Daily Archives: July 16, 2007

Reservist fighting fifth tour of duty overseas

Associated Press | Jul 14, 2007


Army Reserve Sgt. Erik Botta and his wife, Jennifer, are shown in the lobby of the Marriott hotel in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Friday, July 13, 2007. Botta, 26, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., has been sent to Iraq three times and to Afghanistan once. He thinks that’s enough. Botta wants a court to block the military’s plan to deploy him for a fifth time Sunday, most likely to Iraq. He isn’t against the war _ he simply thinks he’s done his duty and it’s time to spend time with family and pursue education. (AP Photo/Steve Mitchell)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Army Reserve Sgt. Erik Botta has been sent to Iraq three times and to Afghanistan once. He thinks that’s enough.

Botta wants a court to block the military’s plan to deploy him a fifth time Sunday, most likely to Iraq. He isn’t against the war, he said Friday, but he thinks he can serve his country better now by working for a defense contractor and pursuing his education.

Botta, 26, of Port St. Lucie, contends in his petition filed Thursday that the Army’s refusal to exempt him from deployment “constitutes unlawful custody.” Botta argues that the Army did not consider the length and nature of his previous tours “to assure a sharing of exposure to the hazards of combat.”

He was granted an initial exemption last year, allowing him to pursue an electrical engineering degree at Palm Beach Community College and work as a senior technician on Blackhawk and Seahawk helicopters at Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. But now his exemption has been denied.

Botta said he was shocked when he received notice of his latest deployment orders.

“My heart sank through the floor,” he said. “I’ve sacrificed all my time into this new life I have now.”

Botta enlisted in the Army Reserves in October 2000. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, he requested and received transfer to active duty.

Botta was deployed to Afghanistan for about seven months in 2002. He then had three deployments to Iraq – about a month in 2003, three months in 2004 and 15 days later that year.

If a resolution is not reached, Botta said he will follow orders and deploy Sunday to Fort Jackson near Columbia, S.C.


Soldier Hires Hitman To Avoid Another Iraq Tour

Soldier Hires Hitman To Avoid Another Iraq Tour

Gunshot wound and prison better than Iraq says soldier

CBS News | Jul 13, 2007


The Soldier Says He Wanted To Be Shot And Wounded To Prevent A Return To Iraq

(CBS) NEW YORK The death and destruction of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq seems to have become so rampant to one local soldier that he actually staged an attack on himself — allegedly hiring a hitman to non-fatally shoot him — so he wouldn’t be sent back for another tour of duty.

Now, 20-year-old Jonathan Aponte is under fire at home in the Bronx for his decision that may send him to prison.

“There are some people mentally that can handle it. There are some people who just can’t. You need to know when to say enough is enough,” Aponte told WCBS exclusively Friday.

For Aponte, that day was Monday, the very day he was supposed to go back for another tour of duty to serve ten months on the front lines. He admits to WCBS, however, that he couldn’t face another tour of drama and devastation.

“Bullets being shot at me, almost being hit, with car bombs, burning flesh,” Aponte recalls of his first tour. Now the soldier, his mother, and lawyer all say his plot for pain proves he’s a victim of post traumatic stress disorder caused by the horrific memories of battle.

The proof, they say, is the bullet wound he helped give himself after feelings he described as “desperate.”

Aponte’s lawyer wouldn’t let him talk about the event that’s brought criminal charges, but a statement of his in court records bring his confession to light:

“I jokingly said that I should get shot in the leg … so that it can buy me some extra time away from Iraq,” he said.

After his new wife text messaged a hitman who would do the job, Aponte admits, “I asked him what was a good price. He told me $500 would be fine.”

The shooting was set to happen under a bridge on Gunhill Road on the very day of the redeployment.

“I decided I wasn’t going to go back one way or another,” he said.

When the Aponte arrived at the appointed time, he smoked a cigarette then closed his eyes because he didn’t want to see it coming, he told police. The next thing he knew, he had a gunshot wound to his right knee.

“He was asking for help, but we didn’t know what he was asking for. We didn’t understand,” said Gwen Aponte, his mother.

Now Aponte’s mother, father, and lawyer all say a doctor diagnosed him with post traumatic stress disorder, and that’s why he should be counseled, not incarcerated.

“If he’s ill, he needs to get help,” said Martin Goldberg, Aponte’s lawyer. “He is as much a casualty of the war as someone struck by a bullet.”

Aponte says the pain and potential of prison are a better option than another dose of duty. “There are risks in prison, but as far as getting shot at everyday, I think it’s better,” he said. “Mentally, I can’t do it anymore. I can’t handle it anymore.”

Both Aponte and his wife are facing charges of conspiracy and filing a false report. The soldier’s lawyer says the military will soon evaluate his client and either say he’s fit for duty and send him back to Iraq, provide counseling if needed and then send him back, or give him some kind of discharge.


Reservist fighting fifth tour of duty overseas

British casualty rate at WWII levels in Afghanistan

Telegraph | Jul 16, 2007


The casualty rate suffered by British troops in the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan is approaching 10 percent.

By Thomas Harding and Graeme Wilson

The rate at which British soldiers are being seriously injured or killed on the front line in Afghanistan is about to pass that suffered by our troops during the Second World War.

The casualty rate in the most dangerous regions of the country is approaching 10 per cent. Senior officers fear it will ultimately pass the 11 per cent experienced by British soldiers at the height of the conflict 60 years ago.

The rise is partly driven by a tenfold increase in the number of wounded in action – those injured, but not killed – in the past six months as fighting in Afghanistan has intensified.

Last November, only three British soldiers were wounded in Afghanistan by the Taliban, compared with 38 in May.

Meanwhile in Iraq, British troops are now suffering a higher rate of fatal casualties by proportion than their American colleagues.

In a five-month period this year, there were 23 fatalities among the 5,500 British troops compared with 463 fatalities among the United States’s 165,000 troops, according to the Royal Statistical Society.

Military commanders are concerned that the high rate will start to have an impact on operations and morale.

The official injury rate given by the Ministry of Defence among the 7,000 British troops in Afghanistan is about three per cent. But when the figures are applied to the three infantry battalions on the front line, it rises to almost 10 per cent.

The disclosure follows concern that the MoD’s official figures do not accurately reflect the true injury rate in the way the US figures do.

They do not take into account, for example, soldiers treated on the front line.

Last autumn, Major John Swift, who was commanding a company of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in Afghanistan, complained in the regiment’s newsletter that the “scale of casualties has not been properly reported”.

More than 11 million troops served in the British Commonwealth during the Second World War with 580,000 killed or missing and 475,000 wounded, giving a casualty rate of almost 11 per cent.

However, the MoD said last night the casualty rate in Afghanistan included non-combat related injuries, such as diseases.

The three infantry battalions fighting in Afghanistan have seen the brunt of the action and suffered the most.

Out of a well-manned battalion of 650 men, the 1st Bn the Royal Anglians has in the first three months of its tour suffered 42 casualties, who were sent back to Britain.

This has included three dead and three who returned to the front line. But 36 soldiers remain in hospital and are unlikely to return to combat operations.

With more fighting expected during the summer, officers are bracing themselves for the figure to double in the last three months of their tour, meaning that the battalion could be without an entire combat company.

It will also mean that the infantry could exceed the Second World War casualty rate of

11 per cent experienced at the height of the conflict. The Anglians, nicknamed the Vikings, have also sustained a number of minor casualties treated on the front line, which are not included in official MoD statistics.

The other two infantry regiments, the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters and Grenadier Guards have been involved in heavy fighting suffering similar casualties.

Opposition politicians have condemned the Government for not providing enough resources for troops while waging war on two fronts with “a peace-time budget”.

“No one except the Government ever thought that a campaign in Afghanistan would not be extremely dangerous,” said Julian Lewis, the shadow defence minister.

“The fear that we have is that casualties may be higher than otherwise would be the case if our forces fighting in this dangerous theatre were properly resourced.”

The majority of the wounded are much needed front-line soldiers, experienced in fighting the Taliban. The battalions are relying on soldiers coming straight from basic training to the front line as soon as they turn 18.

At least 30 will deploy to the Anglians in Helmand in the next two months, but this will not be enough to replace those being lost.

Military commanders are now worried about the dangers raised by a high casualty rate.

“There are two issues,” said an officer who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Firstly, there is the morale component with teams being broken up when individuals are shipped home. Secondly, there is a reduction in available troops where if you lose 70-odd soldiers with two months of the tour remaining then this will have a real effect on our ability to conduct operations.”

The Ministry of Defence said it was “nonsense” to suggest that casualty rates in Afghanistan were “anywhere near those suffered in the Second World War”.

Fear of a global ‘coldening’

Australian Sunday Telegraph | July 15, 2007

What we’re dealing with, apparently, is weather.

by Tim Blair

LAST month Australians endured our coldest June since 1950. Imagine that; all those trillions of tonnes of evil carbon we’ve horked up into the atmosphere over six decades of rampant industrialisation, and we’re still getting the same icy weather we got during the Cold War.

Not that June should be presented as evidence that global warming isn’t happening, or that we’re causing it. Relying on such a tiny sample would be unscientific and wrong, even if it involves an entire freakin’ continent’s weather patterns throughout the course of a whole month, for Christ’s sake.

No such foolishness will be indulged in here.

Sadly, those who believe in global warming – and who would compel us also to believe – aren’t similarly constrained. A few hot days are all they ever need to get the global warming bandwagon rolling; evidently it’s solar powered. Here, for example, is an Australian Associated Press report on May’s weather, which in places was a little warmer than usual:

“Climate change gave much of Australia’s drought-stricken east coast its warmest May on record, weather experts say.

“Global warming and an absence of significant cold changes had driven temperatures well above the monthly average, said meteorologist Matt Pearce.

According to Mr Pearce, May’s temperatures were “yet another sign of the widespread climate change that we are seeing unfold across the globe.”

If that’s the case, shouldn’t June’s cold weather – coldest since 1950, remember – be a sign that widespread climate change isn’t unfolding across the globe? We’re using the same data here; one month’s weather. And, in fact, the June sample is Australia-wide while May only highlights the east coast. Fear the dawn of a great “coldening”!

While Australia freezes, it’s kinda hot in California. Again, local toastiness is evidence of global warming; one San Francisco Chronicle writer this week referred glibly to their “global-warming-heated summer”.

What phenomenon was responsible for previous summers? Maybe they got by on the superheated fumes radiating off Lateline host Tony Jones.

Snow cone Tone hosted an in-studio discussion Thursday night after the ABC presented The Great Global Warming Swindle, and he was hotter than a Christina Aguilera video. “Welcome to our debate on this deeply flawed and utterly mistaken documentary, which is wrong in every regard and was made by a zombie,” Jones said in introduction (I’m only lightly paraphrasing).

During an interview with filmmaker Martin Durkin Tone was visibly sweating; no easy achievement during a typical summer in the UK, to where he’d flown for his heated little chat. Perhaps Tone was anticipating the phantom British summer forecast by The Independent’s environment editor, Michael McCarthy, in April:

“The possibility is growing that Britain in 2007 may experience a summer of unheard-of high temperatures, with the thermometer even reaching 40C, or 104F, a level never recorded in history.

“This would be quite outside all historical experience, but entirely consistent with predictions of climate change.”

As Wimbledon watchers would be aware, what with the rainiest tournament since Jimmy Connors defeated John McEnroe in 1982, those unheard-of high temperatures remain unheard-of. Someone might conclude, therefore, that the not-hot summer is not entirely consistent with predictions of climate change.

But climate change is like Michael Moore’s tracksuit – it can fit anyone. In 2005, Greenpeace rep Steven Guilbeault helpfully explained: “Global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter, that’s what we’re dealing with.”

What we’re dealing with, apparently, is weather.

What will the weather be like 100 years from now? Don’t ask Britain’s Guardian, which, like the Independent, is full of Warmin’ Normans whose warm warnings never come true. “It could be time to say goodbye to defining features of British life,” the paper claimed a few months ago, “like rainy picnics and cloudy sunbathing . . .”

Other defining features of British life – screaming, inaccurate nonsense from the Guardian, for example – will never be farewelled. Cue wet Wimbledon, the coldest day for Test match cricket (7.4C) in English history, and this BBC online headline: “Where has the UK’s summer gone?”

Maybe it migrated to Australia, like Augustus Owsley Stanley III, the American LSD enthusiast and manufacturer.

Possibly influenced by his product, Owsley moved to outback Queensland about twenty years ago, reportedly convinced that imminent global warming would cause – in the tradition of warm meaning cold – the whole Northern Hemisphere to be covered with ice.

Owsley, now 72, is still in Queensland, and likely not a little confused. Things didn’t exactly turn out as predicted. While his former Californian haunts melt due to “global warming”, this year Queensland has gone frosty. Townsville’s June was its coldest since 1940; June 24 saw the coldest Brisbane morning on record.

Think of these little factoids the next time your read a report linking a hot day or month or year to global warming. And, if you run into this Owsley bloke, please ask him to quit adding things to environmentalists’ water supplies.


Record cold in June
It’s official – Tasmanians last month shivered their way through one of the coldest and driest Junes on record.

Cold weather responsible for bat deaths

Cold snap in South America causes numerous victims

Cold weather snap hits South America and more to come

Cold spell brings record low temperatures, snow and severe frost to Brazil

Unusual cold weather strains Argentina’s energy grid

Switzerland experiences unseasonably cold weather

Cold spell brings record low temperatures, snow and severe frost to Brazil

MetSul Weather Center | Jul 15, 2007


One of the most important cold spells to affect Southern Brazil in recent times brought record low temperatures, widespread and severe frost as well as snow to the region. On Thursday (July 12th), the state of Rio Grande do Sul was whitened by frost.

The freezing temperature was associated to the same air mass that prompted the first snowfall to the city of Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 89 years. Temperature in the city of Bage, state of Rio Grande do Sul, fell to minus 3,8 degrees Celsius, the lowest since 1955. Nearby, inside Uruguay, the national low in Mercedes was minus 6,6 degrees. At least three Uruguayans died in consequence of the cold temperatures. On Wednesday (July 11th), Porto Alegre, the state capital of Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, had one of its lowest ever recorded daily highs under clear sky conditions. The high only reached 9 degrees. In the following morning, the city awoke with frost inside the urban heat island, a rare fact not observed since July 14th 2000. The low temperature of 0,3 degree was the lowest since July 14th 2000. In the green areas of southern Porto Alegre, a 1.5 million inhabitants city, frost was intense and even the water has frozen in the ground. At midmorning ice could still be seen over cars parked in the streets. In some locations of the metropolitan area of Porto Alegre, a region with over 3 million people, the frost was severe.

All over the state the temperature dropped to the freezing level, even in the coastal areas. In the city of Pelotas, frost was observed in the sands of Laranjal Beach in the Patos Lake. Authorities rushed to guarantee shelter to hundreds of people displaced by a flooding that affected some towns near the metropolitan area of Porto Alegre. The cold weather became one more problem to face after days of very heavy rain in northern Rio Grande do Sul that caused some rivers to burst their banks. One day after the snow in Buenos Aires, Argentina, snow was also recorded in three cities of the State of Rio Grande do Sul: Soledade, Arvorezinha and Itapuca. The snow fell for about one hour and was heavy at some times.

Residents from the hills in the state of Parana, closer to Central Brazil, reported to local meteorologists a brief snowfall. If confirmed, it would be the first snow to be recorded in the region since 1999. Temperature monthly anomalies are below average in the state of Rio Grande do Sul since May in the coldest climatic winter in recent memory.


Record cold in June
It’s official – Tasmanians last month shivered their way through one of the coldest and driest Junes on record.

Cold weather responsible for bat deaths

Cold snap in South America causes numerous victims

Cold weather snap hits South America and more to come

Cold spell brings record low temperatures, snow and severe frost to Brazil

Unusual cold weather strains Argentina’s energy grid

Switzerland experiences unseasonably cold weather