Tuesday, December 31, 2013

GITMO: Three more 'get out of jail' cards issued

From the DoD:

DOD Announces Transfer of 3 Guantanamo Detainees

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2013 – The Department of Defense today announced the transfer of Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the government of Slovakia, according to a DOD news release.

These three detainees are the last ethnic Uighur Chinese nationals to be transferred from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the release said. These detainees, the release said, were subject to release from Guantanamo as a result of a court order issued on Oct. 7, 2008, by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and are voluntarily resettling in Slovakia.

As directed by the president's Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of these cases, the release said. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these individuals were designated for transfer by unanimous consent among all six agencies on the task force, the release said.

In accordance with statutory reporting requirements, the administration informed Congress of its intent to transfer these individuals, the release said.

The United States is grateful to the government of Slovakia for this humanitarian gesture and its willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the release said. The United States coordinated with the government of Slovakia to ensure the transfer took place in accordance with appropriate security and humane treatment measures, the release said.

This transfer and resettlement constitutes a significant milestone in our effort to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, the release said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel remains grateful to the Defense Department's Special Envoy Paul Lewis, and Department of State Special Envoy Cliff Sloan, for their and their respective teams' many efforts that facilitated this successful transfer, the release said.

Today, 155 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay, according to the release.

Monday, December 30, 2013

9/11: Saudi Arabia added to 9/11 lawsuit

From Miami Herald:

By Dan Christensen  BrowardBulldog.org

With an unusual acknowledgment of a mistake in a high-profile case, a federal appeals court in New York City has restored Saudi Arabia as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by thousands of 9/11 victims, their families and others.

For a decade, the 9/11 plaintiffs have asserted that the desert kingdom bankrolled al Qaeda before the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Now, they can once again pursue their claim in court.

The ruling also restores as a defendant the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a government agency the plaintiffs contend funneled tens of millions of dollars to terrorist fighters across the globe.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/24/3836133/saudi-arabia-added-to-911-lawsuit.html#storylink=cpy

Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who co-chaired Congress’ joint inquiry into the attacks, hailed Thursday’s ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.

“This is a very significant breakthrough that could collapse the dam of cover-up which has kept information on the Saudis involvement from the American people,” Graham [said]

Saudi Arabia, which has denied the lawsuit’s accusations as “categorically false,” had been dismissed from the sprawling lawsuit in 2005 on grounds of sovereign immunity, despite exceptions to that protection regarding acts of terrorism...

This latest ruling is just one small victory in the crawling ongoing quest for some kind of justice for 9/11 families.  Read more details here.

Egypt: That 'religion of peace' still terrorists

From JihadWatch:

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood supporters stone Christian homes, force closure of church

 Coptic church destroyed by Brotherhood supporters

Shhh! Don't talk about this! You might harm the wonderful "Muslim-Christian dialogue"!

"Coptic Church Forced to Close Due to Violence From Muslim Brotherhood Backed Aggressors," from the Christian Post, December 28:

Copts in the village of Tarshoub, Beni Suef, Upper Egypt, are experiencing intimidation after extremists attacked them on Monday. Aggressors threw stones at Coptic homes, burned a tuk-tuk truck owned by a Copt named Magdy Fathi Rizk and a store owned by Badr Maher. 

They also destroyed the fronts of some houses and called for the closure of the church, which dates back more than 40 years in the village....

Many more details here.

These thugs are showing the true face of terrorism every.single.day around the world, as the MIC continues his muslim 'outreach.'

All this while Egypt officially designates the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.

From Homeland Security NewsWire: 

Egypt designates Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization

26 December 2013

Accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of being behind a Tuesday car-bomb attack on the police headquarters in the Niles Delta city of Mansoura, an attack which killed sixteen people and wounded more than 100, the Egyptian government on Wednesday designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, thus making it a state crime not only to take part in the movement’s activities and contribute money to it, but criminalizing even registering for membership in the organization.

Hossam Eissa, the minister of higher education, read out the statement after a long cabinet meeting, saying: “The cabinet has declared the Muslim Brotherhood group and its organization as a terrorist organization.”

He said the decision was in response to Tuesday’s deadly suicide bombing in Mansoura....

Read the rest here.


NASA: Earthrise


Forty-five years ago, in December of 1968, the Apollo 8 crew flew from the Earth to the Moon and back again. Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders were launched atop a Saturn V rocket on Dec. 21, circled the Moon ten times in their command module, and returned to Earth on Dec. 27. The Apollo 8 mission's impressive list of firsts includes: the first humans to journey to the Earth's Moon, the first to fly using the Saturn V rocket, and the first to photograph the Earth from deep space. As the Apollo 8 command module rounded the far side of the Moon on Dec. 24, the crew could look toward the lunar horizon and see the Earth appear to rise, due to their spacecraft's orbital motion. Their famous picture of a distant blue Earth above the Moon's limb was a marvelous gift to the world. Image Credit: NASA

Bibi: Lebanon Rocket Fire a 'Double War Crime'

From Israel National News:

by Tova Dvorin Bibi: Lebanon Rocket Fire a 'Double War Crime'

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held Lebanon responsible for the rocket fire on northern Israel Sunday, and called on the Lebanese government to stop a "double war crime" against civilians - in Israel and on its own soil. 

"We hold the Lebanese government responsible for firing that is carried out from within its territory," Netanyahu stated, at the beginning of his weekly Cabinet meeting. "What is happening in Lebanon is that Hezbollah is stationing thousands of missiles and rockets in apartments, in the heart of the civilian population, and is thus perpetrating two war crimes simultaneously. It is organizing the firing at civilians, just as it did today, and it is hiding behind civilians as human shields."

"This is a double war crime that that is being perpetrated under the aegis of the Lebanese government and army," he continued, "which are not lifting a finger to prevent this arming and these crimes. We hold the Lebanese government responsible for this development."

Netanyahu's remarks appear to confirm rumors earlier Sunday by Lebanese media sources that the rocket fire had been perpetrated by Hezbollah terrorists. Israeli media reports suggested that Sunni pro-Palestinian groups in Lebanon were behind the rockets, but those reports remained unconfirmed.  

Netanyahu praised the IDF's response to the rocket fire, echoing similar statements by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. "Today, the IDF responded quickly and forcefully to the rocket fire from Lebanon. This is our policy regarding Lebanon just as it is with the Gaza Strip. We will not allow a drizzle and we will respond strongly, and if need be, will carry out preventive action."

Earlier this month, tensions rose between Israel and Lebanon after a Lebanese army soldier shot and killed 31 year-old IDF Master Sergeant Shlomi Cohen. The attacker eventually turned himself in to Lebanese authorities, and will be placed on trial there over the incident, according to Yaalon.  

The Prime Minister also linked the attacks to Iran, which has been alleged to be arming Hezbollah via Iraq. "We also know that Iran, of course, is behind this arming by Hezbollah. It is the same Iran which is continuing to assist the Syrian government in slaughtering civilians and which is continuing to arm terrorist organizations that are perpetrating acts of terrorism in many countries. It is also the same Iran that is currently developing centrifuges that are capable of enriching uranium six times faster than its regular centrifuges."

Netanyahu warned that the enabling of Iran via Lebanon could lead to a dangerous situation in the Middle East, aided by the false security of the interim deal between Western powers and the Islamic Republic.

"All of this is being done now, before the agreement is written. Even before the agreement is signed I see that the Iranian economy is recovering somewhat. We are monitoring these developments and are pointing them out to the world. We continue to see preventing the nuclearization [sic] of Iran as our main goal vis-à-vis the national security of the State of Israel, as well as the security of the region and the entire world," he concluded. 

Israel: Releases more terrorists - protests ensue

What could possibly go wrong?

From Jerusalem Post:

List of Palestinian terrorists set to be freed by Israel


The prisoners to be freed in the third official Palestinian prisoner release are as follows:

1. Alafandi Mahmad Yusef Adnan arrested on May 13, 1992 for the stabbing and attempted murder of Dan Rotkowitz and Yaniv Shaham.

2. Shahada Farid Shahada Ahmad arrested on February 16, 1985 for the murder of Yosef Farhan, a Jaffa man suspected of being a collaborator. He was scheduled to be released in February 2030.

3. Yakoub Muhammad Ouda Ramadan was arrested on April 1, 1993 for the murder of Sara Sharon, 38. A mother of seven, Sharon was picked up by Ramadan and co-conspirator Afana Mustafa Ahmad Muhammad in the Holon Industrial District on January 20, 1993. Sharon was stabbed repeatedly and next to her body the men left a note vowing further attacks until Palestinian refugees are allowed to return to Israel.

4. Afana Mustafa Ahmad Muhammad – see above.

5. Abu al Rub Mustafa Mahmoud Faisal was arrested on September 25, 1991 for shooting and murdering soldier Yoram Cohen. In addition, he murdered five Palestinian civilian who was suspected of collaborating with the authorities.

6. Kamil Awad Ali Ahmad was arrested on September 29, 1993 and convicted of murder for the killing of a total of 16 people, including soldier Yoram Cohen and 15 Arabs suspected of collaborating with Israel.

7. Damara Ibrahim Mustafa Bilal was arrested on June 6, 1989 for the murder of Frederick Rosenfeld, 48, a New York native. Rosenfeld was stabbed with his own knife by a group of shepherds while hiking near the Ariel settlement.

8. Abu Mohsin Khaled Ibrahim Jamal was arrested for October 4, 1991 for the murder of gardener Shlomo Yehiya, 76, the father of six was stabbed to death during the Sukkot holiday, according to Almagor Terror Victims Association....

I read that John Kerry is on his way to the middle east - maybe to greet them upon their release?  

Go read the complete list of the murderers about to be released here. 

From a Christmas day story on this planned release:

The Almagor terror victims announced that it will hold a protest vigil opposite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's home starting Wednesday morning. At the protest a large screen is planned to be set up, where video recordings of bereaved family members asking Netanyahu to cancel the release will be played.

Opponents of the terrorist release note that according to agreements between Israel and the US, each release batch is to be preceded by a special meeting of a ministerial cabinet to determine whether or not to approve the release.

Those against the release argue that if meeting is a rubber stamp process which can only approve the release, there is no point in dividing the release into batches. Rather they reason that the release should be all at once to prevent the anguish of bereaved families.

Opposition to the release has been expressed from within the coalition government itself. Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett commented sardonically that "we continue the diplomatic process as if there is no terror, while the Palestinians are continuing the terrorism as if there is no diplomatic process." Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) has similarly opposed the releases.

Former MK Michael Ben-Ari offered a different solution to the terrorist release problem. Ben-Ari protested the last batch of releases in late October, saying "we’re against freeing terrorists, and in favor of killing them." [emphasis mine]

The terrorist releases come as part of ongoing peace talks, whose secretive contents were recently revealed by PA sources. US Secretary of State John Kerry's proposed plan, which he intends to push through in January, includes international control of Jerusalem, mass Israeli withdrawals in stages, and guarantees from Israel to "earn" its status as a Jewish state.

Meanwhile PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has rejected the plan. A senior Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official revealed the PA is staying in the talks only to free all 104 terrorists.

After initial reports that Kerry might delay the third batch of terrorist releases to pressure Abbas into accepting his plan, Abbas rejected the notion, threatening "total failure" in the talks.

Russia: 'workplace violence'???

We do not need to be clairvoyant to know that Putin will respond to this terrorism in a very different way to the MIC.

From JihadWatch:

Russia: Ten murdered in second jihad attack in two days in Volgograd


Muslim leader Doku Umarov has "instructed his followers 'to use maximum force on the path of Allah to disrupt this Satanic dancing'" -- that is, the Sochi Olympics.

"Two blasts in two days in Russia's Volgograd emperil Sochi Olympics," by Supriya Jha for Zee News, December 30 Moscow: 

A day after the horrific attack at a railway station in Russia's Volgograd, another blast was reported to have taken place on a trolleybus in the city on Monday, killing 10 people.[...]

Like yesterday's blast, this blast too, is thought to be a terrorist attack, reported a Russian news agency.

The blast on a trolley bus in Volgograd comes just a day after a suicide attack at a railway station in the same city had killed 16 and injured many others.


Although, Russia has already put in place a formidable security system in wake of the Games, President Vladimir Putin has ordered the security to be beefed up at all the railway stations and airports across the country after yesterday's attack.

The attack at the railway station, that is said to have been carried out by a female suicide bomber – called as Black Widows in Russia – was captured on a CCTV camera and took place at the main entrance of the station near the metal detectors.

The bombing is being treated as an act of terrorism,Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Investigative Committee said. [emphasis mine]...

Much more here.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Some Gave All

Captain Richard Holloway killed in Afghanistan

28 December 2013

It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Captain Richard Holloway, of The Royal Engineers, was killed in action on 23 December 2013. 

 Captain Richard Holloway, Royal Engineers

Captain Holloway died after being engaged by enemy fire whilst on operations east of Kabul.

Captain Holloway, of County Durham, was 29. He leaves behind parents Jaquie and Neil, brother Luke and girlfriend Sandy. The family have paid the following tribute:

Our son Richard was an exceptional young man, a perfectionist in everything he did and a loyal brother and friend, who embraced life to the full. He was a dedicated and totally committed member of the Armed Forces, relishing the excitement and challenge but always serious and reflective about his duties and responsibilities to those with whom he served.

The sense of adventure he experienced with the Royal Engineers was echoed in his love of travel to faraway places and physical activity including surfing, kayaking, canoeing, mountain-biking and climbing. Wherever the action was, he wanted to be part of it – and that is where our beloved son, of whom we are so very proud, lost his life.

Captain Holloway’s Commanding Officer said:

Captain Rich Holloway died as a result of direct enemy fire whilst on operations in Eastern Afghanistan, leading from the front. He was one of the best; a natural leader. His tactical ability commanded wide respect; his judgement was un-erring, his enthusiasm was infectious and his standards never dropped. He had a humble self-confidence that instinctively drew people to him. His own brand of selflessness and professionalism marked him out as a soldier, but it was the warmth of his personality that set him out as a popular and effective leader.
It is hard to track, but at some point in the process Rich established himself not just as a highly respected troop commander, but one of the principal characters within the Unit. In doing a difficult job in Afghanistan, he displayed a rare empathy and cultural understanding that ensured he was highly valued and revered by the Afghans whom he mentored tirelessly, as well as his colleagues. He will be sorely missed by all those who had the privilege to work alongside him, but his memory will never be allowed to fade.
A caring and loving son whose loss cannot be portrayed in words. We have lost a brother, they have lost their world....

Go to MoD site here and spend time getting to know this Fallen Hero.

Rest In Peace, Sir.  Your Service and Sacrifice will always be remembered and honoured...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

PM Netanyahu's Christmas Message

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Christmas Greeting - 2013 Published on Dec 24, 2013 



Merry Christmas to all our Christian friends around the world from Jerusalem!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

O Holy Night

IDF Civilian worker killed at Gaza border

by Ari Yashar, Arutz Sheva Staff IDF Worker Shot Near Gaza

A civilian worker for the IDF was shot by sniper fire near Gaza, where he was working between Nachal Oz and Kfar Aza. The worker was evacuated to Be'er Sheva's Soroka Hospital.

The worker was fixing the security fence that was revealed to have holes and damage in it, caused by the recent snow and rainstorm. Soldiers have reported that repairs have been slow or non-existent, creating a security threat.

The IDF is searching the area to find suspects involved in the incident.

MK Yoni Chetboun (Jewish Home) said in response to the attack "the series of terror in the recent weeks leads to one clear conclusion - the motivation of terrorist organizations is only growing."

"This is not a classic intifada, there's a new template of 'trickling terror' here," commented Chetboun. "The clear conclusion and code word is deterrence. Security forces must make surgical strikes to remove and hit the terror centers. Otherwise, the trickle will turn into a flood."

As MK Chetboun mentioned, the attack is part of a recent string of terrorist violence. Statistics released Monday show that terror attacks have spiked in November as peace talks resumed.

On Monday afternoon a police officer was stabbed by an Arab terrorist. The officer's condition has stabilized following surgery, in what doctors described as a great miracle given that the 15 centimeter (6 inch) knife struck very close to the officer’s heart and other vital organs.

Additionally a firebomb was thrown at a Nazareth resident's car Monday evening. No injuries or damage was reported.

On Sunday, a bomb exploded on a Bat Yam bus. Only one was wounded, as the alert driver and passengers were able to spot the danger before it was too late.

Meanwhile on Saturday the IDF shot and wounded a terrorist in Gaza who was trying to conceal an explosive on the security fence.

The incident came just a day after clashes on the Gazan border Friday, in which terrorists threw rocks at soldiers by the border near Beit Hanun and fired a mortar which, according to reports, hit the Shaar HaNegev regional council.

In response to the Bat Yam bombing, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), who is responsible for the ongoing peace talks, said the terrorism should be ignored and talks should continue

 IDF Prepares for Gaza Escalation
IDF pauses after six counter-terror airstrikes. ‘We’re weighing our next steps,’ commander says.
 By Maayana Miskin and Ari Soffer

12/24/2013, 7:31 PM
A senior IDF commander spoke Tuesday evening about the fatal terrorist shooting near Gaza earlier in the day, and the IDF’s expected response.

The IDF has been active in the Gaza region since Tuesday afternoon, he said.

During the afternoon the IDF hit six targets in Gaza linked to terrorist groups. “The targets we attacked belong to the Islamic Jihad and Hamas,” the commander said.

Sources in Gaza say at least two people were killed in the strikes, one of them a child.

Now, the commander said, “we are considering our next steps.” The IDF “is extremely prepared for any scenario that develops,” he declared.

The last major counter-terror operation in Gaza was Operation Pillar of Defense (Amud Anan) in late 2012. Pillar of Defense followed a massive rocket barrage on Israeli civilian communities, coupled with attacks on IDF soldiers within Israel.

Following today's violence, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon stressed that Israel held Gaza's Islamist rulers responsible for violence emanating from the territory under its control....

Much more here.

Paging Susan Rice: Global terrorism is increasing

From JihadWatch:

Susan Rice: "The fact that we have not had a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11 should not be diminished"

Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, Little Rock jihad murderer

Nidal Malik Hasan, Fort Hood jihad murderer

Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Boston Marathon jihad murderers

[You can find pictures of these terrorists at the link below] 

Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad murdered Pvt. William Long outside a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 1, 2009, in the name of Islam and jihad.

Nidal Malik Hasan murdered 13 people and wounded 31 at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009, in the name of Islam and jihad.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev murdered 3 people and wounded 264 at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, in the name of Islam and jihad.

Susan Rice knows this. She just hopes you don't.

"Susan Rice on contending with crisis," by Lesley Stahl for CBS News, December 22 (thanks to Jerk Chicken):
Lesley Stahl: But when you have so many phone records being held, emails, heads of state’s phone conversations being listened in to, has it been worth our allies being upset? Has it been worth all the tech companies being upset? Has it been worth Americans feeling that their privacy has been invaded?

Susan Rice: Lesley, it's been worth what we've done to protect the United States. And the fact that we have not had a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11 should not be diminished. But that does not mean that everything we're doing as of the present ought to be done the same way in the future....

Go here and read the comments, too.....

About that GLOBAL War on Terror?  Homeland Security News Wire has this:

Global terrorism increasing, but fewer attacks in Western world 

24 December 2013

Terrorism touched eighty-five countries in 2012, but just three — Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan — suffered more than half of 2012’s attacks (54 percent) and fatalities (58 percent), according to new data released the other day by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) Global Terrorism Database (GTD). In addition to illustrating a continued shift in location of attacks, the new data — with more than 8,400 terrorist attacks killing more than 15,400 people in 2012 — also show an increase in attacks and fatalities over the past decade. Al-Qaeda central was not directly responsible for any attacks in 2012, but the six deadliest terrorist groups in the world were all affiliated to some extent with the organization. These include the Taliban, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and al-Shabaab. [Emphasis mine]

The next five most frequently targeted countries were India, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, and Thailand.

“While terrorist attacks have in large part moved away from Western Europe and North America to Asia, the Middle East and Africa, worldwide terrorism is reaching new levels of destructiveness,” said Gary LaFree, START director and professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland.

A START release reports that in addition to illustrating a continued shift in location of attacks, the new data — with more than 8,400 terrorist attacks killing more than 15,400 people in 2012 — also show an increase in attacks and fatalities over the past decade. The previous record for attacks was set in 2011 with more than 5,000 incidents; for fatalities, the previous high was 2007 with more than 12,500 deaths. A map showing concentration and intensity of 2012 attacks is available here....

Bear in mind, that this is a 2012 study, so does not reflect the most recent terrorist attacks. Nonetheless, this is a very informative article which gives an overview - and maps.  Go here to read the rest.

FACT:  MIC and his admin can say all they like that they have terrorist groups "on their heels" and "on the run, decimated" but the numbers tell a very different story.

Do your own research, and do not rely on any politician to give you the FACTS.

PAY ATTENTION!  (Yes, this is sounding like a broken record.)


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Video: Dylan Thomas 'A Child's Christmas in Wales'

One of my favourites, and a Brat Christmas tradition (yes, I do have this on tape!)

9/11: American Airlines settle lawsuit

From The New York Times

Cantor Fitzgerald Settles 9/11 Suit Against American Airlines for $135 Million

Cantor had accused American Airlines of negligence in allowing five terrorists to board the plane in Boston that crashed into the World Trade Center’s north tower, killing 658 of Cantor’s almost 1,000 employees in New York. 

No amount of money, of course, could compensate Cantor or its families for the losses on Sept. 11, but the agreement, announced less than a month before the case was to be tried in Manhattan, followed years of legal sparring over what damages Cantor could seek. ...

UK PM's Christmas messaage to the Troops

From the BBC:

December 21, 2013

PM's Christmas message to troops in Afghanistan

David Cameron has praised the "service and heroism" of British soldiers in Afghanistan and reiterated his pledge to bring them home by the end of 2014.

The prime minister, who visited troops there last week, said British people should remember the "extraordinary sacrifices" made by UK forces overseas.

The UK would not leave Afghanistan perfect, he wrote in the Sun on Sunday.
But he said the country would be capable of stopping itself becoming a "haven for terrorist training camps".

"By the end of next year we will no longer have British servicemen or women in a combat role in Afghanistan," he said.

'Take pride'...
Read the rest here.

NASA: Ammonia Pump Removed - Next Spacewalk set

From NASA:

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio works outside the International Space Station during the first of a series of spacewalks to replace a degraded ammonia pump module.
Image Credit: NASA TV
Space Station Crew Removes Ammonia Pump; Next Spacewalk Set for Tuesday
Dec. 21, 2013
Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins wrapped up a 5-hour, 28-minute spacewalk outside the International Space Station at 12:29 p.m. EST Saturday, completing the first in a series of excursions aimed at replacing a degraded ammonia pump module associated with one of the station's two external cooling loops that keeps both internal and external equipment cool.
  › View video of spacewalk highlights

A second spacewalk to install a replacement pump module, originally planned for Monday, is now scheduled for Tuesday.

The extra day will allow time for the crew to resize a spare spacesuit on the space station for use by Mastracchio. During repressurization of the station's airlock following the spacewalk, a spacesuit configuration issue put the suit Mastracchio was wearing in question for the next excursion.-- specifically whether water entered into the suit's sublimator inside the airlock. The flight control team at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston decided to switch to a backup suit for the next spacewalk....

More details - and video - here.

Postcards from War: 'Diary Rooms' from the frontlines

From British Forces News

'Diary Rooms' captures thoughts from the frontline 

A war artist who found a unique way to capture a snapshot of what was in the hearts and minds of service men and women on the front line in Afghanistan is on a new mission.

In 2011 Derek Eland asked those he met to each write their unique story or a poem on a postcard to create a self portrait. These were later turned into a series of "Diary Rooms." Now he wants to take these dusty handwritten postcards and publish them as an insight into conflict in a book called "In Our Own Words."  

For a video of some of these postcards go here.

This project - 'In our Own Words' -is now going to be a book, and here you'll find more photos and details on the plans..


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Military 'Sending up the count': How many can we save from suicide?

"Sending up the count" is something that's done when troops are out somewhere dark and dangerous, and the leader, normally up in front, wants to make sure everyone's still there. The leader whispers, "send up the count" to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next person and so on until it gets to the last person in line. That person starts the whispering back forward again, only this time, they start off by tapping the shoulder of the person in front of them saying "one". The next person taps the shoulder of the person in front of them and says "two". This continues until the person behind the leader in front taps the leader's shoulder with the number of people behind the first person in line.
We do this especially at night, when we can't see to the end of the line, or even see the next person. We do this to make sure all is well. We do this to make sure everyone knows that whoever's supposed to be there, front and back, is there. We do this to make sure those on the team are still with the team. And if someone is missing, we find them and bring them back into the group. [Emphasis mine]
  In the last month,  four Canadian Combat Veterans - who having survived deployment - have died at home, within days of each other. Now add one more, as in the last few days, another young Canadian Soldier ended his own life.  Although each death is being investigated, (as are the other 70+ still being investigated) initial reports are calling these deaths suicide.  I read somewhere the other day that since the current phase of this ongoing Global War On Terror, Canada has lost more than one hundred Veterans to suicide.   Quite apart from the huge gaping holes left within those families, those communities, that number is beyond staggering when you consider that thus far in Afghanistan, 158 Canadian losses have occurred in the sandbox due to enemy action.   In the US, various statistics claim that we lose 22 Veterans a day to suicide now outpacing Combat fatalities.   

Those are just the ones we hear about.  These numbers, which represent a horrific new 'normal' for their families after such a devastating loss, tell me that we are failing our Military men and women. 

Veterans Day (US) and Remembrance Day(Commonwealth countries) may be over for another year, but we cannot just return to 'business as usual'.   WE  - yes, all of us -  bear responsibility: our Military leadership; our politicians; our mainstream media, and yes, we civilians are failing our Military.

From where I sit, a very basic question arises:  How can we fix this?

 Dated 2009, I found this from the US:

September 23, 2009

How sad is this that our Veterans have to fight the governments when they return home.  Sure, the politicians may say they "support our Troops" but talk is cheap.  In the week prior to Remembrance Day,  Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberals, challenged the Prime Minister to honour our commitments to Veterans. 

Our politicians continue to fail our Veterans, and our Veterans continue to do at home what they did in the sandbox: fight for rights, but now they are fighting for their own rights.  I came across a stunning statistic out of the US which claimed huge numbers of homeless and hungry Veterans.    How can this be, that in NYC, for example and according to a recent article,  thousands of Veterans are having to eat at soup kitchens???  That is just one city, and I have no way of verifying the truth of their claims. However, I wrote back in October of how the cuts to Military budgets in the UK are swelling the number of homeless Veterans there.  Again, at least one volunteer group is working tirelessly to address that very real issue: Soldiers Off the Street. 

Thank God there are these volunteer groups throughout Canada, the US and the UK who stand up for each other, while the fat-cat politicians obviously remain sitting down on their job. Something in the system is very broken, and regardless of the actual number, if there is even one Veteran living on the streets, that is an epic fail, in my opinion.  

So what about the current batch of politicians who appear to be clueless about Military matters, and whose ignorance woefully fails our Troops and our Veterans? As things stand right now, not one of the leaders in the UK, Canada, or the US has served in our Military.  They have no clue what it means to BE a Veteran. As I have watched our Troops and Veterans in the Global War on Terror, I have been anticipating that some of them would enter the political arena, but this is proving to be a very slow process.   In Canada, as of May 2013, out of 4,210 Parliamentarians, a paltry 14 are listed as having Military Service (and one of those is an Honorary.)  That is 0.3325416% in control of our Defence Department, all our Military policies..

From the US, I found this dated 2012:

And yes, there was this underneath the graph:

Military service by politicians is quickly nearing zero. Perhaps this is why many of our politicians are so trigger-happy these days. No one has fought and no one knows just what they are doing when they commit our soldiers overseas.

Ya think?  What this underscores for me is that we need more politicians who ARE Veterans, who know what being in the Military actually means. When I was discussing this with another Veteran friend, they were quick to remind me of  Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan both being non-Veterans.  Good point, but I would also suggest that  both of those leaders, even as civilians, demonstrated their governmental, bureaucratic support for our Troops and Veterans.   The Troops then knew they were supported. The world was a very different place then.  Unlike today, where our political leaders continue to prove that they don't *get it*,  even as they pay lip service to 'support the Troops' when absolutely necessary, it seems to me that Troops from the Reagan/Thatcher era never doubted the support from those leaders. It also seems to me, through the lens of hindsight, that Reagan and Thatcher were smart enough to listen to our Military leaders and defer to their expertise and experience (unlike the current crop of political leaders.)

As another Veteran friend (yes, I know a few!) pointed out to me recently: another part of the difference is the very low fatality rate in our current and recent wars. These low fatality rates are in large part due to military successes in trauma treatment, so that fewer troops have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan than on single days of earlier wars.

This obviously means that we have more Veterans, returning as Wounded Warriors, who have earned all the benefits that we as a society are obligated to provide. Our Veterans today,  who would most assuredly have died in previous wars, are more visible, and yes, they are dealing with long-term issues that we, as a society,  are failing to adequately and effectively address..

One of those issues is the terrible belief by some of our Troops and Veterans that the only option they have is to choose suicide.  

As I heard somewhere recently:  suicide is a symptom that becomes an unacceptable solution.  

The Veteran friend initially quoted above had this to say about suicidal Veterans:

The reality is that suicidal veterans sometimes get raided because they admit they have a gun, who the hell is going to call that line?

 Suicide is not prevented by strangers. It's prevented by friends, who notice their friend needs help, before it becomes suicidal ideation.

Powerpoints can’t fix this. Generals can’t fix this. Only individuals can fix this.

 Too often civilians and even fellow veterans say and do all the wrong things. When a veteran’s life begins to derail, often those around him withdraw, making it worse. Often, those “friends” he had before the war, suddenly have nothing in common with him. Instead of just listening, they’re more concerned with their own, in his eyes, trivial, problems.

But, when veterans see broken promises, such as promises that “getting help won’t be held against you,” while those that do get help get screwed by the very military that makes the promise, they’re not going to get help. And getting (real) help isn’t seeing a shrink that has never been there, done that. It is finding someone that can help him find his own way through the challenges he’s facing, those challenges that seem to be becoming insurmountable.

 Veterans are withdrawing from society, because increasingly society is self-absorbed and disconnected from what is important to our veterans.

A column from War On Terror News in 2009 reminds that this is not a recent phenomenon, but that within the GWOT environment, we must find solutions:

June 09, 2009

I could copy and paste all of this article, but instead would suggest you go read it here.  For all the commonsense within it, it would be really helpful if some Generals also read it:

But with the advancement of communications, a General can watch a squad level engagement on the other side of the world in real time.  The danger comes in when he tries to command that battle from the safety of his office....

Leadership, again. From where I sit, it is lack of leadership, both in the Military and governments that is sorely lacking.  Our Troops, our Veterans and their families are paying the price.  

Not only our Troops, but our Veterans, are missing the 'old style' leadership; leadership that undoubtedly saves their lives while in Combat, and can certainly save their lives once they become Veterans.

Today we see the old school Military leadership being deliberately being purged, as our politicians continue to declare - ignorantly and shortsightedly in my opinion - that "war is  over." NO, it is not.
Still, our Military leaders, who know Combat first-hand, are leaving.  Don't believe me?  Take a look:

 DISTURBING: The List Of Purged Military High Officers Under Obama 

 And there is this: [US] Army will cut almost 2,000 captains, majors

Where does all this leave our Veterans?  In the same place as they were in the front-lines of the GWOT: relying on their battle buddies from the sandbox, the battle buddies who have been there, done that, and know what hell they have survived.

As another Veteran friend of mine recently commented:  We are not broken.  We are changed.

Who better to understand, and address those changes than another Veteran?  As the politicians, and the Military leadership who has perhaps never seen Combat continue in their failure to understand, and implement, real help that could save lives, our Veterans are 'sending up the count', and adapting what worked in Combat into their post-combat lives.

Take a look at what Sgt Brian Harding has to say..

"We are reaching out to find guys who maybe have fallen through the cracks."

To this civilian, that even one of our Troops, our Veterans falls through the cracks is unacceptable.

I recently heard Canadian former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier interviewed on CBC radio, and his insights reinforce what Sgt Brian Harding and any other Veteran I know has said:

Hillier, who also served in Afghanistan as the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul in 2004, said he suffered only minuscule symptoms of PTSD when he returned home, having the occasional dream or waking up at night.

He credits his strong circle of friends and family for making him feel healthy and comfortable upon his return, but warns that not all soldiers are so lucky.

His final message to troops is to not be alone this holiday season.

"Don't be alone. Do not be alone over this period of time.

"If you've got a problem, we learned long ago in combat that there is no embarrassment in admitting a weakness. No embarrassment in approaching somebody else," Hillier said.

"You know, we entrust our battle buddies with our very lives on the battlefield, this is now a different battlefield, so trust them. Go talk to your battle buddies. Talk to them and tell them you've got a problem. [Emphasis mine]

There is much more here, which includes a link to the radio interview I mentioned above.  If you haven't read Rick Hillier's biography, A  Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War,  I highly recommend it.

As Pat Strogan says in the video above, these issues faced by our Troops and our Veterans are not just 'flavours of the day...there will be more suicides.'   These issues our Troops and Veterans face on a daily basis MUST be addressed in the months and years to come.  To do any less is to dishonour each and every one of our Military and their families. It is an epic fail by all of us. 

 Weeks ago, as I decided to write this column, I planned only to write a one-off.  However, I have been reminded of the enormity of the failure of all of us to actively 'Support OUR Troops'...  I deliberately say 'all of us' because from where I sit, there is more than enough failure to go around for all of us.

Despite my familial ties to our Military, and my close 'family' ties to many in the current Global War On Terror, as a civilian, no, I do not have the authority of our men and women who have risked and sometimes given all in Combat;  nor would I ever claim such authority.  However, after years of caring about our Troops, our Veterans, and our Military families - of watching and listening to them -  I maintain my belief that we as civilians do have an irrefutable responsibility to stand with them. 

We all must listen,  learn and be educated by those most knowledgeable, our Combat Veterans. If we truly mean to  respect and honour the Service and Sacrifice of our Troops, Veterans and their families, we need to do more than pay lip service. To say we 'support the Troops' is not enough.  We ALL need to walk the walk.  We need to demand our politicians also honour our Military Family. We need to address this 'unacceptable solution,' which - even during the course of my researching and writing this one article -  has claimed more lives from our Military Family. 
WE must not fail.  Period.