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Wednesday, Jul 30th

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Army reports alarming spike in suicides last month

The Army is investigating an unexplained and stunning spike in suicides in January. The count is likely to surpass the number of combat deaths reported last month by all branches of the armed forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the fight against terrorism.

"In January, we lost more soldiers to suicide than to al-Qaida," said Paul Rieckhoff, director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He urged "bold and immediate action" by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. According to figures obtained by The Associated Press, there were seven confirmed suicides last month, compared with five a year earlier. An additional 17 cases from January are under investigation.

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Underreported: Nukes cost U.S. $52 billion last year

The study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said that U.S. nuclear weapons spending — excluding classified programs — makes up 10 percent of the total defense budget, consumes 67 percent of the Department of Energy’s budget, and exceeds the total amount spent on international diplomacy and foreign aid, which is $39.5 billion. It also exceeds spending on technology, general science and space, which is $27.4 billion.

“Nuclear weapons pose the most serious threat to human life,” Cherie Eichholz, executive director of Washington PSR, wrote in an e-mail. “The numbers are highly disturbing, as is the fact that less than 10 percent of the $52 billion went toward slowing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology.”

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Minot base crew commander found dead

The body of a missile combat crew commander from the Minot Air Force Base was found by police, and the cause of his death is under investigation, the Air Force says.

A statement issued by the base Sunday said the body of Capt. Jonathan Bayless, 28, was found Friday night. Police did not give details but said it was in an area north of the city soccer complex, and they are awaiting autopsy results.

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Weight of Combat Gear Is Taking Toll

Carrying heavy combat loads is taking a quiet but serious toll on troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, contributing to injuries that are sidelining them in growing numbers, according to senior military and defense officials.

Rising concern over the muscle and bone injuries -- as well as the hindrance caused by the cumbersome gear as troops maneuver in Afghanistan's mountains -- prompted Army and Marine Corps leaders and commanders to launch initiatives last month that will introduce lighter equipment for some U.S. troops.

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State Department To Blackwater: You're Fired, Leave Iraq by May

Blackwater has been fired by the State Department from its job protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.

Executives of the controversial U.S. security company were notified today by the State Department that its five-year, $1.2 billion contract for services in Iraq will not be renewed in May, U.S. officials tell ABC News. The contract provides yearly options for cancellations.

 

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GI Suicides in 2008 Highest on Record

The Army is expected to release a report later today revealing the highest number of suicides among troops in nearly three decades, according to CNN.

The network reported this morning that the Army will confirm 128 suicides in 2008, along with 15 suspected suicides currently under investigation among active-duty Soldiers and activated National Guard and Army Reserve troops. The Army also will announce a study of Soldier suicides and links to post-combat stress, CNN says.

Not including the cases now under investigation, the suicide rate among Soldiers is 20.2 per 100,000, according to the Army, which last month said the nation's suicide rate was 19.5 per 100,000. The national statistic is from 2005 but is the most recent, the Army said.

TVNL Comment: Another Bush Legacy.

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Is the Army lying about friendly fire deaths?

According to data released to Salon by the Army's Combat Readiness/Safety Center, only 24 of the 3,059 U.S. Army soldiers killed in Iraq since the invasion in 2003 died by fratricide.

Some observers, however, called the new data fishy. "That is almost impossible," said Geoffrey Wawro, director of the University of North Texas' Military History Center.

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