Saturday, July 9, 2016
By Sharon Bernstein July 6 (Reuters) – The drowning death of a U.S. sailor during Navy SEAL training in California has been ruled a homicide by the San Diego medical examiner’s office which noted in a report that, against Navy rules, an instructor dunked the sailor under water even as he struggled. James Derek Lovelace, […]
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An unusual weapon from World War I was removed Thursday from an ordinary house in Dinwiddie County.
The front yard was home for decades to the German-made minenwerfer — a mine launcher, or short-barreled cannon — used extensively during the war by the German army.
It’s now in the hands of its rightful owner, the Virginia National Guard.
Al Barnes, command historian for the Virginia National Guard, said this is the only weapon of its type he ever has seen. Only three minenwerfers were given to Virginia, and he has no idea what happened to the other two.
“They were probably cut up for scrap metal during World War II,” Barnes said. “This is probably one of three or four left in the entire country.”
He called the weapon ugly and intimidating because of the size of its bore, which was big enough to hold ammunition the size of a watermelon.
How the cannon landed in the yard is a mystery, since it was a gift nearly a century ago to the U.S. from France in gratitude to the Virginia National Guard for its service during World War I.
Old postcards show the weapon in front of the Armory and Health Center in Petersburg, where it sat from the 1920s to the early 1960s, when the armory was sold to a private business. The building was partially demolished, and the cannon disappeared. We are not sure how it ended up in the front yard of Felix and Winifred Vairo at 25310 Cox Road in Dinwiddie,” said Linda Terry, an auctioneer with Tranzon Fox who was hired by estate attorneys to sell the property.
“We started advertising the property, and someone said that piece of artillery belonged to the Virginia National Guard and he was certain the guard would want it back,” Terry said.
The attorneys handling the estate were tasked with verifying ownership of the 600-pound-plus iron-and-steel relic.
Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, adjutant general of the Virginia National Guard overseeing 8,000 soldiers and airmen, provided documentation of ownership — copies of the Congressional Act from 1921, when France sent captured or surrendered weaponry as commemorative pieces to the U.S.
“We are very pleased to be able to participate in some small way in the centennial commemorations of the Great War, and Petersburg’s contributions in that service,” estate attorney Carolyn A. White wrote in an email to Williams. She is a partner with White and McCarthy law firm in Midlothian.
The weapon was made in 1916, according to a manufacturer’s date discovered Thursday by the guardsmen in charge of removing the cannon from the property.
The weapon was transported Thursday to the Bellwood military post off U.S. 1 between Richmond and Petersburg, where it will be refurbished and go on display at the soon-to-be-built Virginia National Guard’s Joint Force headquarters as a perpetual reminder of the sacrifices made by Virginia soldiers during the war.
The Virginia National Guard is in the middle of a centennial observation of the global war — one of the deadliest conflicts in history — that originated in Europe and lasted from July 28, 1914, to Nov. 11, 1918. The U.S. entered the war in April 1917.
The Virginia National Guard served in the 29th Division and fought in the Meuse-Argonne offensive — a 47-day battle along the Western Front in France in 1918 — that brought the war to an end. More than 5,000 soldiers of the 29th Division were killed or wounded.
Minenwerfers were used to clear obstacles such as bunkers and barbed wire that long-range artillery could not target accurately.
This particular one had been MIA for possibly a half-century. Terry said a Tranzon client called to ask about the property because he has driven by it almost daily his entire life and told her the cannon has been in the yard for 40 to 50 years, “if not more.”
As for the auction, the fixer-upper house on 4 acres — sans artillery — will be sold at an on-site auction Wednesday at 10 a.m. to the highest bidder paying at least $50,000. SEE SOURCE
MIAMI — The U.S. Navy says it will spend $240 million to construct new buildings and repair existing ones at its base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A contracting announcement published Wednesday says up to five companies will be selected to do work that will take place over the next five years. It does not include upgrades to the detention center.
Navy spokeswoman Susan Brink says details about the projects will be made available later.
The Navy also announced that Munilla Construction Management LLC of Miami has been awarded a $63 million contract to build a new school for children of military and civilian personnel at Guantanamo.
Cuba has long sought the return of the base, but the U.S. says it has no plans to give up its oldest overseas Navy installation.
According to the Chilcot report, the exhaustive investigation into Britain's role in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, British intelligence used the plot of Bay's film The Rock to help make its case for war.
According to the report, published on Wednesday, the British secret service MI6 took elements of the 1996 action thriller which became part of the "valuable intelligence" they presented arguing for military intervention to topple Iraq leader Saddam Hussein.
Michael Bay Casts "Britain's Loneliest Dog" in Next 'Transformers' Film
The film stars Ed Harris as a rogue Marine who seizes a stockpile of rockets armed with the deadly nerve gas VX who deadly takes control control of Alcatraz prison and threatens to launch his arsenal against San Francisco. Nicolas Cage plays a chemical weapons specialist with the FBI who enlists a former prisoner (Sean Connery), the only man to ever escape from the prison island, to help him sneak in and thwart Harris' plan.
The element of the story that made into Chilcot inquiry concerned Harris' nerve gas, which was famously stored in cylindrical glass containers (perfect for an edge-of-seat scene in which they roll precariously across the floor).
In an MI6 report from September 2002, a "new source" with "phenomenal access" to Iraq's biological and chemical weapons capabilities claimed that nerve agents VX, sarin and soman had been produced at a facility in Al-Yarmuk, and stored in containers including "linked hollow glass spheres."
Eyebrows were soon raised inside MI6 after the report was circulated, with "one recipient" pointing out the similarities to the film.
According to the Inquiry, it was suggested that "glass containers were not typically used in chemical munitions; and that a popular move (The Rock) had inaccurately depicted nerve agents being carried in glass beads or spheres."
But despite these doubts, the same source was again cited in a report claiming that Iraq was accelerating its chemical and biological weapons programs and had built more facilities.
The report, claimed the Chilcott Inquiry, played a significant role in the arguments put forth by the British Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair, in his justification for war, helping the PM make "key judgments about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capabilities."
By 2003, however, MI6's doubts had been confirmed and the "source had been revealed to have been lying," according to the Inquiry, and after a meeting in June was concluded to be "a fabricator who had lied from the outset."
But by then, of course, the Iraq War was already in full swing with Hussein – nerve gas in glass spheres or not – already toppled.
Tony Blair is the central figure in the Chilcott report, which offered a damning verdict, asserting that Blair had deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and disregarded warnings about the consequences of going to war.
Friday, July 8, 2016
Paul Lewis, a Defense Department special envoy for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that the Obama administration now estimates 14 released detainees had returned to Afghanistan and were responsible for the deaths of Americans.
Lewis did not provide details on which Americans died from the attacks. But he said all of the former detainees implicated in the killings had been released during President George W. Bush’s administration.
“We’ve got a lot of dead Americans as a result of this catch-and-release program,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Washington Post has reported six Americans have been killed by former Guantanamo detainees since their release.
At its peak, Guantanamo housed 779 detainees. There are 79 now. Most of the detainees were released under the Bush administration. Obama has released 159 detainees and has worked to close the detention facility permanently since he took office.
Of the 79 remaining prisoners, 29 have been cleared for transfer. The other 50 detainees at Guantanamo could still face judicial punishment, Lewis said.
Last month, a detainee transferred under Obama’s administration, Syrian Jihad Ahmed Diyab, disappeared from Uruguay after potentially violating a travel ban that was part of the terms of his release.
“The fact is that the standard is not elimination of risk, it is mitigation of risk,” said Lee Wolosky, a State Department special envoy for the closure of Guantanamo Bay who testified Thursday before the House committee.
Based on intelligence committee assessments, no Americans have been killed as a result of any of the detainees released since Obama took office in 2009, Lewis said.
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress prohibited the White House from using any funding to close Guantanamo and opposes the transfer of the remaining prisoners who are deemed too dangerous to release.
Closure of the Guantanamo facility is one of Obama’s remaining campaign promises.
The State Department said in April it had suspended plans for an internal review at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which conducted a yearlong probe of Clinton’s use of private email servers while she was secretary of state.
“Given the Department of Justice has now made its announcement, the State Department intends to conduct its internal review,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
“I cannot provide specific information about the Department’s review, including what information we are evaluating. We will aim to be as expeditious as possible, but we will not put artificial deadlines on the process,” he said.
On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would accept the recommendations of the FBI not to bring criminal charges against Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for the Nov. 8 election.
FBI Director James Comey said on Tuesday Clinton had been “extremely careless” in the handling of classified information, and Republicans have criticized the decision not to prosecute.
Comey told a congressional hearing on Thursday that FBI employees who mishandled classified material in the way Clinton did as secretary of state could be subject to dismissal or loss of security clearance.
The agreement, announced on July 5, came in response to a case involving an American civilian base worker suspected of raping and murdering a woman in Okinawa Prefecture.
Under the latest agreement, only four categories of civilian workers, including those who are paid from the U.S. budget, will be covered by SOFA, which gives U.S. servicemen and civilians employed at American bases in Japan immunity from Japanese criminal prosecution in accidents or crimes while on duty.
The changes will deny SOFA-based immunity to some employees of private-sector contractors working in U.S. bases, such as the murder suspect, a former U.S. Marine working as a civilian at the U.S. Kadena Air Base.
But a large number of American civilians working in U.S. bases as well as U.S. men and women in uniform will continue to enjoy their privileged legal status in Japan.
Tokyo and Washington have also said education and training of U.S. troops and base workers will also be enhanced to try to reduce crimes involving them.
These are all predictable responses to the high-profile case in Okinawa. Despite the U.S. military’s move to impose disciplinary measures, however, there have been drunken driving and other incidents involving U.S. servicemen and contractors in the weeks since. The U.S. military should ensure the effectiveness of its education and training.
The latest agreement does not represent a straightforward answer to Okinawa’s repeated calls for a fundamental review of SOFA.
The prefectural government and people in Okinawa regard SOFA as a key factor behind the endless series of crimes and accidents in the prefecture involving American troops and base workers. Okinawan people think SOFA has bred a sense of privilege among members and contractors of the U.S. military that undermines discipline.
After the arrest of the murder suspect, the prefectural and municipal assemblies in Okinawa passed resolutions demanding a revision to SOFA.
Their calls have been echoed beyond the prefecture.
An association of the governors of the 14 prefectures where U.S. military facilities are located has made an emergency request to both the Japanese and U.S. governments for a revision to the pact.
Tokyo and Washington need to continue working together to review SOFA for possible changes to improve the situation. One issue the two governments should focus on is jurisdiction.
Japan has the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over off-duty crimes and accidents involving U.S. military personnel and base workers. But the U.S. military is allowed to hold suspects on base until a formal indictment by Japanese authorities.
Implementation of this provision was improved in response to the 1995 rape of a Japanese schoolgirl in Okinawa by U.S. servicemen and other incidents.
The U.S. military is now supposed to give “sympathetic consideration” to a request from Japan for the handover of a suspect before a formal indictment. But it is up to U.S. forces to decide whether to grant such a request.
If this arrangement is upgraded to a formal SOFA provision requiring the U.S. military to grant such requests from Japan, it will serve as an effective deterrent to crime.
Moreover, U.S. bases in Japan are exempted from various provisions in Japanese laws. U.S. bases for example, are not obliged to restore polluted soil to its original condition.
Domestic laws concerning environmental protection should be applied to U.S. bases in Japan as well. A provision should be added to SOFA to enforce the principle that the responsibility for cleaning up pollution should be laid on the polluter.
The Japanese government is responsible for sincerely conveying the voices of people in Okinawa and the rest of Japan to the U.S. government.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 7
‘Benita’ Salvage Update: Oil Removal Continues as Salvors Explore Options, Worker Injured By Mike Schuler
Work continues around the clock to remove a large bulk carrier from the shores of Mauritius after it ran aground last month following an incident involving a member of the ship’s crew. An update Monday from salvage company Five Oceans Salvage said the Liberian-flagged MV Benita remains hard aground but in stable condition off Mahebourg, Mauritius […]
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The Navy has awarded two key contracts related to its future amphibious operations and replenishment capabilities that if fully exercised could be worth a combined $6.3 billion. The first contract was awarded to General Dynamics NASSCO for the detail design and construction of six T-AO 205 Class Fleet Replenishment Oilers. The contract amount is $640,206,756 for the lead ship in 2016 […]
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The Navy's top enlisted Sailor, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens, was joined by retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox, director of Naval History and Heritage Command, North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham, Capt. James Hawkins, commanding officer of Naval Station Great Lakes, Jennifer Searcy, Ph.D., director of the National Museum of the American Sailor, and representatives from the Great Lakes Naval Museum Foundation and National Museum of the American Sailor Foundation to unveil the new sign in front of the museum.
"Dedicated to telling the story of anyone who has ever worn the Navy uniform, this building will do more than house history," said Cox. "The National Museum of the American Sailor will stand as a place for Sailors, Navy families and proud Americans to learn more about the Navy that serves them by using the history and experiences of our Sailors as the basis for its exhibits."
Cox and Stevens shared the news of the name change with attendees of the Naval Station Great Lakes July Fourth Celebration with a speech and video presentation Monday evening.
The National Museum of the American Sailor name change signals a shift in vision from a regional focus to one that depicts the diverse history of Sailors who have served in the U.S. Navy. The name change also reflects the interest of museum visitors, many of whom travel from across the country to attend the basic training graduations at the Navy's Recruit Training Command.
"What may appear as a simple name change to some, for me, marks a recommitment to my shipmates that as a Navy, and as a Nation, we honor the service and sacrifice of all American Sailors," said Stevens.
The National Museum of the American Sailor currently features exhibits on life in Navy boot camp, naval uniforms and traditions, the history of Naval Station Great Lakes, the role of diversity in the Navy and the role of women in the Navy. Over the next two years, the museum will expand its exhibits to introduce visitors to the overall history and role of the U.S. Navy and the experiences of American Sailors in the past and today
"I am very excited for this 'new' museum, and I welcome you all to visit. Our nation's history would not be the same if it were not for the millions of American Sailors who have served in the United States Navy," said Cox.
The museum is located in Building 42 just outside the perimeter of Naval Station Great Lakes. Building 42, known as Hostess House, was built in 1942 and served as a visitors and reception center for almost one million American Sailors who came through Great Lakes during WWII.
The former Great Lakes Naval Museum was dedicated on Oct. 26, 1996 in Building 158 and opened to the public on Oct. 13, 1997. It became an official Navy Museum in Building 42 in 2009, joining the Naval History and Heritage Command museum enterprise.
The National Museum of the American Sailor is one of ten museums in the naval history enterprise. Other museums include:
--National Museum of the United States Navy (Washington Navy Yard, D.C.)
--National Naval Aviation Museum (Pensacola, Fla.)
--Hampton Roads Naval Museum (Norfolk, Va.)
--United States Navy Seabee Museum (Port Hueneme, Calif.)
--Submarine Force Library and Museum and Historic Ship NAUTILUS (Groton, Conn.)
--Naval Undersea Museum (Keyport, Wash.)
--Puget Sound Navy Museum (Bremerton, Wash.)
--Naval War College Museum (Newport, R.I.)
--United States Naval Academy Museum (Annapolis, Md.)
The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus. SEE SOURCE
Former Marine, a Kadena Air Base contractor, wants murder trial moved off Okinawa By Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press
Kenneth Shinzato, a former Marine who is a contractor at Kadena Air Base, was arrested in May when the victim's body was found. He has been charged with rape, murder and abandoning the body of the woman.
His lawyer, Toshimitsu Takaesu, said he submitted a request on Monday for the venue to be shifted to Tokyo because a local jury is likely to be prejudiced, and to allow Shinzato a proper translator and mental examination."What's most important is for him to have a fair trial," Takaesu said in a telephone interview from his office in Okinawa. "But after massive media coverage, many people already believe he is a bad guy and guilty. Under the circumstances, the verdict is likely to be guilty regardless of the evidence."
He said Shinzato has denied the murder and rape allegations.
Shinzato, a U.S. citizen from New York who was born Kenneth Gadson, married a Japanese woman on Okinawa and uses her family name.The case has triggered outrage and rekindled anti-U.S. military sentiment on Okinawa, where residents resent a heavy American troop presence.
More than half of about 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan under the Japan-U.S. security treaty are on Okinawa. In terms of space, more than 70 percent of Japan-based U.S. military facilities are on the small island. SEE SOURCE
Traci Kroushour, a 39-year-old who lived there in her childhood, is among them.
Her uterus was removed “at age 28 after two miscarriages and a lifetime of chronic ailments like bone death, fibromyalgia, irregular heartbeat, gastrointestinal problems and underdeveloped reproductive organs,” Michigan Live reported.
Other people who lived in proximity to the base have also faced medical conditions. Kroushour’s brother, for instance, “died of a heart attack at age 28,” the report said.
“Two other men who lived on her street also died of unexplained heart failure at a relatively young age,” it continued. “Other women she knew from the neighborhood have struggled with strange reproductive health problems. Causes for all of them have been elusive.”
Michigan officials recently announced that the water at the base is contaminated.
“Local, state, and military officials held a public meeting on March 23 to address citizens' concerns, in which they acknowledged widespread contamination that has existed for decades but has only recently resurfaced as a major hazard,” Michigan Radio reported.
“The U.S. Air Force and the Department of Health and Human Services in December discovered perfluorinated compounds in drinking water wells near the former base in Oscoda,” The Associated Press reported.
Contaminants are “now showing up in concentrations above federal guidelines and investigators say plumes may have been leaching through the groundwater for years,” Michigan Radio reported.
A statement issued by public officials said that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) remain a problem despite initially appearing decades ago since the chemicals do not break down in the environment. It said the PFC issue was not known in 1993 when the base shut down.
“Most appear to be from past use of firefighting foam. These foams were used at many locations on the former base, causing contamination to the ground and groundwater. PFCs may be also present in and coming from the base landfills. The Air Force is investigating the sources of the PFC contamination,” the statement said.
Pennsylvania is struggling with PFC contamination around shuttered military bases, as well.
“Horsham is one of three communities in Bucks and Montgomery Counties where chemicals from firefighting foams used at former naval air bases have leeched into groundwater and community water supplies,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Here are the treatment methods the U.S. EPA recommends to water utilities facing PFC challenges:
In some cases, drinking water systems may be able to reduce concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), by closing contaminated wells or changing rates of blending of water sources. Alternatively, public water systems can treat source water with activated carbon or high pressure membrane systems (e.g., reverse osmosis) to remove PFOA and PFOS from drinking water. These treatment systems are used by some public water systems today, but should be carefully designed and maintained to ensure that they are effective for treating PFOA and PFOS. In some communities, entities have provided bottled water to consumers while steps to reduce or remove PFOA or PFOS from drinking water or to establish a new water supply are completed.
The U.S. EPA issued a health advisory in May about PFC exposure as various cities wage high-profile battles against the chemicals, including Hoosick Falls, NY, and factory towns across the country. PFCs are industrial chemicals, and research has tied them to cancer, the Associated Press reported.
To read more of our PFC coverage visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.