Wednesday, November 10, 2021

U.S. ARMY - Sniper Training Course

"Woman Graduates Army Sniper Course for the First Time" by Chad Garland (Stars and Stripes), 11/9/2021

A Montana Army National Guard soldier has become the first woman to complete the seven-week U.S. Army Sniper Course at Fort Benning, Ga., military officials said.

The service is withholding the identity of the soldier, who graduated Friday.  While she's the first woman to complete the intensive Army training, several have completed a shorter Air Force course to qualify as snipers over the past 20 years.

"We are extremely proud of this soldier's achievement and recognize that this is a milestone for not only Montana, but the entire National Guard and Army," said Maj. Gen. J. Peter Hronek, the state's adjutant general.

The soldier, who enlisted last December, was recommended for the sniper course by her training staff and chain of command during Fort Benning's 22-week One Station Unit Training.

Their endorsement was based on her superior performance, including qualifying as an expert shooter, during that initial schooling that combines basic training with advanced instruction in infantry skills.

"We're all incredibly proud of her," said Capt. Joshua O'Neill, her OSUT company commander.  "There wasn't a doubt in our minds that she would succeed."

She arrived prepared and "met every standard required to graduate" the course, said Capt. David Wright, battalion commander at the U.S. Army Sniper School.

The intensive program trains and tests students on fieldcraft, camouflage techniques, marksmanship, concealed movement, target detection, intelligence preparation and other tactics and techniques necessary to deliver long-range precision fire and collect battlefield information, according to a course description on the Fort Benning website.

"We wish her luck as she heads back to her unit as a U.S. Army Sniper Course qualified sniper," Wright said.

It's the latest in a series of firsts for women since all combat jobs in the military were opened to them in 2015.  But female snipers in particular have a long history of defying traditional stereotypes.

During World War II, Ukrainian-born Soviet Army sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko visited Washington to rally America's support for a "second front" in Europe and was invited by first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on a tour of the country to discuss her combat experience, the Smithsonian Magazine said in a 2013 profile.

Called a "girl sniper" in the American press, which obsessed over her appearance and makeup, she was taken more seriously by the Nazis, who purportedly knew her as "Lady Death."  By the time she reached Chicago, she had some strong words for the large crowd there.

"Gentlemen, I am 25 years old, and I have killed 309 fascist (occupiers) by now," she said.

But the U.S. military did not graduate its first female sniper until 2001, when an enlisted female security forces airman with the Illinois Air National Guard completed the service's pilot Counter Sniper School at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Arkansas.

Jennifer Weitekamp "could put a bullet through an enemy's head from nearly a mile away," the Illinois National Guard said in a statement in 2018, when she was a first lieutenant.  "Such is life for the Air Force's first female sniper -- friendly and easy-going on the outside, but with killer skills inside."

She had responded to a call for volunteers ahead of the 2001 course, she said, but was initially denied entry because it wasn't open to women.  Officials later changed their minds.

That 19-day training program was later renamed the Close Precision Engagement Course and relocated to Fort Bliss, TexasAs of 2012, at least nine women had graduated.

"The school was not easy and there were days I wanted to go home," Weitekamp said in the 2018 statement.  "I was the first woman to go through, it was because of that and the opportunities it would open up for future women that helped me get through the training and kept me motivated."

Monday, November 08, 2021

HOUSTON’S ASTROWORLD - Music Festival Fire

"Houston music reporter’s eyewitness account of concert tragedy and investigationPBS NewsHour 11/7/2021


SUMMARY:  A chaotic crush of fans rushing toward the stage at a Travis Scott show at Houston’s Astroworld Music Festival is being blamed for a ‘mass casualty event,’ that killed at least eight people and injured dozens more.  Houston Chronicle music reporter Joey Guerra was there — he joins Hari Sreenivasan to explain what he saw and what videos are showing as the investigation continues.

WORLD OF CONSTRUCTION - Mass Timber Building Material

"Is mass timber the building material of the future?PBS NewsHour 11/7/2021


SUMMARY:  A new kind of construction with a not-so-new material is taking off in the U.S. Mass Timber can replace steel and concrete in large buildings and proponents say it's greener and faster to build with.  NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Megan Thompson recently visited the Ascent building in Milwaukee, a 25 story mass timber tower that will open next summer.

CURMUDGEONLY LIBERTARIAN - 'Ron Swanson' (Nick Offerman)

"The hilarious Nick Offerman on acting, the pandemic, and hiking ‘on purpose’PBS NewsHour 11/6/2021


SUMMARY:  Most widely known as the curmudgeonly libertarian Ron Swanson on NBC’s hit comedy ‘Parks and Recreation,’ Nick Offerman admits to several similarities with his character: a love of carpentry, whiskey, and the great outdoors.  Now, Offerman is turning his attention to a new cause: environmental activismHis new book, ‘Where The Deer and Antelope Play,’ is a meditation on our relationship to the natural world.  He joins Christopher Booker to discuss.

OPINION - Capehart and Abernathy 11/5/2021

"Capehart and Abernathy on Virginia elections, Build Back Better plan, Colin PowellPBS NewsHour 11/5/2021


SUMMARY:  Washington Post columnists Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy join Judy Woodruff to discuss Tuesday’s surprising election results, the fate of the infrastructure and Build Back Better bill, and reflect on the life and legacy of Colin Powell.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  Democrats and Republicans across the country are examining Tuesday night's surprising election results, with an eye toward crafting their strategies for next year's crucial midterm election races.

Meanwhile, dignitaries in Washington today gathered to remember the life and legacy of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Here to add perspective on all this and more are Capehart and Abernathy.  That's Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post, and Gary Abernathy, an Ohio-based writer and contributing columnist for The Washington Post.  David Brooks is away.

It's very good to see both of you.

And, Gary, you're here from Ohio, and we're glad to see you.

Gary Abernathy, Washington Post:  Thank you for having me.

Judy Woodruff:  So, what a week, as the three of us were just saying.

Jonathan Capehart, you have now had three whole days to think about what happened, what the voters said on Tuesday, and what do you think it was?

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post:  So, I split it between Virginia and New Jersey.

With Virginia, governor-elect Glenn Youngkin showed that it's possible to embrace Trump voters with — but, at the same time, keep Donald Trump out of your — physically out of your state.  He showed, as I mentioned last week, the role of playing on racial fear to drive people out to the polls, particularly when it comes to so-called Critical Race Theory.

In New Jersey, the near political death experience of Governor Phil Murphy, Democrat, to my mind shows the larger, bigger national — the problem that the national Democratic Party has.  Governor Murphy is popular in New Jersey.  He was running on the President's agenda, basically, and the fact that he squeaked it out says that folks in New Jersey are tired, seemingly, of the dysfunction of Democrats arguing with each other over bills, not being able to show they can get anything done.

Judy Woodruff:  We saw more of that today.

Jonathan Capehart:  Yes, and still going on today.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Jonathan Capehart:  And so the party has to figure out how to reach those voters that Glenn Youngkin reached, be able to talk to them, but also show the country that they're competent, that they are worthy of being entrusted with governing.

Judy Woodruff:  Gary Abernathy, what messages do you think the voters were delivering?

Gary Abernathy:  Well, a lot of Democrats are saying that the message was:  We need to do more.  We haven't done this.  We were punished for not passing these bills we promised we were going to pass.

I think it's the opposite.  I think voters were saying:  We don't like what you're doing.

Now, there are two different things here, and the Democrats try to tie them together, the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill, two different things.  The infrastructure bill has tremendous bipartisan support.  They should pass that.  They should pass that tonight and show they're doing something, not just politically, but the country needs this infrastructure bill.

But people thought — we have to remember, the 2020 election was a referendum on Donald Trump.  It was not about issues.  It was not about what Biden was promising to do.  It was, we either want Trump, more of him, or we're going to kick him out.  They voted to kick him out.  The majority did.

But they thought they were getting a safe alternative with Joe BidenAnd he turned out to be a guy who's been much more aggressively liberal with the Bernie Sanders wing than people were voting for.

One key thing from the exit polls on — the Edison exit polls that I think The Washington Post used and other networks…

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Gary Abernathy:  … said that Trump is still unpopular in Virginia.  Seven out of 10 voters thought that Youngkin's policies and ideas were much like Trump's.  Didn't hurt him a bit.  He won.

People are OK with Trump's policies.  They just didn't like Trump.

Judy Woodruff:  But what about what the Democrats are offering?

I hear you, the two of you, saying different things about whether Americans want what the Democrats are debating and still haven't been able to pass yet, Jonathan.

Jonathan Capehart:  Well, I think that's the problem.  They still haven't been able to pass it.

If you tease out every little thing out of both the infrastructure bill, which we know has bipartisan support, but even what's in the Build Back Better Act, last I checked — there are so many things in it — but if you tease out the individual pieces, they have popular support.

It's just that, if you're going to go for it, and you have got the House and you have got the Senate and you have the White House, to the larger American public who doesn't follow the stuff the way we do, they sit back and think, why can't you get anything done if you have all three of these branches?

And that is why this is such a problem for Democrats and the President.

Judy Woodruff:  What I hear you saying, Gary, is, even if they pass this other piece of legislation, that may not help the Democrats.

Gary Abernathy:  I think it hurts them.

I think that it's — again, I'm going to say — and Jonathan and I are disagreeing on this, but the message Tuesday was:  We don't like the direction you're going.

The Democrats, really, if they stopped to evaluate what happened Tuesday, they would be better off sitting and letting Joe Manchin lead the discussion, while Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez kind of sit to the side a little bit and listen, because I think Manchin, to his credit, kind of has a pulse on where America is at now.

And, no, the Democrat Party doesn't have to become the Republican Party, but Joe Manchin is a pretty centrist Democrat who's trying to wave the red flag and ring the warning bells, and no one's listening to him yet.

Jonathan Capehart:  OK.

The Democratic Party, in the Build Back Better plan, for instance, would love for there to be paid family leave.  And I guess conservatives look at paid family leave as paying people to stay home, instead of looking at the domino effect of what it means in order for a family to not risk their job in order to stay home for whatever — for whatever reason, grieving the loss of a parent, a new child coming into the family.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Jonathan Capehart:  There are economic benefits that the American people want, the Earned Income Tax Credit for children, any number of things.

It's not — I don't think it's that the American people don't want these things and that these aren't a grab bag of things to just give away.  They have a benefit for the long-term health and security, economic well-being of this country.

Gary Abernathy:  I think Americans do want a lot of those things, and they do poll as popular item by item.

But Americans love ice cream.  If you did a poll, you would find out almost 100 percent of Americans love ice cream.  It doesn't mean they approve of spending trillions of dollars to give everyone free ice cream.  Not everybody can have things that we all agree, gee, that would be nice.

But, at some point in time, there comes a point where we have to say, we don't have any money.  I mean, we're — I don't care if we're talking $6 trillion, $3 trillion, $1 trillion.  It doesn't exist.  So I think the American people know that too.

Yes, we'd like to have all these things, but our great-grandchildren pay for it?

Judy Woodruff:  One other piece of analysis that's been out there, and it came from James Carville, a longtime Democratic strategist on this program Wednesday night, Jonathan, essentially said this woke business has gone too far, the focus on injustice in our society.

Does he have a point or not?

Jonathan Capehart:  He has a point up to a point.

I understand where James Carville is coming from.  I have heard the quote in full and in context, I get where he's coming from.

But what he's done is, he's basically said to the base of the Democratic Party:  Who cares what you think?

He calls it wokeness.  Is it — it's not wokeness to want to be treated fairly by the police.  It's not wokeness to want law enforcement to not view you instantly as a criminal, instantly as a bad guy.  It's not wokeness to demand that our nation's history be taught and reflected accurately.  That's not wokeness.

That's — at a minimum, it's asking for dignity and respect.  And so for someone, a Democratic strategist like James Carville, to say those things basically to the base of the Democratic Party is really unfortunate, because I think we can talk about these issues of injustice and talk about how to move the country forward together.  These don't have to be two separate conversations.

Judy Woodruff:  This is a larger debate that's been out there, Gary.

Gary Abernathy:  And I actually agree with a lot of what Jonathan just said.  I think that we can talk about the role of slavery, the role of racism in this country.  And we should do more of that.  I agree with that.

But there doesn't have to be — I think what happens is with the wokeness, what a lot of us think of as the wokeness, the cancel culture, is that we have to create villains.  We have to demonize.  To lift up one set of people means we have to demonize another set of people.

And that's what turns a lot of people off to having the conversation.

Jonathan Capehart:  No, I mean, I understand where the sentiment comes from about demonizing people.

But — the people I talked to and the people who I'm associated with and related to, we're not about demonizing anybody.  We're about — could you recognize for a hot minute what we go through?  Can you recognize that there was a clip of a Youngkin supporter saying, well, if young people just treat police with respect when they're stopped, everything will be OK?

No, that is not true.  That is not true.  And so for — until someone like her is able to see that perspective, we're always going to have this problem.

Judy Woodruff:  Like that young person.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes.

We tend to — on all things, whether we're talking about Critical Race Theory, which is not a thing being taught in Virginia schools, but it's a thing.  I mean, it's a theory that a lot of people would like to have taught.

Jonathan Capehart:  In — well, it…

Gary Abernathy:  Go ahead.

Jonathan Capehart:  It's taught in law school.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes.  But there have been — I mean, there have been pushes to get it more into curriculums.

Jonathan Capehart:  Well, that's a larger conversation that we don't have time for.

Judy Woodruff:  It's a larger conversation.

Gary Abernathy:  But there are — it's like one extreme and the other — or the other.

We need to talk, to recognize more about what?  As I said, slavery and race and racism have played a role throughout history in the building of this country, and do that honestly.  And white people shouldn't be afraid to say, you know what, we really haven't done that well, and we need to do a better job of that recognize it, but without making us feel like the villains for doing it.

And I think there is a lot of that.  There's a lot of emphasis on white people need to feel a certain amount of guilt over this.  And we need to get past that.

Judy Woodruff:  I want you to make a comment, and then I want to bring up something else.

Jonathan Capehart:  Sure.  Yes.

I'm not — I'm not asking for guilt.  But I do think white people have to get over the — feeling villainized just even when the word race is used in a sentence.  That's all.

Gary Abernathy:  And you may be right.

Judy Woodruff:  It's a conversation we should continue to have next Friday.


Judy Woodruff:  But speaking of all this, someone who I think represents what black Americans have meant to this country was memorialized today.  And that was, of course, Colin Powell.

There was a service for him.  He was remembered as someone who is an example for generations to come, someone who worked across party lines.

In just a few words, Jonathan, what is his legacy?  What should we take away from this man?

Jonathan Capehart:  He was a statesman.  He was a warrior statesman.  He was the best of this country.

He — when he was thinking about running for President in 19 — in the '96 election, you know what?  I was a young editorial writer at The New York Daily News.  I was a big fan of President ClintonBut the idea that a black man would run for President and had a chance to win left me a little conflicted, because he was a walking role model of who we should be as Americans, but also a walking role model for me, a young black man, seeing a black man like him walking through the corridors of power as if he was just walking in the park.

We need more — we need more people like Colin Powell, regardless of party.

Judy Woodruff:  Admired by so many.  Just 30 seconds.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes, I can't improve on that, but — other than to say, to me, Colin Powell always represented a very classy person, just conducted himself with class.

Even when he was upset about something, even when he was angry about something, even in his criticisms of people, it was done with style and class, which is why I think he was so widely admired across the divide.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, we remember him fondly today.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  Gary Abernathy, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.

Jonathan Capehart:  Thanks, Judy.

Gary Abernathy:  Thanks, Judy.

MEMORIAM - Colin Powell

"Remembering ‘warrior statesman’ Colin PowellPBS NewsHour 11/5/2021


SUMMARY:  Friday at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., family, friends and colleagues of the late Secretary of State Colin Powell gathered to memorialize him.  Presidents Biden, Obama and Bush, and another Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were among the guests.  His loved ones reflected on who he was as a statesman, friend and father.


WATCH LIVE:  Colin Powell's funeral at the Washington National Cathedral (3:27:04)

NICARAGUA - Demolished Democracy

COMMENT:  Daniel Ortega = Donald Trump, when it comes to demolishing democracy.

"How Daniel Ortega ‘demolished’ democracy in NicaraguaPBS NewsHour 11/5/2021


SUMMARY:  This Sunday, Nicaragua will hold an 'election' the United States calls a "sham."  President Daniel Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term and has made sure to silence the opposition before the first vote is cast.  He has locked up candidates and attacked critical media.  His inevitable victory has regional implications for U.S. hopes to strengthen democracy.  Nick Schifrin reports.

AFGHANISTAN - Pose Taliban Takeover Economy

"Dwindling aid, crumbling economy and ISIS add to Afghans’ hardships under Taliban rulePBS NewsHour 11/5/2021


SUMMARY:  It's been nearly three months since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and the country is in economic and humanitarian free fall.  Special correspondent Jane Ferguson was in Kabul during the U.S. withdrawal in August, and has returned to report on the dire situation that has developed since.  She joins Judy Woodruff with more.  This report was made with support from the Pulitzer Center.

JOBS REPORT - Strong Gains...but

"The latest jobs report showed strong gains, but a worker shortage still exists.  Here’s whyPBS NewsHour 11/5/2021


SUMMARY:  The latest jobs report showed stronger than expected gains last month and found more jobs were created in August and September than previously estimated.  The private sector gained momentum, with the leisure and hospitality sector adding 164,000 jobs.  The professional business sector grew by 100,000; manufacturing by 60,000.  Diane Swonk chief economist at Grant Thorton, joins Amna Nawaz with more.

ON THE BRINK - Ethiopian Civil War

"How conflict between Tigrayan, Ethiopian forces is destabilizing the regionPBS NewsHour 11/4/2021


SUMMARY:  The U.S. State Department is now allowing non-essential workers and family members to leave Ethiopia as rebel forces from the Northern Tigray region approach the capital.  The two sides and their allies have been fighting for exactly one year, and as Nick Schifrin reports, the conflict is on the brink of an all-out civil war that threatens to tear apart the country.


"A Brief But Spectacular take on rebuilding and diversifying the Appalachian economyPBS NewsHour 11/2/2021


SUMMARY:  Brandon Dennison is a sixth generation West Virginian who is on a mission to revitalize Appalachia.  His community based non-profit, Colefield Development, has trained over 1200 people facing barriers to employment, helping with education and personal development.  Dennison gives his Brief But Spectacular take on rebuilding the Appalachian economy, and making it sustainable in the process.


"Expert fears partisan actors may replace election workers who quit over threatsPBS NewsHour 11/2/2021


SUMMARY:  It may be election day in 2021, but the attacks on the democratic process during the 2020 election had ripple effects that are still being felt.  The latest PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll this week found that 81% of American adults believe the future of U.S. democracy is under serious threat.  Tammy Patrick, senior advisor The Democracy Fund's elections program joins Stephanie Sy to explore the issue.

RETHINK COLLEGE - Student Stress

"College students’ stress levels are ‘bubbling over.’ Here’s why, and how schools can helpPBS NewsHour 11/2/2021


SUMMARY:  College is a time of major transition and of stress.  During the pandemic, students have been struggling to cope with ever-increasing levels of mental distress among students.  A recent study by The American College Health Association found that one in four students had considered suicide.  John Yang looks at the problem and solutions, on and off campus, for NewsHour's “Rethinking College” series.


"Online threats, armed protestors and other red flags law enforcement ignored before Jan. 6PBS NewsHour 11/1/2021


SUMMARY:  A new three-part investigation by The Washington Post into the forces that led to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 reveals how advance warnings of violence were ignored, and how unprepared the Capitol Police force was.  The Post's senior Washington correspondent, Philip Rucker, joins Judy Woodruff with more details.

MURDER TRIAL - Kyle Rittenhouse

"Analyzing Kyle Rittenhouse’s self-defense claims as jury selection begins in his trialPBS NewsHour 11/1/2021


SUMMARY:  Jury selection began Monday in a highly watched murder trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  The trial will revolve around questions over protests in 2020 that led to riots and whether the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse, recklessly shot people or acted in self-defense.  Stephanie Sy reports and gets the latest from Milwaukee-based criminal defense attorney Craig Mastantuono.

U.S. SUPREME COURT - Week of 11/1/2021

"Supreme Court considers ‘chilling effect,’ enforcement of Texas abortion lawPBS NewsHour 11/1/2021


SUMMARY:  It has been two months since the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortion took effect in Texas, effectively ending access to abortion in the state.  A case against the law has once again reached the highest court in the land.  John Yang reports on how the case got to the Supreme Court again and what could lie ahead.



"Supreme Court mulls limits of Second Amendment in New York gun law casePBS NewsHour 11/3/2021


SUMMARY:  Gun rights and the Second Amendment were front-and-center at the Supreme Court Wednesday, in the first major test of gun regulations since the court said gun ownership was a right protected by the Constitution.  John Yang reports.

ON CLIMATE - UN Summit and more

"The Earth is at a tipping point.  Here’s what’s at stake if we don’t act on climate changePBS NewsHour 11/1/2021


SUMMARY:  In his remarks to global leaders, President Joe Biden said climate change is "ravaging the world" — a message that is likely to be repeated at the U.N. summit on climate change.  World leaders, researchers and activists all say we are at a tipping point to reduce emissions.  But getting commitments that translate to real change is no small lift.  William Brangham reports on the stakes of the summit.



"Here are the latest promises made by Biden, global leaders at U.N. climate summitPBS NewsHour 11/2/2021


SUMMARY:  World leaders at the U.N. climate summit pledged today to cut methane emissions and conserve forests.  President Joe Biden wound up his two days at the Glasgow gathering focusing on America’s role in the new initiatives.  William Brangham reports.



"Glacier ice samples act as records of climate change’s impact on EarthPBS NewsHour 11/4/2021


SUMMARY:  The impacts of a warming world and changing climate are more evident every day.  Many of the Earth's tropical glaciers are in jeopardy because of human activity's effect on the atmosphere.  William Brangham reports on a couple [husband - wife] in Columbus, Ohio, who have dedicated their scientific careers to preserving and studying these crucial, endangered parts of the planet's ecosystem.



"How youth leadership is changing climate activismPBS NewsHour 11/6/2021


SUMMARY:  Young people around the world continue to protest in large numbers over what many see as inaction from political leaders on climate change—today's Global Day of Action is no exception.  As the COP26 conference continues in Glasgow, Jasmine Sanders, Executive Director of 'Our Climate,' a non-profit that works to empower young people to lead and teach others about 'science-based, equitable climate policy solutions,' joins.

MILITARY.COM - Military Storming Capital 1/6/2021

"What Happened to Members of the Military Accused of Storming the Capitol on January 6?" by Steve Beynon and Konstantin Toropin, 11/5/2021

At least five service members allegedly were part of the deadly pro-Trump mob that assaulted the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, leaving behind a ransacked house of government and injured police.

The attack shook the core of democracy in America, with looting and violence as Congress certified the presidential election results.  The sudden unrest forced lawmakers to hide in offices and barricade doors as rioters chanted threats.

Ten months later, the military is finally starting to take action against some of the identified participants of the event.  But most of those accused appear to still be in uniform, serving the country they allegedly attacked.

The five service members are a diverse group.  There are two officers, along with three enlisted.  Four are in the Army and National Guard, and one is in the Marine Corps.  Common to all five are pending federal charges for their actions around and inside the Capitol, and the lack of a clear and decisive response from military leaders.

"I think the way the military is handling insurrectionists, treating them with kid gloves, is another great example of how broken the system is," Kristofer Goldsmith, an Army veteran and CEO of Sparverius, an intelligence firm that researches online extremism and disinformation campaigns, said in an interview.  "There's no excuse for insurrection; it should be treated as the most serious crime someone who swore an oath to the Constitution can commit."

Pentagon officials have been adamant that they are working swiftly to weed out extremists from military service, and that all appropriate action has been taken to discipline service members who participated in the Jan. 6 attack while court cases are ongoing.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is "comfortable that the civilian and military leadership of each of the services are working through appropriately each of these cases," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told on Oct. 27.

The Pentagon has struggled with extremism in the ranks, or even to understand the scope of the issue, as troops become attractive targets for recruitment to radical causes.  The issue is highlighted by the services' slowness in punishing or discharging those allegedly involved in the Capitol mob.

The most decisive response from military leadership so far came in the case of Army Sgt. Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, who was demoted to private and booted from the force in June.  The discharge came almost half a year after his arrest on Jan. 17, according to Army records.  Hale-Cusanelli is also the only defendant of the five to still be incarcerated pending his trial.

Personal photos surfaced of Hale-Cusanelli apparently mimicking Adolf Hitler.  "As indicated by multiple co-workers, [Hale-Cusanelli] shaved his facial hair into a 'Hitler mustache,' which he wore on duty" while working at a Navy base in New Jersey, according to court filings.

Meanwhile, both of the officers arrested, Army Capt. Mark Sahady and Marine Corps Maj. Christopher Warnagiris, are still serving.

Although he was arrested in January, Sahady's lawyer tells that he is now being processed out of the Army.

Warnagiris, who was arrested in May, had a hearing at the end of September where he had to argue his case for staying in the service, a Marine Corps spokesman said.  The service would not provide any more information on Warnagiris' status beyond confirming the hearing and saying that the board’s recommendations are currently under review.

The responses stand in contrast to how quickly and decisively the military often handles infractions of its own policies or laws.  For example, soldiers who are caught with marijuana in their system are supposed to be processed out of the force immediately, according to Army regulations.

The National Guard is seemingly the only service that hasn't begun to give alleged rioters the boot, but it is keeping an eye on federal investigations of accused soldiers.  However, the military does not need to wait for a conviction in civilian courts to move on with a discharge.

Cpl. Jacob Fracker, a Virginia Guardsman, is in a non-drilling status, meaning he isn't reporting to his unit during the investigation into his involvement in the Capitol riot.  Cotton Puryear, a Virginia Guard spokesperson, said more evidence is needed to remove Fracker from the force, though he admitted in social media posts to being part of the mob and posted a photo of himself inside the building during the assault.

"Virginia National Guard attorneys have reached out to civilian law enforcement to request they share any evidence that will not prejudice the ongoing civilian criminal process.  Anything provided will be evaluated to determine if it is sufficient to proceed with an administrative separation board," Puryear told in a statement.  "If there is sufficient evidence, the [Virginia National Guard] will pursue an administrative discharge action against Fracker."

The National Guard declined to disclose details on the other soldier who allegedly participated in the Capitol riot, Pfc. Abram Markofski, a Wisconsin Guardsman.  Maj. Gretel Weiskopf, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin National Guard, cited privacy concerns and would not say whether Markofski has conducted drills with his unit.  It is unclear why Wisconsin chose to withhold that information, but Virginia did not.

Markofski's unit was part of the Guard's massive response to secure the Capitol after it was overrun.  Officials would not confirm or deny whether Markofski was a part of that mission, despite his alleged role in the riot.

"Let me be clear: Extremism is not tolerated in any branch of the U.S. military," Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in a statement to when pressed on the service's claims of taking extremism seriously while troops alleged to have stormed the Capitol to disrupt Congress have been allowed to remain in its ranks.

The Marine Corps declined an opportunity to comment about the speed at which it has handled potential discipline of the Marine who allegedly took part in the attack on the Capitol.

Austin ordered an "extremism stand-down" in March and issued a stark warning to the force that extremist ideology can "tear the fabric" of the military.

Then, in April, he announced tougher screenings for new recruits, as well as a new extremism working group and several commissions to study the size of the problem of extremism within the ranks.  However, outside groups such as Rand Corp. have argued that the Pentagon doesn't need to reinvent the wheel to deal with the problem.  A report published in September argued that re-tooling existing programs to tackle extremism could be more effective.

The Pentagon moves were prompted partly by revelations that the Capitol mob also consisted of dozens of military veteransOne estimate showed more than 10% of defendants in the attack are veterans and those with a background in combat arms made up the majority.

During the stand-down, commanders had to talk about extremism with their formations and its impact on the force and national security.  Some troops have said that the conversations were helpful, while others saw it as yet another check-the-box training event that didn't have buy-in from units.

Many of those involved in the riot appeared to have the false belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.  Numerous state audits, lawsuits and investigations found no evidence of widespread election fraud, and several of Trump's lawyers are facing disciplinary action for including false fraud claims in court filings.

Still, no good data exists on the scope of extremism in the ranks and the reach of such misinformation, which has created a gap in ongoing efforts to counter the problem, Todd Helmus, a behavioral scientist at Rand, told in an interview.

Right-wing extremism appears to be the most common of radical ideologies troops can fall into, and is the top concern among most experts.  Helmus said it can be tough for top brass to address while not appearing partisan.

"This is going to be a challenge for the military.  The data shows far-right extremism is a larger problem," he said.  "They're going to have to deal with conservative communities.  But any sort of effort that looks like it's targeting conservatism ideology is going to be counterproductive."

There's scant evidence veterans or service members are particularly vulnerable to misinformation.  However, bad actors, including militia groups that were present during the siege, such as the Oath Keepers, target troops and veterans for their combat and leadership skills, according to Goldsmith.

Helmus said the key will be giving troops an opportunity to de-radicalize, which could mean counseling from supervisors or mental health care, after they have fallen victim to disinformation and conspiracy theories on social media.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger also told reporters this week that social media is another challenge for screening recruits, even as background checks are becoming more thorough.

"I think this is going to be the tension -- between their individual rights and protections as U.S. citizens versus what we want to discover about their interests and how it might fit in with being a service member," Berger said.

Five service members have been charged thus far with participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection.  Below is a full accounting of the current status of their cases, 10 months after the riot took place.

1.  Maj. Christopher Warnagiris

Charges: Civil disorder; obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting; assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; act of violence in the Capitol grounds; parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.

Plea: Not Guilty

The most senior military member allegedly found at the Capitol that day was Marine Corps Maj. Christopher Warnagiris.  According to prosecutors, security camera footage showed him "violently" entering the Capitol building after pushing through a line of police officers.  Once inside, the Marine officer held the door open for others, at one point pushing a U.S. Capitol Police officer who was trying to close the door.

Warnagiris was arrested for his actions on May 13 but, on June 21, a Marine Corps spokesman told that the artillery officer was still working at his post at Quantico, Virginia.  On June 30, he pleaded not guilty to nine charges.

More than four months after his arrest, the Marines held a Board of Inquiry for Warnagiris from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 in which the officer had to argue for his right to stay in the Corps.  Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Ryan Bruce said that the board has made a recommendation to the general who oversees Warnagiris, but he would not say what that recommendation was or when a decision on his service would be made. reached out to Warnagiris' lawyer, Marina Medvin, several times but did not receive a reply before publication.  She previously noted that DC federal court rules limit what attorneys can say about pending cases.

2.  Army Reserve Capt. Mark Sahady

Charges: Entering or remaining in restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building

Plea: Not Guilty

Sahady, an Afghanistan war veteran who serves in the Army Reserve's 302nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade at Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts, received a letter of reprimand and is currently being processed out of the Army, according to his attorney.  A timeline for his dismissal is unclear.  A spokesperson with the Army Reserve declined's request for additional information.

According to a criminal complaint, Sahady made multiple posts on a now-suspended Twitter account with statements spreading the conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen and that people needed to gather in D.C. for retaliation.

On Dec. 20, weeks before the Capitol siege, investigators say Sahady posted a tweet saying it is "important that millions of Americans show up in DC on January 6 to support the legitimate President, Donald Trump, and show Democrats what they will be facing if they continue to try and steal the Presidency."

When someone on Twitter asked about transportation, Sahady replied, 'we have 7 buses coming," adding there was space left for additional personnel.

On Jan. 4, Sahady tweeted, "January 6 -- Washington, DC -- It begins." The following day, another Twitter account posted a photo, which law enforcement alleges is Sahady on a bus giving a thumbs up, presumably en route to Washington, D.C.

A Department of Justice press release on Sahady noted that he "is the vice president of an organization called 'Super Happy Fun America,' which allegedly purports to advocate for the 'straight community.'"

Sahady's lawyer, John Kiyonaga, told in an email that, in his several years as an Army prosecutor, he "never saw such administrative action on a civilian criminal charge prior to conviction."

3.  Army Reserve Sgt. Timothy Hale-Cusanelli

Charges: Civil disorder; aiding and abetting; obstruction of an official proceeding; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; impeding ingress and egress in a restricted building; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.

Plea: Not Guilty

Hale-Cusanelli enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2009 as a human resources specialist and served in the 174th Infantry Brigade, out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

He was demoted from sergeant to private and booted from force in June, according to Army records.

Federal authorities say Hale-Cusanelli admitted to entering the Capitol and encouraging the mob to "advance" -- giving verbal and hand signals to direct the rioters.  Hale-Cusanelli told a federal informant that the mob could have taken the entire building if they had more men, according to court documents.  He also admitted to picking up a flagpole and flag he observed another rioter using "like a javelin" against a Capitol Police officer, describing it as "a murder weapon."

He worked at Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey, which prompted the Navy to conduct its own investigation, in which "the majority" of his colleagues interviewed described him as a white supremacist and anti-semitic, who was potentially violent.  He also wore a Hitler mustache to work.

One Navy petty officer told investigators that Hale-Cusanelli said, "Hitler should have finished the job."  That petty officer said they considered Hale-Cusanelli "unstable," adding that he made the work environment uncomfortable.  Investigators said that Hale-Cusanelli told another petty officer that, "Jews, women, and blacks were on the bottom of the totem pole."

When investigators inquired about why Hale-Cusanelli's poor conduct wasn't handled, a contractor said they feared for their safety.

On Jan. 6, federal authorities say Capitol Police hit Hale-Cusanelli with pepper spray as he advanced into the building with the mob.  He admitted to law enforcement that he then encouraged others to "advance" past law enforcement.  Rioters began to push and shove police officers; after 30 seconds, the mob broke through and advanced up the building's steps toward the front doors, where Hale-Cusanelli recorded a video yelling, "Trump won!" reached out to Hale-Cusanelli's lawyer several times but did not receive a reply before publication.

While the Army Reserve has made moves to kick out soldiers accused of assaulting the Capitol, the National Guard has been much slower in doling out meaningful punishment against at least two of its soldiers.

4.  National Guard Cpl.  Jacob Fracker

Charges: Obstruction of an official proceeding; aiding and abetting; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building or grounds.

Plea: Not Guilty

In now-deleted social media posts, Cpl. Jacob Fracker, an infantryman with the Virginia National Guard, posted a photo of himself and another individual in the Capitol during the siege and wrote, "LoL to anyone who's possibly concerned about the picture of me going around...  Sorry I hate freedom?...Not like I did anything illegal...y'all do what you feel you need to..."

The posts were cited in his criminal complaint.

Fracker was a police officer in Rocky Mount, Virginia, but was fired for his role in the attack.  He is being charged by federal authorities alongside Thomas Robertson, who federal law enforcement says took the photo with Fracker in the Capitol.

Robertson, an Army Reserve veteran, served in the same police department as Fracker.  During the summer, while awaiting trial, authorities say Robertson purchased 34 firearms, despite a judge's order to stay away from weapons.  During an FBI search of his home, they also found a partially assembled pipe bomb and "large amounts of ammo," according to court documents.

Despite the fact that Fracker, who is assigned to 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, has admitted to being a part of the Capitol mob on social media, posted photos from inside the Capitol, and lost his civilian job over his actions, the Guard hasn't removed him from the force.

Fracker's case is ongoing, but the military doesn't need a conviction to take action.  Troops often are swiftly removed for infractions such as using marijuana or offenses that break military rules, but not the law, such as being overweight. reached out to Fracker's lawyer several times but did not receive a reply before publication.

5.  National Guard Pfc. Abram Markofski

Charges: Entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; violent entry or disorderly conduct; parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.

Plea: Guilty to Demonstrating in a Capitol Building.

Markofski, an infantryman who serves in the Wisconsin Guard's 1st Battalion, 128 Infantry Regiment, is set to be sentenced Dec. 3.

Federal prosecutors say he and a friend traveled to Washington, D.C., from Madison, Wis., to attend the rally held by Trump, where the former President told his supporters to march on the Capitol and "never concede."  He also informed his backers that if they "don't fight like hell," they "aren't going to have a country anymore."

Markofski admitted to federal authorities to being in the Capitol for 40 minutes after Capitol Police warned him to leave, court documents say. reached out to Markofski's lawyers several times but did not receive a reply before publication.

-- Travis Tritten contributed to this story.

COMMENT:  I am a retired USN and Vietnam Vet (22yrs) and when I signed up I knew that some of my civilian freedoms were given up.  The military told me how to groom my hair, what clothing I could ware (on and off duty), how I may behave as representative our military, and more.  So for these military persons to state 'freedom' for their behavior at a Insurrection against our Government is totally wrong.

Friday, October 29, 2021

MILITARY.COM - Japan's Aircraft Carrier

"With a Wink and a Nod, Japan Has an Aircraft Carrier Again" by Konstantin Toropin, 11/27/2021

When Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro returned from his trip to Japan, he fired off a tweet that touted his tour of that country's "Aircraft Carrier Izumo."  It was a short comment that recognized an important new naval reality for the longtime ally.

Japan's pacifist constitution meant its naval forces have relied on ships carrying helicopters for self-defense, not fighter jets -- and it avoided using the term aircraft carrier -- since the end of World War II.

Del Toro, whether intentionally or not, gave a public U.S. acknowledgment of a historic shift by Tokyo toward its past as a carrier power.  Late in 2018, the Japanese announced plans to refit two helicopter carriers including the Izumo for U.S.-built F-35B Lightning II fighters, part of an increasingly urgent effort to counter growing Chinese sea power.

A Navy spokesman said, "The tweet does not signal a change in how the U.S. officially recognizes the ship."

Japan has a self-defense force, what most outsiders would recognize as a military, but its constitution proclaims that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained," meaning that it has historically avoided any military action or buildup considered offensive.

"Governments have argued that Japan has the right to maintain capabilities and use the 'minimum necessary level of self-defense,'" explained Jeffrey Hornung, a scholar on Japan at Rand Corp.  "Historically, anything that exceeds that is considered war potential, and therefore it violates the [Japanese] Constitution."

Traditionally, there were four things that undisputedly fell into that category, Hornung explained: intercontinental and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, long-range bombers, and aircraft carriers.

However, in recent years, Tokyo has increasingly debated more robust military capabilities, such as the fixed-wing aircraft carriers, as fears over the rise of China grow.

The Izumo is a helicopter destroyer that at 27,000 tons fully-loaded is larger than Italy's aircraft carrier, the Garibaldi.

The ship is small compared to the U.S. Navy's 90,000-ton Nimitz-class carriers or even China's 58,000-ton Liaoning carrier.  But it is the largest Japan has put to sea since World War II.

Hornung said China's growing power in the region and its recent moves around the disputed Senkaku Islands are a major factor in the drive to refit the Izumo and her sister ship, the Kaga, to effectively function as small aircraft carriers.

"They want to be able to have that capability [to launch planes] at sea, because there's an expectation that the runways will be destroyed within the first launch," Hornung said.

The move gives another platform for a U.S. ally to fly the most advanced fighter jet in the world.

On Oct. 3, a pair of Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighter jets successfully did a takeoff and landing off the Izumo's deck.  The Marine Corps released a statement announcing the accomplishment, and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force publicly released a video.

This exercise was the first time fighters had flown from a Japanese carrier since World War II.

The decision to refit the Izumo prompted Chinese state-run media to attack Japan's wartime past.

"Japan must not forget its infamous history of invading countries and regions in the Asia-Pacific region during the WWII, as making an aggressive move like this may drive the country to repeat its militaristic history," a 2018 Global Times article said.

Monday, October 11, 2021

TALIBAN - The Clueless Do Not Know How to Govern Afghanistan

"Taliban face growing problems running Afghanistan as talks begin with the U.S.PBS NewsHour 10/10/2021


SUMMARY:  U.S. and Taliban representatives met in Doha, Qatar, this weekend for the first direct talks since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.  The talks will reportedly focus on terrorism, evacuations and a growing humanitarian crisis as winter approaches.  Wall Street Journal reporter Saeed Shah joins from Kabul.

CLEVELAND - Research On the Run

"Research on the run: How a Cleveland city planner is mapping his cityPBS NewsHour 10/10/2021


SUMMARY:  Phil Kidd moved to Cleveland two years ago to work as a city planner.  In the midst of the pandemic, he decided to start an ambitious project to better understand his adopted city.  Kidd has started a project to run all 3,000 street miles in Cleveland, and he researches, and writes about each run on his blog, "Every Street Cleveland."  Special Correspondent Karla Murthy reports from Cleveland.