No Internet Sundays: Can you do it?

By Rick Rogers

The idea sounded ridiculously easy. In fact, it hardly seemed like a challenge at all: Go one Sunday without the Internet.

Years ago I ditched my TV for better ways of spending my time. No problem. Never miss it except during football season, and even then there are workarounds.

Why even bother going Internet-less?

First I read the average person spends 40 minutes a day on Facebook and then that Americans 18-64 spend more than 3 hours a day on social media.

Isn’t that pathetic. Who would voluntarily waste so much time tethered to a machine for such purposes when we’re already yoked to a computer at least 8 hours day five days a week?

No wonder many of us are overweight, don’t know our neighbors and haven’t read a book in ages. We’re too busy hunched over keyboards checking emails, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Pininterest accounts with intermittent forays to CNN, FOX and Bleacher Report.

I was feeling pretty smug until I considered my own Internet use and my relationship to it.

The Web isn’t a thing so much as a kind of friend. It teaches me things. Lets me explore. It’s an anonymous comfort. It informs me of the world — all from the comfort of my chair.

It keeps me up with former classmates, entertains me with videos of cute furry animals and, most importantly this time of year, fills me on how my Steelers are doing at training camp.

I’m not addicted to it. I don’t need it. I just like it. We’re collaborators of sorts.

Then came the harder questions: How much time do I spend year in and year out writing and researching and emailing and such? How much of that is legit work and how much less defensible?

I might be an extreme case, but not uncommonly I spend seven days a week up to 15 hours on the net. Almost all of that time is spent researching and writing, but I do seem more preoccupied with non-essential Internet use than I once was.

I wondered if I had unconsciously become something of an Internet Addict. Until that moment the thought had never entered my head. It startled me. I wasn’t even sure such a thing existed until I looked it up online – how rich is that? – and found that such people exist.

I’m not talking about Internet porn fanciers – though the implications of that could well be an extinction event – but the more prosaic and insidious creeping malaise that sneaks up on you without any obvious warning signs. The soft sell you never notice until you’re already in the soup.

So Sunday I took the test.

The computer bongs on at 8 a.m. I turn it off and feel the slightest ripple of separation anxiety. Then I head to the gym after taking some chicken out to thaw.

Upon return, I realize my recipe is online. I search for an alternative but find none. I rationalize and logon at 1 p.m. to gather instructions for old-fashioned chicken and dumplings.

Once the seal is broken, I check out several Steelers websites, CNN, Stars & Stripes and Facebook among others, chalking up the transgressions to the obligations of citizenship and fandom.

Catching myself I shut down at 2:30 and promise not to return until Monday morning. Then I remember a film I want to see, but had some how forgotten that I needed to login to see it.

Around me lay books unread: Michael Lewis’ “The Big Short” and “Boomerang” and Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.”

I ignore common sense and login feeling slightly beaten and much less smug. I watch a wonderful documentary on the theory of relativity and wonder if I’ll be up to the challenge next Sunday.

 

Carpenter Awarded MOH, $54B for Vet Doc appointments

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Military and Veterans Headline News. I’m Rick Rogers * Former Marine William Carpenter received the Medal of Honor from President Obama Thursday for his actions in Afghanistan. Carpenter was gravely wounded while protecting a fellow Marine from a grenade blast nearly four years ago. He becomes just the eighth living Iraq or Afghanistan combat veteran to receive the nation’s highest military honor. * Details are emerging in the capture of alleged terrorist Ahmed Abu Khatallah in Libya earlier this week. He is accused of plotting the 2012 Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. A senior defense official said Abu Khatallah was lured to a villa outside Benghazi where he was taken into custody. Officials say he now headed to the United States to face charges. * Congress’s knee-jerk reaction to allow veterans to get medical attention outside the Department of Veterans Affairs system has hit a budgetary brick wall. The Congressional Budget Office has run the numbers and determined such a move would cost a whopping $54 billion a year.rogers-now-2 Rick Rogers, Military and Veterans Headline News.

Military&Veterans Headline News: Partnership with Iran? Khatallah Standing Trial in U.S.

MVHN618http://defensetracker.com/archives/mvhn61814.wav rogers-now-2donate60-second audio clip of top military and veterans stories  * There’s one less terrorist at large today. American forces grabbed Ahmed Abu Khatallah Sunday in Libya. The U.S. announced the capture of Khatallah who is believed to have masterminded the 2012 U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi that killed ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. A Pentagon spokesman outlined what would happen next. (Kirby Clip) * Iran — long a bitter rival of the United States — is now increasingly viewed as an option by both political sides to help U.S. interests in Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham appear open to the idea. (clips from Kerry and Graham) * The Army has appointed Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl to probe the circumstances of Sgt. Bowe Bergdhal capture by the Taliban in 2009. Dahl will look into whether Bergdhal deserted his post.  Listen here

rogers-now-2

Military & Veterans Headline News 17 June 2014

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rogers-now-2 Military & Veterans Headline News More U.S. troops are in the Middle East in the wake of surging gains by Sunni rebels in Iraq. Joining the aircraft carrier USS Bush in the Persian Gulf is a troop ship carrying 550 Marines. Former Def. Sec. William Cohn predicted Iraq would collapse if the sectarian violence continues. * A new study on Traumatic Brain Injury shows that a high percentage of troops suffer from moderate to severe brain impairment more then a year after their exposure to blasts whether they are were initially diagnosed with a concussion or not. * The Senate has proposed a bill that would double health spending on veterans in three years. The move came after it was revealed that veteran wait times VA medical facilities across the country were manipulated. More than 8 million of the nation’s 21 million veterans are now enrolled in VA health care although only about 6.5 million seek VA treatment every year. Military & Veterans Headline News

Middle East Reshaping

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Link to podcast Defensetracker.com podcast that runs down a few of the stories in the news, namely the crisis in the Middle East and the latest in the Sgt. Bowe Bergdhal case. rogers-now-2

Congressional Hearing into Sgt. Bergdhal Prisoner Swap

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BergdhalhearingThe House Armed Services Committee held Congressional hearings Wednesday into the swap that traded Sgt. Bowe Bergdhal for five Taliban leaders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Here is a brief audio file on Defensetracker.com on some of what was said.rogers-now-2

Military Headline News: Military Brain Implants, Too Fat to Fight, Some Vets offered Private Care Options

Military Plans To Test Brain Implants To Fight Mental Disorders

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, is launching a $70 million program to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders using electronic devices implanted in the brain.

The goal of the five-year program is to develop new ways of treating problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, all are common among service members who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/05/27/316129491/military-plans-to-test-brain-implants-to-fight-mental-disorders

Hagel Orders Review of Military Health Care

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday announced a sweeping review of the Pentagon’s health-care facilities spurred by concern that it could be suffering from strains similar to those afflicting the Department of Veterans Affairs system.

Officials said the review is expected to take 90 days.

As outrage spread over reports that several patients at a VA facility in Phoenix died waiting for care Hagel became concerned about the state of the health-care network that treats the active-duty force, his spokesman said.

“It’s clearly within the context of what he’s watching at the VA,” the Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a statement. “He wants to know what we don’t know. He doesn’t want to wait for similar allegations to appear with the active military healthcare system.”

http://www.stripes.com/news/us/hagel-orders-review-of-military-health-care-1.285738

Vets with more than 30 days’ Wait Will get Private Options, VA says

On the eve of what is likely to be a heated congressional hearing on VA health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Tuesday that it would offer veterans facing waits of more than 30 days for appointments the option of seeking private health care.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, called the move a “welcome change from the department’s previous approach, which was to wait months for the results of yet another investigation into a problem we already know exists.”

The action also comes as Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki has faced calls from not only congressional Republicans but also Democrats to resign. Shinseki is to present to President Barack Obama this week the preliminary results of a nationwide audit of VA health facilities that could determine whether the retired general holds on to his job.

http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/vets-with-more-than-30-days-wait-will-get-private-options-va-says-1.285725

Retired Military Leaders Fret Kids ‘too fat to fight’

Want to improve national security without spending billions on a new weapons system? Slim down America’s kids and teach them to read, some retired generals say.

The Army says more than three-fourths of 17- to 24-year-olds today are not eligible to join the military because they aren’t fit enough or don’t meet other basic requirements, such as having a high school diploma or being able to read or write properly.

That’s got some of the nation’s highest-ranking retired military officials advocating a radical way to improve national security—improve the lives of children.

“It’s not just a school problem. It’s not just a Department (of Education) problem. It’s a national security issue and it needs to be prioritized that way,” said retired Maj. Gen. D. Allen Youngman.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101656954

US Might Train Syrian Rebels

The White House soon may sign off on a project to train and equip moderate Syrian rebel forces, according to Obama administration officials. The move would significantly boost U.S. support for rebels seeking military help to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

President Barack Obama is considering sending a limited number of American troops to Jordan to be part of a regional training mission that would instruct carefully screened members of the Free Syrian Army on tactics, including counterterrorism operations, the officials said.

They said Obama has not given final approval and there still were internal discussion about the merits and potential risks.

http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/us-may-decide-to-train-syrian-rebels-officials-say-1.285797

 

U.S. Troops Leaving the ‘stan by 2016? How the VA Cooked the Books

US to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan at year’s end

President Barack Obama will seek to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the war formally ends later this year and then withdraw most of those forces by 2016, senior U.S. administration officials said Tuesday.

Obama’s decision is largely in line with what military commanders have been seeking and would allow the president to fully end the American-led military effort by the time he leaves office.

The two-year plan is contingent on the Afghan government signing a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. While outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declined to sign the agreement, U.S. officials are confident that either of the candidates seeking to replace him would give his approval.

http://www.stripes.com/us-to-keep-9-800-troops-in-afghanistan-at-year-s-end-1.285664

How VA clinics falsified appointment records

Fake appointments, unofficial logs kept on the sly and appointments made without telling the patient are among tricks used to disguise delays in seeing and treating veterans at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.

They’re not a new phenomenon. VA officials, veteran service organizations and members of Congress have known about them for years.

The “gaming strategies” were used to make it appear veterans were getting appointments within target times set by the department, according to a 2010 department memo to VA facility managers aimed at fighting the practices.

http://www.stripes.com/how-va-clinics-falsified-appointment-records-1.285673

 

Report: US commandos training counterterror teams in Africa

U.S. special operations forces are attempting to build small teams of elite counterterror fighters in four African countries as part of a Pentagon program targeting al-Qaida-affiliated groups, but the effort is struggling to get off the ground as the military confronts a host of challenges in the region, The New York Times reported.

The Pentagon has been working to train special operations units in Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali, where concerns have been growing over groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the Times reported online Monday. The effort involves members of the Army’s Green Berets and Delta Force.

The Defense Department is spending nearly $70 million to help train a counterterrorism battalion in Niger as well as a similar unit in Mauritania. The initiatives are still in the “formative stages,” a senior DOD official told the Times.

http://www.stripes.com/report-us-commandos-training-counterterror-teams-in-africa-1.285630

 

Veterans’ representation in Congress has fallen drastically since post-Vietnam years

As the federal government struggles with problems at the Veterans Administration amid thousands returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it does so with a Congress that has only a fourth of the number of veterans it had after Vietnam.

Currently, about 20 percent of representatives or senators have served in the military, according to numbers compiled by the House Armed Services Committee and the American Legion. In 1976, Legion records show, 77 percent were veterans.

http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/veterans-representation-in-congress-has-fallen-drastically-since-post-vietnam-years-1.285505

 

China calls on US to stop ‘unscrupulous’ spying

China called for a halt Tuesday to what it called unscrupulous U.S. cyberspying, saying that a monthslong investigation into reports on the “ugly face” of U.S. espionage has concluded that China is a major target of those efforts.

The complaint in the form of a government agency report comes a week after U.S. prosecutors charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into American companies to steal trade secrets.

The report by China’s Internet Media Research Center, cited Tuesday by the official Xinhua News Agency, mentioned media reports of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks and said a subsequent investigation by Chinese authorities “confirmed the existence of snooping activities directed against China.”

“As a superpower, the United States takes advantage of its political, economic, military and technological hegemony to unscrupulously monitor other countries, including its allies,” said the report, dated Monday. “The United States’ spying operations have gone far beyond the legal rationale of `anti-terrorism’ and have exposed its ugly face of pursuing self-interest in complete disregard of moral integrity.”

 

Files Uncovered: Nazi Veterans Created Illegal Army

For nearly six decades, the 321-page file lay unnoticed in the archives of the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency — but now its contents have revealed a new chapter of German postwar history that is as spectacular as it is mysterious.

The previously secret documents reveal the existence of a coalition of approximately 2,000 former officers — veterans of the Nazi-era Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS — who decided to put together an army in postwar Germany in 1949. They made their preparations without a mandate from the German government, without the knowledge of the parliament and, the documents show, by circumventing Allied occupation forces.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/wehrmacht-veterans-created-a-secret-army-in-west-germany-a-969015.html

 

 

USAA Announces ‘Top Military Communities’

SAN ANTONIO — USAA, a leading financial services provider focused on serving the military community and their eligible family members, developed its first “Top Military Communities” list to help make it easier for active-duty families to find a home to rent or buy this moving season.

The new list identifies the top communities in the five U.S. metro areas with the greatest military active-duty and dependent populations, as reported by the Department of Defense1, that offer military families a high quality of life in an affordable, off-installation location. The communities that rose to the top of each metro list are:

  • Fayetteville, N.C. – Fayetteville South
  • Killeen, Texas – Harker Heights
  • Norfolk, Va. – Southwest Virginia Beach
  • San Diego, Calif. – Northeast Murrieta (Camp Pendleton), Mission Valley West (Miramar and Navy Region Southwest)
  • Washington, D.C. – West Stafford, Va.

 

“Military families live a uniquely mobile lifestyle, receiving orders to move to a new duty station every few years. We want to make it easier for them to choose their next home,” said Sarah Goodwin, assistant vice president of USAA Home Circle®, a comprehensive service offering USAA members real estate guidance, tools and products. “This list – combined with Home Circle’s property search choices, detailed listings, and network of preferred, local real estate agents – can help remove some of the uncertainty military families face when moving to an unfamiliar area.”

To develop the study, USAA and a panel of local preferred USAA MoversAdvantage® real estate agents who specialize in military relocation reviewed variables for each community, including:

  • Crime rate
  • Affordability
  • Quality of primary schools
  • Proximity to military installations
  • Access to shopping, restaurants, and parks and recreation

 

“One of the most challenging aspects of moving to a new city is figuring out where to live,” said Maggie Hahn, USAA employee and former military spouse. “Before my husband retired from the Marine Corps, we managed six military relocations – most of them with young children in tow. Our primary concern in each move was to find a family-friendly community near the installation that we could afford. With USAA Home Circle’s tools and resources, families can feel confident about their next move.”

To see the lists and search for homes for sale or rent, visit usaa.com/tmc.

 

The Pentagon Is Playing Games With Its $570-Billion Budget

The Pentagon Is Playing Games With Its $570-Billion Budget

Cutting cheap, efficient weapons to make way for much pricier ones

By Winslow Wheeler
Director, Straus Military Reform Project
Project on Government Oversight

 There has been a short-sighted eagerness in some news articles and commentaries to disparage two actions by the House Armed Services Committee in the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

The HASC seeks to retain in the military force structure the Air Force’s A-10 Warthog close support aircraft and the Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington. The Air Force and the Navy want to retire these systems prematurely, thereby seeming to save money.

But the longer-term game being played is to smooth the way for far more expensive, truly unaffordable, replacements the Air Force and Navy have cued up. And in the case of the A-10, the older, cheaper alternative is the inestimably more effective one.

The continuing narrative on the HASC’s rejection of the Air Force’s and Navy’s so-called cost saving measures is that the politicians are preserving their political rear ends and mindlessly running up costs in rescuing the entire A-10 fleet and George Washington in 2015.

It’s certainly true that some, even many, of the advocates of the A-10 and George Washington have very porky basing, employment, contracting and political considerations pushing them.

Arizona Congressman Ron Barber, who has the A-10 based near Tucson at Davis-Montham Air Force Base, and Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia, who never met a Navy program he didn’t like-both of them leading the respective, but separate, efforts in the House-are two cases in point.
It is also true that the HASC’s rejection of Defense Department’s very modest efforts to lower the outrageously high costs of DoD healthcare and across the board pay raises-among numerous other examples-show pandering politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, at their short-sighted worst.

However, there is more to the story on the A-10 and George Washington.
The flattop is due for its mid-life nuclear Refueling and Complex Overhaul costing over $700 million in 2015 and billions overall in the years immediately following. The $3-billion RCOH will keep the carrier for another 30 years. Over time, it would also help keep the carrier force at the statutorily required 11 ships, which the Navy also wants to retain.

And there lies the rub. The larger, and more costly, issue is whether to keep the carrier fleet at 11, which will clearly mean building more of the new Ford-class aircraft carriers-the first one now nearing completion.

The first of those is costing more than $13 billion, and the next one will be very close to that. With or without George Washington living out the rest of her design life, the bigger budget issue is whether to permit the Navy to build more of its Ford-class cost behemoths.

Does it make sense to keep the aircraft carrier fleet at 11 and, if so, does it make sense to buy replacements costing about twice what it cost to buy the earlier Nimitz-class carriers, of which George Washington is an example?

The Navy would like to bias the debate. Its proposition to dump the George Washington early would surely leverage things in favor of continuing with the newer carriers-even making room for more of them, eventually.

Unfortunately, the discussion on George Washington has been almost exclusively on the $700 million to be spent in 2015-not the issue of keeping an 11 carrier fleet and the scores of billions to replace George Washington and other carriers as they age.

Those issues are more controversial and harder to debate. Too many seem unwilling to enjoin them.

That deeper debate would also include what too few understand to be the extreme vulnerability of aircraft carriers to modern diesel-electric submarines and very low altitude, very fast anti-ship cruise missiles. The debate is largely ignoring the key points. Maintaining 11 carriers is excessive, even foolish . and proceeding with the Ford-class is insane.

The current debate is engaging in little deliberation on the former and none on the latter.

The A-10 controversy is even more stunning. Surely, Barber has his own political situation very much in mind as he has argued, both effectively and successfully, to keep the A-10 in Arizona and all other states. But he also has substance on his side-and not all of the A-10 advocates on Capitol Hill have their hand in the home basing till.

Nonetheless, the A-10 is repeatedly listed as an example of the short-sighted, selfish Congress rejecting an Air Force proposal to save money. In fact, quite the opposite is the case.

The A-10 is far less expensive to operate than any of the alternatives in performing the close air support mission. And the A-10 performs the close air support mission for soldiers and marines engaged in ground combat far more effectively than any of the alternatives.

The Air Force’s replacement for the A-10 in the future is the F-35A. Buying just the F-35s needed to replace the A-10 fleet will cost somewhere between $25 and $50 billion-depending on a variety of factors, such as actual unit cost and numbers to be bought.

The F-35 will also cost untold billions more to operate, multiples of what the entire A-10 fleet costs to use. Put simply, keeping the A-10 now is the low cost alternative. The Air Force’s plan to replace it will cost many multiples.

Moreover, the F-35 may even be one of the least effective alternatives to the A-10. It, like the F-16 and B-1B-two of the Air Force’s designated substitutes-is designed for high speed, higher altitude flight and cannot protect itself from any-caliber ground fire.

But also, the F-35 is so complex and burdensome to deploy and maintain that it will simply not be available to fly the day-in, day-out missions that close air support requires across the battlefield. You can’t be effective at any level if you can’t be there.

Unlike all the rest, the A-10 can fly low and slow to find and identify the enemy and protect our own forces from friendly fire. It has the aerodynamic characteristics to turn and re-engage targets in seconds, not minutes, and it is available generally and on a day to day basis due to its low cost and simplicity.

It also has a gun that its enemies know, fear and hope to be replaced by the likes of the guns on the F-16 and F-35. The B-1B has no gun.

Sadly, too many of the A-10 advocates do not put the gigantic cost to buy and operate the F-35 and its relative ineffectiveness front and center in their arguments in favor of the A-10. As a result, they can-and do-fall victim to the short-sighted criticism that they are acting out of selfish, porky considerations, not out of legitimate concern for higher costs and lower effectiveness.

It is indeed short-sighted, but it is not the short-sightedness of rejecting utterly phony Air Force and Navy “cost-saving” recommendations. The A-10 needs to stay in the Air Force-unless and until it is replaced by something even better, rather than the F-35.

And before we drop the George Washington, the country needs a serious debate on not just the size of the aircraft carrier fleet. but also on the inane prices the Navy wants us to pay for any new replacements-should we decide we actually need them.

Winslow Wheeler is director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information, a part of the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C.

 

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