It’s Time To Talk About Our Guns

On Feb 26,2012, in Sanford, Florida, 17-year-old, 140-pound, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by 28-year-old, 250-pound George Zimmerman. Zimmerman has said that it was a case of self-defense. Despite the many facts that have come to light since the shooting, Zimmerman remains a free man, who hasn’t yet been arrested. The Sanford Police report also raises some questions on its own, such as why less than one minute elapsed from the time 9-1-1 was called until the time the police arrived to find Trayvon Martin face down and dead. If accurate, it would mean that George Zimmerman could not wait one single minute from the time he was told they did not need him to follow Trayvon until the time he killed him. [NOTE: Many people have brought up the racial aspects of this case, but since race has nothing whatsoever to do with the discussion I am having here, I have intentionally left those aspects out. I completely agree that had Zimmerman been black and his victim a 17-year-old white male, he would have been arrested immediately. But let’s save the racial aspects for another discussion.]

Although Zimmerman’s lawyer has said his client would not be invoking it, at the middle of this controversy is a law known colloquially as the “Stand Your Ground Law.” It says, in essence, that if you reasonably believe your life is in danger, you can use deadly force to defend yourself. The law was modeled on laws designed and written by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group of legislators and corporations that propose bills to be passed by the states. Believe me when I say they are not acting in your best interests. They are dangerous, and the laws they’ve helped pass have put innocent people in danger. They must be exposed and dealt with, but for now we as a nation must once and for all settle this matter of what the true meaning and intent of the Second Amendment is, and what role guns should have in our Society.

For the record, and so that there is no misunderstanding about the topic Continue reading

CNN: Psychologist Pressured to Not Diagnose PTSD

A secret recording reveals the Army may be pushing its medical staff not to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder. The Army and Senate have ignored the implications.

The answer probably has to do with money. David Rudd, the chairman of Texas Tech’s department of psychology and a former Army psychologist, explained that every dollar the Army spends on a soldier’s benefits is a dollar lost for bullets, bombs or the soldier’s incoming replacement. “Each diagnosis is an acknowledgment that psychiatric casualties are a huge price tag of this war,” said Rudd. “It is easiest to dismiss these casualties because you can’t see the wounds. If they change the diagnosis they can dismiss you at a substantially decreased rate.”

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Federal Judge Upheld Lawsuit Against KBR

KBR gambled that the decisions made by the Army, would prevent them from being prosecuted.  Well, the good news is, they thought wrong.   A federal judge denied their request, for dismissal of a lawsuit by a mother, whose son was electrocuted in the shower while serving in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth

Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth

The lawsuit, filed by Cheryl A. Harris of Cranberry, accuses Houston-based contractor KBR of failing to maintain the electrical infrastructure at the former estate of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Ms. Harris’ son, Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, an Army Ranger and Green Beret, was electrocuted as he showered on Jan. 2, 2008, while stationed there.

“This case does not involve claims arising from active military combat operations,” Judge Fischer said in her 56-page ruling. “The issues presented by [Ms. Harris’] claims involve the alleged negligent performance or non-performance of KBR in providing maintenance services to the United States Army.”

The lawsuit, she said, “asks this court and a jury to determine whether the work that KBR actually performed at the [complex] was substandard, negligent work that resulted in Ryan Maseth’s death.”

KBR attorneys used the excuse,  this could be a “potential embarrassment to the Army” as just cause for the lawsuit to be dismissed.  The judge had an excellent response for that argument.

Judge Fischer, however, noted that “the Army has not sought to intervene in this action nor expressed any concerns to this court.”

Friendly fire in Iraq — and a coverup

Salon

The Army says no, but a graphic video and eyewitness testimony indicate that a U.S. tank killed two American soldiers. The mother of one soldier demands answers.  Mark Benjamin from Salon.com obtained evidence that the Army lied to Jean Feggins about her son’s death.

Once a cop, always a cop. Asked if she wanted to see a graphic battle video showing her son Albert bleeding to death, Jean Feggins, retired from the Philadelphia Police Department, said yes.

“Listen, I’ve moved dead bodies of people I don’t even know,” she told me, as she sat on a brown couch in the den of her West Philadelphia row house. “I need to know everything. Because he is not a stranger. That’s my baby. That’s my child.”

When Pfc. Albert Nelson died in Iraq in 2006, the Army first told Feggins that he might have been killed by friendly fire, and then that it was enemy mortars. She says she never believed the Army’s explanation. “I always felt like they were lying to me,” she said. “I could never prove it.”

“I would ask the casualty officer what was going on. I’d be told they are still working on the report,” she said. “They were still doing their investigation. What could I do? It’s the U.S. military. I had no control.”

She did not know that there was a video of his death until I contacted her recently. Salon has obtained evidence – including a graphic, 52-and-a-half minute video – suggesting that friendly fire from an American tank killed two U.S. soldiers in Ramadi, Iraq, in late 2006, and that the Army ignored the video and other persuasive data in order to rule that the deaths were due to enemy action. Feggins watched the video with me in her den.

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The Murder of Military Women Continues

Servicewomen are the most vulnerable in the Military, from the Army to the Air Force they have refused to take these violent acts against women seriously. U.S. servicewomen today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. At some Veterans Affairs hospitals, over 40 percent of female patients report having been sexually assaulted during their service, and almost one-third are survivors of rape.  Now murder is on the rise on an Air Force Base in North Carolina.

My daughter’s dream became a nightmare,” sadly said Gloria Barrios, seven months after her daughter, US Air Force Senior Airman Blanca Luna, was murdered on Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. On March 7, 2008, Senior Airman Luna, 27, was found dead in her room at the Sheppard Air Force Base Inn, an on-base lodging facility. She had been stabbed in the back of the neck with a short knife.

Luna had four years prior military service and was killed three days prior to her graduation from Air Conditioning, Ventilation, and Heating course.

When she was notified of her daughter’s death, she was handed a letter from Major General K.C. McClain, Commander of the Air Force Personnel Center, which stated that her daughter “was found dead on 7 March 2008 at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, as the result of an apparent homicide.” When her body was returned to her family for burial, Barrios and other family members saw bruises on Blanca’s face and wounds on her fingers as if she were defending herself. One of the investigators later told Mrs. Barrios that Blanca had been killed in an “assassin-like” manner. Friends say that she told them some in her unit “had given her problems.”

Retired Army Colonel Ann Wright who ended her career in 2003 has become a spokeswoman on the issue of violence against women in the military and women who live near U.S. military bases. She claims the military has failed to adequately investigate the deaths of a number of servicewomen despite reason to suspect they were raped and murdered.

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Second Court-Martial of Watada May Not Happen

By Christian Hill, The Olympian, via Truthout:

1st Lt. Ehren Watada may not be tried a second time on charges of missing troop movement and conduct unbecoming an officer. A US District Court Judge has imposed a temporary injunction barring the Army from trying Watada again.

Fort Lewis, Washington – 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the Fort Lewis officer who refused to deploy to Iraq last year, might never see another courtroom.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle on Thursday imposed a preliminary injunction to temporarily bar the Army from trying Watada a second time while saying the officer likely will prevail on the merits of his pending case.

Since his first court-martial ended in mistrial in February, Watada’s lawyers have argued that trying him a second time would violate his Fifth Amendment protection from being tried for the same offense twice. On Oct. 3, as Watada’s appeals in the military court system were being exhausted, his attorneys took the rare step of asking a federal civilian court to step in.

Settle granted Watada’s request for an emergency stay of the second court-martial, scheduled to begin Oct. 9, to allow him time to review the extensive legal arguments presented lawyers representing Watada and the Army. The injunction would be enforced pending the court’s decision on Watada’s claim.

The Army plans on filing written arguments showing a second court-martial wouldn’t violate Watada’s Constitutional rights.

This should be interesting.