks eleventh, and will continue to fall.

Thousands of houses are abandoned, roofs ripped off, windows smashed. Block after block of shopping districts lie boarded up. Former manufacturing plants, such as the giant Fisher body plant that made Buicks and Cadillacs, but which was abandoned in 1991, are rotting.

Even Detroit’s NFL football team, the Lions, are one of the worst in the country. Last season they lost all 16 games. This year they have lost eight, and won just a single gane.

Michigan’s Central Station, designed by the same people who gave New York its Grand Central Station, was abandoned 20 years ago. One photographer who produced a series of images for Time magazine said that he often felt, as he moved around parts of Detroit, as though he was in a post-apocalyptic disaster.

Then in June, the $21,000 annual county budget to bury Detroit’s unclaimed bodies ran out. Until then, if a family confirmed that they could not afford to lay a loved one to rest, Wayne County — in which Detroit sits — would, for $700, bury the body in a rough pine casket at a nearby cemetery, under a marker.

Darrell Vickers had to identify his aunt at the mortuary in September but he could not afford to bury her as he was unemployed. When his grandmother recently died, Mr Vickers’s father paid for her cremation, but with a credit card at 21 per cent interest. He said at the time it was “devastating” to not be able to bury his aunt.

What has alarmed medical examiners at the mortuary is that most of the dead died of natural causes. It is evidence, they believe, of people who could not afford medical insurance and medicines and whose families can now not afford to bury them.

Yet in recent weeks there have been signs of hope for Mr Samuels that he can reduce the backlog of bodies. Local philanthropists have donated $8,000 to help to bury the dead. In the past month, Mr Samuels has been able to bury 11 people. The number of unburied is now down to 55.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Taking The Children From Their Mothers

Update via AK48: Both Heene's sentenced.

Colorado Parents Sentenced For 'Balloon Boy' Hoax
by Deborah Tedford

NPR - December 23, 2009

A judge on Wednesday accused the Colorado parents who falsely claimed their son drifted away in a helium balloon of exploiting their children in a bid for a reality TV show, sentencing the father to jail and the mother to an alternative sentencing program.

Larimer County Judge Stephen Shapanski ordered Richard Heene to serve 90 days in jail, including 60 days on work release. The sentence means Heene will serve 30 days in jail, before qualifying to leave his cell during the day to work as a construction contractor. He'll remain in jail at night.

Mayumi Heene was ordered to spend 20 days in the Larimer County Workender Program, which would allow her to serve her sentence during the day and spend the nights at home with the couple's three children: Falcon, 6; Ryo, 8; and Bradford, 10.

AK48 sends in the first two stories, which are local to Denver, about the mother of the child dubbed "Balloon Boy". Arm-twisting the Heene family by threatening to deport their Japanese mother forced a guilty plea.

In the third story, a soldier is forced to refuse deployment to Afghanistan because she cannot find care for her child. The Army said she had to go and that her son would be placed in foster care if she could not find family to take him.

Only in a white male capitalist racist patriarchy can any of these obscenities against women of color happen.

Lawyer: 'Balloon Boy' Parents To Plead Guilty
by Jeff Brady

A small homemade helium balloon, thought to have been containing a 6-year-old boy, is pictured floating thousands of feet above Colorado.

November 12, 2009

The parents of a Colorado boy who was thought to have floated away in a silver helium balloon last month are expected to plead guilty to criminal charges in a Larimer County, Colo., court Friday.

Lawyer David Lane, who represents the parents in the case, said Thursday a settlement has been reached. In a written statement, Lane said the father, Richard Heene, will plead guilty to a felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant. He said the mother, Mayumi Heene, will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of making a false report to authorities.

Lane said Mayumi Heene is a citizen of Japan and could have faced deportation if she had pleaded guilty to a felony. He said the father agreed to "fall on his sword" to keep that from happening.

"It is supremely ironic that law enforcement has expressed such grave concern over the welfare of the children," Lane said. "But it was ultimately the threat of taking the children's mother from the family and deporting her to Japan which fueled this deal."

Neither the Larimer County district attorney's office nor the sheriff's office has confirmed the settlement. If the court approves it, the father could face up to 90 days in jail and the mother up to 60 days.

Earlier in the week, Boulder County's district attorney decided not to file criminal charges against Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden for allegedly violating privacy laws. Alderden had earlier disclosed that child welfare workers were involved in the case.

The Oct. 15 incident triggered national attention amid reports that 6-year-old Falcon Heene was inside a balloon that floated away from the family's home. Video of the balloon, careening wildly in the air, was broadcast live by cable television news outlets. When the balloon landed 40 miles from the family's Fort Collins, Colo., home more than two hours later, no one was found inside.

The stunt temporarily shut down Denver International Airport and caused the National Guard to scramble two helicopters in an attempt to rescue the boy, who was believed to be inside the flying-saucer shaped homemade balloon that hurtled across two counties.

A few hours later, the 6-year-old was found hiding in a cardboard box in his family's garage attic. As the investigation continued in subsequent days, law enforcement officials began to suspect it was an elaborate hoax — a marketing ploy by the boy's parents, who had appeared on the ABC reality show Wife Swap and reportedly were seeking a reality television contract.

Alderden said all three of the Heenes' sons knew of the hoax but likely won't face charges because of their ages. The oldest son is 10. One of the boys told investigators he saw his brother get in the balloon's box before it launched.

Heene, 48, a storm chaser and inventor, has described himself as an amateur scientist.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

Balloon Boy' Parents Plead Guilty
November 13, 2009

A Colorado couple pleaded guilty Friday to charges related to a massive hoax that had authorities scrambling to find a boy believed to have been carried away in a helium balloon.

Richard Heene pleaded guilty to a felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden. His wife, Mayumi Heene, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report.

Last month, the couple called Federal Aviation Administration officials, a Fort Collins, Colo., television station, and law enforcement officers to report that their 6-year-old son was inside a helium balloon that HAD becOme untethered from the family's house and floated away.

Authorities launched a massive search for the child, Falcon, only to find that he was hiding in the garage of the family home. Prosecutors and Alderden said the parents coerced their children to lie to authorities in an effort to get roles in a reality television show.

Richard Heene told Judge Stephen Schapanski he understood that he could have to pay restitution for the costs incurred by public agencies because of his actions. Local and federal authorities spent at least $62,000 pursuing the balloon and searching for the boy.

The judge warned Mayumi Heene, a Japanese citizen, that her actions and plea could affect her immigration status. But Lee Christian, attorney for Mayumi Heene, said by pleading guilty he hopes she will avoid more serious consequences.

Prosecutors want the Heenes to serve some time in jail, but the final decision will be made by Schapanski at a Dec. 23 sentencing hearing.

David Lane, attorney for Richard Heene, said the couple plan to travel to New York soon to follow up on "an employment opportunity" for Richard. Lane also said the Heenes are scheduled to go to California.

The judge adjusted their bond to allow them to make the trips, as long as they report to probation services within seven days.

Business associates of Richard Heene said before the balloon incident, he was trying to pitch a TV series based on science. The Heenes are amateur storm chasers and appeared twice on the ABC reality show Wife Swap.

From NPR and wire service reports
Soldier mom refuses deployment to care for baby
By RUSS BYNUM, AP Military Writer Russ Bynum, Ap Military Writer Mon Nov 16, 9:32 pm ET

SAVANNAH, Ga. – An Army cook and single mom may face criminal charges after she skipped her deployment flight to Afghanistan because, she said, no one was available to care for her infant son while she was overseas.

Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, 21, claims she had no choice but to refuse deployment orders because the only family she had to care for her 10-month-old son — her mother — was overwhelmed by the task, already caring for three other relatives with health problems.

Her civilian attorney, Rai Sue Sussman, said Monday that one of Hutchinson's superiors told her she would have to deploy anyway and place the child in foster care.

"For her it was like, 'I couldn't abandon my child,'" Sussman said. "She was really afraid of what would happen, that if she showed up they would send her to Afghanistan anyway and put her son with child protective services."

Hutchinson, who is from Oakland, Calif., remained confined Monday to the boundaries of Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, 10 days after military police arrested her for skipping her unit's flight. No charges have been filed, but a spokesman for the Army post said commanders were investigating.

Kevin Larson, a spokesman for Hunter Army Airfield, said he didn't know what Hutchinson was told by her commanders, but he said the Army would not deploy a single parent who had nobody to care for his or her child.

"I don't know what transpired and the investigation will get to the bottom of it," Larson said. "If she would have come to the deployment terminal with her child, there's no question she would not have been deployed."

Hutchinson's son, Kamani, was placed into custody overnight with a daycare provider on the Army post after she was arrested and jailed briefly, Larson said. Hutchinson's mother picked up the child a week ago and took him back to her home in California.

Hutchinson, who's assigned to the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, joined the Army in 2007 and had no previous deployments, Sussman said. She said Hutchinson is no longer in a relationship with the father.

The Army requires all single-parent soldiers to submit a care plan for dependent children before they can deploy to a combat zone.

Hutchinson had such a plan — her mother, Angelique Hughes, had agreed to care for the boy. Hughes said Monday she kept the boy for about two weeks in October before deciding she couldn't keep him for a full year.

Hughes said she's already having to care for her ailing mother and sister, as well as a daughter with special needs. She also runs a daycare center at her home, keeping about 14 children during the day.

"This is an infant, and they require 24-hour care," Hughes said. "It was very, very stressful, just too much for me to deal with."

Hughes said she returned Kamani to his mother in Georgia a few days before her scheduled deployment Nov. 5.

She said they told her daughter's commanders they needed more time to find another family member or close friend to help Hughes care for the boy, but Hutchinson was ordered to deploy on schedule.

Larson, the Army post spokesman, said officials planned to keep Hutchinson in Georgia as investigators gathered facts about the case.

"Spc. Hutchinson's deployment is halted," Larson said. "There will be no deployment while this situation is ongoing."


Russ Bynum has covered the military based in Georgia since 2001.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Anti-Racists Steal the Show at White Supremacist "Tea Party Against Amnesty"

Anti-Racists Steal the Show at White Supremacist "Tea Party Against Amnesty"

Forty-five anti-immigration activists held a small rally outside the state capitol on Saturday. Counter-protest from members of Anti-Racist Action, Bash Back, the Minnesota Immigrants' Rights Action Coalition and others was frequent, vigorous and hilarious. ("America is not for Russians! America is not for Germans! Europeans go home!")

The cheerful crowd of immigrants' rights activists held a banner reading "Stop the raids and deportations". In conversation with members of Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform, the activists repeatedly pointed out that all non-native people in Minnesota are illegal immigrants--Minnesota was taken by force by whites from the native people who lived here for centuries before white arrival. One activist, under the name "Robert Erickson," managed to get on the list of speakers and riled the crowd into a frenzy about the theft, murder and disease inflicted by illegal immigrants... from Europe, upon indigenous populations. In a "Yes Men" moment, the anti-immigrant crowd sat in silence, trying to figure out what just happened. (See video from Bluestem Prairie; transcript below; photos to come) | More video from I Don't Hate America (1, 2)

Immigrants' rights activists were also unimpressed with MINN-SIR's conservative libertarian take on government programs--although members of MINN-SIR have no problem working for the government, they are opposed to government assistance, whether to support homeowners, to provide health care, schools, or any other form of citizen benefit. "No money for children!" said one immigrants' rights activist. "No money for schools! No money for veterans! That's just great!"

Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform and the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction attempt to present themselves as the respectable face of anti-immigrant sentiment, distinguishing themselves from the neo-nazis who frequently rally in southern Minnesota. But how big is the distinction? Some scenes from yesterday's rally:

Domestic violence is caused by women and exploited by immigrants! A white man who looked to be in his late fifties gave an extended speech describing how, because of the National Organization for Women, hundreds of undocumented women make false claims of domestic abuse in US courts to get US residency. He added that seventy percent of domestic violence cases are caused by women, that some abusers "have good reasons" for what they do, and that courts never investigate domestic violence cases. This was a particularly creative speech given that undocumented women who are victims of abuse often can't get legal help or protection out of fear that they'll be deported.

No education for special needs children!
You know what's wrong with education in Minnesota? Schools have to educate everyone. Federal legislation, said local politician Noran Dylan, "forces states to educate children with higher barriers to learning", including students learning English. This raises costs!

Chain gangs, prison deaths and refusing to investigate rape cases are things to boast about!
This crowd loves Arizona sheriff Joseph Arpaio, who is a personal friend of the rally's keynote speaker, former Sheriff Richard Mack--a fondness they share with Aryan Nation and the Ku Klux Klan. (Mack's claim to fame is his distaste for background checks on gun owners.) Arpaio is accused of racially profiling Latin@ drivers; he charges undocumented immigrants with felony conspiracy and holds them without bail; his heavily militarized anti-immigrant sweeps are often conducted against the wishes of local government (so much for local government!)--and he's under investigation by the federal government.

Arpaio's jails have money to hire guards to beat blind and disabled prisoners to death (as noted on a conservative website!), but they don't have enough money to investigate rape cases, as per the conservative Goldwater Institute. And serious felonies have skyrocketed during Arpaio's tenure--he's not just racist and violent, he's ineffective! Arpaio thinks it's an honor to be compared to the KKK, too. You may remember Arpaio for his "tent cities" for immigrants, intentionally located near polluted sites. Or his chain gangs--Arpaio-lovers see nothing wrong with lines of poor men, many men of color, laboring in chains. And then there's the homophobia--Arpaio thinks it's hilarious to dress his male prisoners in pink and parade them around, since he thinks men should be humiliated to wear a "feminine" color and he thinks it's awesome to sexually humiliate prisoners.

This is the man whose name was cheered--cheered with passion--by the crowd.

White people brought everything good to this country! Plus confusion.
"Can you imagine what it would be like if Mexico still ran this place?" said one rally attendee after explaining to a counter-demonstrator that white Europeans had brought ambition and bravery to a lax and cowardly land.

Pushing journalists is A-ok! After you get done knocking someone off a bike, that is.
I was frankly shocked to see one of the older men at the rally push a protester off his bike. While I was taking pictures, the man turned toward me. "I saw you," I said. "I saw you push him off his bike." The guy responded by heading over and giving me a couple of good shoves, because if you're going to knock someone smaller and younger than you down, you sure don't want anyone seeing you do it.

Minutemen hats!
"America's Neighborhood Watch" has interpersonal ties to the Klan. Just this summer, former Minutemen star Shawna Forde was arrested for the robbery and murder of Raul Flores and his 9-year-old daughter Brisenia.

Joseph ThomasThat one guy from the Nazi rally!
He's always there, and he'll tell you that he's carrying weapons. At the raucous Austin rally last month, local police identified him as Joseph Benjamin Thomas, 38, of Mendota Heights. After trying to join the Nazi rally but being detained when a Mower County Deputy noticed he was wearing body armor and carrying a knife, he was questioned and stated he also had an expandable baton and a stun gun, according to the police report. He was disarmed but allowed to pick up the weapons later. At Saturday's rally at the Capitol, he appeared to pull some kind of weapon in the scuffle after another rally attendee knocked a protester off his bike. (Photo: Thomas at the State Capitol on Saturday (left) and at neo-Nazi rally in Austin, MN on October 17 (right). More photos from Austin available upon request.)

Peaceful Protest FAIL: Here's an excerpt from an email promoting the MINN-SIR rally on a public anti-immigrant listserve:

BRING YOUR CAMERAS- lets make sure we get plenty of pictures of any actions taken against our Peaceful Protest.
Our rally is a peaceful event - and quite frankly I do not believe that any plans to counter protest will interfere with our event HOWEVER WITH THAT SAID - if you are a hothead - do not attend.
I do not want - not one - of those answering MINNSIR's call to in anyway start or antagonize anyone if anyone counters it will be THEM who will be in trouble - NOT US.

And some really shockingly bad language!

I may be old-fashioned, but it's still surprising to me to hear an older man approach a group of young people and refer to them as "pieces of shit". Counter-protestors were also "assholes" who had been "dropped on their heads", said another rally attendee. It's important to understand that although there was plenty of shouting on both sides, counter-protestors did not pick individuals out of the crowd and curse at them; this was an anti-immigrant-activist thing.

Related: Support the Bash Back Two!
At the recent anti-nazi rally in Austin, MN,two members of Twin Cities Bash Back were arrested for protesting the racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant National Socialist Movement. Donate here to help out with their legal expenses.

"Columbus Go Home!": Prepared transcript of "Robert Erickson's" speech:

Hi, my name is Robert Erickson and I’m really excited to be here. Its people like all of you, and events like this that make our country great! Give yourselves a round of applause!

I just want to talk about a couple themes this afternoon because I love this country and I want to see America be the best place it can be.

Mr. Gutierrez is getting ready to propose an immigration bill in just a few short days, and we have to make sure he knows that we want a bill that’s tough on immigration. Now is the time for us to stand up and make our voices heard!

In Minneapolis, where I’m from, we have a huge immigrant population that’s been causing a number of problems. With the economy in recession, and so many people getting laid off, and unable to find work, immigrants should not be competing for the few jobs that are out there. Its just not fair to the folks who have a claim to this land and the right to be here. All across America, they are contributing to the flooding of our job markets making it hard for American’s to find jobs. Well I’m fed up and its time to let our politicians know that enough is enough, and we’re not gonna take it any more!

We need to secure our borders to protect our country. We need to restore order and put an end to the anarchy that’s sweeping the nation. We need tougher immigration laws to make sure that we send these people back where they came from. We need to protect the sovereignty of the real Americans. We need to hold our politicians accountable.

Its no secret that with an invasion of immigrants, comes waves of crime. We see them involved in massive theft, in murder, and bringing diseases like smallpox, which is responsible for the death of millions of Americans. These aren’t new problems though, they have been going on for hundreds of years, and continue to this day.

I say its time for us to say enough is enough! Are you with me? Are you with me? Lets send these European immigrants back where they came from! I don’t care if they are Polish, Irish, English, Italian, or Norwegian! European immigrants are responsible for the most violent and heinus crimes in the history of the world, including genocide and slavery! Its time to restore the sovereignty of people native to this land! I want more workplace raids, starting with the big banks downtown. There are thousands of illegals working in those buildings, hiding in their offices, and taking Dakota jobs. Let's round them up and ship them out. Then we need to hit them at home where they sleep, I don’t care if we separate families, they should have known better when they came here illegally!

If we aren't able to stand up to these European immigrants, who can we stand up to? We need to send every one of them back home, right now.
Thank you very much, and we’ll see you in the streets!

Columbus go home! Columbus go home! Columbus go home!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

90,000 Casualties! Happy Veterans' Day

Wow! 90,000 casualties. And you thought suicide-by-cop was effective. Apparently, illegal invasions have done that one better.

90,000 Casualties, but Who’s Counting?
Posted By Kelley B. Vlahos On November 9, 2009 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect new data on total casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veterans Day arrives tomorrow, and with it, the anticipated harvest of heartbreaking anecdotes driving the press coverage and our ever wandering attention back to less desirable realities: the disfigured but persevering hero, the homeless warrior, the unemployable sergeant, the father or son or daughter who came home a stranger and cannot be reached.

Usually, there is nothing more powerful than a personal story to pound home the cost of eight years of war overseas, but I think today there is something even more disturbing to bear.

It’s the number 89,457 [.doc].

As of Nov. 9, that’s how many American casualties there were in Iraq and Afghanistan since Oct. 7, 2001, when the Afghan war officially began. That includes a tire-screeching 75,134 dead, wounded-in-action, and medically evacuated due to illness, disease, or injury in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and 14,323 and counting in Afghanistan, or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

That it may sound incredible – even unreal – is understandable. Early attempts to effectively count casualties (outside of battlefield fatalities) had been in earnest, then erratic, but finally dead-ended, frustrated by the Department of Defense, which has always been loath to break down and publicize the data on a regular basis.

One stalwart has always been Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to advancing the health and readjustment of returning soldiers and veterans. They’ve been diligently aggregating the statistics over time, and thanks to their diligent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, they can provide casualty reports at a level of detail not currently seen on the DOD’s publicly accessible Web site,

If we could access the data more easily, more people would know that 196 servicemembers took their own lives while serving in Iraq between March 2003 and Oct. 31, 2009, and there were 35 such suicides in Afghanistan. (These figures, of course, do not include the skyrocketing cases of suicides among all active-duty soldiers and veterans and cases of self-inflicted injury outside both war zones.)

More people would also know that 48,871 servicemembers had to be medically evacuated from the battlefield due to hostile and non-hostile injury, disease, and other medical issues since the beginning of the Iraq War [.pdf]. As of Oct. 31, 11,080 were evacuated for the same reasons from the war zone in Afghanistan [.pdf].

What the DOD does say, is that as of Nov. 4, there were 13,880 servicemembers wounded in action in Iraq who had not returned to duty, while 2,619 had left Afghanistan under the same conditions [.pdf]. That number is climbing faster. According to the Washington Post on Oct. 31, more than 1,000 were wounded in Afghanistan in the last three months, accounting for one-third of the total American casualties in OEF overall.

Thus, the troops are coming home, but in drastically varied degrees of wholeness. In Vietnam, there was one soldier killed for every 2.6 wounded. The vast majority of soldiers are surviving their injuries today (approximately one killed in action for every 11.5 wounded in action, according to current stats for Afghanistan and Iraq), thanks to advanced body armor, better medevac transport, and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles. But in tens of thousands of cases, their journey has just begun.

No one should be surprised, then, to hear that some 454,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have already sought medical care from the Veterans Administration (VA) when they came home. That’s 40 percent of the total OIF/OEF veteran population, which is a number that is of course in flux, considering that the war has no end and veterans have five years to apply for care after the end of their service.

As of this summer, of those veterans who sought healthcare at the VA, 45 percent were diagnosed with a mental health condition, according to VA statistics. Twenty-seven percent of these had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Based on available resources from the DOD and research by the RAND Corporation, VCS estimates that an estimated 370,000 (or 19.5 percent of) veterans have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) thanks to the high rate of accidents, roadside bombs, and other battlefield explosions and events – plus repeated deployments – in the war. VCS also estimates that some 18.5 percent of veterans come home with PTSD.

"This is very, very serious. The numbers are… bad, OK?" said Paul Sullivan, the bulldog director of VCS. "The good news is veterans are asking for care, and it’s good care. The bad news is there is 454,000 of them."

That’s tens of thousands of men and women and affected families and communities that are all but missing from the mainstream news any other time of the year. Sullivan said this is partly the military’s fault for obfuscating the statistics and working to keep the agony of sacrifice in the shadows.

"It’s still the policy of the United States to minimize concerns about postwar health," said Sullivan. Take the issue of soldiers coming home with chronic health problems allegedly caused by the toxic open-air burn pits in theater. One look at the online discussion boards and it’s clear something over there went awry. Vets are headed to VA facilities in droves with symptoms ranging from respiratory distress to sleep apnea and irregular heart conditions, but the Pentagon still refuses to admit a connection to their wartime exposures.

"They treat it as a public relations issue, not a health issue," Sullivan said. "In our view, we are tired of the government lying, and we’re done with the PR."

Larry Scott, who runs, an invaluable daily monitor of ongoing issues affecting the 23.4 million living U.S veterans, said the 90,591 figure relating to OIF/OEF casualties is valid – and ultimately overwhelming. "People just forget, they don’t realize there is an ongoing cost of war. Whether you agree with the war or not is not the issue. We have to be ready to pay the price."

Looking at it in monetary terms – more numbers – may seem cold, but again, it puts the taxpayers’ burden into shocking perspective. Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz have identified two scenarios in their book, The Three Trillion Dollar War (2008). One scenario estimates a long-term cost of $422 billion to the federal government for veterans’ health care and disability compensation (given 1.8 million men and women deployed and troop levels falling below 55,000 by 2012). In the other scenario, the U.S. stays in Iraq and Afghanistan another eight years and 2.1 million men and women are deployed, with a price tag of $717 billion

Sullivan estimates that there are about 450,000 disability claims already filed with the VA on behalf of Iraq and Afghanistan vets, based on the official 405,000 figure announced back in February. He said there are approximately 80,000 new claims a month from veterans of all wars. As of Sept. 26, there were more than 951,217 pending claims by all veterans, including 200,679 claims pending appeal (the Veterans Benefits Administration recently reduced that number to 176,000, raising eyebrows at Sullivan’s group).

Rarely do we hear these figures over the din calling for even greater numbers of troops on the ground in Afghanistan. The generals want 40,000 or more, which would exceed the "surge" of 20,000 men and women into Iraq almost three years ago. Soldiers are finally withdrawing from that front only to be shifted to the other one for seemingly more hazardous duty.

"Where is the discussion about making sure that before we send any more troops overseas that we can take care of the veterans we already have and whether we can take care of another flood of them?" asked Sullivan.

Such discussions are indeed hard to come by. As Veterans Day nears, veterans are strangely absent, and for many of us, out of mind. Perhaps Sullivan’s question is best answered by Macy’s full-page Veterans Day sale advertisement in the Washington Post this week, featuring two well-dressed, shiny, happy, pretty people with a bugle and a drum. There are lots of numbers – 30% to 60% off storewide! – but not a veteran in sight.
Read more by Kelley B. Vlahos

* Polls Give False Impressions About War – November 2nd, 2009
* Afghan Army MIA – October 26th, 2009
* The Pentagon’s Recruitment Two-Step – October 19th, 2009
* Lara Logan Casts Her Spell for War – October 12th, 2009
* PATRIOT Act Fight Needs More Patriots – October 5th, 2009

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who Will Be Sent To Afghanistan?

"During the eight months he has been held at Fort Lewis, Wildman claims he has suffered verbal abuse and substandard mental healthcare. 'The command treated me like dirt. My commander ignored me for the first couple months until my roommate jumped me. They’ll make sure you’re in the room and call you a ‘bunch of PTSD pussies.’'"

Well, there it is. A non-female goes to war to try to prove he is not a woman only to find it breaks him, which causes the other non-females to see him as a woman.

No matter how hard woman-hating men fight the "contamination" of femininity, it seems there will always be some testosterone-poisoned fucker who will not allow them to pass the gender purity test.

And I don't feel the least bit sorry for any of you. All I want is to see men like this form a circular firing squad with the most phallic, high-powered weapons they can find and pull the trigger. Hey, anybody left standing is a pussy, ok?

Who Will Be Sent To Afghanistan?

Who Will Be Sent to Afghanistan?

by Dahr Jamail, Sarah Lazare, and Tom Engelhardt, November 09, 2009

In a grim Nov. 3 Wall Street Journal piece (buried inside the paper), Yochi Dreazen reported record suicide rates for a stressed-out U.S. Army. Sixteen soldiers killed themselves in October alone, 134 so far this year, essentially ensuring that last year’s “record” of 140 suicides will be broken. This represents a startling 37 percent jump in suicides since 2006 and, for the first time, puts the suicide rate in the Army above that of the general U.S. population.

After eight years of two major counterinsurgency wars (and various minor encounters in what used to be called the Global War on Terror), with many soldiers experiencing multiple tours of duty, with approximately 120,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq and almost 70,000 in Afghanistan, with the Afghan War clearly in an escalatory phase, commanders in the field calling for 40,000-80,000 more American troops, and base construction on the rise, the military’s internal problems are clearly escalating as well.

As Dahr Jamail, author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Sarah Lazare report, under these circumstances, the Army is digging deep for deployable troops; in fact, it’s dipping into a pool of soldiers who have already been damaged or even broken by their experiences in our war zones – and that’s just to meet present deployment needs. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that Dreazen included this striking passage in his report: “At a White House meeting Friday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged President Barack Obama to send fresh troops to Afghanistan only if they have spent at least a year in the U.S. since their last overseas tour, according to people familiar with the matter. If Mr. Obama agreed to that condition, many potential Afghanistan reinforcements wouldn’t be available until next summer at the earliest.”

In translation (if Dreazen is correct), that means, in a private brainstorming session with the president, the Joint Chiefs have evidently put the brakes on implementing the full-scale plan of CENTCOM Commander David Petraeus and Afghan War commander Stanley McChrystal to send a massive infusion of new troops to Afghanistan any time soon.

It’s worth asking – though no one, as far as I can tell, yet has – whether this may be a modest Afghan equivalent of the “Shinseki moment” before the invasion of Iraq. (Then, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki warned in congressional testimony that, if we invaded, we would need “several hundred thousand” troops – numbers not available – for the occupation to follow. He was laughed into retirement by the Bush-appointed civilian leadership of the Pentagon.)

At the same time, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, has just made it clear that the Pentagon will once again request supplemental war-fighting funds sometime next year, over and above the $130 billion Congress appropriated only a month ago in the Defense Department budget. These will be based, in part, on a calculation that each 1,000 new troops sent to Afghanistan must be supported by an extra billion dollars in funds. (You can do the math yourself on those 40,000 troops and then wonder just where all that money is going to come from.)

We are, in fact, facing an ongoing disaster not just for the U.S., but for the U.S. military. Read the following piece and ask yourself: What state would a military have to be in to consider sending such men back into a war zone? A desperate military is, of course, the answer – a military rubbed raw and, as the shocking mass murder spree at already stressed-out Fort Hood may indicate, on edge in a way that perhaps no one has quite grasped. Tom

Where Will They Get the Troops?

Preparing undeployables for the Afghan front
by Dahr Jamail and Sarah Lazare

As the Obama administration debates whether to send tens of thousands of extra troops to Afghanistan, an already overstretched military is increasingly struggling to meet its deployment numbers. Surprisingly, one place it seems to be targeting is military personnel who go absent without leave (AWOL) and then are caught or turn themselves in.

Hidden behind the gates of military bases across the U.S., troops facing AWOL and desertion charges regularly find themselves in the hands of a military that metes out informal, open-ended punishments by forcing them to wait months – sometimes more than a year – to face military justice. In the meantime, some of these soldiers are offered a free pass out of this legal limbo as long as they agree to deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq – even if they have been diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In August 2008 at, we reported on the deplorable conditions at the 82nd Replacement Barracks at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. There, more than 50 members of Echo Platoon of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 82nd Replacement Detachment were being held while awaiting AWOL and desertion charges. Investigations launched since then – in part in response to our article – have revealed that the plight of members of Echo Platoon is not an isolated one. It is, in fact, disturbingly commonplace on other bases throughout the United States. And it is from these “holdover units,” filled with disgruntled soldiers who have gone AWOL, many of whom are struggling with PTSD from previous deployments in war zones, that the military is hoping to help meet its manpower needs for Afghanistan.

Nightmare in Echo Platoon

On Aug. 16, determined to put an end to unbearable mental and psychological pain, Pvt. Timothy Rich, while on 24-hour suicide watch, attempted to jump to his death from the roof of Echo Platoon’s barracks (where he had been held since being arrested for going AWOL). Prior to his suicide attempt, Rich had been offered amnesty by the military in exchange for agreeing to deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq.

He had already been through a hellish year awaiting a discharge and treatment for mental health problems. “I want to leave here very bad,” he explained. “For four months they have been telling me that I’ll get out next week. I didn’t see an end to it, so I figured I’d try and end it myself.”

He fell three stories, bouncing off a tree, before hitting the ground and cracking his spine. The military gave him a back brace, psychotropic drugs, and put him on a renewed, 24-hour suicide watch.

While he has recently been discharged from the military, Rich was not atypical of the soldiers of Echo Platoon, some forced to wait a year or more in legal limbo – in dilapidated buildings under the authority of abusive commanders – for legal proceedings to begin, and many struggling with mental illness or PTSD from previous deployments. As Spc. Dustin Stevens told us last August: “[It's] horrible here. We are treated like animals. Some of us are going crazy, some are sick. There are people here who should be in mental hospitals. And the way I see it, I did nothing wrong.”

Shortly after our story was published, Stevens told us that at least half a dozen soldiers in the platoon, including him, were suddenly given trial dates. Although he was likely to be found guilty and face punishment, Stevens claimed to be “relieved” to have an end in sight. Soon after, according to Echo Platoon informants, their barracks were condemned as a result of a military investigation of the site and, on Oct. 19, the platoon itself was disbanded.

Recently, due possibly to the attention his story drew to the mistreatment and indefinite detention soldiers were facing in Echo Platoon, Stevens was informed by the military he would be “chaptered out” – in other words, given an administrative discharge from the Army – and will not be forced to serve formal prison time.

James Branum, Stevens’ civilian lawyer, as well as the legal adviser to the G.I. Rights Hotline of Oklahoma and co-chair of the Military Law Task Force (MLTF), summed developments up this way: “After repeated complaints and congressional inquiry, Echo Platoon was shut down. The whole place was shut down. Everyone was scattered to other units. If your old unit still exists, they are sending you to your old unit. We know that at least one of the NCOs [non-commissioned officers] in charge of Echo Platoon was fired. I think this is a positive thing.”

Echoes of Echo

The troubling state of affairs in Echo Platoon may only have been the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Army holdover units. Evidence suggests that soldiers being held on other bases in the United States for AWOL and desertion face similar apathy or intentional neglect – and that they, too, are often left with the choice between living in legal limbo or agreeing to be sent to a war zone.

Scott Wildman, a former Army specialist, went AWOL in 2007 when he was unable to receive adequate help for severe PTSD sustained after a 15-month deployment to Iraq. In February 2009, he finally turned himself in at Fort Lewis in Washington state, only to find himself lost in a labyrinthine bureaucracy. For the first four months, he was not allowed to leave a confined area and was forbidden even to walk around by himself.

Here’s how he describes his experience: “I was flipping out. My wife had left me while I was over there. I hadn’t seen my kids in a couple years. I came home and tried to get help. At Fort Lewis, they do not care about you. I had been diagnosed by civilian and military doctors with severe depression, PTSD, and severe anxiety. When you are at the unit, they make fun of you. They crack PTSD jokes. They all have it too, but they’re too cool.”

During the eight months he has been held at Fort Lewis, Wildman claims he has suffered verbal abuse and substandard mental healthcare. “The command treated me like dirt. My commander ignored me for the first couple months until my roommate jumped me. They’ll make sure you’re in the room and call you a ‘bunch of PTSD pussies.’”

Four weeks ago, Wildman was informed that he would be court-martialed, but he was not given a trial date. Feeling he had no other choice, he went AWOL again and remains so today. “I’d been going to see some military counselors, but we weren’t making progress on the real problem…. They give us classes on calm and peacefulness, but they are right near the shooting ranges. There’s gunfire and explosions all around, people being screamed at all the time because it’s infantry. It’s not a good place for someone with [mental health] issues.”

At one point, despite a confidentiality protocol that should have prevented it, Wildman’s commanders went through his medical evaluations and found out that he had been involved in the accidental killing of two little girls in Iraq. They proceeded to needle him by threatening to write him up for war crimes.

Explaining why he once again went AWOL, Wildman says, “I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I had to remove myself from that situation.”

“Examples of how the military is treating soldiers, like the case of Wildman, are common,” comments Kathleen Gilberd, co-chair of the MLTF. She also points out that the Army, stretched thin by years of multiple deployments to two war zones, has taken to downplaying potentially severe medical conditions to keep soldiers eligible for service overseas. It is commonplace, she reports, for formerly AWOL soldiers to be “bribed” with offers of having all charges, or potential charges, dropped, as long as they accept deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

“A lot of folks who are under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed are being deployed second and third times,” she adds. “Barrier mechanisms that should prevent this from happening are being routinely ignored. … If someone is on psychotropic medication or is diagnosed with a fresh psychiatric condition, there should be a 90-day observation period and delay, under DOD [Department of Defense] policy.”

Remarkably, that sometimes-ignored 90-day hold period for military personnel on psychotropic medications does not always apply to soldiers who are diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) of a sort commonly caused by roadside bombs. According to an Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center analysis, reported in the Denver Post in August 2008, more than “43,000 service members – two-thirds of them in the Army or Army Reserve – were classified as nondeployable for medical reasons three months before they deployed” to Iraq. The process, if anything, only seems to be accelerating when it comes to Afghanistan.

Deploying the Undeployables

Not all soldiers go AWOL in order to save their minds and bodies. Some are trying to save their families. One soldier held in Bravo Platoon, a holdover unit of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs (who did not want his name made public) disclosed that, having returned from service in Iraq, he was told he would soon be redeployed there. Because his mother was ill, he refused and was threatened with a court martial.

“When I turned myself in, I submitted a binder with letters from my mom’s doctors and state officials that made clear that I needed to be home to take care of my mother. At that time, they had me on restriction and lockdown 24/7 to keep me from leaving again. Later they punished me. I was assigned extra duty and received a rank reduction from E3 to a private. I was treated like crap.”

He and the other soldiers in his holdover platoon were subjected to verbal abuse and made to do menial jobs. He claimed that he was threatened daily with being sent to the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the military’s maximum security correctional facility – and then was urged to agree to go back to Iraq instead. It made no difference that he had “no-go” orders from doctors at Fort Carson exempting him from overseas deployment.

His commander promised him a clean slate if he would redeploy to Iraq, insisting that the only alternative was a court-martial. Despite a regimen of humiliation, he stood his ground and was finally discharged for family hardship in September 2008. There were at least 11 other soldiers then in Bravo Platoon. Like their counterparts in Echo, most were told that their records would be wiped clean once they agreed to redeploy. The alternative was a non-judicial punishment, followed by a court-martial some months down the line.

As he tells it, Sgt. Heath Carter, originally based at Fort Polk, La., found himself torn between pressing family needs and an indifferent military command. On returning from the invasion of Iraq, he discovered his daughter living in what he believed to be an unsafe environment. Heath and his new wife started consulting attorneys in order to secure custody of the child. Precisely during this time, the military began changing Carter’s duty station. He was moved from Fort Polk to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., then on to Fort Stewart, Ga., reducing his chances of gaining custody.

Convinced that this was a crucial matter for his daughter, he requested compassionate reassignment to Fort Leavenworth, Mo., about two hours away from her. His appeals to the military command, to his chaplain, even to his congressman failed. In May 2007, having run out of options, he went AWOL from Fort Stewart, heading home to fight for custody, which he won.

This Jan. 25, however, he was arrested at his home by military police, who flew him back to Fort Stewart, where he has been awaiting charges for the past eight months. Being a sergeant, he is in a regular unit, not a holdover one. Initially, his commander assured him he would be sent home within a month and a half. Several months later, the same commander decided to court-martial him.

Carter feels frustrated. “If they had done that in the beginning, I would have been home by now. It’s taken this long for them to decide. Now I have to wait for the court-martial. If we had known it would take this long, my family could have moved down here. Every time I ask when I’ll have a trial, they say it’s only going to be another two weeks. I get the feeling they’re lying. They’ve messed with my pay. They’re trying to push me to do something wrong.”

His ordeal has forced Carter to reflect on America’s wars. Once, he admits, he was proud of his mission in Iraq. Now, he sees things differently. “I don’t think there is any reason for us to be there except for oil.”

His wife, who witnessed her husband’s callous treatment, says, “He’s been there [Iraq], done that, and seen horrible, terrible things, so of course he doesn’t want to go back.”

While the Obama administration decides how many thousands of troops to send to Afghanistan, service men and women are already facing repeated deployments, oftentimes while having already been diagnosed with medical conditions that should render them unfit for deployment.

Nothing has changed for these beleaguered troops, except the venue of their maltreatment and the desperation with which the military is now struggling to make the necessary deployment numbers as it continues to fight two endless wars.

Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009) and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from occupied Iraq for nine months, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey over the last five years.

Sarah Lazare is the project coordinator for Courage to Resist, an organization that supports troops who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is also a freelance writer.

Bhaswati Sengupta contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 Dahr Jamail and Sarah Lazare

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Afghan Insurgents Learn to Destroy key U.S. Armored Vehicle

Failure, failure, failure. Do the same clowns who let the towers be attacked and could not defend themselves at Ft. Hood do anything else but fail? Somebody needs to declare imaginary victory and depart the field already.

Afghan insurgents learn to destroy key U.S. armored vehicle
By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Taliban-led insurgents in Afghanistan have devised ways to cripple and even destroy the expensive armored vehicles that offer U.S. forces the best protection against roadside bombs by using increasingly large explosive charges and rocket-propelled grenades, according to U.S. soldiers and defense officials.

At least eight American troops have been killed this year in attacks on so-called Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, and 40 more have been wounded, said a senior U.S. military official who, like others interviewed on the issue, declined to be further identified because of the issue's sensitivity.

The insurgents' success in attacking the hulking machines, which can cost as much as $1 million each, underscores their ability to counter the advanced hardware that the U.S. military and its allies are deploying in their struggle to gain the upper hand in the war, which entered its ninth year last month.

The attacks also raise questions about how vulnerable a new, lighter MRAP, the M-ATV, which is now being shipped to Afghanistan, are to the massive explosive charges that Taliban-led insurgents have been using against its bigger cousin.

The insurgents are also hitting MRAPs with rocket-propelled grenades that can penetrate their steel armor, according to U.S troops in Afghanistan, several of whom showed McClatchy a photograph of a hole that one of the projectiles had punched in the hull of an MRAP.

The Pentagon has spent more than $26.8 billion to develop and build three versions of the largest MRAPs, totaling some 16,000 vehicles, mostly for the Army and Marine Corps, according to an August report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Another $5.4 billion is being spent to produce 5,244 M-ATVs, the smaller version that U.S. defense officials contend offers as much protection as the large models do, but is more maneuverable and better suited to Afghanistan's dirt tracks and narrow mountain roads.

"The traditional MRAP was having real problems . . . off road in Afghanistan," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. "And clearly we have to do a lot of work off-road. And these new vehicles will provide our forces the ability to travel more safely off road — certainly off paved roads — than they would have been able to do with other vehicles."

Defense officials acknowledged the growing problem of successful attacks on MRAPs, and said the U.S. military is constantly developing improvements for the vehicle that include better sensors and tactics.

"It's not all about the armor. We can't build something that is impervious to everything," said Navy Capt. Jack Henzlik, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We are using a comprehensive strategy to try to provide for the protection of our forces."

The issue was the subject of a high-level meeting convened on Wednesday by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who made the production of MRAPs his highest priority in 2007 as U.S. troops in Iraq were suffering massive casualties from roadside bomb attacks.

The use of powerful explosive charges against MRAPs "is a problem that he (Gates) is keenly aware of, very concerned about, and is determined to make sure this building is doing everything it can to combat," Morrell said. "We have never advertised MRAPs or M-ATVs as a silver bullet for the IED (improvised explosive device) problem. This is but one element of a vast array of capabilities that we need to bring to bear to protect our forces."

However, retired Army Col. Douglas A. MacGregor, a former armored cavalry commander and combat veteran and an expert on armor warfare, said that vehicles such as the MRAP have "very limited utility" in a war against a guerrilla group such as the Taliban.

"The notion of a wheeled armored constabulary force as a prescription for a close combat situation is nonsense," he said.

U.S. troops rely on the MRAP's V-shaped hull, which is designed to deflect explosive blasts, and heavy armored plating to protect them against the landmines and IEDs that are causing most American combat deaths in Afghanistan.

October was the deadliest month for U.S. troops since the 2001 U.S. invasion. At least 59 were killed, bringing the total for the year to at least 272 dead, according to the Internet site iCasualties. At least 139 of those troops died in IED blasts, according to the Pentagon.

"Pentagon officials note that insurgents are building larger IEDs and are finding better ways to conceal them," the Congressional Research Service report said.

"The biggest question is what took them so long," said a senior Pentagon official with extensive experience with the MRAP program and familiarity with the weapons and techniques that the militants in Afghanistan have developed to "compromise" the vehicle.

The fact that the large MRAPs — which range from 7 tons to 24 tons depending on the model — often are confined to narrow mountain roads and valleys in Afghanistan has made it easier for insurgents to prepare ambushes using anti-tank mines, IEDs or rocket-propelled grenades capable of penetrating armor, the official said.

U.S. defense officials insisted that many more U.S. troops would be killed and injured in Afghanistan and in Iraq if they'd been equipped with vehicles other than MRAPs.

"KIA (killed in action) rates in particular are noticeably reduced in MRAPs," said Irene Smith, a spokeswoman for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, the Pentagon agency created to develop defenses against roadside bombs.

U.S. defense officials in Washington and Kabul declined to reveal the number of MRAPs that have been crippled or destroyed since the first vehicles were deployed in Afghanistan in 2003, saying they didn't want to provide the Taliban with information on the effectiveness of their tactics.

McClatchy is voluntarily withholding some U.S. soldiers' descriptions of insurgent tactics out of concern that they may not be known by all of those fighting U.S.-led forces.

The soldiers spoke out of what they said was a heightened concern about the vehicles' vulnerability to ambushes, especially on mountain roads where there's no room for the vehicles to turn around.

Mayan Truth About 2012

Hat tip, AK48

2012 and the Mayan Calendar end date.
Do you want your facts on 2012 from the
Maya Elders or Hollywood?

We have heard from everyone but the Maya on this controversial topic of 2012
and the Mayan Calendar end date.
The time is now to hear what Mayan Elder Cirilo Perez Oxlaj,
a.k.a "Wandering Wolf the Voice of the Jungle"
has to say about these times that we are in.
This is the purpose of the film the
Shift of the Ages.

Synchronicities have their humor....
Beginning this November, the mass consciousness will be assaulted
with the apocalyptic Hollywood version of 2012 by the director of "Independence Day."
We were shocked to discover that these Hollywood film makers
also have a site called "Institute for Human Continuity" which is offering a
lottery for people to occupy their underground
facility intended to survive the "end of the world."
How noble to offer such hope for the lucky few who win their lottery.

Because of this overt fear mongering, we as light workers, healers,
conscious beings and Maya supporters
have an unprecedented opportunity to shift this fear into a
powerful force for conscious transformation and human evolution.
We believe it is time to drop the remote controls and take positive action
so we can organize together and transcend the fear regarding the shift.
We can do this in part by rallying in support of The Maya people themselves
who are responsible for this ominous and auspicious 2012 date.

An authentic Mayan perspective on 2012 has yet to be heard by
a global audience and it is NOW TIME for their message.
If the year 2012 has any significance whatsoever,
it is because it points to Year Zero in the Mayan Calendar,
which has been translated into "2012" by non-Mayan scholars.
Don't you think it will be useful to hear the authentic account of
Year Zero by the presently living elders of the Maya?
This is offered in the film
Shift of the Ages.

For over four years now this film has been gestating. It will be released
within the next 6 months, with all of your help.
The Maya Elders and Mayan Elder Cirilo Perez Oxlaj
need your help to bring their message to a global mainstream audience.
Because this is an independent film, the film's producers do not have
millions of Hollywood dollars to invest in advertising and publicity.
The film
Shift of the Ages producers, production crew
and Mayan Elder Cirilo Perez Oxlaj, do not want to sell the film to
a bigger company, as they might lose creative control,
and watch the truth of the message get lost in translation.
Instead, they have created an Ambassador-Affiliate Program designed
to organize a grass-roots global outreach and support system.
The Shift of the Ages Ambassador program allows everyone to
help with the film's success.

Ambassadors for this film are now unifying, forming alliances,
and working underground networks. These alliances and networks will
assist in the availability of this film to the mainstream world.
You can help get this timely message out to the world during this
momentous and transitional time.
See the film trailers - click this link:
Shift of the Ages
Become an Ambassador for the Shift of the Ages.

PLEASE forward this message to all your networks all over the world.
Network this announcement on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Architects of a New Dawn, and iPeace Now!

From the film's creator, Steve Copeland

I usually don't send emails like this, but I feel a sense of urgency.
The year 2012 and the "end of the world" has captured the attention of many people now. Many are presently using and twisting Mayan prophecy to advance their own agenda. We haven't had the opportunity to hear from the real Maya yet regarding what is actually happening now. As many of you know, I have been producing a film called "Shift of the Ages" for the past five years with the Grand Elder of the Maya Nation. This is their film and effort to clear up popular misconceptions of the Maya's past and educated the public about what they believe is "the change of the sun." Much of what is being spread over the internet is false. I have done my best to walk in integrity with the Maya people and honor the information they believe is "the flame that will light the world." Proper project funding has been our biggest obstacle to date. The Mayan Elders involved in the project have seen the success of our collective effort, but at the 3D level I'd say we are about 75% done with our post-production process. We're open to partnering with a conscious and accomplished production company that is willing to honor our arrangement with the Maya nation and the direction of the project. We have decided to release a series of clips and segments over the Internet to help dispel the fear associated with 2012 and raise awareness for our project. (USE THIS LINK to VIEW FILM CLIP )
Shift of the Ages Film
This clip will be followed by several more clips as days go on. Keep in mind these are not film trailers; they are actual edit segements from the film. I invite you to please watch the "Creation" clip and forward it along if it speaks to you.
Thank you very much, Steve Copeland
Shift of the Ages

Much sheer effort goes into avoiding the truth:left to
itself, it sweeps in like the tide.

- Fay Weldon -

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