Category: Military

Air Force clinic fires technician accused of being a witch

Groucho got it right

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is representing a former Air Force contractor who says she was fired from a dental clinic at Fort Meade, Maryland, after complaining that her co-workers discriminated against her because she was Hindu. She claims they then accused her of being a witch.

Group founder and president Mikey Weinstein wrote in a letter to officials: “We have spoken with witnesses at the clinic under your command who have universally confirmed that, not only did this horrid harassment take place, but ever since the execution of her punishment for failing the religious test imposed by the leadership of Epes Dental Clinic, a particular offending party has effusively celebrated her replacement by a Catholic woman by saying publicly that ‘It’s good to see we got an angel, since last time we had the devil.’”

The alleged harassment violates a “vast sea” of Defense Department and Air Force directives as well as the U.S. Constitution, Weinstein writes.

“The No Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of our nation’s Constitution absolutely forbids the exact same type of practices which are so commonplace under your command in the brazen establishment of evangelical Christianity as the only approved solution for religious belief in the 579th D[ental] S[quadron] of the Epes Dental Clinic at Fort Meade…”

Reached by Air Force Times, Deborah Schoenfeld said that her co-workers at the Epes Dental Clinic harassed her over her Hindu faith, claiming she was satanic for wanting to practice yoga and meditating.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two of her former co-workers confirmed Schoenfeld’s account to Air Force Times and said that other employees at the dental clinic are devoutly Christian and deeply suspicious of Hinduism. One of them confirmed that she was referred to as a “Hindu witch.”

One co-worker, who Schoenfeld said prayed for her to find Jesus, told her that meditation summons demons, adding that “all the soldiers who are doing meditation and yoga to help their PTSD, they are getting infected also,” Schoenfeld said.

When her requests for help through the chain of command went nowhere, she filed a formal complaint on Sept. 2, Schoenfeld said. That day, she was fired for allegedly using profanity against a co-worker, although she was not allowed to know who had accused her of doing so…

As it is so often in the United States, “defending religious liberty” means supporting only the advocacy of Christianity, evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity to the exclusion of all other belief systems religious or secular.

Hypocrisy and bigotry come along for the ride.

US military bombs Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan –


Seems like the old days doesn’t it? All we need is George W’s sad voice giving us the “oops” excuse. Oh well, President Obama learned how to do it pretty well. No doubt he remembers exactly the tone required.

A hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz was badly damaged early Saturday after being hit by what appears to have been an American airstrike. At least 19 people were killed, including 12 hospital staff members, and dozens wounded.

The United States military, in a statement, confirmed an airstrike at 2:15 a.m., saying that it had been targeting individuals “who were threatening the force” and that “there may have been collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”

The airstrike set off fires that were still burning hours later, and a nurse who managed to climb out of the debris described seeing colleagues so badly burned that they had died…

President Ashraf Ghani’s office released a statement Saturday evening saying that Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, had apologized for the strike. In a statement, however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said blah, blah, blah

Airstrikes resulting in civilian casualties have caused tensions verging on hostility between the Afghan government and the United States for years. The former president, Hamid Karzai, was often in the uncomfortable position of explaining to his countrymen why Afghanistan’s biggest ally was killing innocent Afghans…

Accounts differed as to whether there had been fighting around the hospital that might have precipitated the strike. Two hospital employees, an aide who was wounded in the bombing and a nurse who emerged unscathed, said that there had been no active fighting nearby and no Taliban fighters in the hospital.

But a Kunduz police spokesman, Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, insisted that Taliban fighters had entered the hospital and were using it as a firing position.

Doctors Without Borders, which released the casualty numbers, said 37 people were wounded of whom 19 were hospital staff and 18 were patients or their caregivers, which means mostly family members. The organization described the facility as “very badly damaged.”

In a statement, the aid group accused the American military of continuing the bombing for 30 minutes after receiving phone calls telling military contacts that the hospital was being bombed.

“All parties to the conflict including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location [GPS Coordinates] of the MSF facilities — hospital, guesthouse, office,” the statement said.

Who do I believe? I’ll take Doctors Without Borders over the Pentagon any day of the week.

RTFA for a long, detailed account of the deaths and destruction.

Pic of the day

Click to enlargeTara Ruby Photography

Photo of breastfeeding El Paso soldiers garners global attention

A group photo showing women soldiers breastfeeding their babies at a military base in El Paso went viral this week. In the picture, 10 mothers in camouflage uniforms hold 10 hungry babies to their chests.

El Paso photographer Tara Ruby took the picture at Fort Bliss Army base with the intention of donating it as decoration for a room recently reserved for breastfeeding soldiers.

“The room is intended so they can have a private area to go and pump their breast milk and then they have a refrigerator so they can store it,” Ruby said…

She shared the photo on her professional Facebook page late one evening, but when she looked the next morning, it had disappeared. Ruby reposted the photo and it has since been shared around the world, picked up by CNN, Time, the BBC and many others. Facebook has not responded to questions about what happened to the photo.

Meanwhile, Ruby said it’s stirred discussion about a lack of accommodations for nursing Army moms.

The Army is the only military branch that doesn’t have a policy on breastfeeding, according to a column in the Army Times written this year by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. She’s trying to change that with an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that’s currently stalled in Congress.

Best bumper sticker I’ve seen this week said REPLACE CONGRESS. On the back of a van belonging to a recent Emmy winner no less. OTOH, I still believe electoral politics is useful for mobilizing public opinion if nothing else. Go for it, folks.

I know we have ignoranus congress-critters who don’t comprehend the health and cultural values of breastfeeding. Cripes, they’re elected – no doubt – by fools who don’t comprehend evolution, science or democracy. In a state of permanent intellectual constipation, I don’t expect the peabrains in that crowd to change. But, pressure can be brought to bear on officials who try at a modicum of understanding of progress and reality.

Supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan to be renamed USS Barack Obama

Yes, thousands of ignoranus rightwing fools believe that is true!

The U.S.Navy announced it’s flagship and most advanced supercarrier warship will get a much needed refit and name change after it’s next mission.

Last week the Nimitz-class carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) departed San Diego, Calif. for its new home in Yokosuka, Japan.Reagan has operated extensively in the Pacific, including responding to the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

After it’s deployment the Reagan will return to Newport News, Va. for a mid-life overhaul.The Navy announced it will also be re-christening the ship to celebrate our nation’s first African American president.

…Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, said…“When she comes home it will be time to update. Both the technology and name will be updated to reflect America’s progressive vision for the world an our allies.”

Shoemaker went on to explain the Navy had planned to build a new carrier to name after the 44th President but due to budget cuts those plans were scrapped.

It was not announced how long the ship’s current deployment would be but that Obama should be out of office by the time the name change takes place.

According to estimates from the Navy, the name swap will cost the service about $41 billion in moving expenses as per executive order.

After you read to the bottom of the article, take the time to read all the comments from teabaggers and loyal little Republicans going absolutely batshit crazy. It is hilarious.

The Fox News Facebook Page is a satire site – Duh.

The Humvee’s replacement — the Oshkosh L-ATV

…The US Army has picked its replacement for the aging vehicle originally designed as a Cold War replacement for the Jeep—and it comes from Wisconsin. Eventually, the Army and Marine Corps could buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles over the next 25 years, spending over $30 billion.

In a move that will undoubtedly spur a spate of protests and political backlash from a heavily lobbied Congress, the US Army has awarded the Defense Department’s multibillion dollar Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program contract to the contender from Oshkosh Defense, beating out the other finalists in the program, which started in November of 2006 — Lockheed Martin and the Humvee’s manufacturer, American General. The initial “low rate” order for 16,901 vehicles for both the Army and Marine Corps is worth $6.7 billion.

That’s a touch over $396K per copy!

Oshkosh’s winning design is called the L-ATV (for “Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle”). It includes innovations that were added to the Humvee during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including remote-operated weapons turrets (with heavy machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, and anti-tank missiles), and electronic warfare gear to jam remote controls for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It will also be a rolling network unto itself, equipped to generate up to 10 kilowatts of “exportable” power for Army and Marine Corps communication and computer gear, with HF, VHF, UHF, and SATCOM onboard as well as a vehicle intercom system. There’s also a centralized onboard computer system powering “smart displays” for the soldiers or Marines it carries. The L-ATV will also be equipped with a variety of surveillance and threat sensors—including a shot locator system, long-range surveillance cameras, and low-light and infrared camera systems.

The L-ATV can be transported by heavy-lift helicopter or by the Marine Corps’ landing craft, but it’s a much bigger payload than the Hummer, with a curb weight nearly three times that of the older vehicle: about 14,000 pounds, compared to the Humvee’s 5,900 pounds. That extra mass is a combination of armor, electrical power and additional horsepower. Oshkosh won partially because of the proven performance of its M-ATV, a mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle it sold to the military as an urgent replacement for Humvees and trucks damaged by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the L-ATV also has better fuel efficiency than the Humvee, and its suspension system allows for 70 percent faster off-road speeds.

I’m still a motorhead. Of course, that extends to every kind of motor vehicle including all terrain monsters like this. Though I’m pleased to see Oshkosh beat out the corporate dangerous duo who’ve been in bed with our military-industrial complex since before it was so named — no doubt I will have differences with specification, intent and design.

Some other time.

Pentagon’s views on the Free Press in wartime

Credit Brian Stauffer

The Defense Department earlier this summer released a comprehensive manual outlining its interpretation of the law of war. The 1,176-page document, the first of its kind, includes guidelines on the treatment of journalists covering armed conflicts that would make their work more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship. Those should be repealed immediately.

Journalists, the manual says, are generally regarded as civilians, but may in some instances be deemed “unprivileged belligerents,” a legal term that applies to fighters that are afforded fewer protections than the declared combatants in a war. In some instances, the document says, “the relaying of information (such as providing information of immediate use in combat operations) could constitute taking a direct part in hostilities.”

The manual warns that “Reporting on military operations can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying,” so it calls on journalists to “act openly and with the permission of relevant authorities.” It says that governments “may need to censor journalists’ work or take other security measures so that journalists do not reveal sensitive information to the enemy.”

Allowing this document to stand as guidance for commanders, government lawyers and officials of other nations would do severe damage to press freedoms. Authoritarian leaders around the world could point to it to show that their despotic treatment of journalists — including Americans — is broadly in line with the standards set by the United States government.

Nice to see the NY TIMES stand up for a Free Press. Even in wartime. Finally.

RTFA for a more detailed albeit brief exposition. The editorial originally had a link to a .pdf of the relevant portion of the manual. That seems to have disappeared. But, we all know nothing ever really disappears from the Web.

Hee, hee, hee!

Military justice is to justice as military music is to music

This was a slogan during the resistance to the US War in VietNam: Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. We all recognized rigidity, reactionary, out-of-date definitions corrupting any sense of being modern or useful.

The song remains the same. Chelsea Manning faces solitary confinement for having the Jenner Vanity Fair issue in her cell.

Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier serving a 35-year military prison sentence for leaking official secrets, has been threatened with indefinite solitary confinement for having an expired tube of toothpaste in her cell and being found in possession of the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair issue…

Manning, a Guardian columnist who writes about global affairs, intelligence issues and transgender rights from prison in the brig of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has allegedly been charged with four violations of custody rules that her lawyers have denounced as absurd and a form of harassment. The army private is reportedly accused of having showed “disrespect”; of having displayed “disorderly conduct” by sweeping food onto the floor during dinner chow; of having kept “prohibited property” – that is books and magazines – in her cell; and of having committing “medicine misuse”, referring to the tube of toothpaste, according to Manning’s supporters.

The maximum punishment for such offences is an indeterminate amount of time in a solitary confinement cell.

The fourth charge, “medicine misuse”, follows an inspection of Manning’s cell on 9 July during which a tube of anti-cavity toothpaste was found. The prison authorities noted that Manning was entitled to have the toothpaste in her cell, but is penalizing her because it was “past its expiration date of 9 April 2015”.

The “prohibited property” charge relates to a number of books and magazines that were found in her cell and confiscated. They included the memoir I Am Malala by Nobel peace prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, a novel featuring trans women called A Safe Girl to Love, the LGBT publication Out Magazine, the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair and a copy of Cosmopolitan that included an interview with Manning.

Also confiscated was the US Senate report on torture. It is not clear why any of these publications were considered violations of prison rules – a request by the Guardian to the army public affairs team for an explanation of the charges received no immediate response.

RTFA for more details of the crap we expect from the United States. Not just for political prisoners, of course. If you try to learn and think, perhaps voice some level of dissent from the Dark Ages mentality of most American jailers – you’re in trouble.

How the Army designed the world’s weirdest meat

Can the United States Army claim credit for the McRib?

That bizarre fast-food creation has long been the subject of cultish adoration and surprisingly credible conspiracy theories (like the one that speculates its mysterious appearances are timed to low pork prices).

But the best speculation about the McRib may be a new theory about its origins: that it’s part of our lives thanks to the United States Army’s quietly revolutionary food lab, located in Natick, Massachusetts…

“What the Army develops is the backbone,” Anastacia Marx de Salcedo says. “The private companies make it more palatable for the consumer.”

She’s the author of Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, a new book that tracks Army food research’s wide influence on the culture at large. It’s a rollicking, yet encyclopedic, look at the Army’s role in everything from industrialized meats to energy bars. And that includes the restructured-meat masterpiece known as the McRib.

So, who gets credited for developing restructured meat?

…Marx de Salcedo identifies Dr. Roger Mandigo as one contender, who told Marx de Salcedo that in 1970, “the project was funded by the National Pork Council with the pork producers check-off fund … our original restructured pork was shaped like chops; McDonald’s adapted them for their McRibs.” Marx de Salcedo also notes the work of Dr. Dale Huffman, a professor who developed a restructured pork chop in 1969 that he originally tried to sell to Burger King.

But the most interesting contender might be…John Secrist, a food scientist at the Natick Soldier Center for Research and Development. That’s the place where the US Army develops its groundbreaking food for the troops as part of its Combat Feeding Program…Secrist told Marx de Salcedo that in the ’60s, Natick asked him and his team to develop a cheaper version of steaks and chops.

The Army then partnered with a meat flaking company in Ohio in order to break down meat and reassemble it into the meatlike blobs that are familiar today in the form of the McRib. Natick enlisted many meatpackers to do trial runs to see if the technology was viable, and as a result, it made its way to the private sector. “Denny’s used our restructured beefsteak in their restaurant,” Secrist said, “and McDonald’s McRib is as close to our product as you can get.”

The Army didn’t sit in McDonald’s kitchen and tell the chefs how to season their gloriously weird ribs. But Marx de Salcedo argues that they did provide the driving force to make restructured meat a commercial reality. Even Mandigo, the food scientist often credited with the McRib’s technology, told Salcedo that “the military allowed us to use the processes they developed.”

At least we can forget any stories about the McRib being developed at Area 51 from extraterrestrial technology, alien animals.

Or is that what we’re supposed to do?

Military contractor wants court help extorting money from sick vets

Private military contractor Kellogg Brown and Root is suing 12 National Guard veterans for $850,000 in legal fees that the company has incurred through defending a suit brought by the 12 for damages related to service on behalf of the company while in Iraq.

Early in 2003, the Department of Defense ordered members of the Oregon National Guard to protect supply convoys and repair facilities operated by KBR. The DoD had hired KBR to restore the flow of Iraqi oil to pipelines supplying the West and Europe. At the Qarmat Ali water treatment facility, severely damaged by American attacks and fleeing Iraqis, members of the Guard were exposed to hexavalent chromium, a cancer agent.

After developing health problems consistent with hexavalent chromium exposure, the veterans sued KBR for negligence in Federal Court in Portland. After a month long trial, the jury awarded the veterans $85 Million in 2012. KBR appealed, and sought $30 Million in legal fees and damages from the veterans for initiating the lawsuit.

The soldiers, residents of Oregon and under orders from the Department of Defense, placed on loan to a private entity contracted by the DoD, sued in their home state in federal court, not state court. They argued that a chemical used at the Qarmat Ali treatment facility had, to the knowledge of KBR, contaminated the site. Remaining at the site without being informed of the presence of the cancer agent by DoD or KBR constituted negligence. The Oregon jury agreed.

In May of this year, however, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling. The Court, persuaded by KBR lawyers, determined that an Oregon court, even if a federal circuit court, was not the proper jurisdiction for the case. Rocky Bixby, Ronald Bjerklund, Charles Ellis, Matthew Hadley, Colt Campredon, Vito Pacheco, Brian Hedin, Charles Seamon, Aaron St. Clair, Byron Greer, Jason Arnold and Larry Roberta must now take their case to Houston, Texas, where KBR is located.

A magnanimous KBR was pleased that the 9th Circuit ruled that the Oregon court did not have “personal jurisdiction” over the Texas based company. KBR executive vice president and general counsel Eileen Akerson said, “This ruling is another major step in resolving the few remaining legacy tort claims related to KBR’s work supporting the U.S. military in Iraq. We look forward to bringing closure to all of those matters.” Closure for KBR includes hiding behind its military contractor indemnification clause, and suing the Oregon soldiers for fees and damages incurred through the long course of this trial.

Creeps who should have been indicted as co-conspirators in the lawsuits should have included all the Republicans who profited from the war – starting with Dick Cheney with his ties to Halliburton. Yes, KBR was a subsidiary of Halliburton while Cheney’s firm was getting all those juicy no-bid contracts from the War Department.

Then, we get to confront our less-than-equal rights before American courts. Of course, we must move the retrial into KBR’s backyard. Makes it easier for lawyers, judges and politicians to discuss the case over cocktails.

Meanwhile, the Oregon soldiers contemplate zero compensation for their abuse and ill health in the Bush-Cheney War.