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Author: TriSec    Date: 06/07/2016 02:07:01

Good Morning.

It's been fairly quiet of late, but of course I have stories saved. We'll start with the latest news from Afghanistan - perhaps you heard an NPR photographer and his translator were killed yesterday? Journalists in harms' way is nothing new; take a look at Robert Capa or Ernie Pyle to name just two. The story yesterday is slightly notable, as it was the first time NPR personnel were actually killed in the line of duty, so to speak.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) —Two members of an NPR news crew, David Gilkey and Zabihullah Tamanna, were killed on Sunday while traveling in southern Afghanistan.

"They were traveling with an Afghan army unit when the convoy came under fire. Their vehicle was struck by shell fire," according to a statement by NPR.

Two other NPR crew members, correspondent Tom Bowman and producer Monika Evstatieva, "were in a following vehicle," NPR head of news Michael Oreskes told CNN. "Tom and Monika were not hurt."

Sunday's attack marks the first time in the 46-year history of NPR that one of its journalists has been killed on assignment.

Gilkey, 50, was an award-winning staff photographer and video editor for NPR. In the 15 years since the 9/11 attacks, he returned time and time again to Afghanistan and other conflict zones.

"David was profoundly committed to coverage of both Afghanistan and Iraq," Oreskes said. "He wanted to know what was happening to the people there. I think that's why he kept going back -- because he wanted to understand what was happening to the soldiers and civilians."

Tamanna was an Afghan freelance journalist hired by NPR to be a translator for its team of journalists. His Twitter profile also identified him as a freelancer with Anadolu News Agency.

In a telephone interview, Oreskes noted that "the Afghan journalists have been the bravest of all," documenting the ongoing conflict in the country while foreign correspondents rotate in and out.

You're also probably aware that the President was at the Air Force Academy last week to deliver the keynote address at graduation. (A USAF Thunderbird went down almost immediately after the flyover. The pilot, who survived, is a local guy from Chelmsford, and talked to his Commander-in-Chief shortly after the incident.) But remember a while back when we reported on the aggressive Christianity that seems to be prevalent throughout the Air Force? Despite investigations and other promises, it still hasn't quite gone away. The President may have seen some interesting billboards on his way into Colorado Springs.

When President Obama heads to the Air Force Academy in Colorado on Wednesday, it's entirely possible he'll catch glimpse of a welcoming billboard -- or perhaps even a banner towed by a plane -- asking "Why is Jesus Commander-in-Chief here?"

The billboards are bearing a message from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a civil rights organization that for a decade has been fighting to maintain a separation of church and state within the military.

And nowhere has the group fought more often than at the Colorado Springs-based service academy, where in 2004 the commandant urged cadets to use a "J is for Jesus" hand sign to signify their faith and just this past year the school's football team routinely gathered in what could only be seen as a Christian prayer at the start of their games.

Even when the Air Force conceded there was a problem, however, it has never taken serious action to stop the behavior, according to Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of the MRFF.

"We thought the best way to bring attention to this issue was to put up the billboards [for Obama to see], as he does the last commencement of his presidency," Weinstein said.

The White House did not respond to Military.com's request for comment, or even to confirm whether Obama or his advance team are aware of the billboards and banner. The banner, flown by Drag 'n' Fly Banners, reads "Why is Jesus Commander in Chief at USAFA?"

I have had the great privilege and joy of visiting the USMA at West Point. We got to camp out on some training ground, went on several tours of the facility (including some places the public doesn't get to go - the benefit of being led on the tour by an Eagle Scout) and generally had a grand old time. You probably don't know that the USMA is home to the world's largest pipe organ in the Protestant Cathedral there - over 23,000 individual pipes create some astonishing music. But there's also a Christian church, a temple, and probably a mosque by now on the campus grounds. I wonder why the Air Force Academy seems to be so different?

We'll finish up today just 90 miles south of Key West. (OK, it's further than that, but you know what I mean.) This President made it a central plank in his campaign platform - close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. With the verdict of history looming on the horizon, it's unfortunately going to have to be listed as a failure. Whether or not we have President Trump or President Clinton, the military is actually paying little attention to who the next Commander-in-Chief will be. Instead, they're moving on with business as usual.

Military leaders are thinking about whether they will need a wheelchair lift, widen some cell doors and add ramps for geriatric captives in the Guantanamo three or four years from now.

None of the 80 prisoners are now in wheelchairs and most are in their 30s or 40s. The oldest is 68. But briefings by senior military here made it that they are starting think about operating the offshore Pentagon detention center long after President Barack Obama leaves office.

"At some point if detention operations continue here we will have to address, 'Are the doors in the cells wide enough to move wheelchairs in and out? Are there ramps to reach the medical facilities?" said Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, the prison commander. "And we've just started looking at that. So I can't tell you we are ready or not. But it's something we can plan for."

Obama wants the prison closed. and a Pentagon plan proposes moving 30 to 40 captives to detention in the United States and releasing the rest to other countries. But Congress has outlawed any transfers to U.S. soil, and some members have proposed legislation to prevent transfers altogether, to anywhere.

"If I'm told to transfer them to the United States or somewhere else -- and I have a legal order to do so -- we will carry out that order professionally, like we do any other transfer," said Clarke, the 16th commander of prison operations.

Clarke, in the seventh month of what is traditionally a one-year assignment, offers guarded speculation on what the prison operation will look like this time next year. "I think we'll have less detainees than we have today. I think we will have consolidated Camp 5 and 6. I'm not willing to predict whether we'll have operations here at Guantanamo Bay or somewhere else."

A week ago, 15 former CIA captives were still in seclusion at a clandestine site called Camp 7. Of the remaining 65 captives, 28 were on a list approved for transfer, spread out across three different sites capable of confining 300 captives.

Two among them wear orange jumpsuits, signaling that they are rule-breakers the military considered violent. But the other 63 were categorized as compliant and cooperative.

If they're planning for wheelchairs and geriatric care....well, we're probably not closing it anytime soon, hmm?

14 comments (Latest Comment: 06/07/2016 20:00:18 by Will in Chicago)
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