Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Barry's Endless Disappointment Trip






Starting with Steven D. Green, convicted last Thursday in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and on the third day. Evan Bright reports that the defense put Gary Solace ("a Vietnam War vet who testified about military training+combat stress and its effects") and Andrew Horn. Horn's a retired Marine. He knows Green from . . . well he doesn't. Green has been convicted. The defense is tossing up 'experts' and using damn little time to provide people who know Green. Green's been convicted. 'Experts' aren't the issue at this point. Yesterday was nothing but 'experts' except for Green's uncle Dr. Greg Simolke. Evan Bright reports of that testimony yesterday:

You could see the emotion growing in Simolke's face and demeanor. He spoke of Steven, Doug, and Danny not having many rules. When asked about Doug's "being tough" on Steve, he testified that "Doug...was hard on Steve...(pause) felt like that...wore on Steve. Doug was sort of..." At this point, Dr. Simolke broke down crying and had to pause for a few minutes to regain his composure. He was given some water and he continued. "Doug was sort charge, but he was too young to manage Steve." Bouldin asked what his(Simolke's) thoughts were on Green and he "generally..I felt sorry for Steve. I felt that he wasn't completely normal....nothing drastic or super unusual...he was generally left out [throughout] his life. (pauses...more tears) Nothing ever worked out for him, he had a black cloud hanging over him..(pause)..I just didn't think life was workin' out for him." During all of this, Green was noticed staring straight ahead. Simolke testified that he wouldn't have called Steven Green a leader. "No....I don't want to be offensive...he wasn't a leader...anyone who knows Steve wouldn't say he was. He's a follower." Simolke testified about Green living with him for a few months, maintaining a C-average, before realizing that he was so far behind in school that wouldn't be able to graduate high school that year with the rest of his classmates; after which dropping out and moving back to his hometown of Midland, TX where he got his GED.

Instead of staying with that and pursuing that line, they offered 'experts'. Deborah Feverick (CNN) notes, "Defense lawyers trying to save their client from the death penalty argued Tuesday that former U.S. soldier Steven Green exhibited clear symptoms of acute stress disorder in Iraq and that a military psychiatric nurse-practioner failed to diagnose the troubled infantryman and pull him out of combat." The 'experts' didn't even know what they were talking about and one conflicted his account on the stand and better hope the jury doesn't learn what happened this weekend. Bright reports that Dr. Ruben Gur stated Green needed structure and was asked if Green would do well in military? Gur answered affirmative. After explaining the MRI said otherwise. Did no one catch that? He would also, according to Gur, do well in prison with the structure. AP reports Green "threw a lunch tray" in jail Saturday over needing to shave but not having (or, more likely, being given) a razor. Gur was an 'expert.' Another reason not to waste the jury's time with 'experts.' Guilt was already established. The issue now is the sentencing. Friends and family of Green is who needs to be put on the stand to humanize Green, not to turn him into a case study.

Yesterday CBS Evening News with Katie Couric offered a report by Bob Orr on the Sgt John M. Russell shooting five other service members in Iraq:

Bob Orr: His commander feared Sgt John Russell was on the edge. They took away his weapon and ordered him into counseling in a combat stress clinic in Baghdad. He went there yesterday, officials say, and opened fire killing five service men. 22-year-old John Michael Russell: He's got medals. And he was doing good for -- for the country. Bob Orr: Today at their home in Sherman, Texas, Russell's twenty-one year-old son struggled to understand how his dad on his third tour of duty in Iraq now faces five counts of murder. 22-year-old John Michael Russell: For him to do something like that, he couldn't have been in his right state of mind. They had to -- they had to put him to a breaking point and just -- he just had to have lost it. Just lost all train of thought to do anything like that. Bob Orr: [Sgt] Russell's father said he may have snapped fearing his military career could be ended by a stress diagnosis. Wilburn Russell: His life was over as far as he was concerned. He was going to lose everything. And I guess it was too much. Bob Orr: Military investigators don't know what triggered the shootings but say Russell was agitated when asked to leave the clinic after arguing with a counselor. A short time later, Russell returned to the stress center with a weapon he apparently stole from his armed escort. The rampage played out quickly. Gen David Perkins: The suspect was apprehended outside the clinic shortly after shots were heard. Bob Orr: The incident is the deadliest involving soldier-on-soldier violence in the six year Iraq War. In response the army has now launched an investigation to determine whether it needs more people and facilities in war zones to deal with combat stress and soldiers on the brink. Patrick Campbell (Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America): These are the canaries in the mine. If we don't start addressing these issues, people are going to get more and more injured and it's going to be harder to treat them. Bob Orr: For Sgt Russell who had planned to be home by July, it's too late. Wilburn Russell: His father's heartbroken, his mother's crying in their hiding. We're -- we're sorry for the families involved too. Cause they're going through heart ache. Bob Orr: His family says they knew of no warning sings. Russell in fact recently e-mailed his son on his birthday and just Sunday e-mailed his mother for Mother's Day.

James Dao and Lizette Alvarez (New York Times) report, "Lt. Col. Edward Brusher, the deputy director of behavioral health proponecy for the surgeon general, said in March that there was one provider for 640 service members in Iraq." They quote him stating, "There are currently enough behavioral health providers." As Elaine noted last night:The military is saying that speculation does no good but this is the same military that has closed the stress center. 1 US soldier just shot 5 others dead. If there were ever a time when a stress center was most needed, it would be right now. Had a shooting taken place at a support hospital or triage center, they would not have shut down.They wouldn't have had the option. The feeling would have been, "This is emergency work." But note the difference when it comes to the brain, to mental issues, to stress.They closed down the combat stress center yesterday. When it was most needed.

Meanwhile Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) identified two of those killed on Monday: Charles K. Springle and Michael Edward Yates. Luis Martinez, Martha Raddatz and Kate Barrett (ABC News) speak with Yates' stepfather, Richard Van Blarga Jr., who states, he thinks Yates mentioned Russell in a call on Sunday: "On the conversation with my wife on Mother's Day, he said that he had met a sergeant, that he was, in his words, he was a very nice guy, he could deal with him, but he had some major issues. He was out there on the branch hoping for somebody to help him." Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News) reports Christian Bueno-Galdos, Matthew Houseal and Jacob Barton are the other three who were shot dead on Monday. She also notes the phone call Yates made to his mother on Sunday and quotes Shawna Machlinski (his mother) stating, "I do have some sympathy and I do know that I can forgive him [Russell]." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) notes, "The shootings concerned the military, which is preparing to withdraw troops from Iraq's cities by the end of June under the terms of the security agreement reached with the Iraqi government. Camp Liberty, part of the sprawling complex of bases that make up Camp Victory, will not close because both countries have decided that it is not part of Baghdad." The bases are in Baghdad and out of it (they sprawl). According to the treaty masquerading as the Status Of Forces Agreement, the US soldiers on them should be removed or else the US base could become a joint US-Iraqi base. Neither is happening, the much lauded SOFA is being violated. That's only one aspect. In a report that only Alsumaria currently has, the Status Of Forces Agreement doesn't apply to all of Iraq. That's the claim being offered by a US Major: "56th Combat brigade Chief in the US military Major Marc Ferrero clarified that his forces stationed in Taji are not included in the decision of US Forces withdrawal from Iraq cities since this region is out of Baghdad Province. He ruled out as well the possibility of violence spike in the regions under his command where security and stability reign." Back to the issue of the US soldiers and of injuries . . .

"I want to thank you all for being here," declared US House Rep Bob Finer bringing the House Veterans' Affairs Committee -- full committee, which he chairs -- to order [click here for prepared opening statement, I'm quoting what he actually said.] "The purpose is very simple. In my job and I'm sure everyone of my colleagues has the same experience, we come into contact with constituents in business or patients who have had contact or have invented or have manufactured instruments, technologies, treatments which would seem to have a great benefit for our veterans. And yet many have had a frustrating experience of dealingwith a bureaucracy that just doesn't seem to react very quickly to new ideas and treatments and people are frustrated."

The committee was holding a hearing this morning entitled Innovative Technologies and Treatments Helping Veterans. There were two panels of witnesses. The first panel was composed of David R. Bethune (Zila, Inc), Dr. David Sidransky (Johns Hopkins University), Robert A. Beckman (Brainport Technologies), David A. Broecker (Alkermes, Inc.), Mark Munroe (Mobile Medical International Corporation), Stanley Stern (TeleMed Network) and Dr. David Scadden (Harvard). The second panel was composed of Dr. Howard J. Federoff (Georgetown University), Dr. Nelson M. Handal (Harmonex, Inc) and James A. Schoeneck (BrainCells Inc). Click on the name for prepared statements (these are all non-PDF format, no worries). We'll be focusing on the first panel and largely one aspect.

The full committee was supposed to be present but that did not happen. "None of our Republican colleagues are here," Chair Bob Finer explained. "They decided somehow that special interests were invited." If so, wasn't it their job to call out special interests? Apparently Republicans on the Committee just needed a Snow Day.

Robert Beckman spoke of a portable device, the Brainport Vision Device, where a small camera ("with zoom capability") is hooked to other neurochannels ("such as the tongue"). Beckman stated, "One blind user with two glass eyes was able to successfully shoot a basketball and another used the Brainport Vision Device at an indoor rock climbing gym to see the next rock holds and at home with his daughter to play Tic-Tac-Toe."

"The Brainport Vision Device will not replace the cane or the sight dog," he continued. "But it will become an important, additional tool to improve the safety, mobility and quality of life for blind users. Some examples. Finding the open seat on a crowded bus or train. Identifying the direction to the target building in a confusing parking lot. Finding the handle in order to remove a hot pot from the stove. Wicab recently sponsored clinical testing of the Brainport Vision Device at the Atlanta VA. Dr. Michael Williams, the PI concluded, 'Bottom line, the device performs remarkably well for the tasks that we looked at in phase one'. To optimize the device we need feedback from a much larger pool of users who are blind. We would welcome the opportunity to further test the Brainport Vision Device at VA sites. Perhaps those willing soldiers who are blind as a result of a blast injury should be first in line to test this new technology?"

US House Rep Jerry McNerney's had a few questions.

Jerry McNerney: Mr. Beckman, the Brainport Vision Device. This sounds very -- How intrusive is the -- is the device that's on the tongue? Are you able to eat? Do you have to remove it for different activities? Or -- how intrustive is this?

Robert Beckman: Well for vision, the device does rest on top of the tongue. And so, yes, indeed, in its current form you would have to remove the device when you were eating, talking, etc. However, with additional funding there is no -- there are no technological barriers to making this device totally wireless so that the intra-oral device could be mounted on the upper pallette and blind people using wireless techonology would be able to use the device without anybody else knowing that they actually have the technology available to them.

Jerry McNerney: Well that's pretty exciting. I'm kind of thrilled by the technical aspect of this rather than the administrative aspect, if you can't tell.

US House Rep John Hall also had some questions.

John Hall: Mr. Beckman, I was wondering if you could tell us why Brainport Devices are not implantable and is that something that could change?

Robert Beckman: I think one of the key advantages of the Brainport Device is the fact that it's non-implantable. In fact, it's a portable device where there's no need to implant the techonology. Other technologies for vision such as retinal implants are being developed. But I think the fact that they involve surgery, that they're invasive, means that those technologies will likely not be available for probably ten years or more. Our technology is available today.

John Hall: I understand that and I can see the advantadges to either -- to both. Cochlear implants, for instance, have been and are being used by large number of people with some success. Is that because of the location in the brain of the nerves that one would need to get at and the centers one would need to get at that it's more difficult. Or is this something that you see happening in the future?

Robert Beckman: That was really, going back to my testimony, that was really one of Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita's main hypothesis that the brain is not hard wired so, in other words, you can use an alternate sensor -- you can use an alternate sensor and also an alternate path to send that signal to the brain. And we have demonstrated that, for instance, people who are blind who perform a certain task with our device and while they're performing that task they are analyzed with PET [Positron Emission Tomography] imaging. We have demonstrated that those people process the visual information in the visual cortex of their brain. On the other hand, people who are sighted, that perform the exact same task, process that same information in the somata sensory region of their brain. So in other words, people do -- the brain is masterful in the way that it can process the information in the appropriate area

John Hall: And it can -- it can change? It can switch and adapt from one pathway to another?

Robert Beckman: Yes.

John Hall: What's the typical training -- You may have said this in response to a question before I got here -- what's the typical training time for someone to use --- to adapt to Brainport?

Robert Beckman: I think that's also an amazing part about this technology. We train blind people literally in hours to start to recongize symbols, pathways, doorways, etc. We have not, so far, had anybody except for one blind person, Erik Weihenmayer, use the device even more than ten hours. So all the -- we've got videos on our website, etc., that show some of the benefits. All of those people are performing the tasks that we show with less than ten hours of training. And I think what is most interesting is what will happen when we get this technology into the hands of many, many adults letting them take it home, use it on their own, explore the potential benefits of the technology on their own. That's where we'll start to really discover what the advantages and possibilites are for this technology.

Beckman also spoke of the Brainport Balance Device for those with balance problems. Broecker spoke of VIVITROL which was FDA approved in 2006 and treats alcoholism. How? He was more interested in discussing alcoholism. Were I testifying to Congress, I would assume the members were aware of alcoholism and would use my time to explain why my medicine needed government money and/or veterans access as opposed to offering a history of alcoholism. Bethune and Sidransky spoke of oral cancer, the rate of which is on the rise and veterans account for five-percent of all cases each year in the United States. Bethune explained, "Veterans are almost 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with oran cancer than are members of the general public." They were seeking to have ViziLite Plus used for early screening of veterans. Mark Munroe was asking for attention to and resources for Mobile Medical which is a "mobile surgical hospitals." It was used in Iraq on The Learning Channel's Little People, Big World, episodes nineteen and twenty which TLC described as follows, "When Matt Roloff learns of an Iraqi family with dwarf children who are in severe need of medical intervention, he is compelled to help them. Amy and the Roloff kids are concerned for Matt's safety as he makes the long, difficult and dangerous journey to Baghdad. Once there, he falls in with the U.S. military, who provides armed escort into the Green Zone -- where Matt meets the family and gains their trust. Touched by the familys heartwarming spirit, Matt gets photos and X-rays of the kids to bring back to America for evaluation by medical specialists." From those two episodes, let's note this clip where Matt Roloff speaks with Iraqi journalists

Matt Roloff: I think it was important for me to be able to communicate with the Iraqi people that it's important for their citizens to put value on all of their fellow citizens, even if they are little people. That's an important message we're still trying to communicate in the States and to be able to do it in another country is just as, if not more gratifying, just as gratifying.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"More on US Sgt Russell and SOFA only applies to Baghdad"
"Green's War Crimes sentence hearing continues"
"Another broken promise"
"David Zeiger"
"contribute to independent media? find it 1st"
"Kurds and al-Maliki"
"Guns & Butter, Sam Smith"

"Dickey Chapelle and female correspondents"
"Norman Solomon the joke that never ends"
"Dennis Loo, ACLU"
"Dennis Loo and other things"
"Barack's latest lies"

1 comment:

Peter Meijer said...

Thanks for posting this interesting transcript! The US hearing completely missed discussion on an alternative sensory substitution approach that is already globally available: