Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Group exposes those who lie about military service, awards

Larry Bailey, a retired captain in the Navy Seals, said he hates “anyone who lies,” especially about their military service and awards. He occasionally helps a group called the P.O.W. Network check Navy Seal records and expose people who fib.

“If it’s just someone who says they’re a Marine who fought in Vietnam, I don’t worry about that,” said Bailey, who ran Navy Seal training for three years during his career. “If you’re looking for monetary gain or extraordinary personal attention and privilege, I’ll go after you in a heart beat.”

The operators of the P.O.W. Network say they get requests to research people every day. They simply write a letter to the National Personnel Records office and file a Freedom of Information Act request. When they discover imposters, they post it on the P.O.W. website, which features about 3,700 names so far.

People who lie about their service record do it for a number of reasons, according to P.O.W. operators. It could be ego, military benefits or sometimes because of mental illness. Whatever the reason, it’s now easier to file criminal charges.

That’s what happened to Michael Delos Hamilton, a former Marine who raised suspicions after he spoke at a ceremony honoring veterans at the Jacksonville/Onslow County Vietnam Veterans Memorial on April 24. He is facing federal charges for lying about his medals and service.

“What’s really sad is that he dishonored every name on that Vietnam wall when he stood up there and claimed to be somebody that he’s not. There’s 58,000 names on that wall. If it was possible, they all turned over in their grave,” said Sgt. Major Joe Houle, a retired veteran.

Houle was at the event and said he knew Hamilton had already been on probation for lying about his military service once before. The current charges against Hamilton are still pending.

The Stolen Valor Act, signed into law in 2006, makes it easier to file charges for fake claims, but it's also under fire in the courts for violating free speech.

Bailey says the proof is in the paperwork called a DD-214. Where he lives in Beaufort County, even a former police chief's claims of being a Navy Seal were called into question.

“I told the commissioners, after some checking, there’s no way this guy has ever been a Seal,” Bailey said.

Sixty-six people have been charged under the Stolen Valor Act. It's unclear how many were specifically charged with lying about their military record and honors because sections of the law were in place prior to 2006.

Debate Over Afghan Flies

WASHINGTON � The debate over America's longest war was fueled Monday by history's most massive leak of classified documents.

The Pentagon launched a damage assessment of the repercussions from the unauthorized publication on a website called WikiLeaks of nearly 77,000 reports tracking six years of the war in Afghanistan, a posting the White House said could imperil U.S. intelligence-gathering. Pakistani officials denied allegations in the files of complicity between their military spy service and Taliban insurgents.

And critics of the conflict cited the huge data dump � with its portrait of U.S. forces straining to battle a resilient enemy while trying to bolster unreliable Afghan and Pakistani allies � as evidence of why the United States should extricate itself from a war they call unwinnable.

"It doesn't change the bottom line, but it adds detail about the difficulty on the ground, and even more the machinations of the Pakistanis," says Richard Haass, a former senior State Department official who now heads the Council on Foreign Relations. "It reinforces my sense of concern about how difficult this is going to be."

The reports from January 2004 through December 2009, whose authenticity the administration neither confirmed nor disputed, chronicle the tedium of patrol and the terror of attack.

Included are accounts of top officials from Pakistan's military spy service attending insurgent strategy sessions where suicide attacks are planned, of Afghan police soliciting bribes from their fellow citizens at checkpoints, of deadly improvised bombs exploding as U.S. troops patrolled.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs played down the disclosures as well-known problems that President Obama moved to address in December, when he announced the deployment of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, nearly tripling the force he had inherited.

While the contents of the documents may not have been surprising, the quantity of the disclosure was unprecedented � a huge and instantaneous release made possible in the age of the Internet.

Unlike the explosive Pentagon Papers published in The New York Times during the Vietnam War in 1971, the files don't show top U.S. officials misleading the public about the war's course.

The question this time is whether the harsh spotlight and the weight of detail will crystallize growing public unease about the war. Early signs could come today as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on Afghanistan. In another forum for debate on the war, the House this week plans to take up a $58.8 billion funding bill for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Liberal Democrats including Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich vow to fight the measure on the floor.

The documents were posted Sunday on WikiLeaks.org and detailed in reports in The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel, which were given embargoed access to the files several weeks ago.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called on the Defense Department to investigate the leak and bring those responsible "to account."

While acknowledging the risks of disclosure � for instance, that confidential informants inadvertently might be named � Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists said the documents "deal with a subject of obvious public interest" and would stimulate debate on an important issue.

"I think leaks serve as a safety valve when classification gets out of control," said Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy.

There may be more disclosures ahead: Julian Assange, an Australian who founded WikiLeaks, said during a news conference in London that the website is working through a backlog of another 15,000 documents. Some of the current revelations, including efforts to track down and kill senior Taliban officials, could amount to war crimes, he said, comparing the release to that of East German secret police files after the Berlin Wall fell.

"What is the most single damning revelation?" Assange asked. "That is not the real story of this material. The real story of this material is that it's war. It's one damn thing after another. It is the continuous small events � the continuous deaths of children, insurgents, allied forces. …

"Most of the deaths in this war are as a result of the everyday squalor of war, not the big instances."

The most volatile allegations may be the accounts of envoys from Pakistani's military spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, attending war councils of the insurgents. Reports that the ISI was helping the Taliban even as it accepted millions in U.S. aid have long been a point of contention between the two countries.

Officials in both capitals said those problems were in the past.

At the State Department, spokesman P.J. Crowley emphasized the new "positive trajectory" in U.S. relations with Pakistan on the war. "This is a true partnership going forward," he said, saying Pakistan is "investing its own treasure and spilling its own blood in defense of its country."

Overseas, Pakistan Ambassador Husain Haqqani said the documents "do not reflect the current on-ground realities." Islamabad's ministry of foreign affairs issued a similar statement. "The people of Pakistan and its security forces, including the ISI, have rendered enormous sacrifices against militancy and terrorism," the ministry said.

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said Pakistan has "changed a lot of its behavior, largely because it has been threatened by these extremists."

On other fronts, the documents report:

•Civilian casualties are higher than officially reported, and include deaths and injuries involving hundreds of civilians that previously had been unknown. At least 195 civilian deaths and 174 injuries were cited, not including disputed incidents.

•Taliban weapons are more sophisticated, and U.S. weapons sometimes less so, than previously acknowledged. The Taliban has used portable heat-seeking missiles, which helped Afghanistan beat back the Soviet invasion in the 1980s, against U.S. aircraft. At the same time, U.S. drones have often crashed or collided.

USA TODAY did not independently verify the documents' authenticity. Gibbs said the administration was proceeding as though they were legitimate, though he didn't specifically say they were.

Opponents of the war seized on the documents to make their case. "92,000 reasons to get out of Afghanistan and Pakistan: Pick one," was the headline on a news release by Kucinich.

"This could do what the Pentagon Papers did in relation to Vietnam: It strengthened the impulse to end American involvement," said historian Robert Dallek, who has profiled the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. "These reports could strengthen the impulse to reduce and limit American involvement in Afghanistan."

Most Americans continue to support the war in Afghanistan, launched to oust havens for the al-Qaeda terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. However, the nearly universal support at the time the war began has eroded.

In a Gallup Poll two weeks ago, a record high 38% said the USA "made a mistake" in sending military forces to Afghanistan; 58% said it was not a mistake.

Six of 10 said the war was going badly for the United States. In a CBS News survey this month, Americans were divided, 43%-44%, when asked whether they approved or disapproved of the way Obama was handling Afghanistan.

U.S. officials say they have been expected a deluge of classified documents since the recent release of a 2007 video that showed unarmed men walking down a street in Iraq before being shot by Apache helicopters. The American gunners on the cockpit video can be heard laughing and referring to the men as "dead bastards."

A 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst, Spc. Bradley Manning, was charged in the case with multiple counts of mishandling and leaking classified data and putting national security at risk.

Former computer hacker Adrian Lamo of Sacramento told Wired.com and the Associated Press he had alerted the military after Manning confided in him online that he had leaked the video as well as 260,000 classified diplomatic cables.

Marine Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday that Manning has "neither been ruled in or ruled out" as a suspect in the new unauthorized disclosure of documents.

At first blush, the size of the disclosure of military secrets from Afghanistan is "alarming," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell, but he said it was "just way off base" to characterize the documents as "the second coming of the Pentagon Papers."

Instead, he called them "a bunch of combat reports" that lack analysis and, in any event, were quickly outdated. They offer a "very narrow perspective" of the war, he said.

The impact, administration officials and military analysts say, may come less from the release of the reports than the details it provides of how the United States gathers intelligence and from whom.

"There is 100% likelihood that sources and methods are now being revealed," said retired general Barry McCaffrey. Insurgents will study the reports both to identify Afghans and others who have helped U.S. forces and to figure out how intelligence has been gathered, he said.

"Some sources may get murdered, and more likely all sorts of things will start drying up," McCaffrey predicted. "That could drastically affect our war-fighting ability."

Supporters of the war expressed outrage over the leak. The publication "is deeply troubling and a serious breach of national security," said Arizona Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "The source of this harmful leak within the U.S. government should face the full penalties of the law."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who arrived in Washington Sunday from his fifth trip to Iraq and third to Afghanistan, dismissed the contents of the documents as not being "particularly new," but said he had found "a very kinetic and complex situation" in Afghanistan, in some ways a more complicated one than in Iraq.

"The situation in Afghanistan is going to require strategic patience by the United States and our citizens," said Pawlenty, who is considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

Even Daniel Ellsberg said releasing the documents to anyone with a computer connection raised questions beyond those that faced him when he turned over most of the Pentagon Papers to congressional committees and then The New York Times in 1971.

"I had read all of those, of course, and I did make the judgment that there was nothing in there that was going to harm national security or individuals," Ellsberg, now 79, said in a telephone interview from Mexico. He was there to attend a screening of a documentary about himself called The Most Dangerous Man in America. "With a vast amount of information like this, it's hard to imagine that there was a very considered decision in releasing all of it."

Assange's judgment would be "tested," he said.

On balance, though, Ellsberg said he supported the decision to put the documents in the public realm.

"To think that all the risks are only on the side of releasing it would be mistaken," he said. "Continued secrecy does put a lot of American and Afghan lives at risk."

Contributing: Peter Eisler, Mimi Hall, Kathy Kiely, Jim Michaels, Richard Wolf, Tom Vanden Brook and the Associated Press


Mental Illness Accounting for More Military Discharges


The number of soldiers forced to leave the Army solely because of a mental disorder has increased by 64 percent from 2005 to 2009 and accounts for one in nine medical discharges, according to Army statistics.

Last year, 1,224 soldiers with a mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, received a medical discharge. That was an increase from 745 soldiers in 2005, or about 7 percent of medical discharges that year, according to personnel statistics provided to USA TODAY.

The trend matches other recent indicators that show a growing emotional toll on a military that has been fighting for seven years in Iraq and nine years in Afghanistan, the Army and veterans advocates say.

V.A. Eases Rules for Medical Marijuana Patients

Washington, D.C.--(ENEWSPF)-- Major news! The Department of Veterans Affairs has formally announced that patients being treated at V.A. facilities will be allowed to use medical marijuana if they live in one of the 14 states where it is legal.

This historic development was trumpeted over the weekend in a front-page New York Times story that quoted MPP’s Steve Fox. “We now have a branch of the federal government accepting marijuana as a legal medicine,” Steve told the Times, adding that the department needs to make its guidelines clear to patients and V.A. officials nationwide.

Under the policy, V.A. doctors still won’t be allowed to recommend marijuana to patients, but legal medical marijuana users will not be automatically precluded from pain management programs. Previously, many veterans believed they could lose access to prescription pain medications if they were found to be using medical marijuana, and some—including an Army veteran interviewed by The Times—were even told they needed to choose between medical marijuana and other pain medications. This latest policy clarification should prevent similar future incidents.

But there is still more that needs to be done. The new policy does not apply to patients or veterans in the 36 states where medical marijuana is still illegal. Many veterans rely on the V.A. for all their healthcare needs as well, and even if they live in a medical marijuana state, they may not be able to receive a recommendation from a non-V.A. doctor.

Regardless, this is a huge step forward – and one more crack in the federal government’s baseless opposition to sane medical marijuana policies.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

VA is long overdue in updating health care for female Veterans


Despite some progress, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a long ways to go in improving health care for female veterans.

The Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2009 was signed into law in May. The bill, spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., directs VA to get serious about reforming a veterans medical care system designed for male veterans.

Time is of the essence; tens of thousands of female veterans who have served their country in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home, many in need of mental and physical care specific to women’s needs.

For instance, about 22 percent of the women using the VA health care system are suffering from the effects of sexual trauma experienced while serving in the military. These women are nine times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder than women who weren’t sexually assaulted while in the military.

Compare those statistics with the findings of an audit of VA medical centers by the Government Accountability Office this spring.

GAO surveyed 19 VA medical centers. Only two of them had tampon or sanitary-napkin dispensers in public bathrooms. None of the centers surveyed was in complete compliance with regulations that govern women’s privacy.

Only 37 percent of the VA’s 144 medical centers had a gynecologist on their medical staff.

Veterans Affairs is clearly struggling to reform a hospital system created in 1930 for retired service members who were all men.

Flash forward 80 years. There are about 1.8 million female veterans, a number that has grown steadily since women other than nurses were allowed to first serve in the regular and reserve forces in 1948. Women represent 7 percent of the total veteran population.

Women make up about 15 percent of the U.S. current active duty, guard and reserve forces. As soldiers from the two overseas combat zones come home, the number of female veterans projected to use the VA system is expected to double in the next five years.

About two-thirds of the female veterans who have served in Iran and Afghanistan and enrolled in health care programs are under 30 and in the prime of their childbearing age. However, it wasn’t until May that VA was authorized to care for newborns.

There are other alarming statistics that point to the urgent need for VA to expand programs for female veterans. For instance, divorce rates among female soldiers on active duty are three times higher than their male counterparts.

The Department of Veteran Affairs also acknowledges that female veterans are four times as likely to end up homeless as male veterans and twice as likely as civilian women.

There are signs that conditions are starting to change in the VA medical systems. A few cases in point:

• The VA last year completed a hiring program to install a full-time program manager in charge of coordinating care for women veterans issues at all 144 of its hospitals.

• Outpatient and inpatient trauma treatment programs are cropping up around the country, including one staffed almost entirely by women in Menlo Park, Calif.

• The Veterans Health Administration published a handbook that provides guidelines to its medical personnel for proper care of women, including privacy requirements. In addition, some 400 health care providers in the VA system have received crash courses in the past two years on health care topics specific to women, including contraception and cervical-cancer screening.

• The VA has set aside $210 million in its 2011 budget for programs aimed at women veterans, including a call center available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as well as a social-networking site for female combat veterans.

Changing the male-dominated culture at VA is long overdue. Congress and advocates for women veterans must keep the pressure on to accelerate the necessary reforms.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dog teams seek a hidden enemy in Afghan war

Khalid Ahmad trains Betty, a 20-month-old German shepherd, to search for mines in a straight line.

Besmila Qalandari, who was injured by a land mine, works with Jimmy at the Mine Detection Cente

By William M. Welch, USA TODAY

ABUL — In the struggle to bring peace to Afghanistan, few can claim a more dangerous job than the one Betty and Jimmy are preparing for.

Friendly and eager young German shepherd dogs, they are being trained to search for the remnants of war — hidden land mines and unexploded bombs.

Not only do unseen explosives kill military troops, they take a heavy toll on the innocent. More than 700 civilians are killed or maimed annually in Afghanistan, over half of them children, says the International Committee to Ban Landmines.

NATO and U.S. forces fighting the Taliban jihadist movement do not use mines. But the Taliban does, and so did former occupiers of Afghanistan such as the Soviet Union.

More than a dozen programs and contractors are working to eliminate forgotten mines in Afghanistan. One, the Mine Detection Center of Afghanistan, known as MDC, focuses its efforts on breeding, training and using dogs to detect mines.

Funded by international partners including the United States, its dog handlers and mine teams are Afghans.

"Dogs are very sensitive animals — loyal and accurate — and they are very cost effective and efficient," says Mohammad Shohab Hakimi, MDC director.

The 20-year-old program, based on a hilltop overlooking the capital, has more than 260 dogs at locations around the country. Last year the group cleared 3,248 acres of Afghan land, according to the MDC's annual report.

Like other de-mining operations, the program also uses heavy machinery and human-operated detection equipment. But Hakimi says the dogs are better and faster because of their powerful sense of smell. Dog teams can clear about five times the area human teams can and 2½ times the area heavy machinery can clear in the same period, he says.

"The dog is very quick," Hakimi says. "Dogs use their nose first, second their ears, and also their vision."

They are trained to search in straight lines, back and forth across the mine field. When it detects a mine, the dog sits and looks to its handler until given a command to return. As a reward, it gets a little play time with a toy. The spot is marked and the mine detonated.

Since the program began in 1989, the MDC has lost seven dogs and about 30 people to explosions, Hakimi says. Besmila Qalandari, who is training 1-year-old Jimmy, lost his left eye when a mine exploded at Jalalabad in 1993. His dog, Axle, died.

"I felt sad," Qalandari says. "I had worked with that dog for 2 years."

Sayed Mustafa, the assistant training manger, lost his dog, Amy, in an explosion at Kabul Airport during that same period. But he presses on with his animals.

"Dogs make our jobs fast, and some mines, Italian and Iranian particularly, are very hard to find with machines," he says.

The program uses German shepherd and Belgian Malinois dogs, a similar, slightly smaller breed. Mustafa says females tend to do better than males.

"The females more love the handler and obey all the rules," he says. "They are more lovely."

By the time they are a year-and-a-half old, dogs such as Betty and Angi are working with their handlers and finding bombs daily. Angi quickly finds one for an observer. "A gift from our Russian friends," says her handler, Abdul Hafeez, kicking dirt aside to reveal the device.

Dogs are worked about four hours a day, plus breaks, starting at 6 a.m. and ending by noon because of the heat. After two months in the field, each dog gets 15 days' rest. Dogs that wash out, or reach the end of their careers, are offered to embassies as pets. Some are destroyed.

Mines sown over Afghanistan come from many sources. Many date to the Soviet Union, which invaded in 1979 and stayed for 10 years. Some, such as "butterfly mines," were dropped from aircraft.

Besides endangering people, the mines deter reconstruction and development.

As the Taliban steps up terror attacks, the danger increased to the demining teams. Dogs and their handlers have been killed and kidnapped by insurgents.

Three MDC workers were shot dead in southern Kandahar province in 2007, and two more were killed in 2008 in Kunduz province. Five people from another de-mining group were killed in Jowzjan province. Last July, gunmen kidnapped 16 MDC workers in eastern Paktiya province; they were released after intervention by local leaders.

In Kabul, Betty, at 20 months, is readying for her final exam and certification by a United Nations evaluating team. The dog easily finds a series of mines, some in the ground three years.

"We used to have only one enemy, the hidden enemy, the mine," Mustafa says. "Today we have other enemies — insurgents, unknown gunmen. It is very dangerous."

For vets with PTSD, end of an unfair process

Help veterans: Marine Lance Cpl. Greg Rivers waits to take psychological tests in Sylvester, Ga.

For 38 years, I was privileged to serve the men and women entrusted with our nation's security. The character of their service is reflected in something called The Soldier's Creed. Most everyone I have met who is familiar with its four key lines agrees that they define the essence of uniformed service:

I will always place the mission first;

I will never accept defeat;

I will never quit;

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Four simple, declaratory statements — promises that form the foundation for trust within military formations.

Especially in time of war, those who wear our nation's uniforms and their families bear incredible burdens for us. A new generation faces the demand for courage, strength, dedication and stamina — as daunting today as it has ever been. Failure is never an option. Our servicemembers have never failed the nation, the mission, or their comrades.

But the toll for this kind of loyalty and dedication is high. Troops are returning with invisible wounds that can be as debilitating as any physical battlefield trauma. As in every conflict in our nation's history, today's warriors are suffering emotional injuries just as they do physical ones.

The residual effects of combat manifest themselves in every combatant's life. You have to be strong to prevail. You must be loved, respected and supported to weather the worst of the storms. You must be patient, and it helps to be lucky. And you must have the strong, unwavering support of the nation that sent you on those missions.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) there is only one goal — to ensure that veterans of every generation receive the best possible health care and the benefits they have earned.

Previously, veterans filing for health care and disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were required to document in detail the causes of their symptoms. These have traditionally been called "stressors."

The rules stringently required veterans, who served in the combat branches of the military, where the likelihood of direct action against an armed enemy was highest, to provide detailed documentation of those engagements. For those not serving in the combat branches, the burden of proof was even higher. But in either case, these rules were neither fair nor sustainable.

At VA, we're now moving to treat all veterans equally. On Monday, VA begins simplifying the process by which veterans with PTSD are able to access health care and receive benefits.

Streamlining this process will help not just the veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, but generations of veterans who have previously "borne the battle" for our nation.

We're publishing a regulation Monday in the Federal Register that simplifies the process for claiming service connection for PTSD by reducing the documentation needed for veterans to validate the specifics of place, type and circumstance of incident. From this point forward, VA will not require corroboration of a PTSD stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity, if a VA doctor confirms a diagnosis of PTSD and the stressful experience recalled by the veteran adequately supports that diagnosis.

This decision to simplify the process has been validated by an Institute of Medicine study, which concluded that service in a war zone is inherently linked to increased risk of PTSD.

As President Obama has said, "Just as we have a solemn responsibility to train and equip our troops before we send them into harm's way, we have a solemn responsibility to provide our veterans and wounded warriors with the care and benefits they've earned when they come home. That is our sacred trust with all who serve — and it doesn't end when their tour of duty does."

In Profiles in Courage, President John F. Kennedy, himself a combat veteran, noted, "Without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men ... have lived. The courage of life ... is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy."

The courage to deal with the effects of battle is real, and it takes courage and determination to mitigate its effects once we return from operations. It has been so for every generation of warriors.

Simplifying the documentation needed to receive medical care and compensation for service connected to PTSD upholds our commitment to those who protect our freedoms — not just the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, but all generations of veterans, who proudly served and sacrificed in their time.

Obama commits wartime blunder

Ron Fink/Commentary

Well, President Obama and his crew have chosen to sack Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Commander of International Security Assistance Force and Commander, United States Forces Afghanistan, because of remarks he allegedly made to a “reporter” from Rolling Stone, an anti-establishment, left-wing entertainment magazine.

Who would you want to go to war with — a general officer with

36 years of experience or a president with only

18-months experience as an executive?

Gen. McChrystal’s career (www.cfr.org/pub lication/19396/biography_of_gen eral_stanley_mcchrystal.html) began as a platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., and ended abruptly late last month. Qualifying for leadership in an Airborne Division is far removed from the life experiences of the man who relieved him of his command. You see, in McChrystal’s world you are qualified by your command presence, problem solving ability and physical condition, not by your ability to organize fringe groups or by misleading people.

McChrystal seemed to follow the more difficult path his entire career, earning three Legions of Merit and a Bronze Star as he moved from the Army Airborne to Rangers and Special Forces assignments. Always a part of “point-of-the-spear” units and was appointed as a four-star general by Obama in 2009.

The reason he was fired is attributed to disparaging remarks he made concerning the political leadership of the Afghanistan campaign; remarks that are forbidden by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 88 of the UCMJ says. “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

But, I am suspicious of how the reporter acquired the information in his article. I doubt very seriously that he stood in front of McChrystal, pad in hand and asked him the direct questions that lead to the remarks he quoted. A more likely scenario is that he was on the fringes of a conversation between soldiers, including McChrystal and his staff and repeated “off the record” remarks.

If you read the article it was full of similar locker-room comments (“Google it” yourself).

This doesn’t lessen the impact of the remarks; for any officer, especially a general officer to use “contemptuous words against the President” in any forum is not only unusual, but also intolerable. So, McChrystal is guilty of acting stupidly, a trait that is not uncommon to Vice President Joe Biden almost daily.

The left-wing media, like the Huffington Post, are heralding McChrystal’s firing: “When Rolling Stone’s profile of Stanley McChrystal was published this week, it took down a general who had managed to retain his post as the most senior military commander in Afghanistan despite previous failings and personnel issues.”

Missing from their assessment of this action is the propaganda implications of “taking out” a top general in wartime. Our enemies scored a major victory, one that they could not have accomplished themselves, by the removal of the commander of Afghan operations.

So, who did Obama choose to replace him? In effect, he demoted Gen. David H. Petraeus from the commander of Central Command to a lower level role as the field commander in Afghanistan. He may not have realized it, but by doing this he may have adversely affected troop morale.

In military circles it is uncommon to take a person charged with managing multiple missions and reassign him to a subordinate command position unless he has demonstrated that he cannot handle the higher level assignment. Frequently, this is viewed as a career ending move.

Maybe this is an indication of why McChrystal thought Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by a roomful of military brass, because he is and doesn’t have a clue how the military hierarchy of command works.

Ron Fink is a longtime Lompoc resident and a community activist. He can be reached by e-mail at ronfink63@yahoo.com.

Back home, female vets fight for recognition

A piece of Genevieve Chase's blown-up vehicle reminds her of her service in Afghanistan. Chase is founder of American Women Veterans.

By Natalie Bailey - Medill News Service

With her copper hair, pale skin and small stature, Army Reserve Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, 26, stands out in the Veterans Affairs Department hospital waiting room filled with Vietnam War-era veterans.

She’s there for treatment of shrapnel injuries she received two years ago, after a roadside bomb hit her Humvee as she drove through West Rashid in Baghdad.

She said it’s not uncommon for her to be the only woman in the hospital waiting room, and to hear comments like, “You’re the prettiest vet I’ve seen all day.”

Although that brings unwanted attention, at least it shows the men take her for a veteran. Camouflaged by their gender both inside and outside VA hospital doors, women in the military are routinely mistaken for spouses and daughters — anything but combat veterans.

“It makes us feel invisible,” said Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Genevieve Chase, 32, founder of American Women Veterans. “It makes these women feel like their service didn’t matter.”

Now making up an estimated 15 percent of the armed forces, women are increasingly assuming roles and duties that put them in combat situations — partly because gender barriers continue to fall, and partly because of the nature of the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But some say VA has been slow to reflect the dramatic shift in the health care needs of female troops.

This means more women are returning to a system of care that doesn’t understand their issues. Hunt said her VA doctor “was very surprised by my injuries. She said she didn’t know females were actually on the front line.”

For the past few years, a campaign to reform the VA health care system has resulted in small victories. But a major triumph came in May when President Obama signed several reforms into law, including a task force to report on the needs of female veterans.

The patients

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq already have added 100,000 female veterans to the system, according to VA. In less than 10 years, the population of female veterans has nearly doubled to 7.8 percent of all vets. And there are more to come with the planned withdrawal of troops from Iraq this summer.

The nature of these extended wars has forced VA to reassess how it cares for these veterans and how treatment may have to be adjusted for women.

What appears on paper to be a clear prohibition against women in combat blurs amid the reality of modern warfare. In combat support jobs — civil affairs, intelligence, military police, transportation and other skills — women increasingly are outside the wire, facing as much danger as male troops.

“This is a different war. Before, we didn’t have women in combat roles,” said Dr. Robin Peck, who oversees the women’s program at Washington’s VA hospital and four community clinics.

And VA “is still playing catch-up,” said Chase, who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after a roadside bomb hit her vehicle in Afghanistan.

Breaking ground

Chase and Hunt, who works for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, get medical care at the VA hospital in Washington, which Hunt described as one of the more progressive in meeting women’s needs.

Within a year, the hospital plans to break ground on a 5,000-square-foot women’s wing with a goal of creating a “one-stop shop” for all women’s health care needs.

“Not only will we have more space, we will be able to provide more services within a particular area,” said Gale Bell, the hospital’s women’s veteran program manager and clinical coordinator. The main purpose is to provide female veterans with dignity, privacy and access to services they need, she said.

In May, at a “Ladies’ Night” event at the hospital promoting the groundbreaking, Patty Shinseki, wife of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, thanked women for their service as they arrived.

“Hearing the words, ‘Thank you for your service,’ was huge,” said Army Maj. Marie Jenkins, tears in her eyes. “It’s important to many people here not to have men around, just to have female vets.”

The waiting room

Over the next few months, veterans across the nation should expect to see pilot programs for child care at VA facilities and women-only retreats for those returning from deployment. The law signed by Obama also provides for unprecedented care to babies born to mothers who are under VA care — up to seven days after birth.

The provisions were largely drawn from a female veterans’ health care bill sponsored last year by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

“I got involved with issue when I noticed how invisible female veterans were,” Murray said. “There’s a knowledge gap in dealing with women’s issues, and there’s a lot to change.”

The new law, together with the wide scope of the task force that will report on women’s needs, has encouraged veterans. “We’re not just saying help veterans, we’re telling you how, we’re telling you who and we’re telling you in what ways,” Chase said.

But while pilot programs are to be in place by October, VA is not clear on specifics. And the task force on women’s needs is contingent on the completion of a final report of the National Survey of Women’s Veterans from 2007 to 2008. VA was unable to say when that report might be finished.

VA hospitals are used to such holdups, said Jim Gleisburg, spokesman for the VA Medical Center in Leavenworth, Kan.

“There has been a slow increase over many years for women to get the type of care they deserve,” he said.

But the first step — getting women to feel comfortable defining themselves as veterans and seeking help — is being taken, Chase said.

“If you are a woman who served in the military, then you need to understand that you are a veteran, and that there are so many other women who know what it’s like to feel looked over or not acknowledged for their service,” she said.

Army reports record number of suicides for June

Soldiers killed themselves at the rate of one per day in June making it the worst month on record for Army suicides, the service said Thursday.

There were 32 confirmed or suspected suicides among soldiers in June, including 21 among active-duty troops and 11 among National Guard or Reserve forces, according to Army statistics.

Seven soldiers killed themselves while in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan in June, according to the statistics. Of the total suicides, 22 soldiers had been in combat, including 10 who had deployed two to four times.

"The hypothesis is the same that many have heard me say before: continued stress on the force, said Army Col. Christopher Philbrick, director of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. He pointed out that the Army has been fighting for nine years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year was the Army's worst for suicides with 244 confirmed or suspected cases.

The increase was a setback for the service, which has been pushing troops to seek counseling. Through May of this year, the Army had seen a decline in suicides among active-duty soldiers this year compared with the same period in 2009.

Philbrick expressed frustration over the June deaths. "Because we believe that the programs, policies, procedures ... are having a positive impact across the entire force. The help is there."

A leading military suicide researcher says changing a culture that views psychological illness as a weakness takes time.

"I would expect it to be years," said David Rudd, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The mounting stress on an Army facing renewed deployments and combat in Afghanistan is also a factor, Rudd said. "That's not a challenge they (Army leaders) control. It's a challenge that the president and Congress controls," he said.

The Army also unveiled on Thursday a training video designed to combat suicides. It contains testimonials by soldiers who struggled with self-destructive impulses before seeking help. It is titled Shoulder to Shoulder: I Will Never Quit on Life.

Philbrick said this was an improved video that he hoped would reach troubled soldiers. The previous video did not resonate with average soldiers, he said. During a showing in Baghdad, soldiers laughed at it, Philbrick said. "In grunt language, it sucked," he said.

The Army's current suicide rate is about 22 deaths per 100,000, which is above a civilian rate that has been adjusted to match the demographics of the Army. That rate is 18-per-100,000. Only the Marine Corps has a higher suicide rate, at 24-per-100,000. Although Marine Corps suicides had been tracking similarly to last year's record pace, the service reported only one suicide in June.

Just among Guard and Reserve soldiers, suicides have occurred at a higher rate this year than last year, according to Army figures. There have been 65 confirmed or suspected cases this year, compared with 42 for the same period last year.

Insurer Denies Payment to Wounded Vet

Knight Ridder

MINNEAPOLIS -- If the Army needs proof that Ryan Hallberg suffered a loss when he was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, it need look no farther than 4 inches below his right knee. There's nothing there.

Despite an amputation from his injuries, Hallberg has twice been denied a $50,000 insurance benefit because he has been told by the federal insurance office administering the program that "there is not enough medical information to support your loss."

Similar cases are emerging across the country about the same program, established five years ago to address the growing number of troops coming hope with traumatic injuries from Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat whose office has become involved in Hallberg's case, called it an example of "government bureaucracy gone amok." A recent Government Accountability Office audit is critical of how claims from the program have been denied.

While one branch of the government has provided Hallberg, who lives in Andover, Minn., with a prosthetic leg and rehabilitation at 90 percent disability, another has denied his claims for a loss.

As he heads to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., for three weeks of fitting for a new prosthetic, his expenses have soared as he has taken unpaid time off from his job as a Coon Rapids community services officer.

"You're holding $50,000 from me that I rightfully earned by donating a limb to this nation. So why wouldn't I fight for it?" said Hallberg, 26, who left the military as a staff sergeant.

Hallberg's plight is rooted in terrible twists of fate. He was riding as a gunner in Iraq, attached to an Army Reserve unit, after taking the place of another soldier who sought a less dangerous assignment. On the day of his injury, March 28, 2006, Hallberg was riding in the second vehicle in the convoy because another soldier was on leave. Hallberg had switched his leave to allow the soldier to go home to see the birth of his child. The convoy was taking a general to a meeting from Baghdad to Fallujah and had encountered a roadside bomb en route. Hallberg's unit wanted to spend the night in Fallujah and return the next day after the road had been cleared. Instead, the general ordered the unit to proceed.

Hallberg has haunting video of the attack. From a Humvee gun truck several vehicles away, the video shows a plume of black smoke appearing in the middle of the road. Gunfire from the .50-calibers begins immediately as the trailing truck passes through the plume, spent cartridges spitting out on the hood. Hallberg's Humvee can be seen slowing to a stop. A lone soldier runs back to the disabled Humvee. Both of Hallberg's legs had been shattered in the blast, which injured all four passengers. One of the soldiers died en route to medical care.

"I started hearing gunfire, so I grabbed the turret walls with my hands and I went to get back up to the turret, and realized that, OK, the command I just gave to my legs didn't go through," he said.

Fake Marine Sentenced to Probation

Tampa Tribune

A man who pretended to be a highly decorated Marine will serve three years of probation, including 120 hours of volunteer work, probably in the service of veterans.

"I really admire the military," Angel Ocasio-Reyes, 49, said before he was sentenced today for three federal misdemeanor charges under the Stolen Valor Act. "I never meant to hurt anyone."

Ocasio-Reyes, of Tampa, bought a beribboned Marine master gunnery sergeant uniform at an Army Navy surplus store in New York and paid a friend $25 for a DD Form 214, an official military discharge document, showing Navy service.

He altered the form, typing in his address and a slew of medals and decorations, including the Navy Cross, making it appear as though he served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was injured in combat.

He went to American Legion halls -- at least three times to Post 148 in Riverview as well as visits to Post 111 in Seminole and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Seminole.

"He fit right in," said Commandant Roger Golden of Marine Corps League 567, who served twice in Vietnam. "You've got a Navy Cross on your chest, you're God. Everybody respects that. ... We took him to parties with us, we took him to a picnic and then come to find out, it just terrible; it's a big disgrace"

Ocasio Reyes said he was ashamed and embarrassed. "I apologize to all the veterans and all the military and their family ... It's a really bad thing that I did."

Veterans who packed the courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Mark Pizzo were unmoved by the defendant's apologies.

"If I see him around the V.A. hospital, I'm going to let everybody around there know who he is and what he is," said Vietnam veteran Dennis Antle of Tampa, who said his brother earned the Navy Cross the hard way. Ocasio-Reyes, he said, is "lower than scumbag."

Eventually, the real veterans noticed inconsistencies in his story and notified authorities. In March, Ocasio-Reyes pleaded guilty.

Defense attorney Adam Allen said Ocasio-Reyes posed as a decorated veteran "because he looked up to that position, looked up to those awards. ... It was something that he always wished he had accomplished in life. He was honored to be in the company of those men."

Pizzo today noted that the Navy Cross was created by Congress in 1919 and is the highest decoration given by the Navy for extraordinary heroism that doesn't justify a Medal of Honor. "There have only been a couple thousand Marines who have been awarded the Navy Cross."

Sentencing guidelines called for Ocasio-Reyes to receive between zero and six months in prison, but Pizzo said time behind bars is "not appropriate" for Ocasio Reyes.

Allen said the defendant's father is a military veteran, who has talked to his son about what he did. "He's dishonored his father," the federal public defender said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Hansen said that as a veteran who served more than 22 years of active duty, he was "outraged" at Ocasio-Reyes' affront to "to the honor and integrity of those veterans who earned those medals, often posthumously."

Bill Would OK Abortion at Military Hospitals


A provision in the proposed 2011 Defense Authorization bill would allow abortions for military women and spouses at Defense Department medical facilities. The provision, included in the bill as an amendment by Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., would apply to DoD medical facilities in the U.S. and abroad, but appears to be primarily aimed at making abortions available to deployed servicewomen.

According to Burris, more than 100,000 servicewomen are deployed, many without access to civilian hospitals that perform abortions.

"This [current] ban prevents women from exercising their legally-protected right to choose simply because they are stationed overseas," Burris said in a copy of the amendment posted on his Senate web page.

Under the terms of the amendment, the women would have to pay for abortions, and military doctors and nurses would be able to refuse to take part in the procedures.

The abortion amendment has already been targeted by pro-life forces, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop for the Military Services, the Rev. Timothy Broglio, who wrote senators stating that introducing "elective abortion in domestic and overseas military hospitals would pressure military physicians, nurses and associated medical personnel to engage in an act of taking innocent human life."

"Given that abortion is radically different from other medical procedures, military medical personnel themselves have refused to take part in this procedure or even to work where it takes place," he wrote June 17.

The Burris amendment was passed by a 15-12 vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee in a mostly party-line vote. Joe Lieberman, Democrat-turned-Independent from Connecticut, voted with the Democrats while Ben Nelson, D-Neb., crossed over to vote with the Republicans. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, did not vote.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., warned the committee that the amendment would turn DoD medical facilities into abortion clinics if it passes into law.

"Our military installations ... will be able to be used for abortions, performed late term, abortions performed for purposes of sex selection, abortions performed for any reason," he was quoted by several media outlets as saying. "Abortion-at-will will be the requirement for our military installations and the medical facilities on those installations."

In California, the executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation rejected the idea that the amendment would keep taxpayer dollars from being used for abortion.

"It's underwriting the cost [of abortion] with federal funds, even if it's not a direct funding of the procedure," Dana Cody told Military.com. "I'm a military mom and to me it's outrageous that they did this."

Cody argued that once abortion is introduced into a medical facility there would be an emphasis on abortion over mothers giving birth.

"If my son and his wife were expecting a child, I would want them to be supported [by the military hospital], so to feel free to have the baby carried to term and have a child," she said.

Living Soldier May Receive Medal of Honor

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - U.S. officials say the military has sent the White House a recommendation to award the Medal of Honor to a Soldier for bravery in Afghanistan, which could make him the first living recipient since the Vietnam War.

The military says the Army Soldier ran through a hail of enemy fire to repel Taliban fighters in a 2007 battle, saving the lives of a half dozen other men. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity and declined to name the Soldier because he is still under consideration for the honor.

The nation's highest award for valor has been awarded only six times in the nine years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq - and all were awarded posthumously.

Lawyer Accused of Stealing $2M From Vets

Houston Chronicle

A Houston lawyer and his wife appeared in federal court Tuesday, accused of stealing more than $2 million from military veterans.

Joe Phillips, 71, and Dorothy Phillips, 70, who managed her husband's small law office, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson, charged with conspiracy, misappropriation by a fiduciary, making materially false statements to a federal agency and tax fraud, according to federal officials.

Phillips, a former employee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Houston, is accused of stealing from mentally incompetent veterans.

In his capacity as their attorney, Phillips opened and maintained bank accounts to receive benefits for the veterans and pay their expenses, according to prosecutors.

Investigators allege the couple transferred money into joint bank accounts for their personal use for six years, beginning January 2003.

Angela Dodge, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice in Houston, said the couple did not have a lawyer when arraigned. Bail was set at $100,000 each.

Calls to the couple's office and home were not returned late Tuesday.

New PTSD Rules Relax Definition

Under a new process for claiming post-traumatic stress disorder, veterans will no longer have to engage in actual combat to make the case they suffered psychologically in war. Instead, the new policy recognizes that living with the fear of death and injury may be enough for troops to develop mental health issues.

"With this new PTSD regulation we are acknowledging the inherently stressful nature of the places and circumstances military services, in which the reality and fear of hostile or terrorist activities is always present," Michael Walcoff, acting undersecretary for benefits for the VA, said during a press conference this morning at the VA headquarters in Washington DC.

Veterans will not have to cite specific incidents of stress -- a firefight or rocket attack, for instance -- and then back up the claim with documentation. Instead, veterans will now have only to show that he or she served in a combat zone and had a job consistent with conditions related to their PTSD symptom. Walcoff said many more veterans will now be able to file claims for PTSD, including troops who did not have direct contact with the enemy.

As a group, he said, women will be among the major beneficiaries because their military records often did not reflect combat experience, he said. Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said doctors, nurses and other troops in the medical care specialties often are witness to trauma even if they do not see the combat themselves. Other support troops also find themselves in particularly stressful roles, he said, specifically citing convoy drivers who routinely make their way along roads where roadside bombs have likely been placed.

"Knowing you're a truck driver going up and down the airport road every day, you're gripping that steering wheel intensely," he said.

Joseph Violante, legislative director for the Disabled American Veterans, told the press conference that the changes were welcome and that DAV had been pushing for the more relaxed rules for decades.

Many veterans were never able to successfully file a claim, he said, because they could not prove the stresses to the satisfaction of VA doctors in the past.

The new rules are retroactive, Walcoff said, so that any veteran from any past war may file a claim. This includes vets who previously were denied a claim, he said.

While there has been some concern that the new rules might create fraud -- primarily vets claiming PTSD for incidents that did not occur -- Walcott said the VA's overriding concern is getting care to those who do need and deserve it.

The VFW's Joe Davis said there will always be some who try to cheat, but that shouldn't obscure the fact the new rules will help a great many people.

"The overwhelming good this decision will produce outweighs the impact of a few cheaters who may attempt to game the system," he said. "We fully expect the VA to catch and prosecute them."

The Decline: The Geography of a Recession by LaToya Egwuekwe (OFFICIAL)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

VA offering bronze medallions

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs is offering bronze medallions to attach to existing, privately purchased headstones or markers, signifying a deceased's status as a veteran.

"For veterans not buried in a national or state veterans cemetery, or those without a government grave marker, the VA is pleased to offer this option that highlights their service and sacrifices for our country," Shinseki said.

Each service has its own medallion. The new item can be furnished instead of a traditional government headstone or marker for veterans whose death occurred on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and whose grave in a private cemetery is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker.

Under federal law, eligible veterans buried in a private cemetery are entitled to either a government-furnished grave marker or the new medallion, but not both.

Veterans buried in a national or state veterans cemetery will receive a government headstone or marker of the standard design authorized at that cemetery.

The medallion is available in three sizes: 5 inches, 3 inches and 1-½ inches in width. Each bronze medallion features the image of a folded burial flag adorned with laurels and is inscribed with the word "Veteran" at the top and the branch of service at the bottom.

Next of kin will receive the medallion, along with a kit that will allow the family or the staff of a private cemetery to affix the medallion to a headstone, grave marker, mausoleum or columbarium niche cover.

More information about VA-furnished headstones, markers and medallions can be found at www.cem.va.gov/cem/hm/hmtype.asp.

The VA is currently developing an application form for ordering the medallion. Until it is available, applicants may use the form for ordering government headstones and markers, VA Form 40-1330. Instructions on how to apply for a medallion are found on the VA website at www.cem.va.gov/hm_hm.asp.

Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery.

Other burial benefits available for all eligible veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or grave marker.

The VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers' lots and monument sites. More than 3 million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict -- from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan-- are buried in the VA's national cemeteries on more than 19,000 acres.

Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices, from the VA website on the Internet at www.cem.va.gov or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 1-800-827-1000.

VA Hospital May Have Exposed 1,800 Veterans to HIV

A Veterans Affairs hospital in St. Louis may have exposed hundreds of veterans to HIV, hepatitis and other illnesses.

The John Cochran VA Medical Center sent a letter to 1,812 veterans this week, notifying them that they may have been exposed to deadly blood-borne diseases at the center's dental clinic.

Unsanitary cleaning practices may have made an otherwise routine trip to the dentist hazardous to the veterans' health. Gina Michael, association chief of staff at the hospital, told KSDK 5 in St. Louis that the clinic had been washing its tools by hand instead of using a special detergent to clean the instruments, as protocol requires.

The unsafe practice lasted for just over a year, from February 2009 to March 2010.

The New York Times reported that the letters described the risk level as low but said the hospital has set up a special clinic to offer free testing for veterans who may have been exposed.

Missouri lawmakers are furious and have asked the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee to investigate and discipline those involved.

"This is absolutely unacceptable," Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo.,wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama this week. "I can only imagine the horror and anger our veterans must be feeling after receiving this letter. They have every right to be angry. So am I."

A former employee at the Cochran Center said she warned the dental clinic that its cleaning practices were unsafe but was ignored.

Earlene Johnson, 53, said she wrote an e-mail to management at the hospital last August encouraging her supervisors to use better techniques to sterilize the equipment.

"The instruments were coming out bloody -- not all of them but some of them," she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Johnson told the paper she was let go for "unprofessional conduct" but plans to dispute the firing in court.

According to The New York Times, federal inspectors reported in April that the hospital's endoscopes may be contaminated, and complained that there were no "defined clean and dirty areas" in the Cochran's sterilization section.