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U.S. soldiers forced to return to active duty haven't received the pay bonuses they were promised five months ago, advocates say.
The 13,000 soldiers, who were made to remain on active duty beyond their enlistment period by so-called stop-loss orders, are entitled to monthly bonuses of up to $500 under a plan approved last year by Congress and was set to take effect Oct. 1. But the soldiers are still waiting to see the bonuses, USA Today reported Monday.
BY TIM RINNE, Omaha World-Herald
The writer, of Lincoln, is state coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace.
Nearly 500 miles above Earth, the calm was suddenly disrupted Feb. 10 when a U.S. satellite collided with a derelict Russian orbiter at 26,000 mph. The impact created two expanding clouds of debris with hundreds of orbital fragments.
Initial reports indicated that the debris clouds posed no immediate threat to the International Space Station. But the space station is hardly the only thing up there that we need to worry about.
Iridium, the U.S. corporation that owned the now-pulverized satellite, operates a constellation of 66 such craft providing global telecommunications services. And Iridium is just one corporation in one industry in one country.
Space is now home to almost a thousand commercial and military satellites with a dozen different sponsors such as Russia, China, the United States, the European Union, Japan, India and — just this past month — Iran.
By JEFF DONN, AP National Writer, Jeff Donn, Ap National Writer
FORT BLISS, Texas – As soldiers stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows.
Between 2003 and 2007 — as many military families dealt with long war deployments and increased numbers of home foreclosures — Army Emergency Relief grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid, according to an AP analysis of its tax records.
By Stephanie Westbrook, U.S. Citizens for Peace and Justice – Rome
At a press conference on Friday, February 20, Italian Special Commissioner Paola Costa and U.S. Consul General from Milan, Daniel Weygandt, announced final approval for a new U.S. military base in Vicenza, Italy. The project, approved by a joint Italian-US Military Construction Committee working under the still-classified 1954 Bilateral Infrastructure Agreement, includes 25 new buildings with lodging for 1200 soldiers and multi-story car parks for over 800 vehicles.
Weygandt noted his satisfaction “that the entire process had been developed in full compliance and that we were able to arrive at this final result.” Costa said that while no environmental impact assessment would be carried out, he assured everyone that “this project is the best possible and based on the most stringent regulations in effect in Italy and the United States.”
Obama to seek large cuts in US, Russian warheads
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe
WASHINGTON - President Obama is preparing to move ahead with the most ambitious arms-control agenda in decades, calling for dramatic cuts in US and Russian arsenals, a halt to the Bush administration's plan for a more advanced nuclear warhead, and the ratification of a global treaty banning underground nuclear tests.
Obama's agenda, posted on the White House website shortly after his inauguration and outlined by several top officials, also includes a worldwide ban on the production of nuclear weapons material - leading to what the administration calls "a world without nuclear weapons."
On February 12, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told Congress that the global economic crisis was the most serious security challenge facing the United States and that it could topple governments and trigger waves of refugees, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The American military is shipping battlefield equipment through Jordan and Kuwait, testing possible exit routes in advance of a U.S. withdrawal in Iraq, military officials said.
The convoys — carrying armored vehicles, weapons and other items — mark the Pentagon's first steps in confronting the complex logistics of transporting the huge arsenal stockpiled in Iraq over nearly six years.
It's also part of a wider assessment, ordered by U.S. Central Command, to decide what items the military can transfer, donate, sell or toss away once a full-scale withdrawal is under way, Marine Corps and Army officials told The Associated Press.
Montana Model for Assessing Returning Vets for PTSD and TBI
By Eric Newhouse | Truthout
Montana is becoming a model state for assessing its returning combat vets for PTSD and TBI.
Following the suicide two years ago of a recently deployed combat vet, Montana has become a model for accessing and assisting veterans who show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). While the plan doesn't go nearly far enough, it's one that I understand the Obama administration is seriously considering for nationwide implementation - and it would be an excellent first step.
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander in Chief Obama suffered 22 combat casualties in the eight days ending Feb 18, 2009, as the official total rose to at least 71,142. The total includes 34,465 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,677 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 31, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries - mainly brain trauma from explosions (TBI) diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**
...the executive director of The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, "In recent weeks...Defense Secretary Robert Gates "turned the old way of doing things on its head." "Instead of immediately denying civilian deaths, which deeply angers Afghans and with good reason, he said the U.S. will instead immediately investigate, make apologies and provide amends where appropriate," she said. ...The report said U.S., NATO and Afghan forces killed 829 civilians, or 39 percent of the 2008 total. Of those, 552 deaths were blamed on airstrikes. Militants were blamed for 55 percent of the deaths, or 1,160.
The name search took a year, while the company became persona non grata in Iraq, but now it's a reality. The notorious Blackwater Worldwide has officially rebranded itself Xe. According to a company memo, "Xe will be a one-stop shopping source for world class services in the fields of security, stability, aviation, training and logistics."
Green Bay soldier: War is immoral and I won't go back to Iraq
Army spokesman said Spc. Kristoffer Walker has not filed conscientious objector paperwork
By Tony Walter | Green Bay Press Gazette
A Green Bay soldier told the Army today that he won’t go back to Iraq because he believes the war is immoral.
Spc. Kristoffer Walker, 28, was scheduled to board a flight at Austin Straubel International Airport in Ashwaubenon this morning to return to Atlanta, where he was scheduled to rejoin the 353rd Transportation Unit deployed to Iraq in October. Walker has been home on leave the past two weeks.
Lt. Col. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said Walker did not follow military procedure by filling out paperwork to list himself as a conscientious objector.
“His unit is counting on him,” Banks said. “He’s actually turning his back on his battle buddies. By just not reporting, you’re letting down your teammates. When you raise your right hand to defend the country, you knew there was a time you could possibly be deployed.”
Canadian Government Continues Ouster of US War Resisters
America's neighbor to the north is erecting barriers to Iraq War resisters seeking asylum
by Sarah Lazare | Common Dreams
In the past weeks, the Harper Administration has moved swiftly to push U.S. Iraq War resisters out of Canada, issuing removal orders to five more resisters who had resettled up north. Two have recently been forced out of the country, and the rest continue their appeals through the Canadian Courts. This adds to the growing number of U.S. war resisters in Canada who are being threatened with deportation and eventually U.S. military court martials and imprisonment.
Once You See What Truly Happened in Gaza, It Will Change You Forever
By Medea Benjamin | Alternet
What I saw was like a form of collective punishment, leaving behind a trail of grieving mothers, angry fathers and traumatized children.
When I traveled to Gaza last week, everywhere I went, a photo haunted me. I saw it in a brochure called "Gaza will not die" that Hamas gives out to visitors at the border crossing. A poster-sized version was posted outside a makeshift memorial at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. And now that I am back home, the image comes to me when I look at children playing in the park, when I glance at the school across the street, when I go to sleep at night.
As the $787 billion stimulus bill snaked its way through the House and the Senate and finally landed under the pen of President Obama, my predominant thought has been holy cow -- that's a lot of money!
Sen. John Thune was even kind enough to explain to CSPAN viewers last week how a stack of hundred dollar bills totaling $787 billion, wrapped side by side, would encircle the Earth nearly 39 times. As unsettling as this new financial commitment may be, it is at least an attempt to help more Americans achieve some semblance of economic security.
The stimulus package was aggressively attacked by fiscal conservatives who have been outspoken about the "pet projects" in the bill, and the wasteful programs that will weigh down future generations with massive debt. Point taken.
Solidarity message from Japanese citizens
To friends in Europe who are against the Missile Defense system and the Space Shield
We are several citizen groups which are respectively committed in peaceful ways to movements of anti-MD system and anti-US Bases in Japan. We would like to convey, by this message, our solidarity with all who are against the deployment of the US MD system into the eastern Europe. We, who live with the various problems arising from many US bases occupying our homeland, always look enviously at the unified efforts in the anti-radar movement by citizens and the League of Mayors in Czech Republic. Your movement has encouraged us a lot and we thank you for that.
Japanese government introduced the MD system in Dec. 2003, and ever since, its deployment has been accelerated here along with the US’ deployment of its own MD system in Japan.
By Peter Phillips
The Barack Obama administration is continuing the neo-conservative agenda of US military domination of the world— albeit with perhaps a kinder-gentler face. While overt torture is now forbidden for the CIA and Pentagon, and symbolic gestures like the closing of the Guantanamo prison are in evidence, a unilateral military dominance policy, expanding military budget, and wars of occupation and aggression will likely continue unabated.
The military expansionists from within the Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, G. W. Bush administrations put into place solid support for increased military spending. Clinton’s model of supporting the US military industrial complex held steady defense spending and increased foreign weapons sales from 16% of global orders to over 63% by the end of his administration.
2009 is the 60th anniversary of NATO and the US-led alliance is planning big celebrations in Europe to promote their expanded global role as an extension of US foreign and military policy. In 1999, seeking to justify its existence after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, NATO acknowledged that it was seeking to orient itself according to a new fundamental strategic concept. From a narrow military defense alliance it was to become a broad-based alliance for the protection of the vital resource needs (oil/natural gas/etc) of its member states. Besides being mired in Afghanistan today, NATO is now expanding eastward as a tool in the aggressive US program to surround resource rich Russia. There are even discussions now within NATO to take the alliance into the Asian-Pacific to help the US militarily surround China.
By Elaine Brower, www.opednews.com
On Monday, February 16th about 50 activists decided to take a trip to the Franklin Mills Mall right outside Philadelphia, PA to get their look at a new "store". "The Army Experience" (AEC), as it is called, built by the taxpayers to the tune of $12 million, attracts local kids to play video games, most of which are high tech simulations of combat situations.
Rogue forces operating outside any established chain of command, killing civilians and bowing to no outside authority: these are what the U.S. government would ordinarily define as "terrorists."...Mr. Mohammed said he was taken to a nearby base, interrogated for several hours and let go as sunrise neared. When he returned home, Mr. Mohammed said, he went next door to his son’s house, only to find that most of his family had been killed: the son, Nurallah, and his pregnant wife and two of his sons, Abdul Basit, age 1, and Mohammed, 2. Only Mr. Mohammed’s 4-year-old grandson, Zarqawi, survived. “The soldiers had a right to search our house,” Mr. Mohammed said. “But they didn’t have a right to do this.”
NPP Releases Recruitment 2008: Age, Race, Income, Education
National Priorities Project (NPP) finds a drop in age among new recruits, an over representation of low- and middle-income individuals, an increase in Black recruits and a decrease in Hispanic recruits
Online Tool Allows the Public to Analyze Army Data by State, County, Zip Code, Education Level, "Quality of Recruit"
NORTHAMPTON, MA – A new NPP analysis notes a significant drop in age among new recruits. Using census material, combined with data on 2008 Army enlistment obtained through a Freedom of Information Act, NPP research also uncovers a continued over representation of recruits from low- and middle-income families, an increase in Black recruits, decrease in Hispanic recruits and important education trends.
Secrecy and Denial as Pakistan Lets CIA Use Airbase to Strike Militants
By Tom Coghlan, Zahid Hussain, and Jeremy Page | Times On Line | Click through for online video | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
The CIA is secretly using an airbase in southern Pakistan to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, a Times investigation has found.
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan's escalating conflict have increased by 39 per cent over the last year, hitting their worst-ever level, according to a United Nations report.
A total of 2,118 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2008, the deadliest year since US-ousted the Taliban in 2001, the world body said in a report released on Tuesday.
"This disquieting pattern demands that the parties to the conflict take all necessary measures to avoid the killing of civilians," the report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan human rights unit said.
US-led forces, Nato troops and other pro-government forces were responsible for 39 per cent of the civilian deaths, according to the report.
1. Withdrawal From Iraq:
A timely withdrawal from Iraq could create $105 billon in savings in year one, if the recommendations from Center for American Progress report "Building a Military for the 21st Century" are followed.
At the present time, the United States is spending about $10 billion a month to maintain over 140,000 troops a year in Iraq and $2 billion a month to support 34,000 American troops in Afghanistan. If President Obama withdraws all combat brigades from Iraq over the January 2009 to April 2010 period, this would decrease the U.S. presence by about 50,000, or about 36 percent, and reduce the cost to about $7 billion a month by mid-2010.
If the withdrawal of combat troops is accompanied by a withdrawal of an equal number of support troops, this would mean that the costs would drop to about $4 billion a month. If all American troops are withdrawn by the end of calendar year 2011, as the Status of Forces Agreement mandates, the costs would drop to zero by the second quarter of FY 2012.
Adding another 20,000 troops to Afghanistan, as requested by General McKiernan, would increase the costs in that theatre by at least $1.5 billion a month. Thus, the savings from a drawdown from Iraq accompanied by an increase in Afghanistan would result in a net savings of about $2.5 billion a month until the complete withdrawal from Iraq. At that time, the monthly costs for Afghanistan would be $3.5 billion. Thus, as indicated in the table below, the net savings from a complete withdrawal from Iraq over the next four years would be $316 billion (After $54 billion is offset by the increase of our forces in Afghanistan). If $76 billion is allocated to reset, the net savings would be approximately about $240 billion.
2. Center for American Progress/Institute for Policy Studies “Unified Security Budget”
An additional $60B could be saved from eliminating wasteful weapons systems, reducing the number of active nuclear warheads and tightening procurement processes to reduce waste, fraud and abuse, as outlined in the attached Foreign Policy in Focus report "A Unified Security Budget".
Here is CAP’s list of items that total $60B:
--- --- Administration’s FY 2008 Request --- --- Task Force’s Proposed Change+
F/A-22 Raptor --- --- 4.1 --- --- -3.8
Ballistic Missile Defense --- --- 10.5 --- --- -8.1
Virginia-Class Submarine --- --- 3.6 --- --- -2.5
DDG-1000 --- --- 3.2 --- --- -3.2
V-22 Osprey --- --- 3.5 --- --- -3.0
Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle --- --- 0.3 --- --- -0.3
F35 Joint Strike Fighter --- --- 6.7 --- --- -3.7
Offensive Space Weapons --- --- 1.5 --- --- -1.4
Future Combat Systems --- --- 3.6 --- --- -2.1
Research & Development --- --- 80.0 --- --- -5.0
Nuclear Forces --- --- 21.0 --- --- -15.6
Force Structure --- --- - --- --- -5.0
Waste in Procurement and Business Operations --- --- - --- --- -7.0
Total --- --- - --- --- -60.7
Taken together, the billion this gets us most of the way to 25% ($165.7 billion) of the estimated $700B defense budget for FY09. 25% of $700 billion is $175 billion. The amount saved from tightening up auditing and procurement oversight can be stretched to fill the gap.
The Czech Republic and Poland: US Trojan Horses to divide Europe?
Contact: Gerardo Femina (Prague, Czech Republic) firstname.lastname@example.org
Three buses filled with Czech Mayors from the League of Mayors against the Radar and activists from the Nonviolence Movement will travel to Brussels to meet Members of the European Parliament on Wednesday and to protest against the “Star wars” plan. They have been invited to attend a public hearing about the controversial US Missile Defense enlargement into the Czech Republic and Poland. While in Brussels they will meet with several MEPs, Belgian Senators and the Vice-president of the European Parliament Luisa Morgantini. They will also attend a public rally against the radar held outside the European Parliament building.
With startlingly few exceptions, America's sons and daughters dodging bullets remain the progeny of rural America, of immigrant America, of the working and lower middle classes....Instead of collective patriotic sacrifice, however, it's clear that the military will now be running the equivalent of a poverty and recession "draft" to fill the "all-volunteer" military. Those without jobs or down on their luck in terrible times will have the singular honor of fighting our future wars....Caught in the shock and awe of 9/11, we allowed our military to be transformed into a neocon imperial police force.
Blackwater Sheds Name, Shifts Focus
By Dana Hedgpeth, Washington Post
Blackwater Worldwide, a private security company whose work in Iraq was plagued by trouble, said yesterday that it is changing its name to Xe as it shifts its business focus.
The company, based in Moyock, N.C., has more than a dozen business units that are owned by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL and heir to an industrial fortune. Prince grew the company over the past decade from a small firm that offered training for law enforcement and small military units to landing part of a lucrative State Department contract to provide security in Afghanistan and Iraq.