WBEZ | Afghanistan http://www.wbez.org/tags/afghanistan Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 'Valor Games' for disabled veterans to begin http://www.wbez.org/news/valor-games-disabled-veterans-begin-108375 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Vets 130812 AY.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of veterans and service members are set to compete in the annual Valor Games Midwest.</p><p dir="ltr">The event for the disabled begins Monday and ends Wednesday. Competitions include cycling, archery, powerlifting and indoor rowing.</p><p dir="ltr">The event is geared toward veterans or active service members who have been wounded or are ill. The first Valor Games started in Chicago two years ago, with events spreading to San Francisco, San Antonio and Durham, North Carolina.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s sponsors include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Chicago Park District. Organizers say about 220 participants have registered for this year&rsquo;s games. Among those participating is Air Force Sergeant Israel Del Toro, or DT.</p><p>A bomb exploded under his truck eight years ago in Afghanistan. Del Toro lost fingers on both hands, had over 130 surgeries, got skin grafts for most of his body and wears a brace on his right leg. But for the next few days, he&rsquo;s cycling, powerlifting, and competing in the discus and shotput contests.</p><p>&ldquo;I thought all throughout my therapy, I could never work out at free weights, and when they encouraged me, &lsquo;Come on DT, try it, try it,&rsquo; I ended up winning gold in it,&rdquo; &nbsp;Del Toro says. &ldquo;That first Valor Games, I always say, that was the first time I actually got under a bench and started working out again.&rdquo;</p><p>Four years ago, Del Toro was the first disabled airman to re-enlist. For veterans who have left the military, he says the games can help them regain part of that experience.</p><p>&ldquo;They can start acting like they&rsquo;re back in the military, tell the same jokes they used to, pick on each other, &lsquo;cause that&rsquo;s just the camaraderie you don&rsquo;t get anywhere else,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Howard Wilson, a retired Marine Corps veteran, agrees. After leaving the Marine Corps, he lost most of his vision through glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve. He has competed at all three Valor Games in Chicago, and says despite the competition, everyone was working together at his first competition.</p><p>&ldquo;You had competitors, but everybody was still on the same side. We egged each other on, we made such each other do our best,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The disability just opened up a new chapter in my life. I knew my vision was getting worse, I got depressed, started thinking about what I couldn&rsquo;t do. You see things slipping away: driving, your independence, you don&rsquo;t have to stop yourself from doing what you were doing initially, you just have to find other ways of doing it.&rdquo;</p><p>He says he is reinventing himself through sport, and hopes to qualify for the US Paralympic wrestling team.</p><p>Sport makes it easier to cope with injuries and depression, says retired Army Sergeant Noah Galloway. He was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq and lost his left arm above the elbow and his left leg above the knee. He has since run two marathons and a series of races, including two <a href="http://toughmudder.com/">&ldquo;Tough Mudder&rdquo;</a> obstacle course races. He gets sponsored to run, but doesn&rsquo;t call himself a professional athlete. He says veterans just need to start participating.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been at the bottom. I&rsquo;ve suffered the depression. I wanted nothing more than to have my arm and leg back, but when I accepted the fact that this is who I am, and I got up, and I got back in shape, and I started taking care of myself, everything turned around,&rdquo; Galloway says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not looking for Paralympian athletes, we&rsquo;re looking to take care of our veterans.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alan Yu is a WBEZ metro desk intern. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/Alan_Yu039">@Alan_Yu039</a></em></p></p> Mon, 12 Aug 2013 08:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/valor-games-disabled-veterans-begin-108375 Quinn mourns death of U.S. diplomat killed in Afghanistan http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-mourns-death-us-diplomat-killed-afghanistan-106543 <p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he&rsquo;s mourning the death of a U.S. diplomat from Chicago&rsquo;s western suburbs.</p><p>Anne Smedinghoff, 25, died Saturday in Afghanistan when the group she was traveling with was attacked by a suicide car bomber. The group was on its way to donate textbooks to students.</p><p>Quinn said Smedinghoff was brave and devoted to improving the lives of others.</p><p>&ldquo;She understood that social justice is why we&rsquo;re here on this Earth. That&rsquo;s why she was so far away in Afghanistan trying to help everyday people, especially children,&rdquo; Quinn said Sunday. &ldquo;So her loss is a loss for our whole world.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn noted that Smedinghoff graduated from his alma mater, Fenwick High School.</p><p>Federal officials haven&rsquo;t released the names of the four others killed in the attack that killed Smedinghoff. She is the first American diplomat to die on the job since last year&rsquo;s attack in Benghazi, Libya.</p></p> Mon, 08 Apr 2013 14:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-mourns-death-us-diplomat-killed-afghanistan-106543 A Forest Park vet struggles to keep others out of homelessness http://www.wbez.org/news/forest-park-vet-struggles-keep-others-out-homelessness-105502 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79127553&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>When I met Homer Bizzle in his tiny food pantry in west suburban Forest Park, the lights were off.</p><p>Even though the pantry, called America Cares Too, had been open all day, Bizzle said the darkness was typical.</p><p>&ldquo;We just trying to conserve lights, cause, non-profit, you know,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Bizzle started the service project for vets and their families in 2011 after leaving the Army Reserves. He&rsquo;s been running the project on volunteer labor and financing it with small donations and cash out of his own paycheck.</p><p>&ldquo;I just wanted to give back to my fellow veterans and their families,&rdquo; Bizzle said.</p><p>By day, the 33-year-old native of the Austin neighborhood is an advocate for people with disabilities. In the evenings, he heads over to the his spare storefront on W. Harrison St. to meet up with the vets who come here seeking support.</p><p><strong>The battle at home</strong></p><p>In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama announced that 34,000 troops will be home from Afghanistan by this time next year. That&rsquo;s a little over half the remaining troops in what most consider America&rsquo;s longest war.</p><p>But when they get here, many military vets face new, even longer battles - battles with trauma and homelessness. Many come home with mental or physical disabilities, and all come home to a slouching economy. Unemployment among veterans is higher than the national average, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/discrimination-against-our-countrys-heroes-103510" target="_blank">veteran status itself can be a stigma in a job search</a>. One in three men living on the streets is a veteran (although <a href="http://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/USICH-_Report_to_Congress_on_Homeless_Veterans.pdf" target="_blank">those numbers have declined in recent years</a>). And a recent study estimates that 22 vets commit suicide every day in the U.S.</p><p>All of this is familiar to Bizzle.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7008_009-scr.JPG" style="float: right; height: 169px; width: 320px;" title="The America Cares Too storefront in Forest Park (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>&ldquo;Some of them suffer from PTSD, some anxiety, some have flash backs, shell shock...&rdquo; Bizzle said of the vets he serves.</p><p>While the VA does offer mental health services, Bizzle said traumatized vets who don&rsquo;t feel they can trust the government aren&rsquo;t left with many options.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s kinda hard for a soldier that&rsquo;s coming off active duty to get those kinda treatments in the civilian world because everything costs money, unfortunately,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>He believes the best solutions can come from veterans themselves.</p><p>&ldquo;No offense to politicians but they don&rsquo;t understand the veterans situation, and by me being a veteran I could understand our own situation, the problems we deal with,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The main room at America Cares Too contains a donated TV and a desk with no phone (Bizzle uses his cellphone to run the project because the ComEd bill was too high).</p><p>Three computers sit on folding tables donated by a recovery group that meets next door. And in the back there&rsquo;s a spare office where Bizzle keeps vets&rsquo; files. The walls are lines with boxes of donated toys and socks and underwear purchased with TJ Maxx and Target gift cards. Bizzle&rsquo;s appeals to local government bodies and the VA for financial support <a href="http://austintalks.org/2013/01/former-austin-resident-starts-veterans-nonprofit/" target="_blank">have been unsuccessful so far</a>.</p><p><strong>A chronic lack of support</strong></p><p>This month Esquire reported that the Navy Seal who shot Osama Bin Laden is jobless and living without health insurance. The headline: <a href="http://www.esquire.com/features/man-who-shot-osama-bin-laden-0313" target="_blank">&ldquo;The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden...Is Screwed.&rdquo;</a> Although Esquire&rsquo;s story can&rsquo;t be independently verified - the man in question chose to remain anonymous for his own safety - it reflects a widespread disappointment in the services provided by the state for vets, especially younger vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the case of &ldquo;the shooter,&rdquo; as he&rsquo;s called in Esquire, the Navy Seal retired after 16 years of service. That meant no pension, and no more health care for his family. The cutoff point for long-term support is 20 years of service.</p><p>Bizzle&rsquo;s located just a couple miles from the Hines VA Hospital, which helps thousands of vets each year. The Hines complex includes housing for homeless vets, and a network of social service providers. I called them to ask how a vet would end up at a little joint like Bizzle&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the predominant reasons are, there are a small cohort of veterans who just do not want to be in any system,&rdquo; said Anthony Spillie, the head of social work at Hines.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7009_015-scr.JPG" style="height: 214px; width: 380px; float: left;" title="Homer Bizzle reorganizes his small food pantry for veterans. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" />There are an estimated 18,000 homeless vets in the greater Chicago area, and he says that despite offering extensive services, some people just fall through the cracks. Groups like Bizzle&rsquo;s can help catch them.</p><p>&ldquo;There is no wrong door approach,&rdquo; Spillie said. &ldquo;You know most of the time you think of accessing services through the front door. Well, we&rsquo;ll open whatever door we can possibly open for veterans to end and treat their homelessness.</p><p>Bizzle wants to hire veterans to be case workers and counselors, and one day turn his own Bellwood home into a transitional housing center for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-27/returning-home-presents-different-challenges-female-veterans-89707" target="_blank">female vets</a>.</p><p>But the lack of support is frustrating - and so is seeing what his fellow vets go through.</p><p>&ldquo;It be times I wanna throw that uniform in the garbage,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter</a>.</p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 10:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/forest-park-vet-struggles-keep-others-out-homelessness-105502 Discrimination against our country's heroes http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/discrimination-against-our-countrys-heroes-103510 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F65375087&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false&amp;color=ff7700" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Read part one of Josh&#39;s story, <strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/soldiers-struggle-economic-ladder-103481">here</a></strong>.</p><p>On one of the days I visited him, Josh Jones shared with me a video that one of his fellow Army buddies taped while they were serving in Iraq.</p><p>In the video, big orange fireballs light up the night sky. Their unit had just come under mortar fire from insurgents.</p><p>That seems like a lifetime ago for 25-year-old Josh. He&rsquo;s been home for two years and since then has been living a life with much less excitement than what he&rsquo;s used to.</p><p>After serving in Iraq, Josh felt like he had earned a decent job. When he returned home, he thought he&#39;d work as a cop or a prison guard. Instead, he wound up unemployed for a year.</p><p><strong>A broken promise</strong></p><p>You hear this kind of frustration a lot from young veterans who served in the wars that followed 9/11. They have a sense that some kind of promise to service members has been broken. Many young veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are struggling.&nbsp; Unemployment for young vets hovers near 30 percent and tens of thousands of former soldiers are homeless.&nbsp;</p><p>After spending years living a serviceman&rsquo;s life of strict rules, regulations and customs, Josh felt unstable.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&#39;t know what the hell I was going to do. I was going to head home to my family obviously, but I didn&#39;t know where I wanted to go. I mean, I didn&#39;t want to take a step back in my opinion and work at some, be some cashier at a grocery store or a gas station,&rdquo; Josh said.</p><p>Derek Osgood is a friend of Josh&#39;s, a 23 year old Marine who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.</p><p>He says he feels like his service isn&rsquo;t appreciated.</p><p>&ldquo;I hate to say it, but when it comes to getting out, as soon as the military knows you&#39;re not going to re-enlist and you&#39;re leaving, it&#39;s like you&#39;re dead to them -- you know, you&#39;re just another body,&rdquo; Derek said.</p><p>Derek and Josh are part of a veterans club -- a kind of military support group on the campus of Paul Smiths College, a school in upstate New York.</p><p>Josh says group members have a sense of camaraderie because in this environment, where most students are about five years younger than all of the veterans, there&rsquo;s always someone who knows what it means to be a soldier.</p><p>At a meeting in the cafeteria, Derek says he&#39;s proud of his war service and thinks he learned important lessons from the Marines about discipline and hard work.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/joshcafe.jpg" style="height: 200px; width: 300px; float: right; margin: 3px;" title="Josh Jones (second from right) talks schoolwork with Tyler Twitchel, Jesse Smith and Josh's girlfriend Danielle Rageotte at lunchtime in the cafetaria. Photo: Mark Kurtz" />But when it comes to actual training that might give him an advantage in the civilian job market, he shakes his head.</div><p>&ldquo;I picked infantry and when it came to job skills, that pretty much gave me little or none in the way of job experiences that I would benefit from,&rdquo; Derek said.</p><p>Josh too is skeptical about the opportunities for veterans to climb the economic ladder.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&#39;s there, but it&#39;s more of a stepladder now. It has a ceiling to it. You can only go so high. Unless you have a strong network of people in power, it&#39;s a stepladder, not a ladder,&rdquo; Josh said.</p><p>This kind of pessimism is common among vet. Studies show that even many service-members who come home with marketable skills are struggling to find good jobs.</p><p>Sometimes it&#39;s difficult to match military experience with civilian job descriptions. Sometimes it&#39;s just the sour economy.</p><p>But there&#39;s also a concern among military support groups that wartime veterans face an actual stigma.</p><p><strong>Facing discrimination</strong></p><p>Twenty-five-year-old Justin Jankuv is part of the campus military club. He&rsquo;s a former Army soldier who fought in Iraq.</p><p>He says there&rsquo;s a stereotype against veterans.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh, this guys is from Iraq or this guy is a veteran. So, he&#39;s got post traumatic stress disorder or he&#39;s a loony...because there&#39;s a lot of people out there who get that impression of us,&rdquo; Justin said.</p><p>Derek agrees. He says employers are afraid of taking a risk by hiring a veteran.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s sort of like they put a smile on their face and say &lsquo;Yeah, you&#39;re a veteran, good on you, good on you we&#39;ll call you back.&rsquo; And in the back of their head, they&#39;re thinking, There&#39;s no way.&nbsp; No way I&#39;m going to hire him,&rdquo; Derek said.</p><p>He adds that he&rsquo;d rather have someone tell him they don&rsquo;t hire veterans because it otherwise makes him question his performance in the interview.</p><p>A study released in June of this year found that many of these impressions among soldiers are accurate.</p><p>Employers told researchers with the Center for A New American Security that one top reason they don&#39;t hire veterans is a negative stereotype -- a fear that they might be &quot;damaged&quot; or might go on &quot;rampages.&quot;</p><p>Ryan Gallucci, with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a soldier advocacy group, says many civilian employers are simply ignorant about what goes on in war-time.<br /><br />He says since only one percent of Americans have served in the current conflicts, it&rsquo;s normal to have a cultural misunderstanding.</p><p>Gallucci did a tour in Iraq in 2003. He says important steps have been taken to help younger veteran reintegrate, including the 9/11 GI Bill and the Hire a Hero Act.</p><p>Without that aid, none of the servicemen interviewed for this story could have afforded college.</p><p><strong>Finding solutions</strong></p><p>Some companies have also set quotas for hiring veterans and created buddy programs that partner older service-members with young people just back from war.</p><p>A a new billion-dollar veterans jobs bill would have put 20,000 vets to work as cops and firefighters. But it was defeated by Republicans in September.</p><p>And Galluci says a lot more needs to be done by the government and by private firms to prove that military service is still a path to the middle class.</p><p>&ldquo;So what we really are trying to do now is maintain the military&#39;s reputation as a quality force, that it prepares service members for good careers when they leave,&rdquo;Galluci said.</p><p>He says that this type of preparation allows for economic mobility.</p><p>Josh Jones says he&#39;s grateful to be back in school, to have this second chance. Many of his veteran friends are still unemployed, working dead end jobs, or back living with their parents.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/josh1.jpg" style="float: left; height: 166px; width: 250px; " title="Josh hopes college will prepare him to enter the workforce." /></p><p>But Josh says he&#39;s anxious about the day when he&#39;ll have to hit the streets again, afraid that long after the war is over, companies will see him too as damaged goods.</p><p>As the war in Afghanistan winds down, tens of thousands more Americans will be making this transition to civilian life.</p><p>Whether or not they succeed could how define the next generation sees military service:&nbsp;As an economic opportunity or one more dream that has turned into a dead end. &nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 31 Oct 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/discrimination-against-our-countrys-heroes-103510 Worldview 6.26.12 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-06-26/worldview-62612-100419 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP12062517020.jpg" title="Egyptian women sit in Tahrir Square during prayer time, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, June 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)" /></p><p style="text-align: left; ">Tuesday on&nbsp;<em>Worldview</em>:</p><p>Mohamed Morsi, Egypt&rsquo;s new president,&nbsp;publicly stated he will stand for women&rsquo;s rights; but his former political party backed contrary legislation.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/hania-sholkamy" target="_blank">Hania Sholkamy</a>, an Egyptian social anthropologist who focuses on gender, tells us how she thinks Egyptian women will fare under the new regime.</p><p>Then, Paraguay&rsquo;s president, Fernando Lugo, was impeached last week but several Latin American presidents call it a coup and refuse to recognize the new president&rsquo;s authority. Anthropologist&nbsp;<a href="http://sociologyandsocialanthropology.dal.ca/Faculty/Kregg_Hetherington.php" target="_blank">Kregg Hetherington</a>, author of &nbsp;<em>Guerrilla Auditors: The Politics of Transparency in Neo Liberal Paraguay</em>, explains the political maneuvering.</p><p>Then, filmmaker <a href="http://www.medill.northwestern.edu/faculty/journalismfulltime.aspx?id=139705" target="_blank">Brent Huffman</a> joins <em>Worldview</em>. He&nbsp;is documenting the preservation of a Buddhist site in the heart of Afghanistan&rsquo;s Taliban country. A Chinese company purchased the site to dig for copper, but archeologists are working to ensure that ancient Buddhist relics are not lost in the process. Huffman tells us about the politics of preservation.&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 26 Jun 2012 10:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-06-26/worldview-62612-100419 Worldview 6.11.12 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-06-11/worldview-61112-99984 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP110907073172.jpg" title="Indian children in Allahabad listen to their teacher on International Literacy Day. (AP/Rajesh Kumar Singh)" /></div><p>Monday on <em>Worldview</em>:</p><p>We have a special broadcast as part of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center">Front and Center&#39;s</a> series on literacy.</p><p>First, we look into India&#39;s booming book industry. English-writing authors are treated like Bollywood celebrities, complete with lines for autographs and coverage by the paparrazi. But the glamorous book festivals, attended by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, are taking place in a country where more than a quarter of the population is illiterate. Authors <a href="http://www.vikramchandra.com/Default.aspx?tabid=129" target="_blank">Vikram Chandra</a> and <a href="http://www.tajmahalfoxtrot.com/?page_id=7" target="_blank">Naresh Fernandes</a>, former Editor-in-Chief of <em>Time Out Bombay</em><em>,</em> fill us in on the state of literacy in India.</p><p>Then, in Peru, books are a luxury. People wait for hours to get a book signed, in something that resembles the opening night of a blockbuster film in the United States. Peruvian writer <a href="http://www.danielalarcon.com/" target="_blank">Daniel Alarcon</a> explains what all the fuss is about.</p><p>And, <em>Worldview </em>explores how literacy rates have impacted the training of Afghan security forces. In a country estimated to be only 28 percent literate, Afghan soldiers can&rsquo;t even read ID badges to determine who should be allowed through security checkpoints. Now, the training of Afghan forces includes a literacy component. <a href="http://www.stripes.com/reporters/heath-druzin?author=Heath_Druzin" target="_blank">Heath Druzin</a>, a reporter for <em>Stars and Stripes</em>, tells <em>Worldview </em>about the new program.</p></p> Mon, 11 Jun 2012 09:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-06-11/worldview-61112-99984 Ahmed Rashid discusses the future of U.S. action in Pakistan and Afghanistan http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-03-28/ahmed-rashid-discusses-future-us-action-pakistan-and-afghanistan-97685 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-March/2012-03-28/ahmed_rashid_book_543-300x285.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As a raft of mistakes and embarrassments pile up for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, calls for accelerating the pace of withdrawal are growing louder and more numerous. But with no firm exit strategy and a military that wants to keep fighting, the U.S. is faced with difficult decisions ahead of its 2014 goal to drawdown troops.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.ahmedrashid.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=no,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=no,dependent=no'); return false;">Ahmed Rashid</a> has been watching the latest endgame in Afghanstan with interest. He’s been following the wars in Afghanistan for 30 years and joins <em>Worldview </em>to discuss his latest book, <em>Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan</em>.</p></p> Wed, 28 Mar 2012 15:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-03-28/ahmed-rashid-discusses-future-us-action-pakistan-and-afghanistan-97685 Afghanistan finally embraces the railroad http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-03-15/afghanistan-finally-embraces-railroad-97333 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-March/2012-03-15/AP120309168397.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Afghanistan is virtually unique in the world for its long history of preventing the construction of a railway system. However, that seems to be changing. The war-torn country recently completed its first major railroad project. Several more are in the works. Jared Nolan of <a href="http://warnewsradio.org/" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=no,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=no,dependent=no'); return false;">War News Radio</a> explores Afghanistan’s belated embrace of rail transportation.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>This segment was provided courtesy of <a href="http://www.prx.org/" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=no,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=no,dependent=no'); return false;">Public Radio Exchange</a>. </em></p></p> Thu, 15 Mar 2012 20:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-03-15/afghanistan-finally-embraces-railroad-97333 Manzullo, Kinzinger get testy over ads and conservative ratings, disagree on Afghanistan http://www.wbez.org/story/manzullo-kinzinger-get-testy-over-ads-and-conservative-ratings-disagree-afghanistan-97234 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-March/2012-03-12/AP120305055267.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Republican U.S. Reps. Don Manzullo and Adam Kinzinger are going after each other over who's more conservative and whose advertisements are more misleading.</p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><strong>MORE ON THIS RACE: </strong>Discussion on Tuesday's <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez"><em>Afternoon Shift with Steve Edwards</em></a><br> <audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332752476-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-march/2012-03-14/16th-cd.mp3">&nbsp;</audio><br> <strong>WATCH THE DEBATE: </strong>Posted at WTTW's <a href="http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/"><em>Chicago Tonight</em></a></p></div></div><p>In a debate Monday evening on WTTW public television, they also disagreed over the future of U.S. troops in Iraq, following the weekend killings of 16 Afghan civilians. An American soldier has been accused of the shootings.</p><p>Manzullo, first elected to Congress in 1992, touted ratings he received from certain conservative groups — ratings that were stronger than his opponent's.</p><p>"These organizations monitor the votes. And they say who's voting conservatively, who's voting liberally, and they put up the scores," Manzullo said.</p><p>Kinzinger, who's in his first term, shot back.</p><p>"That's what happens when you're in Washington for 20 years, is you begin to look at Washington groups to justify your existence being there," he said.</p><p><strong>Sticks and stones</strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-12/adam web.jpg" style="width: 350px; height: 202px;" title="(Manzullo TV ad attacking Kinzinger)"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-12/don.jpg" style="width: 350px; height: 198px;" title="(Kinzinger TV ad attacking Manzullo for attacking Kinzinger)"></p><p>They later talked over each other while arguing about whose mail advertisements were more outrageous.</p><p>"This is your tabloid with Nancy Pelosi's [picture]," Manzullo said, unfolding a mail piece. "This is the one you put out that made my wife weep."</p><p>"Don, you've put out 10 mail pieces that are nothing but ... they don't talk about your record," Kinzinger said.</p><p><strong>Afghan react</strong></p><p>The two Republicans also disagreed over U.S. military plans for Afghanistan in light of last weekend's attack.</p><p>Kinzinger, a captain in the Air National Guard, went first. He said he does want the U.S. to eventually "back out" of Afghanistan, remaining only in a counter-terrorism role.</p><p>But he said, "I think if we react to every event on the ground with the call to just withdraw, we're going to be very devastated by what's left in that region."</p><p>Manzullo answered "absolutely" when asked if U.S. troops should get out faster than originally planned.</p><p>"Does the United States really belong in Afghanistan now? This war's been going on for 10 years, and we need to get out," he said.</p><p>The congressmen are running against each other in the GOP primary as a result of new district boundaries drawn by Illinois Democrats. The new 16th District forms a collar of sorts, circling many of the Chicago region's so-called "collar counties."</p></p> Wed, 14 Mar 2012 04:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/manzullo-kinzinger-get-testy-over-ads-and-conservative-ratings-disagree-afghanistan-97234 Afghan president: US soldier kills 16 civilians http://www.wbez.org/story/afghan-president-us-soldier-kills-16-civilians-97200 <p><p><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; ">An American soldier opened fire on villagers near his base in southern Afghanistan&nbsp;Sunday and killed 16 civilians, according to President Hamid Karzai who called it an "assassination" and furiously demanded an explanation from Washington. Nine children and three women were among the dead.</span></p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">The killing spree deepened a crisis between U.S. forces and their Afghan hosts over Americans burning Muslim holy books on a base in&nbsp;Afghanistan. The burnings sparked weeks of violent protests and attacks that left some 30 people dead. Six U.S. service members have been killed by their Afghan colleagues since the Quran burnings came to light, but the violence had just started to calm down.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">"This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven," Karzai said in a statement. He said he has repeatedly demanded the U.S. stop killing Afghan civilians.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">The violence over the Quran burnings spurred calls in the U.S. for a faster exit strategy from the 10-year-old Afghan war. President Barack Obama even said recently that "now is the time for us to transition." But he also said he had no plan to change the current timetable that has Afghans taking control of security countrywide by the end of 2014.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">The tensions between the two countries had appeared to be easing as recently as Friday, when the U.S. and Afghan governments signed a memorandum of understanding about the transfer of Afghan detainees to Afghan control — a key step toward an eventual strategic partnership to govern U.S. forces in the country.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">But Sunday's shooting could push that agreement further away.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">"This is a fatal hammer blow on the U.S. military mission in&nbsp;Afghanistan. Whatever sliver of trust and credibility we might have had following the burnings of the Quran is now gone," said David Cortright, the director of policy studies at Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and an advocate for a quick withdrawal from&nbsp;Afghanistan.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">"This may have been the act of a lone, deranged soldier. But the people of&nbsp;Afghanistan&nbsp;will see it for what it was, a wanton massacre of innocent civilians," Cortright said.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">Five people were wounded in the pre-dawn attack in Kandahar province, including a 15-year-old boy named Rafiullah who was shot in the leg and spoke to the president over the telephone. He described how the American soldier entered his house in the middle of the night, woke up his family and began shooting them, according to Karzai's statement.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">NATO officials apologized for the shootings but did not confirm that anyone was killed, referring instead to reports of deaths.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">"I wish to convey my profound regrets and dismay at the actions apparently taken by one coalition member in Kandahar province, said a statement from Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, the deputy commander of NATO forces in&nbsp;Afghanistan.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">"One of our soldiers is reported to have killed and injured a number of civilians in villages adjacent to his base. I cannot explain the motivation behind such callous acts, but they were in no way part of authorized ISAF military activity," he said, using the abbreviation for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">An AP photographer saw 15 bodies between the two villages caught up in the shooting. Some of the bodies had been burned, while others were covered with blankets. A young boy partially wrapped in a blanket was in the back of a minibus, dried blood crusted on his face and pooled in his ear. His loose-fitting brown pants were partly burned, revealing a leg charred by fire.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">Villagers packed inside the minibus looked on with concern as a woman spoke to reporters. She pulled back a blanket to reveal the body of a smaller child wearing what appeared to be red pajamas. A third dead child lay amid a pile of green blankets in the bed of a truck.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">NATO spokesman Justin Brockhoff said a U.S. service member had been detained at a NATO base as the alleged shooter. The wounded people were evacuated to NATO medical facilities, he added.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">The attack took place in two villages in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province. The villages — Balandi and Alkozai — are about 500 yards (meters) away from a U.S. base. The shooting started around 3 a.m., said Asadullah Khalid, the government representative for southern&nbsp;Afghanistan&nbsp;and a member of the delegation that went to investigate the incident.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">A resident of the village of Alkozai, Abdul Baqi, told the AP that, based on accounts of his neighbors, the American gunman went into three different houses and opened fire.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">"When it was happening in the middle of the night, we were inside our houses. I heard gunshots and then silence and then gunshots again," Baqi said.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">International forces have fought for control of Panjwai for years as they've tried to subdue the Taliban in their rural strongholds. The Taliban movement started just to the north of Panjwai and many of the militant group's senior leaders, including chief Mullah Omar, were born, raised, fought or preached in the area. Omar once ran an Islamic school in an area of Panjwai that has since been carved into a new district.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">In addition to its symbolic significance, the district is an important base for the Taliban to use to target neighboring Kandahar city. Panjwai was seen as key to securing Kandahar city to east when U.S. forces flooded the province as part of President Barack Obama's strategy to surge in the south starting in 2009.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">Karzai said he was sending a high-level delegation to investigate and deliver a full report.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">Twelve of the dead were from Balandi, said Samad Khan, a farmer who lost all 11 members of his family, including women and children. Khan was away from the village when the incident occurred and returned to find his family members shot and burned. One of his neighbors was also killed, he said. It was unclear how or why the bodies were burned.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">"This is an anti-human and anti-Islamic act," said Khan. "Nobody is allowed in any religion in the world to kill children and women."</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">Khan demanded that Karzai punish the American shooter.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">"Otherwise we will make a decision," said Khan. "He should be handed over to us."</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">Residents in Alkozai village also demanded that Karzai punish the American or hand him over to the villagers. The four people killed in the village were all from one family, said a female relative who was shouting in anger. She did not give her name because of the conservative nature of local society.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">"No Taliban were here. No gunbattle was going on," said the woman. "We don't know why this foreign soldier came and killed our innocent family members. Either he was drunk or he was enjoying killing civilians."</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">The Taliban called the shootings the latest sign that international forces are working against the Afghan people.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">"The so-called American peace keepers have once again quenched their thirst with the blood of innocent Afghan civilians in Kandahar province," The Taliban said in a statement posted on a website used by the insurgent group.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">U.S. forces have been implicated in other violence in the same area.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">Four soldiers from a Stryker brigade out of Lewis-McChord, Washington, have been sent to prison in connection with the 2010 killings of three unarmed men during patrols in Kandahar province's Maiwand district, which is just northwest of Panjwai. They were accused of forming a "kill team" that murdered Afghan civilians for sport — slaughtering victims with grenades and powerful machine guns during patrols, then dropping weapons near their bodies to make them appear to have been combatants.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">And in January, before the Quran burning incident, a video that purportedly showed U.S. Marines urinated on corpses of men they had killed sparked widespread outrage.</p><p style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, Geneva; font-size: 13px; line-height: 15px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); ">President Barack Obama has apologized for the Quran burnings and said they were a mistake.</p></p> Sun, 11 Mar 2012 15:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/afghan-president-us-soldier-kills-16-civilians-97200