Saturday, October 11, 2014

Marine vet imprisoned in Mexico could face charges in California

Marine veteran Andrew Tahmooressi’s legal problems might not end in Mexico.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill said recently that they expect Mexican authorities will release Tahmooressi in the near future. But American legal experts now say the former sergeant could face more charges once he returns to California for allegedly traveling through the state with loaded weapons in his vehicle.
Mexican authorities have accused Tahmooressi of crossing the border at San Ysidro from California on March 31 with firearms that are illegal there, outside of the military. The weapons he is accused of transporting, according to a statement from Mexico’s attorney general’s office, include: a .45 caliber pistol; a 5.56mm AR-15 rifle; and a 12-gauge shotgun — all of which authorities said were loaded. He was also accused of transporting additional magazines for each firearm.
“If he’s driving around with multiple loaded weapons in a car, that would be a problem under California law,” said John Donohue, a law professor at Stanford University who has studied gun laws.
Donohue said Tahmooressi “very likely” violated California’s restriction on AR-15-style rifles. Those types of firearm are legal only if they are registered, according to the state attorney general’s office. The registration deadline, however, was in 2001 — Tahmooressi moved to California from Florida in 2014.
Either the district attorney in San Diego County or the California Attorney General could level the charges, lawyers said.
Tahmooressi’s lawyer in the U.S., Philip Dunn, said there’s no evidence that his client committed a crime in California that would hold up in court. He said one could reasonably believe that he crossed the border with the guns in his truck before they were immediately discovered by Mexican officials, but there’s no hard evidence to show that he possessed the guns in California in an illegal way.
“I think that someone could surmise that [he had the weapons in California], but that doesn’t mean that it was illegal the way he had them in California,” Dunn told Marine Corps Times.
In a 911 call made just before he was arrested, though, Tahmooressi tells an operator that he had the firearms in his vehicle when he crossed into Mexico, which he claims he reached after taking a wrong turn in the dark.
“I crossed the border by accident and there are guns in my truck,” he states in the recording of the emergency call.
Tahmooressi also mentions crossing the border with the guns in a letter he wrote to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.
Tahmooressi’s defense in Mexico, according to his legal team, is that the Marine vet didn’t intend to bring the weapons into Mexico and therefore committed no crime in that country. Still, he admits to having the weapons, which Donohue said could prove problematic when he returns stateside.
“His defense admits the California crime,” he said.
Those statements could end up being used in an American court even though they were made in another country, Donohue added. Generally, statements by the criminally accused are always admissible in another country, unless they were obtained unconstitutionally, he said.
Adam Winkler, a criminal law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed. In typical cases, he said charges are unlikely. But the high-profile nature of the case could increase the chance that charges are filed in California, he added.
Dunn declined to address whether Tahmooressi had an AR-15 or any other weapons registered with the state of California. He said he wasn’t sure what sort of weapons his client was carrying.
“I’m not going to get into the details,” Dunn said.
He said in order for Tahmooressi to face charges in California, state authorities there would had to have caught his client in the act of transporting weapons. Prosecutors would need to confiscate them, and he said he doesn’t believe Mexican authorities would turn them over to California to assist in a prosecution.
“The point is that they don’t have the weapons and he was never stopped in California with the firearms in his car, therefore they cannot prosecute him,” Dunn said.
It’s not uncommon for people to get tripped up by changes in gun laws when they move from one jurisdiction to the next, particularly when they travel from states with fewer restrictions on firearms, to those with more regulations, Donohue said.
“The [National Rifle Association] forces want to make it seem that carrying a loaded gun around is as natural as eating breakfast,” he said. “As a result of that there are people — particularly from the states that push this very strongly — [who] are getting caught up.”

Review: ‘Ring of Steel’ examines WWI

Ring of Steel

Ring of Steel
By Alexander Watson.
Basic Books, 755 pp., $35.
Reviewed by Conrad Bibens
In 1914, just like today, Russian expansionism caused great alarm in Germany and eastern Europe. Those fears helped cause World War I. May today’s world leaders be wiser than the leaders of a century ago.
There are many books out to mark the centennial of World War I’s beginning, so to stand out from the crowd, Alexander Watson has written “Ring of Steel” from the viewpoint of Germany and Austria-Hungary, the empires that were officially blamed for starting the conflict. He doesn’t try to whitewash them but to explain their self-justifications for going into a war that destroyed them. Watson’s subtitle is “The People’s War,” for he also focuses on the inhabitants of these empires, their patriotism and bravery as well as their prejudices and weaknesses. “Why did the peoples of Austria-Hungary and Germany hold out for so long in the face of terrible hardships and against dreadful odds?” he asks.
A century ago, Europe ruled most of the world and most of Europe was ruled by royalty — emperors or tsars with real power, not just figureheads as in Great Britain. Most of their subjects felt an almost religious loyalty to these kings, if not to the countries they controlled, and were willing to fight and make sacrifices for them.
Austria-Hungary was a giant, multi-ethnic state that encompassed much of southeast Europe. Its inhabitants were Germans, Czechs, Croatians, Italians, Serbs, Poles and a half-dozen other nationalities, some of whom were eager to form their own nations or join other states that shared their ethnicity. When a Serbian nationalist assassinated the Hapsburg heir to Austria-Hungary’s throne, the Austrians wanted revenge on the independent nation of Serbia, blaming it for encouraging the killer. Austria-Hungary had many military weaknesses but its generals thought that “now was the time to strike, to prove the Empire’s vitality and to smash its enemies before they coalesced into an invincible coalition. In July 1914 Hapsburg leaders were desperate men. They were ruthless because they felt they had nothing to lose.”
The Germans felt they had to stand by their Austrian allies. The Russians stepped in to support the Serbs, their fellow Slavs. Great Britain and France were allies of Russia, so they also declared war on the Germans and Austrians. Much of the rest of the world played a role, with colonial soldiers from places including India, Australia, Africa and Canada taking part. By 1916, the United States was dragged in on the British-French side. An exhausted Russia had a revolution in 1917 and dropped out, but the war continued. It was a stalemate until the U.S. was able to fully mobilize its forces. The war officially ended in November 1918, with Germany and Austria-Hungary the major losers.
Watson’s book is slow going at first, mainly because he gives you more than you probably want to know about the nations’ pre-war military planning. He picks up momentum as the war begins, especially describing Russia’s actions:
“The invasions of Germany and Austria by Russia do not receive much mention in history books today. The victims have been forgotten, their suffering and the wrongs inflicted upon them disregarded. Yet the importance of the Russian attacks cannot be overstated. The Tsarist army’s invasions in the east … offer the closest link between the campaigns of 1914 and the genocidal horrors of the mid-twentieth century. Racial ideology, anti-Semitism and ambitious plans to remold and exclude populations, all hallmarks of later Nazi actions in the same region, characterized these operations.”
Watson is strong on the social changes and tensions in the civilian populations. Germany was far more united than Austria-Hungary ethnically, but the loss of loved ones and the shortages of resources widened the gap between the unapologetically snobbish nobility, the ambitious middle class and the restive working class. Before the war, anti-Semitism had been relatively mild in both countries and the Jewish populations were steadfastly loyal to their rulers. In Germany, Watson says, Jews were just 1 percent of the population but 2 percent of the armed forces, a fact that was ignored later by the Nazis looking for a scapegoat for the nation’s defeat.
For those who already have a general knowledge of the war, “Ring of Steel” is a good addition to their understanding. The trouble with all the new books is that they have to compete with a couple of great ones about the war and its causes, both written by Barbara Tuchman in the 1960s. “The Proud Tower” and “The Guns of August” are still the most readable publications about the subject.
World War I casts a heavy shadow on the 21st century. It gave us weapons of mass destruction with millions of deaths. It began to crack Europe’s domination of the world, for good and ill. It ended the reign of powerful kings and set the stage for Nazis and fascists to seize power in the war’s aftermath. And it put communists much like Vladimir Putin in control of Russia.
Conrad Bibens is a business wire and copy editor at the Chronicle.

Biosafety first in Point Loma? - US Navy

As the U.S. military readies 4000 troops to deal with the growing emergence of the Ebola virus in West Africa, a little-known biosecurity lab on Point Loma could find itself playing a key role in the medical combat.
"Everything possible will be done to mitigate risks of exposure to Ebola by U.S. military personnel deployed to Liberia to contain the epidemic," according to an October 7 Pentagon news release regarding a statement made that day by Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of the U.S. Africa Command.
"There are no plans for the U.S. military to provide direct care to Ebola patients," Rodriguez is quoted as saying. "Personnel from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center will, however, test for Ebola at mobile labs from samples collected from area clinics and health care providers."
"Pressed by reporters to explain the risks to Americans operating the mobile labs, Rodriguez strongly discounted the likelihood of contamination. 'It’s a very, very high standard that these people have operated in all their lives, and this is their primary skill,' he emphasized. 'This is not just medical guys trained to do this.'"
"Seven such labs are expected to be set up in Liberia for Ebola testing."
At least some of the expertise may come from San Diego, where the Naval Health Research Center, a subordinate command of the medical research center, has operated a so-called Biosafety Level 3 laboratory on Ballast Point, just down the hill from the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, according to a federal procurement document. Specialized research on deadly viruses and other biohazards has reportedly been conducted there since 2009.
Biosafety Level 3 labs, known in the bio warfare trade as BSL-3s, perform work with "indigenous or exotic agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease through the inhalation route of exposure," according to a 2002 presentation handed out at a UCSD seminar on biohazard management. 
"Laboratory personnel must receive specific training in handling pathogenic and potentially lethal agents, and must be supervised by scientists competent in handling infectious agents and associated procedures." 
The BSL-3 designation is second only to BSL-4, which is "required for work with dangerous and exotic agents that pose a high individual risk of aerosol-transmitted laboratory infections and life-threatening disease that is frequently fatal, for which there are no vaccines or treatments, or a related agent with unknown risk of transmission."
But keeping its labs secure enough to meet legal and regulatory requirements has apparently been a challenge for the Navy. Last fall the Pentagon solicited bids for architectural and engineering plans it said were needed to fix numerous flaws at the San Diego facility.
"An [architectural and engineering] assessment is provide a revised design plan to improve the facility for BSL-3 laboratory, as necessary," says the September 10, 2013, notice. 
Among the needed changes, according to the document: "Rewelding and repair of the [heating, ventilating, and air conditioning] ducts on the second floor. The lack of welding in this duct can cause the release of infectious agents to the environment."
Additional alterations included the addition of "two surveillance cameras inside the bio-containment unit due to the presence of blind spots"; moving "security access panel to another location, outside the laboratory"; and installing "a visual and audible pressure alarm for the [heating, ventilating, and air conditioning] system in the containment suit."
Another safety-related task was to "Verify the existence, use and testing of door alarms, [heating, ventilating, and air conditioning] fan failure, and door interlocking system and [heating, ventilating, and air conditioning] interlocking system alarms. Install any missing items if necessary."
Though the problems sounded serious enough, the notice for repairs was cancelled the next day, September 11, with the announcement that "This project has been postponed until a later date due to issues with funding." 
According to its website, the Alabama-based architectural firm of Sherlock, Smith & Adams received a contract for an "in-depth assessment" and “Deficiency Tabulation“ of the Point Loma Naval Health Research Center, including "Bio-Safety Level 2 and 3 Laboratories which were evaluated as part of the study."
The build-out of biosafety labs and their possible danger to the public has been controversial in some quarters. A plan to build a BSL-3 lab at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, center of the nation’s nuclear bomb research, was criticized this summer by Department of Energy inspector general Gregory Friedman, according to an August 20 report by the Center for Public Integrity.
"Friedman wrote that the $9.5 million proposal had been made without fully assessing the need for and cost effectiveness of the project, and that the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which runs Los Alamos and other energy labs, 'needs to fully reassess its need for biological research facilities.'"
"Los Alamos completed an environmental assessment in 2002 of plans to build two BSL-3 labs. The facility to house them was constructed a year later. The project was delayed for years, however, because of a lawsuit by two advocacy groups, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley CAREs, located in Livermore, California."
UPDATE 10/10/14, 11:55 a.m. — A spokeswoman for the Navy called back this morning to say the Point Loma BSL-3 lab has been shut down pending required improvements, adding that a BSL-2 facility is still operational. She added that the San Diego subcommand wasn’t tied to the anti-Ebola work in Africa being conducted by the Naval Medical Research Center.

Paxton: Special MAGTFs Are “Feet Dry” for Lack of Amphibs - No Ship's?

Posted: October 9, 2014 11:50 AM

Paxton: Special MAGTFs Are “Feet Dry” for Lack of Amphibs

By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
PaxtonARLINGTON, Va. — The recent movements of two Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (SP-MAGTFs) highlight a shortage of amphibious warfare shipping (amphibs), said the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.
Gen John M. Paxton Jr., addressing an audience Oct. 9 at the Navy League’s Special Topic Breakfast, noted the deployments of two SP-MAGTFs within the last seven days to two of the world’s hot spots — West Africa and the Middle East. 
Marines and MV-22B tiltrotor aircraft from SP-MAGTF-Crisis Response, based in Europe for availability to U.S. Africa Command, have deployed to Dakar to assist the U.S. efforts to combat the Ebola virus that is sweeping through several West African countries.
A new command, SP-MAGTF Central Command, has deployed 2,000 Marines and MV-22B and KC-130J tanker aircraft to Kuwait and other bases in the Persian Gulf region to maintain a Marine presence in the region inflamed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or Islamic State, during a gap in presence of a Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked in amphibs.
Paxton said the SP-MAGTF in Central Command “went over there because we were in the business of swapping out two MEUs [Marine Expeditionary Unites]. One MEU was coming back to the East Coast and the other MEU was coming in from the West Coast. So it’s an indicator of how unstable the world is and why you need presence, and why that presence needs to be forward. It’s also an indication of the paucity of forces, and the means to transport the forces in and out of theater.”
Paxton said the two SP-MAGTFs are shore-based — “feet dry” — because of an overall shortage of amphibious warfare ships. He stressed that he understood the budget constraints were severely challenging the Navy’s shipbuilding account with the need to build a variety of ship types to try to meet its required operational missions.
“The reason we have special-purpose MAGTFs is because we don’t have enough amphibs,” he said. “A challenge we will continue to have over the next decade is the resources/demand mismatch.”
Paxton also cited the Navy-Marine Corps team’s extensive support of relief operations in the Philippines last year in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan as an “equal indicator of the paucity of amphibious shipping.”
During the relief operations, two of the three amphibs that support the 31st MEU were in maintenance that had to be interrupted so the ships could sail in support.  

The $1,000 Pill That Could Cripple the VA’s Budget - Drug Company Greed

The Department of Veterans Affairs, still reeling from a scandal over the negligent treatment of veterans seeking medical care that may have contributed to some deaths, has a new problem on its hands. 
While struggling to beef up its medical staff and sharply reduce the time it takes veterans to get appointments at health facilities, the staggering cost of Sovaldi, a specialty drug to treat Hepatitis C, is threatening to blow a $1.3 billion hole in the agency's budget in the next two years. It's a fiscal crisis that could force deep agency cutbacks in other areas. 
The issue first surfaced in July when the embattled VA gave the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee a $17.6 billion wish list of resources to begin delivering high quality and timely health care to veterans. VA officials complained that the unexpectedly high cost of using Sovaldi was eating away at their budget. 
The VA is the largest provider of care in the U.S. for chronic Hepatitis C virus infections, which can destroy the liver and require a liver transplant or result in death. The VA has 174,000 veterans under its care with documented HCV; another 42,000 could be added once they're properly tested.
Congress subsequently approved $17.5 billion of new funding as part of VA reform legislation, but none of those funds was earmarked for the Sovaldi treatments. Made by Gilead Sciences of California and approved by the Food and Drug Administration a year ago, the drug offers huge advances in the treatment of Hepatitis C and related liver problems – and guarantees a cure rate of 90 percent.
Yet the medicine costs $1,000 per pill – or $84,000 for the obligatory 12-week treatment. The 3.2 million Americans who are infected by Hepatitis C could benefit greatly from the treatment. Still, the total cost of covering those people with the new drug would exceed the $300 billion the U.S. is spending annually on pharmaceuticals.
Sovaldi is just the leading edge of a surge in specialty drugs that offer important advances in treating cancer, multiple sclerosis and other serious illnesses but that threaten to saddle government, health insurers and consumers with huge unsustainable costs.
The drug already is beginning to strain the budget of one major government agency – and could dramatically run up the costs of other health-related programs, including Medicaid and Medicare as well as federal and state prison systems that are required to provide inmates with health care services.
The VA spent about $220 million on the new drug in the fiscal year that ended September 30, according to agency figures. Other HCV treatments will be coming on the market soon; the VA intends to use those as well. 
Although Gilead and the VA negotiated down the price of a tablet from $1,000 to $543, according to one source, the long-term cost of Sovaldi to the VA could be staggering – and will eclipse the treatment costs of most other diseases, including cancer. 
Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said he was alarmed by what he termed Gilead's "price gouging" even with the discount. He intends to use the committee to "explore" the problem, he said in an interview. 
"This is an issue that has to be explored, because clearly when we put money into the VA, we want to make sure it goes to the doctors and nurses to make sure veterans get the best health care possible – not to pad the profit margin of large pharmaceutical companies." 
He added, "With the VA, our goal is to provide the best quality care and yet we're being charged an enormous amount of money. Which means it's not going into other areas, like mental health, etc. ...We will do everything we can to have these guys lower their prices." 
John Rother, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care, said the VA was facing "a very severe budget shortfall" because of Sovaldi-related costs, and this would "force them to cut back on other services in an already strapped system." 
Rother and his group of business leaders, health care providers and some drug manufacturers launched a campaign last June to highlight the mounting cost of specialty drugs. Rother has urged pharmaceutical officials to find ways to reduce the cost of breakthrough therapies while continuing to cover companies' research costs and compensate them for innovations that can save lives and reduce medical complications. 
"Sovaldi is the most effective drug on the market today – a breakthrough drug," Rother said. "It's much more effective than anything previous. In that sense, it's very important from a public health point of view. It's just a disaster from an economic point of view." 
A spokesperson for Gilead declined to respond to questions from The Fiscal Times about the pricing controversy. 
In late July, Gilead was informed it is under investigation by the Senate Finance Committee, whose members became interested in learning why Gilead had decided to more than double the price of the medication before it was put on the market, as The Fiscal Times reported. 
Gilead claims the cost of developing Sovaldi was $11 billion. The Senate in an inquiry says the company's cost between 2009 and 2011 was merely $62.4 million.
The committee's curiosity was sparked by reports Gilead had altered its marketing strategy for Sovaldi after it acquired its creator, New Jersey-based research firm Pharmasset, in 2012. In late 2011, Pharmasset filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission that discussed the billions of dollars per year the company expected to take in after Sovaldi was marketed at $36,000 per treatment course. Gilead subsequently more than doubled the price. 
"Given the impact Sovaldi's cost will have on Medicare, Medicaid and other federal spending, we need a better understanding of how your company arrived at the price for this drug," wrote Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Republican committee member Charles Grassley of Iowa in a letter to Gilead CEO John Martin. 
The Medicaid program for the poor and disabled spends roughly $45 billion to $50 billion a year on pharmaceuticals, out of a total budget of $450 billion. Under a worst-case scenario, the widespread use of Sovaldi could nearly double the cost of pharmaceuticals in the future, to $90 billion to $100 billion, according to Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. 
"State Medicaid programs are definitely challenged by this," said Salo. "Sovaldi is a big-ticket item. At this point, it's much higher than cancer treatment." 
Salo said in an interview Tuesday that state and federal officials hold a wide range of views on the severity of the problem. Some predict the cost will soon be out of control, while others contend government agencies and programs can find ways to rein in the costs. 
Federal and state officials, for example, likely will be able to negotiate big discounts with the drug manufacturers or establish clinical protocols that limit the number of people eligible for treatment. 
"Now that's a valid point," Salo added. "But the concern a lot of my members have is that they don't actually think those types of protocols, while they are certainly medically justified, are going to get upheld in the courts." 
Salo said he could imagine the courts bowing to pressure from the Centers for Disease Control and other public health advocates who say, "This is a communicable infectious disease and it is unconscionable not to cover everyone."

Air Force revokes medical coverage for 1,000 separating airmen - Bait &Switch

Airmen attend a Transition Assistance Program class at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, in May 2013. The TAP classes advise separating service members on their benefits and help with resume writing, job searches and interviews.
Airmen attend a Transition Assistance Program class at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, in May 2013. The TAP classes advise separating service members on their benefits and help with resume writing, job searches and interviews. (Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill/Air Force)
The Air Force mistakenly issued medical benefits to more than 1,000 voluntarily separating airmen earlier this year, and is now revoking those benefits.
Airmen separating under the Voluntary Separation Pay program — a major component of the cash-strapped Air Force’s massive force management downsizing program — have never been eligible for Transition Assistance Management Program benefits, the service said. TAMP benefits include 180 days of transitional Tricare medical coverage.
But during the fiscal 2014 VSP program, some Air Force installations did not correctly update airmen’s status in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson said in an Oct. 8 email. As a result, roughly 25 percent of the 4,247 airmen who received VSP in 2014 were incorrectly issued medical TAMP benefits, Richeson said.
“The Air Force is researching the specific impacts and will issue guidance to ensure airmen and families are not unfairly impacted,” Richeson said.
Many voluntarily separated airmen are outraged, and feel like a bait-and-switch has been pulled on them. Dozens have posted on Facebook pages discussing VSP that they were told different stories about what they would get, and vented their frustration.
A captain who voluntarily separated Sept. 29 said he was told in briefings that he would get 180 days of extended medical coverage, as well as base and commissary privileges for two years. But when he separated, he and other airmen heard a different story — that they weren’t eligible for those benefits. He is lucky, since his wife recently took early retirement from the Air Force and he can still get medical coverage through her. But many others aren’t as lucky.
“It’s a hit in the gut,” he said. “It’s terrible. They asked us to get out, and the last day you go and they say, ‘You don’t get this.’ ”
The Air Force said TAMP benefits are only for airmen who are involuntarily and honorably separated, since those separations are typically short-notice separations. Richeson said since VSP was established in 2006, the Air Force has not extended those benefits to voluntarily separating airmen, because they choose to leave, receive a monetary incentive, and typically have more time to plan for the transition, including arranging for medical coverage.
“There have been no changes or adjustments to this policy during the FY 14 Force Management program,” Richeson said. “TAMP benefits are reviewed with the member at Airman and Family Readiness Centers during congressionally mandated pre-separation counseling.”
But a major who separated Sept. 29, who asked for his name not to be used because he’s now a reservist, said he received mixed messages for months. He said he was told at some point that he would be eligible for extended medical benefits. But as he tried to confirm that, he couldn’t get a straight answer from any of the offices he asked.
“I’ve been told conflicting things since April,” he said Oct. 2. “Nobody had any guidance until two or three weeks ago. The family center that does transition, they didn’t know, and didn’t get a list of what benefits would come. They defaulted to the line that if you volunteer, you don’t get six months medical. As we’re following up, in the last month or so [before separation], my wife called the DEERS field office, they looked at the code, and said, ‘Yeah, you’re entitled to the benefits.’ ”
He said his Military Personnel Flight office, which handles personnel matters, told him in August that he would get six months of medical benefits after checking with DEERS. But on Friday, Sept. 26 — three days before he separated — he was told there was a problem with his medical benefits. The major and his wife spent the weekend combing through the section of the U.S. Code governing VSP — 10 U.S.C. 1175a — and thought it said they were eligible for those benefits.
When the major showed up for his final separation the following Monday, Sept. 29, he brought the U.S. Code with him and spent about four hours in the office trying to straighten things out.
“When I showed up at the MPF to turn in my active-duty Common Access Card and pick up my green reserve card and beige [benefits] card, they didn’t give me the beige card because they had guidance from Big Air Force to remove those benefits,” he said. “I spent four hours, and left with just my green card. It was very upsetting.”
Now, the major said, “my status is in limbo.” He wants to be a self-employed freelancer, and when he made his post-Air Force plans, he was counting on the six months of continued medical coverage to help bridge that gap between military medical care and Obamacare. He said that with his six-figure Air Force salary in his recent past, he wouldn’t be able to afford Obamacare premiums during the open enrollment period. But after six months on his current $25,000 freelancing income, he would be eligible for subsidies that would allow him to afford Obamacare coverage.
His fallback option is to pay out-of-pocket for 180 days of extended Tricare coverage, but that’s extremely expensive as well and would cost him about $5,000.
But even getting approved for that was an ordeal because of the Air Force’s mistake.
“They said I’m not eligible, because I get DoD health care for six months,” he said. “Now, because I did separate and they physically removed my benefits, other agencies see it’s been removed and I’m eligible for continuation care.”
The major hasn’t yet paid his premium for that coverage, because he’s still trying to get the Air Force to admit that it’s wrong and he and other airmen receiving VSP are entitled to extended TRICARE coverage through TAMP. He plans to mail his out-of-pocket premium in toward the end of November, if no resolution is in sight. But until then, his family of six has no health coverage.
“Now, it’s down to the wire,” he said. “I’ve got 60 days [starting from his Sept. 29 separation date] to backdate my coverage. God forbid a family member should get sick in that time.”
The mix-up involving medical benefits is not the first bump in the force management programs. In March, the Air Force put VSP and early retirement processing on hold while it figured out how to handle approvals for certain waivers.

Navy captain accused of viewing child porn at work

Investigators say they found close to 300 images of pornography and bestiality on Capt. Richard Frey's work computer at Norfolk Naval Station, including dozens that were possibly child porn.
But proving that the officer with almost three decades in uniform actually committed the crimes he has been charged with might be more difficult than it seems - particularly the most serious charge of child pornography, his lawyer told the investigating officer at a pretrial hearing on Wednesday.
"This is going to be a battle of the experts," defense attorney Steven Folsom, a retired Marine Corps lawyer, told the court. "This case is riddled with reasonable doubt with regard to child porn charges."
Frey has been charged with viewing and possessing pornography, child pornography and images depicting bestiality at his work computer on base. He's also charged with viewing pornography aboard the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge.
Frey, 48, whose career included a stint as skipper of the Ponce and most recently the title of senior operations officer in charge of training exercises at Carrier Strike Group Four, faces two charges with a total of five specifications - three related to misuse of government resources and two related to child pornography.
Government witness Capt. Steven Yoder testified that he investigated Frey but couldn't ascertain whether any of the images involved children. So he turned the case over to Naval Criminal Investigative Services.
NCIS investigator Eric Trest told the court that Frey "admitted he'd misused his government computer" and that he'd been warned previously - ostensibly while on the Kearsarge.
He said Frey admitted that he "had an interest in young men and women," though he later clarified that they were over 18 and that he had "a sexual addiction problem" for which he'd undergone treatment.
"He said that was the reason for the dissolution of his marriage," Trest said, adding that an NCIS digital forensic investigator took 75 images of adult bestiality off Frey's computer, along with more than 100 images depicting adult bondage - "what I consider fairly extreme" - and more than 100 images of suspected child porn.
But Trest said none of the suspected child porn images matched a national database, and there was no way to verify that any of those images were of children.
Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Robertson, the prosecutor, urged the investigating officer, Capt. Michael Palmer, to consider the websites and search terms entered into Frey's computer, noting that someone of his age and experience would reasonably have had to know where those searches were taking him.

Friday, October 10, 2014

TAPS-Daniel J. Donahue III - 101st Airborne Rangers

Daniel J. Donahue III 

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Daniel J. Donahue III

AGE: 67 • McLean, VA

Daniel J. Donahue III, 67, who specialized in Operations work for the Central Intelligence Agency during his 40 years with the CIA, died of a glioblastoma brain tumor on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, at his home in McLean, Va. Mr. Donahue joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1977 after leaving active military duty as an officer in the U.S. Army, where his assignments included Commander of two Special Forces "A" teams in Vietnam. He was with the 101 Airborne Rangers.

During his years with the CIA, he served in numerous capacities including CIA Representative, Professor and Chair in National Intelligence at the US Naval War College and Senior Fellow on the US National Intelligence Council. Mr. Donahue graduated from West Point in 1968, subsequently earned an MBA in International Management. He was a graduate of the US National War College and also studied at Harvard University.

He was born and raised in Jersey City, NJ where he graduated from St. Peter's Prep in 1964.

He is predeceased by his father, Daniel J. Donahue II. Surviving are his partner, HSH Princess Vudhichalerm Vudhijaya, McLean, Va.; his mother, Rose Donahue, Spring Lake, NJ; his sister, Donna R. Schrader and husband Ronald, Spring Lake, NJ. Also surviving are Daniel's godchildren, Erin Moran and husband, Tim and children, Timothy and William; and Ronald Schrader Jr. and wife, Katie and children, Emma Rose and James. Mr. Donahue's extended family includes Diana Sparrgrove and husband Brett and children, Sophia and Lily.

Visitation will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11 at National Funeral Home, 7482 Lee Highway, Falls Church, VA. Prayer service will be at 6:15 p.m. at National Funeral Home. On Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 1:30 p.m., a Liturgy of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the U.S. Military Academy, in the Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity, 699 Washington Road, West Point, NY. Interment will follow immediately at U.S. Military Academy, West Point.

The family would like to thank all the men and women of the CIA and military who served with Dan throughout his lifetime of service to this country.

Published in Asbury Park Press on Oct. 9, 2014

New Online Encyclopedia Devoted To WWI Now Accessible

A comprehensive, English-language, open access encyclopedia of what was deemed the “Great War” was introduced and released on Wednesday 8th October, in Brussels. The project “1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War” is managed by researchers at Freie Universität Berlin in cooperation with the Bavarian State Library. It is funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). The encyclopaedia combines the latest historical research with the many advantages of the Semantic Web. The content was written and compiled by 1,000 experts from 54 countries, and is continuously being updated and expanded.
This year marks the centenary of World War I, which is considered to be the “great seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century”. This anniversary is an important reference point for the creation of a transitional and global historical consciousness, offering a chance to discuss the roots of and possibilities for European integration.
The online encyclopaedia “1914-1918-online” provides a comprehensive description of the “Great War” from a pan-European and global perspective. It is a user-friendly and easily allocable digital work resource. Prof. Dr. Oliver Janz, a historian at the Friedrich Meinecke Institute of Freie Universität de Berlin, along with Prof. Dr. Nicholas Apostolopoulos, the director of the Centre for Digital Systems, Freie Universität de Berlin have led the project.
Soldiers marching: WikiPedia
Soldiers marching: WikiPedia
The online encyclopaedia was presented during a meeting called “World War One goes World Wide Web- 1914-1918-online.” The meeting was jointly organised by the Berlin Senate Chancellery, the European minister in North Rhine-Westphalia, Freie Universität Berlin, and the Committee of the Regions, which also functioned as a host. The meeting received financial support from the German Foreign Office and Allianz SE, a German insurance and financial services company.New WWI LINK

TAPS-James Bell, a Navy officer who spent seven years as a POW inVietnam, dies at 83

James Bell, a Navy captain and pilot who was held prisoner for 7½ years during the Vietnam War, died Sept. 30 at an Alexandria, Virginia, care facility. He was 83.
The cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Dora Bell.
Flying a reconnaissance plane on a mission north of Haiphong on Oct. 16, 1965, then-Lt. Cmdr. Bell was shot down by anti-aircraft fire.
“I made it to the sea before ejecting, but after 30 minutes in the water my crewman … and I were picked up by local fishermen in sampans,” he recalled in a 1977 book about former POWs, “We Came Home.”
He was tied to the mast of the boat and taken ashore, where he was beaten and kicked by a crowd of angry North Vietnamese en route to the first of several prisons where he would be confined over the next 89 months. He was among the first American service personnel to be captured in the conflict and, on Feb. 12, 1973, was among the first group of POWs to be released as part of Operation Homecoming.
During his 2,677 days of captivity, Bell underwent beatings, solitary confinement and intense loneliness. His basic diet was rice with pebbles in it, a green soup that looked and tasted like weeds and tea that appeared to be little more than dirty water. It was almost five years from the date of his capture before he heard from his family in America.
He said in “We Came Home” that he “never doubted for a minute that the day would come when I would return … . Nor did I ever lose faith in myself and my abilities to withstand the physical and mental rigors of prison life.”
James Franklin Bell was born in Akron, Ohio, on April 29, 1931. He graduated in 1954 from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. While in the Navy, he received a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and a master’s degree in administration from George Washington University.
He flew reconnaissance and fighter aircraft early in his Navy career. In 1965 he was assigned aboard the carrier Independence off the coast of Vietnam and by Oct. 16 had flown about 35 missions over North Vietnam. He was anticipating reassignment to a test pilot school in England when, as he would later describe it, his “luck ran out.”
Twenty-three years after his release from prison, Bell wrote down memories of those lost years for a chapter entitled “What Did You Do in the War, Granddad?” for inclusion in a book his wife was writing.
It was a time “when the days all seemed 48 hours long,” he said.
For refusing to fill out an enemy questionnaire, which he thought might be used for propaganda, he “spent about two months in leg chains. My legs were tightly chained together at the ankles and to the bed. I was released once a week to take my toilet bucket outside for emptying.”
At one of the several prison facilities where he was confined — one called Briar Patch — he wrote, “Life was primitive… . We didn’t get to shave very often, maybe once a month, and baths were once a week or so.”
In a cell near Bell’s, another prisoner “had been lying on his back asleep when he was awakened by something on his chest. He looked down and there was a rat standing on his chest eating the soup drippings off his beard.”
Infractions such as trying to communicate with other prisoners by tapping in code on cell walls brought swift and harsh reprisals. For one such offense, “the camp commander sentenced me to three months in ‘the hole.’ The hole was a bomb shelter about two feet deep that had been dug out beneath a bunk in each of the cells. When serving out a sentence in the hole, you would take your toilet bucket with you to serve as a stool, and you would spend your entire time, day and night, in ‘the hole.’”
Sometime in late 1970, Bell later wrote, he received in the mail a picture of his three children. He recognized the eldest, who looked the same, only bigger. But the two younger ones “were strangers. And there was nothing to indicate where they were living or what was going on with their lives.” In 1972, he would learn in a letter from his parents that he had been divorced.
Among his co-prisoners in Vietnam were future Arizona senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, whose Navy aircraft was shot down over Vietnam in 1967. McCain and Bell were in the same compound at one point and had given each other haircuts.
On his release, Capt. Bell weighed about 140 pounds, 30 pounds less than he had before his capture. For several weeks, he was in a rehabilitation program at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where doctors worked to repair an untreated broken arm and shoulder suffered when his aircraft was shot down.
Among his decorations were two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, the Bronze Star with Combat V and the Purple Heart. After retiring from the Navy in 1979, Bell was an engineering consultant in the Washington area for A.T. Kearney and other consulting firms. He had been a resident of Alexandria for the last 40 years.
In 1988 he was injured in a scuba-diving accident in Cozumel, Mexico, that compromised his respiratory system and brought about his civilian retirement. His wife said he was diving with friends and remained underwater by himself when they surfaced. A few minutes later, he was discovered floating unconscious. He was hospitalized and revived but with an impaired respiratory system.
His first marriage, to Holly Hollister, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Dora Griffin Bell of Alexandria, whose first husband, James Griffin, died as a POW in Vietnam; three children from his first marriage, Tom Bell of Wake Forest, North Carolina, Navy Reserve Capt. Matthew Bell of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Ann Bell Rogan of Arlington, Virginia; two stepchildren, James Griffin of Lawrenceville, Georgia, and Carrie Griffin of Woodside, California; and 11 grandchildren.
Grim as it was, Bell’s captivity was not without its moments of humor. In 1971, almost two years after U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon, news of the lunar landing reached the POWs in North Vietnam. “I remember our taunting the guards about ‘Our Moon,’ ” Bell wrote.
“Sometimes at night when we’d be standing up at our doors talking to our neighbors and there’d be a big full moon up there, we’d hear a guard coming and we’d all start saluting the moon. The guard would give us a quizzical look, wondering, ‘What are you guys doing?’ We’d point at the moon and say, ‘That’s our moon, that belongs to the USA.’ The guards would skulk away shaking their heads.”

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