Friday, October 30, 2009
SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Coast Guard and Navy were still hoping Friday to find survivors of a collision between a Coast Guard plane carrying two people and a Marine Corps helicopter carrying seen off the Southern California coast.
The crash was reported at 7:10 p.m. Thursday, about 50 miles off the San Diego County coast and 15 miles east of San Clemente Island, Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Allyson Conroy said.
A pilot reported seeing a fireball near where the aircraft collided, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said, and the Coast Guard informed the FAA that debris from a C-130 had been spotted. The Coast Guard plane that crashed was a C-130.
The Coast Guard crew members had survival gear onboard their aircraft, including exposure suits that could have allowed them to survive in the water for hours, Petty Officer Henry Dunphy said Friday from San Diego.
"We're hoping to find survivors," he said. "We're not ruling that out."
At least seven Coast Guard and Navy ships and several helicopters continued a search that ran overnight under a bright moon in calm seas.
"We've pretty much thrown everything we have at it right now," Dunphy said.
The Coast Guard plane was based in Sacramento and was on a search-and-rescue mission when the collision occurred, Dunphy said. He did not have details of the mission.
The AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter was on a training mission when it went down, said Cpl. Michael Stevens, a spokesman for the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
The Cobra and its crew are part of Marine Aircraft Group 39, based at Camp Pendleton, and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which is headquartered at Miramar, Stevens said.
San Clemente Island is the southernmost of the eight Channel Islands located 68 nautical miles west of San Diego. The Navy has owned and trained at San Clemente Island since 1934, according to the island's Web site. Naval Air Station, North Island is responsible for the island's administration.
Earlier this week, it was an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter that collided with a UH-1 helicopter over southern Afghanistan, killing four American troops and wounding two more, a Marine spokesman said.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
was $1.26 billion
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
By Army Pfc. Beth Raney
Special to American Forces Press Service
The rule of law conference, held at the Nangarhar governor's palace in Jalalabad, focused on the provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman. The morning was filled with briefings and presentations by U.S. and Afghan agencies and nongovernmental organizations operating in eastern Afghanistan, including representatives from the U.S. State Department, the Supreme Court of Afghanistan and the Afghan Justice Sector Support Program.
"The conference succeeded in bringing all of these key players together into one room," said Army Maj. Jeffrey Thurnher, Task Force Mountain Warrior's legal officer, from Woodbridge, Va. "This was the first time all of these police and judicial leaders have gathered together for a regional conference."
After lunch, the attendees reconvened and divided into three groups.
One group discussed building ties between the formal and informal legal systems. In many remote areas of Afghanistan, local elders and community council members resolve disputes and pass judgment outside the formal legal system. The second group discussed improving public awareness of legal rights, and the third worked on improving cooperation among prosecutors, police and courts to reduce arbitrary detentions.
"The hope was to develop two or three suggestions for how to handle each of those problems, and to challenge the group to begin implementing them," Thurnher said. "They discussed ways to tackle some of the most challenging problems facing the legal systems of their provinces."
Army Capt. Craig Scrogham, a native of Richmond Hill, Ga., and Task Force Mountain Warrior's rule of law attorney, said the attendees also discussed a pilot program used in Kabul to track cases more effectively. Scrogham added that he hopes the program will be available in the area soon.
"The timing couldn't have been more perfect, because all the ministries joined together in Kabul the week after the conference and signed into law the use of this case-tracking system," he said.
"Although we certainly did not develop a comprehensive strategy with just one meeting, we took a great step toward increasing cooperation between the groups and developed some great ideas for making changes," Thurnher said.
"We have done training for rule of law before, but we have never brought all of these groups together for a session before," Scrogham said. "Training normally has been specific to police or to prosecutors or to [Rights] Department officials. Being able to talk to everyone at once was one of the primary benefits of this session."
(Army Pfc. Beth Raney serves in the Task Force Mountain Warrior public affairs office.)
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October 26, 2009
What's going too far? Try the pumpkin-head Obama. Or the illegal-alien costume, an orange jumpsuit complete with a green card that has been surfacing online in recent weeks, roiling immigration groups and triggering protests. An anti-health-reform patient might also offend some people, particularly if someone carries around a sign that says, "Gimme, gimme, gimme."
"You might set some people off there," warned Steve Miller, of counsel to the Chicago office of Atlanta's Fisher & Phillips.
Miller is advising employers to send out an e-mail or memo in advance of Halloween reminding employees that they must use good taste and judgment when selecting costumes to wear to work or at the office party. Employees should be careful, for example, in dressing up as the first African-American president or the first Hispanic woman to be named a Supreme Court justice, he said.
Miller advised employers to ban anything that is sexually provocative, carries a political or social message, or is simply inappropriate for interacting with colleagues and clientele. And don't be afraid to punish the employee who goes too far. "Employees who — in spite of direction by the employer — appear in inappropriate costumes, should be disciplined," he said.
Scandals in the current headlines are other likely sources of inappropriate workplace costumes, said Shanti Atkins, a former employment lawyer at Littler Mendelson and current president of ELT Inc., which specializes in ethics and compliance training for employers.
For instance, Atkins predicted many men will dress as David Letterman, talk jokingly about workplace sex and even pretend to hit on female co-workers — a potential sexual harassment concern, she warned.
Atkins also noted that acceptable costumes from years past might not work this year. For example, a suggestion four years ago to wear a "pink slip" over clothing and chase co-workers around might not be funny given the current unemployment rate.
Paul and Rachel Chandler, aged 58 and 55, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were heading for Tanzania in their yacht, the Lynn Rival.
They sent a distress signal on Friday but have not been heard from since.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said his sources believed they were being taken to Somalia.
He said it was thought the couple and their yacht were headed for the port of Haradheere.
A pirate called Hassan told the Reuters news agency: "The British couple are in our hands now. We captured them as they were touring in the Indian Ocean."
The two captives were healthy and ransom demands would follow, he added.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said it could not confirm whether pirates were involved.
"We are in touch with the family in the UK and the Seychelles coastguards which continues to monitor the situation and has conducted a search of the area," she added.
Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the couple's distress beacon was activated at 2300 BST on Friday.
They were on a 150 nautical-mile passage south-west to the Amirante Islands, en route to Tanzania when they used the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).
The route would have taken the couple near Somali waters which are notorious for pirate attacks on ships and smaller boats.
It is understood that there had been pirate activity in the area earlier in the day.
A MCA spokesman said: "The Seychelles authorities are carrying out a search and rescue operation but have found nothing so far.
"It would appear from the activation of the EPIRB that something has happened.
Seychelles Coast Guard spokesman
"We were aware that the EPIRB had gone off, talked to the Seychelles, asked if they were aware of it, they were, and have been searching, by air and sea."
A spokesman for the Seychelles Coast Guard said they had not heard from the couple, who were out of reach by satellite phone.
He said: "There have been reports that they were hijacked by pirates but no one can prove that. We don't know what has happened and cannot speculate."
In recent years the waters around the Seychelles have become a hot spot for pirate activity.
Earlier this year Seychellois officials requested help from the international community to defend their waters.
The couple - who have been sailing around the world for several years after selling up in the UK - previously wrote of "the Somali pirate problem" that delayed other voyages to Tanzania.
In an earlier post on their blog, the couple wrote about pirates around the Seychelles.
They said in June: "Arriving back at the old port we had to pass three warships at the entrance, one French, one American and one Canadian. No doubt they are here to deal with the pirates.
"We also understand that the problem has gone away with the arrival of the SE winds. The seas around the Seychelles are now too rough for the pirates to operate in."
Published: 2009/10/27 11:06:41 GMT
© BBC MMIX
Mullen has spoken out more in the last year about the risks of mild TBI caused by roadside bombs, often invoking a story of a young soldier who endured 30 blasts and is now suffering significant brain damage.
"I don't know what the right number is, but 30 is way too many. I'm literally on the verge of saying, you know, 'Hey, it's two or it's three (mild TBIs) and you're out,' " Mullen told an audience at Harvard University Medical School last month.
The military estimates the cost of Mullen's initiative — in troops removed from combat — may be minimal, with only about 1% to 2% of the 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan routinely exposed to roadside bombs sidelined during a period of several months, or about 150 to 400 people, says Army Col. Chris Macedonia, Mullen's medical science adviser.
Those troops would remain on forward operating bases performing other duties, even after any concussive symptoms go away, he says. The recommendations would also apply to Iraq, but the number of roadside bombings there have dropped dramatically in the past year.
"We have to remember we are fighting a kind of fight that is a multidimensional, long-term counterinsurgency — which means we have people going into rotations over and over again," Macedonia says. "We have to preserve those people for the follow-on fight."
Mullen's proposal stems, in part, from civilian research into football injuries showing the dangers of multiple mild TBIs, Macedonia says. The studies show that players with three or more concussions in one season are three times more likely to experience another mild TBI. They also begin to recover more slowly after suffering three concussions.
Marines initiated policy
Marines in Afghanistan started to pull troops out of combat in early 2008 based on a complex formula involving a history of multiple concussions during a tour, Macedonia says. The Marine Corps is revising and broadening the policy, says Capt. Brian Block, a Marine spokesman.
The Army is also crafting a new policy after Mullen sent a memo in June to the Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, urging Casey to look at the Marine Corps efforts, says Macedonia and Cynthia Vaughan, an Army spokeswoman. The Army provides more than 60% of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The new policy "may mean that after a certain number of (concussions), a servicemember will remain in the forward operating base for the duration of the deployment," says Brig. Gen. Richard Thomas, an assistant surgeon general for the Army.
Former football players who suffered multiple concussions were five times more likely to develop symptoms of a condition considered to be a precursor to Alzheimer's and three times more likely to become clinically depressed, says Kevin Guskiewicz, professor and director of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Military scientists are still learning the full extent of brain damage caused by roadside bombs, even in cases in which soldiers or Marines may appear unscathed, says Air Force Col. Michael Jaffee, director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, devoted to clinical care, research and education about TBI. In some cases, the damage could be more severe than concussions occurring on the football field, Jaffee says.
A RAND Corp. study early last year estimated that up to 300,000 servicemembers may have suffered a mild TBI in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"He (Mullen) wants attention on this issue. That's what he's been pushing for," Macedonia says. "Despite the fact that we are applying principles based on the sports medicine literature, make no mistake about it, this is war and not a game. The stakes are a lot higher."
Not unlike Agent Orange
Macedonia led a team of military scientists sent by Mullen to Afghanistan in February to study the issue and the Marines' policy of pulling troops from combat after three mild TBIs.
Mullen compares the persistent mysteries surrounding blast-related brain injuries to diseases tied to Agent Orange, a defoliant used during the Vietnam War that was ultimately found to cause illnesses in troops.
"It's not an exact analogy," Mullen said during the Harvard Medical School speech. "But it's one that resonates with me because there's so much to learn (about long-term blast-related effects on the brain)."
Monday, October 26, 2009
From The Economist print edition
More suggestions that biofuels are not an environmental free lunch
ONCE upon a time, biofuels were thought of as a solution to fossil-fuel dependence. Now they are widely seen as a boondoggle to agribusiness that hurts the environment and cheats taxpayers. A report commissioned by the United Nations endorses neither extreme. It gives high marks to some crop-based fuels and lambasts others. Meanwhile, two papers published in Science, a leading research journal, provide further reasons for caution. One suggests that the knock-on effects of growing biofuel crops, in terms of displaced food crops and extra fertiliser (an important source of a greenhouse gas called nitrous oxide), make the whole enterprise risky. The other points out a dangerous inconsistency in the way the Earth’s carbon balance-sheet is drawn up for the purposes of international law.
The UN report gives ethanol from sugar cane (which Brazil makes) a clean bill of health. In some circumstances it does better than just “zero emission”. If grown and processed correctly, it has “negative emission”—pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere, rather than adding it. America’s use of maize for biofuel is less efficient. Properly planted and processed, it does cut emissions; done poorly, it is more polluting than petrol. As to biodiesel palm oil grown on cleared tropical forest, when the destruction of the trees and release of CO2 from the cleared soil are accounted for, the crop is filthy—and worse than that if the forest was growing in peat, as is often the case.
The amount of ethanol produced for transport tripled from 17 billion litres in 2000 to 52 billion litres in 2007 and is set to rise further. But the world’s population is also rising, so competition for land between fuel and food is hotting up. This competition is the subject of Jerry Melillo’s paper in Science. Dr Melillo, of the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and his colleagues have attempted to model how an expansion of biofuels might change world agriculture during the 21st century. They concentrate on the likely future—cellulosic biofuels made from whole plants such as fast-growing grasses, rather than the food-cum-biofuel crops of today. They reckon Africa is the best place to grow biofuels, and the one that will lead to most carbon capture in the long run. But they also show that the widespread growth of biofuel crops is likely to cause a net global release of greenhouse gases during the first half of the century, as land is cleared and fertilisers are scattered liberally. In the right circumstances the CO2 account, they reckon, could move into profit by mid-century, but the nitrous oxide account never does.
Tim Searchinger’s Science paper, meanwhile, looks at the way the accounts are drawn up in the here and now. Dr Searchinger, who works at Princeton University, and his collaborators point out that the rules for assessing compliance with the Kyoto protocol (which are also included in the version of America’s climate bill that passed the House of Representatives) are biased in favour of biofuels because they fail to account for emissions from land cleared to grow such fuels. Combine that observation with Dr Melillo’s modelling and you have a recipe for some perverse incentives indeed.
Sadly, settled international standards on biofuels or on a trading system that includes their carbon-cutting benefits are probably a long way off. Two more items on the “too busy to do” list of the Copenhagen conference on climate change.
For years, he had worked as a funeral home director. His children learned that death was part of the normal cycle of life — that it's good to mourn for a loved one and there was no reason to fear the bodies their daddy embalmed in a workroom of their home.
But then he spent six months working at the morgue at Dover Air Force Base, Del. And then six more months in mortuary affairs at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
After that, Loyd no longer saw death as part of a natural cycle.
The faces of dead troops began to haunt his every minute. Awake. Asleep. Some charred or shattered, some with faces he recognized from life, some in parts.
Once, after an aircraft crash, Loyd spent 82 hours lining up bodies side by side, the burnt remains still so hot they melted through the plastic body bags.
He took the images home with him, each of the dead competing for space in his mind. He spent hours crying on his family room floor, weeping as his dog Sophie licked away his tears, the only living comfort he could bear.
He retreated as his sons sought hugs and his wife, Andrea, looked for the snuggles they had once shared daily, hourly. He lashed out with angry words. He had known Andrea since they were 16. Now he couldn't touch her.
They'd never understand what he had been through. No one would, he thought.
Loyd was living a nightmare. Now his family was living one, too.
One among many
To date, 106,726 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with mental health issues after leaving service, according to a Veterans Affairs Department study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Of those, 22% have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. But the actual figure is probably higher. The VA number doesn't include those still on active duty or veterans who seek care outside VA channels. Many vets don't come forward for fear that a mental health diagnosis may harm their post-service careers; active-duty members worry about being stigmatized or seen as malingerers if they seek help or are diagnosed with PTSD.
Many don't even realize they've changed. Symptoms may be subtle and intermingle with other diagnoses — anxiety, depression, even traumatic brain injury.
A soldier can't concentrate; a Marine is overcome by a general sadness that never seems to lift; an airman refuses to sleep to fend off nightmares; a sailor replays scenes from the battlefield over and over in his mind. PTSD is caused by exposure to a traumatic event involving intense fear, horror or helplessness, usually involving death, threat of death or serious injury to oneself or someone else.
Symptoms come in groups
• Distressing recollections — nightmares and flashbacks.
• Avoiding any thought of the event, inability to recall the trauma, avoiding activities that used to bring pleasure, feeling detached or estranged from others and an inability to love.
• Difficulty sleeping, increased irritability or outbursts of anger, and hypervigilance.
If one or more symptoms from each group last longer than a month, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it warrants a diagnosis of PTSD.
The hardest part is that it's "not visible," said Audrey Burnam, lead author of a recent Rand Corp. report on caring for veterans with PTSD. "They're not things you can tell by looking at the outside of a person."
Getting troops to come forward is hard, admits Army Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. But doing nothing is worse.
"Stigma kills," Sutton said. "It's a deadly workplace hazard that must be eliminated. Our efforts right now are really aimed in that direction."
Trauma affects everyone differently. Some may have a genetic predisposition for PTSD; others may have trauma in their past that contributes to how they might react later.
And some people just see too much. Troops who work in mortuary affairs in Iraq serve six-month tours, rather than 12 months — an institutional effort to minimize the mental stress of those jobs.
Most service members who lose a limb or who face another serious injury deal with at least some symptoms of combat stress. One rocket attack can cause severe mental distress in some people, while others remain symptom-free even after 15 months of intense battle and loss. And sometimes, a person feels fine for months or years before the first symptoms of PTSD appear.
Doctors rely on a service member's words and feelings to make a diagnosis. Even so, research shows different brain activity in those diagnosed with PTSD, raising the possibility that the traumatic event itself may cause physical changes in brain chemistry.
'I'm bottled up'
A few years ago, Loyd Sawyer was known for his Southern-style storytelling and silly sense of humor. Every weekend, the Sawyers' townhouse in Colonial Heights, Va., filled with friends who felt the pull of Andrea's homemade chili and Loyd's need to make everyone feel at home.
"I was just taking care of my soldiers," he said, grinning at the memory. But after his time at Dover and in Iraq, having too many people around caused a sensory overload. He felt trapped, angry, overwhelmed. He could no longer enjoy his friends or family.
His PTSD, combined with back injuries and a traumatic brain injury, eventually would lead to his September 2008 medical retirement from the Army.
The problems began at Dover in 2005. His job included assembling ribbon racks for the deceased and putting together their uniforms.
On his days off, he would help embalm. The main embalmers would work on the bodies. Loyd would handle body parts. A Marine's right arm, identifiable by his Semper Fi tattoo. A foot. Skin from a face that he had to lay flat on a table.
He started to drink heavily — as much as a fifth of liquor before going out for more with friends.
When he returned home to Fort Lee, Va., Loyd quit the heavy drinking, but he didn't share his feelings with Andrea. As the wife of a funeral director, she had been used to listening to him talk about the details of his days. Now, everything had changed.
"I wasn't supposed to discuss what I saw" at Dover, Loyd said. "You're not supposed to talk about people's personal trauma. Before, I'd get somewhat emotional. Now, I'm bottled up."
He worries that letting emotions surface will bring all the pain, sadness and fear straight to the top. So he keeps himself numb — not happy, not sad. As life moves around him with all its good and bad, Loyd stays stuck in neutral.
In the summer of 2006, he headed to Tallil, Iraq, where a mortar destroyed a living unit near his. Soon after, he moved to Balad. His second night there, a mortar round that had been shot down busted out the windshield of the van he was in. Then a Turkish airliner crashed about 1,000 meters from his mortuary affairs unit, traumatizing them first with the horror of the crash and then the misery of the recovery. For 3½ days, he and his team lined up 35 bodies in a parking lot to prepare them to go back to Turkey.
"When I got to the hospital, some of them were still smoking, pieces of arms and legs burned through the bags," Loyd said. "I loaded as many as I could in our little box truck [to take to the morgue]. I went back and got another load. And another load. It was human bodies in every imagined condition. They were smashed, torn apart, burned. A lot were soaked in diesel fuel."
For that, he earned an Army Commendation Medal and nightmarish images he could not escape.
His job in Iraq was to prepare bodies for eventual return home to Dover. He picked them up from the hospital, brought them to the morgue, itemized their belongings — searching through pockets and wallets for letters, lucky charms and sensitive items — and put them in a bag and on a plane.
If a vehicle had to be scrubbed of human remains before going to the scrap yard, Loyd took care of it. He became so sensitized to the smell of decay that he could tell if there was something in a truck without even looking.
"It's a very distinct odor," he said. "Even for a very small piece of bone."
A few times, he was called in after a service member committed suicide. "It'd be blood and guts and parts everywhere," he said. "You can tell when someone sticks an M16 in their mouth. I was determined to come home. I saw too many people commit suicide over there that I had to go scrape up."
But when he got home in early 2007, he said he began to find himself thinking about joining those suicides. He took to screaming at his family, pent-up rage seeking an easy target.
The Sawyers took a trip to Disney World— a vacation meant to bring the family back together. But Andrea said her "gentle giant" grew so agitated that she locked her two boys, Caleb, then 6, and Noah, then 5, in a hotel bathroom with her as Loyd raged over the children's inability to sit still while watching cartoons.
Loyd said he hated "every minute" of the vacation — constant crowds with no escape, the happiness that pervaded the place flying in the face of the death he had seen, his family demanding his attention.
"I made it miserable for everyone," he said.
Andrea thought it would take some time for her husband to recover, yet fully expected that he would. But the nightmares scared him so badly that he couldn't sleep. Without sleep, his body and mind could not regroup. The guilt from simply being alive caused him to dread existing at all. And how could he stop thinking about those faces? To forget them would dishonor them.
Andrea moved her boys out of the home they shared with their father when she realized they might one day find Loyd dead.
Indeed, Loyd began to believe he might find peace by joining the ghosts that seemingly had staked a permanent claim in his mind.
He began waking up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat. The scent of diesel exhaust or blood in the meat section of the supermarket would jerk him back to Iraq. If he heard fireworks or a car backfiring, he wanted to run.
More subtle and puzzling to his family, he seemed to have no filter for what might come out of his mouth at any time.
At a family-style restaurant, he watched as an overweight woman added food to her plate and then heard himself say, "Lady, you're fat. You need to push yourself away from that buffet table."
He knew he was embarrassing himself and Andrea, but he could not find the kind man he had been before Iraq.
"Things just come out of my mouth," he said. "Sometimes it's like I'm standing next to me looking at this guy saying this stuff, like, 'My God, what is this guy thinking, saying that?"
In his nightmares, he's the one who blows up. "Pieces of me going here, there, everywhere," he said.
Driving down the road, he has flashbacks.
"Have you ever been watching a movie and you get a blip — a frame or two?" he said. "It might be that. Or … you see something, and you're in the desert. Everything changes. Reality's gone. You have switched the TV channel."
Loyd compared a flashback to having a movie play in his head, and that's all he can see, rather than the reality around him. His heartbeat speeds up; he begins to sweat; he's ready to fight.
"A sound, a smell, a word, a name — there's so many things that can cause me to relive those experiences," he said. "I'm there. Literally, it is happening again."
Perhaps the hardest part, for Loyd, is the guilt.
"Do you want to feel guilty?" he said. "Do you want to feel sad? I saw a lot of bad things over there. I think you're wrong not to feel bad. I felt like I was betraying those soldiers by saying I'm not going to care about that anymore. I felt like I was giving up on them, or betraying their memories by thinking I'm going to forget your face because it was half blown off."
But he recognizes that feeling that way also makes him feel as if he's betraying his family.
"It's hard for my children to understand why I act the way I do," Loyd said. "Why I don't feel like going out and playing sometimes. It's sad."
His youngest boy, Noah, didn't remember Loyd before Iraq, so when Loyd acted angry, Noah just ignored him. Some days, they did not speak at all as Noah went to Andrea for all his needs.
It was different for Caleb, a year older. "He's always been more tuned in emotionally to how you're feeling," Andrea said. "So that made him very nervous and anxious. Caleb always wanted to cuddle and hug. He'd say, 'Daddy? Are you OK?' Loyd would say things that were off-putting."
She tried to give Loyd basic direction: Get out of bed. Put the kids on the bus. But sometimes, as soon as she left the house, Loyd went back to bed and left the boys to get themselves off to school. Or he would head straight for the couch, open his laptop computer, and ignore the children.
Often, he'd spend a whole day — and night — checking buddies' social network pages, downloading movies or looking up war tales.
His family could not breach the wall he built around himself: Don't talk to me. Don't touch me.
Andrea remembers, longs for the way Loyd used to be, when nothing much upset him.
Back then, "he really saw the good in people," she said. "He came back very cynical, very sarcastic, and very, very angry — all the time. He was always very snuggly and cuddly, and he did not come back that way."
Soon after his return, he became so enraged because the Internet was not working quickly enough that he beat on the computer desk hard enough to send the keyboard flying.
"That was the only day since I've known him that I was physically scared of him," Andrea said. "I was terrified."
If she tried to talk with him, he responded with cursing or nasty comments — anything that might push her away.
"Right from the beginning, it was anger," she said. "Full-blown. I had only seen Loyd get really angry two or three times before that. But when he came back from Iraq, it was explosive, and it was two or three times a week."
She didn't know where to go for help. None of the other spouses talked about their problems. No one told her how long it would last. No one said she might have to choose to leave.
"It kind of isolates you," she said. "No one tells you that you're going to have to make hard decisions. When he's yelling and he's cussing at you constantly, when do you know that he's crossed the line?"
In other words, how long should she endure her angry husband in hopes that the good husband might return?
The family clearly needed help, but Loyd wasn't ready.
"There was nothing wrong with me," Loyd said. "Everyone else had the problem."
Besides, he said, if he asked for help, he might lose his security clearance.
"I wasn't going to go to mental health because that was going to ruin my career," he said.
So he lived with his fists constantly clenched. At night, he thrashed around in bed and even gave himself a black eye trying to escape from an unknown dream. Andrea had to remind him to take a shower and brush his teeth or he'd sit at the computer avoiding people and sleep.
"I was crashing and burning," Loyd said. "You could look at me and tell — my eyes were black [because] I wasn't sleeping. I looked horrible. I wasn't shaving well. My uniforms just looked bad."
One month after arriving home from Iraq, hoping to regain a semblance of normalcy, Loyd Sawyer finally sought help.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
By REED ABELSON
As Congress nears votes on legislation that would overhaul the health care system, many small businesses say they are facing the steepest rise in insurance premiums they have seen in recent years.
Insurance brokers and benefits consultants say their small business clients are seeing premiums go up an average of about 15 percent for the coming year — double the rate of last year’s increases. That would mean an annual premium that was $4,500 per employee in 2008 and $4,800 this year would rise to $5,500 in 2010.
The higher premiums at least partly reflect the inexorable rise of medical costs, which is forcing Medicare to raise premiums, too. Health insurance bills are also rising for big employers, but because they have more negotiating clout, their increases are generally not as steep.
Higher medical costs aside, some experts say they think the insurance industry, under pressure from Wall Street, is raising premiums to get ahead of any legislative changes that might reduce their profits.
The increases come at a politically fraught time for the insurers, as they try to fight off the creation of a government-run competitor and as they push their case that they have a central role to play in controlling the nation’s health care costs.
President Obama, in his Saturday radio address, said the Democrats’ health insurance overhaul would help small businesses and stimulate the economy by providing relief from “the crushing costs of health care — costs that have forced too many small businesses to cut benefits, shed jobs, or shut their doors for good.”
The insurance industry has already been under sharp attack by Democratic lawmakers who favor creating a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers. Without that competition, proponents say, insurers will continue to price coverage beyond the reach of many Americans.
Small businesses, which employ about 40 percent of the private labor force, are a big constituency for both parties.
Continues - Link
By JAMES GLANZ
MAISONCELLE, France — The heavy clay-laced mud behind the cattle pen on Antoine Renault’s farm looks as treacherous as it must have been nearly 600 years ago, when King Henry V rode from a spot near here to lead a sodden and exhausted English Army against a French force that was said to outnumber his by as much as five to one.
No one can ever take away the shocking victory by Henry and his “band of brothers,” as Shakespeare would famously call them, on St. Crispin’s Day, Oct. 25, 1415. They devastated a force of heavily armored French nobles who had gotten bogged down in the region’s sucking mud, riddled by thousands of arrows from English longbowmen and outmaneuvered by common soldiers with much lighter gear. It would become known as the Battle of Agincourt.
But Agincourt’s status as perhaps the greatest victory against overwhelming odds in military history — and a keystone of the English self-image — has been called into doubt by a group of historians in Britain and France who have painstakingly combed an array of military and tax records from that time and now take a skeptical view of the figures handed down by medieval chroniclers.
The historians have concluded that the English could not have been outnumbered by more than about two to one. And depending on how the math is carried out, Henry may well have faced something closer to an even fight, said Anne Curry, a professor at the University of Southampton who is leading the study.
Those cold figures threaten an image of the battle that even professional researchers and academics have been reluctant to challenge in the face of Shakespearean prose and centuries of English pride, Ms. Curry said.
“It’s just a myth, but it’s a myth that’s part of the British psyche,” Ms. Curry said.
The work, which has received both glowing praise and sharp criticism from other historians in the United States and Europe, is the most striking of the revisionist accounts to emerge from a new science of military history. The new accounts tend to be not only more quantitative but also more attuned to political, cultural and technological factors, and focus more on the experience of the common soldier than on grand strategies and heroic deeds.
The approach has drastically changed views on everything from Roman battles with Germanic tribes, to Napoleon’s disastrous occupation of Spain, to the Tet offensive in the Vietnam War. But the most telling gauge of the respect being given to the new historians and their penchant for tearing down established wisdom is that it has now become almost routine for American commanders to call on them for advice on strategy and tactics in Afghanistan, Iraq and other present-day conflicts.
The most influential example is the “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” adopted in 2006 by the United States Army and Marines and smack in the middle of the debate over whether to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.
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In the aftermath of 9/11, legislators cut legal corners to protect the nation. Congress should amend that now by revising certain expiring provisions of the law.
October 25, 2009
Along with the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the Bush administration's illegal eavesdropping on U.S. citizens, the USA Patriot Act came to symbolize the excesses of the post-9/11 war on terrorism. Now, as it weighs the extension of three expiring provisions, the Democratic-controlled Congress has an opportunity to restore key privacy protections that were forgotten in the aftermath of the attacks.
Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to renew the provisions and sent it to the Senate floor. Unfortunately, though the bill is an improvement over current law, it still falls short. The full Senate and House, where an extension bill was introduced last week, can do better.
The USA Patriot Act, supported by members of Congress from both parties and signed by President George W. Bush only 6 1/2 weeks after 9/11, is formally known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. The grandiose title, like the law's hasty enactment, reflected the national resolve to do something, anything, to prevent a repeat of 9/11.
Some parts of the original act were relatively uncontroversial, including those permitting the CIA and the FBI to share information more freely and allowing investigators to seek warrants for "roving wiretaps" targeted at individuals rather than telephone numbers. Others, however, unjustifiably eroded privacy rights. Particularly troubling were rules governing the acquisition of financial and other records that allowed investigators to conduct fishing expeditions -- as long as the documents were deemed "relevant" to a search for terrorists.
In December, three provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire: those dealing with roving wiretaps and the acquisition of records, and another (added in 2004) that allows surveillance of what are known as “lone wolf” terrorist suspects. All three extensions strike us as reasonable, though in one case further privacy protections are essential.
In the era of disposable cellphones, it makes sense for investigators, with a court order, to be able to listen in on a targeted suspect's calls regardless of where he is. And roving wiretaps long have been used in criminal investigations.
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Saturday, October 24, 2009
October 24, 2009
Instead of being simply a draw for Hispanic viewers, CNN’s four-hour documentary, “Latino in America,” turned into a political rallying cry for activist groups who are calling on the cable news channel to fire Lou Dobbs, a veteran anchor with well-known views on immigration.
An array of minorities held small protests in New York and other cities on Wednesday, the first night of CNN’s presentation. They are trying to highlight what they say are years of lies about immigration by Mr. Dobbs, who anchors the 7 p.m. hour on CNN.
CNN, a unit of Time Warner, has not commented on the protests or covered them on its news programs. One of the activists featured in the documentary said she tried to raise what she called Mr. Dobbs’s “hatred” on one of the channel’s news programs Wednesday, but her remarks were cut from the interview.
The anti-Dobbs campaign has, however, drawn considerable attention in the Spanish-language press; the Thursday front page of the New York newspaper El Diario featured a red slash mark through Mr. Dobbs’s face and the word “hipocresia,” Spanish for “hypocrisy,” atop the illustration.
The hypocrisy, critics say, lies in CNN’s decision to woo Hispanic viewers with a prime-time documentary while still giving Mr. Dobbs a nightly forum. Roberto Lovato, a founding member of Presente.org, a Latino advocacy group, said in a statement, “We won’t allow the network to court us as viewers while, at the same time, they allow Dobbs to spread lies and misinformation about us each night.”
Separately, Mr. Dobbs is also the target of a “Drop Dobbs” campaign by the progressive groups NDN, Media Matters for America, and others. That effort started after Mr. Dobbs repeatedly raised questions about President Obama’s birth certificate.
Defense ministers do not discuss numbers, but broadly support Gen. McChrystal's recommendation for a troop buildup. Some consider boosting their own contributions too, U.S. Defense chief Gates says.
October 24, 2009
Reporting from Washington
NATO defense ministers meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, endorsed the strategy put forward by Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. and allied commander. The alliance rejected competing proposals to narrow the military mission to fighting the remnants of Al Qaeda.
They did not discuss specific troop levels, but U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said a number of allies indicated they were thinking about increasing their own military or civilian contributions.
"The only way to ensure that Afghanistan does not become once again a safe haven for terrorism is if it is made strong enough to resist the insurgency as well," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO secretary-general. "In Afghanistan, you cannot separate counter-terrorism from counterinsurgency."
As the Obama administration reviews U.S. strategy, the NATO endorsement is likely to add impetus to McChrystal's request for a reported 40,000 additional troops to protect the Afghan people, shore up the government and counter Taliban militants.
It is unlikely that defense ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would have issued such an unambiguous endorsement of McChrystal's plan without at least the tacit approval of U.S. officials.
Gates attended the meeting and made no attempt to counter the move by the ministers to throw their backing behind McChrystal's recommendation. Gates is considered a supporter of the plan, but has avoided publicly discussing his views.
"I was in a listening mode," Gates said at a news conference. "We are here to consult."
The endorsement came at a time of increasing confidence among military and other government officials in Washington that the administration will agree to much of McChrystal's request. Showing that the administration has the support of allies would be crucial to President Obama's ability to make his case for a troop increase to the U.S. public.
Developments in Afghanistan's presidential election may clear another potential hurdle. President Hamid Karzai's acceptance of a runoff election could provide the Afghan government with the legitimacy experts say is essential to McChrystal's strategy.
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
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