Waste: State Department And US Navy Pissing Away Taxpayer Dollars Looking For Amelia Earhart Aircraft That May Or May Not Have Crashed In Pacific 75 Years Ago

June 3, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – One of the most enduring mysteries of the annals of aviation, is what happened after Miss Earhart last radioed from her Lockheed Model 10E “Electra” that she was unable to locate an airstrip for landing.

The accepted wisdom was that Earhart’s aircraft had simply run out of fuel and crashed into the ocean on July 2, 1937, as she searched for Howland Island.

Howland was the final refuelling stop before flying on to Honolulu and completing the journey by touching down in Oakland, California.

An expedition that will set sail from Hawaii on July 2, which marks the 75th anniversary of the last message by Phoenix International, the US Navy’s primary source of deep ocean search and recovery expertise, will map a former British possession that has been indentified as the most likely crash site.

A team of enthusiasts from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (Tighar) has drawn up the plans for the expedition, which is backed by the US State Department.

It will use high technology, including multi-beam sonar, to inspect a steep and craggy underwater mountainside on the western reef slope of island of Nikumaroro, a former British colony that is today part of the republic of Kiribati.

“Our objective on this expedition is to conduct a thorough search of the area we judge to be most likely to contain wreckage from the Earhart Electra,” said Tighar.

While much of the aircraft is likely to have been lost in the intervening years, researchers believe some key components – such as the Pratt & Whitney engines – could still be where they sank 75 years ago.

“Any man-made objects found will be photographed and their location carefully recorded,” the group said. “No recovery of objects will be attempted unless necessary to confirm identification.#”Should identifiable wreckage from the Electra be discovered it will be documented as thoroughly as possible in situ so that a separate expedition can be equipped with the appropriate means to recover and conserve the materials.”

If the aircraft had sufficient fuel to reach Nikumaroro, which was at the time the uninhabited British possession known as Gardner Island, it could have landed on reef flats before being washed over the ledge.

Earhart and Fred Noonan, her navigator, could have survived on the island for a time, but eventually succumbed to injury or infection, food poisoning or thirst.

The theory is supported by British colonial records in Fiji reporting the discovery of the partial skeleton of a castaway who perished shortly before the island was settled in 1938.

The bones were found in the shade of a tree in a part of the island that fits the description of the encampment that Tighar has been excavating.

The site is dotted with the remains of small fires on which meals of birds, fish, turtle and even rat were cooked.

Previous research trips have turned up parts of aluminium skin from an aircraft, plexiglass from a cockpit, a zip made in Pennsylvania in the mid-1930s, a broken pocket knife of the same brand that was listed in an inventory of Earhart’s aircraft and the remains of a 1930s woman’s compact.

Ric Gillespie, executive director of Tighar, says they still need to find incontrovertible proof that Earhart on Nikumororo – the “smoking gun.”

This expedition apparently offers the best chances of that yet, with new forensic evidence of a photo that may show part of the aircraft on the reef sufficient to convince the US government to support the project.

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US Navy Nuclear Powered Submarine USS Miami Catches Fire At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

May 23, 2012

KITTERY, MAINE – A fire has been reported on a nuclear-powered submarine at a Maine shipyard.

Fire crews are responding to the blaze on the USS Miami SSN 755 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, located on an island in the small town of Kittery near Portsmouth, N.H. The Portsmouth Herald newspaper says several firefighters have been injured.

Shipyard public affairs specialist Gary Hildreth says the fire is located in the forward compartment of the sub. The shipyard says the sub’s reactor wasn’t operating at the time of Wednesday evening’s fire and wasn’t affected.

Nonessential personnel have been removed from the sub. Black smoke has been billowing overhead, visible from surrounding areas.

The USS Miami is a Los Angeles class submarine. It arrived at the shipyard for maintenance and upgrade work in March. Its home station is Groton, Conn., where the U.S. Navy has a submarine base.

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Navy Jet Crashes Into Virginia Beach Residential Neighborhood Burning Apartment Buildings

April 6, 2012

VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA – Two Navy pilots ejected from a fighter jet Friday, sending the unmanned plane careening into a Virginia Beach apartment complex and tearing the roof off at least one building that was engulfed in flames, officials said.

Local officials reported three injuries, including the pilot, but no deaths. The Navy said both people on board the jet ejected before it crashed around noon and were being taken to hospitals for observation.

Live video from WAVY-TV showed dozens of police cars, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles filling the densely populated neighborhood where the plane crashed. Yellow fire hoses snaked through side streets as fire crews poured water on the charred rooftops of brick apartment houses. Another fire crew doused the plane’s wreckage with streams of white foam to try and contain any potential spill of jet fuel.

Four buildings had massive damage, showing gaping holes with fire-blackened edges, while a few yards away, rows of homes were largely untouched.

As authorities closed roads in the neighborhood, traffic backed up on side streets and on nearby Interstate 264, with slow-moving columns of vehicles bringing drivers to a virtual standstill early Friday afternoon.

The crash happened in the Hampton Roads area, which has a large concentration of military bases, including Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world. Naval Air Station Oceana, where the F/A-18D that crashed was assigned, is located in Virginia Beach.

Edna Lukens, an apartment employee across the street from the crash, said she saw three apartment buildings on fire.

“We heard this loud noise and we looked out the window and there was smoke all in the sky. Then the flames started going up in the sky, and then the apartment building just started burning and the police was called and everybody came out,” Lukens said.

Lukens said a senior citizens’ community was across the street, and people were trying to help them evacuate.

The Daily Press of Portsmouth reported that Sean Pepe of Norfolk and Kenny Carver of Hampton saw the jet as they were driving on Interstate 264. They said it appeared to be “floating” in the air before it went down behind trees.

“It was odd, but we didn’t think anything of it,” Pepe told the newspaper. “We thought it was doing maneuvers. We were watching the plane but didn’t see the impact. We saw it go down and there was a `boom.’ Then there was black smoke everywhere.”

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued this statement Friday:

“We are taking all possible steps at the state level to provide immediate resources and assistance to those impacted by the crash of an F-18 fighter jet in Virginia Beach. In the past half hour I have spoken to Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms several times and informed him that all Commonwealth resources are available to him as the community responds to this breaking situation. We are monitoring events carefully as they unfold and State Police resources are now on the scene. Our fervent prayer is that no one was injured or killed in this accident.”

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., says the first responders “are admirably addressing the situation on the ground,” according to a release.

“Our prayers are with our entire Hampton Roads and military communities right now,” he says. “I have spoken with Governor McDonnell, Mayor Sessoms, and leadership at Naval Air Station Oceana, and my office and I stand ready to assist as appropriate.”

The same model of fighter jet, an F/A-18D, crashed in December 2008 while returning to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar after a training exercise in a San Diego neighborhood. That crash killed four members of one family and destroyed two homes.

The Marine Corps said the jet suffered a mechanical failure, but a series of bad decisions led the pilot — a student — to bypass a potentially safe landing at a coastal Navy base after his engine failed. The pilot ejected and told investigators he screamed in horror as he watched the jet plow into the neighborhood, incinerating two homes. A federal judge ordered the U.S. government to pay the family nearly $18 million in restitution.

An F-18, a supersonic jet used widely in the Marine Corps and Navy and by the stunt-flying Blue Angels, costs about $57 million. An F-18 crashed at Miramar — known as the setting for the movie “Top Gun” — in November 2006, and that pilot also ejected safely.

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Scam By Military Prosecutor And Judge Sends Sex Offender Doctor To Jail For Just 7 Days – At Least 23 Victims, Some Of Whom Have A Problem With Doctor Receiving Less Than A Slap On The Wrist

June 6, 2010

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, JAPAN — Victims of convicted sex offender Lt. Cmdr. Anthony L. Velasquez say they are furious at the Navy for letting the disgraced doctor off with what they perceive as a light sentence — and then misleading them into thinking the sentence had been much tougher.

At least 23 women had alleged that Velasquez sexually violated them after they sought medical treatment in two locations, at Japan’s Naval Air Facility Atsugi branch clinic in 2007 and 2008 and Kuwait’s Camp Arifjan clinic between December 2008 and June 2009.

On May 26, Velasquez pleaded guilty at a Yokosuka Naval Base court-martial to two counts of wrongful sexual contact and two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. In exchange for those guilty pleas, under the terms of a pretrial plea agreement negotiated between the Judge Advocate General’s Office and the defense, prosecutors dropped 29 other counts of sexual misconduct and related charges leveled against Velasquez by his former patients.

Military judge Cmdr. David Berger sentenced Velasquez to two years in prison, a $28,000 fine, dismissal from the Navy and forfeiture of all pay and allowances, but the convening authority suspended the prison sentence and fine in accordance with the pretrial agreement. Instead, Velasquez spent just seven days in the Yokosuka Naval Base brig.

But a post-trial e-mail sent to victims by the JAG office left some with the impression that Velasquez would suffer a much harsher fate.

The May 26 e-mail stated that “the judge awarded a sentence of 24 months, a $28,000 fine to be paid right away or else an additional 6 months would be imposed, total forfeitures of pay, and most iportantly [sic], a DISMISSAL from the Navy.”

The e-mail made no mention of the plea agreement. Nor did it state that the judge’s sentence had been largely set aside because of the plea deal. Unless Velasquez violates the terms of the plea agreement and commits another crime, he won’t go to federal prison or pay any penalties.

Stars and Stripes contacted seven of the women whose complaints led to charges against Velasquez. Three said they did not fully understand what happened.

“I was confused when I read the [May 26] Stars and Stripes article, and it said that none of the punishment set would be happening unless he committed another crime … so I guess I don’t even know what his actual punishment is,” said an enlisted soldier whom Velasquez was convicted of molesting while she was a patient at Camp Arifjan. “It’s all been very unclear to me. I ask questions, and a lot of them don’t get answered.”

Capt. Rex Guinn, commander of Regional Legal Service Office Japan and the ranking officer copied on the JAG e-mail, said the victims were offered the right to choose whether they wanted to be notified of a plea agreement as part of the Victim-Witness Assistance Program. Neither Guinn nor any of the attorneys copied on the e-mail sent a follow-up e-mail to the full group of victims to clarify the decision.

“It was a wrap-up providing the 2703 form,” said Guinn, referring to a form that explains the post-trial rights of victims. “That was the intent of the communication.”

The victims are free to lodge an official complaint if they believe they were misled, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ron Steiner said. As of Friday afternoon, no one had done so, he said.

Two of the victims that Stars and Stripes interviewed said that prosecutor Lt. Emily Dewey, the author of the e-mail message, explained the plea deal to them after they sent her private replies about the confusing message.

Another victim said she did not blame Dewey for the misleading e-mail “because it didn’t sound like her at all.”

That victim said Dewey had told her about the impending plea deal days before the final hearing. Before the deal was made, she said, Dewey had expressed her eagerness to fight the complete case in a trial.

Dewey could not be reached for comment Friday, but told Stars and Stripes last week that all requests for comment should be referred to her superiors.

Among the seven women interviewed, two expressed some satisfaction that Velasquez had been found guilty, along with relief that the trial had concluded.

However, all expressed dismay over the terms of the plea deal, which most called “a slap on the wrist.”

Velasquez was released from the brig earlier this week and was walking around base at Atsugi on Wednesday, according to Navy officials.

“It feels like, because we’re military, there is no justice and that he’s getting away with it,” said one of the victims. “Had we been in the civilian world, he’d be in jail for a long time.

“But that’s not the case in the military, where the higher-ups make that decision,” she continued. “It’s another slap on the hand. It’s appalling. You know you’re going to suffer the rest of your life, and he’s just going to lose his license. Are you kidding me? It doesn’t make up for what he did.”

Many of the women visited Velasquez for common maladies such as neck and sinus pain. But, according to evidence and court testimony, Velasquez, 48, used his ungloved hands to fondle their genitals while purporting to check their lymph nodes.

“For me, this is yet another example of the military protecting officer positions from disciplinary action,” another victim said. “Have an enlisted man do the same thing, the sentence would have been much harsher.”

Steiner, the Navy spokesman, emphasized that Velasquez will have to register as a sex offender when he returns to the United States. His medical credentials also will be subject to revocation by a civilian medical body, and he will be dismissed from the Navy–the harshest type of discharge available in that service.

“That’s the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge,” Steiner said. “These are serious outcomes.”

The case must now be authenticated, which includes transcription and review of the proceedings by attorneys. It is then forwarded for approval to the convening authority, which in this case is the Naval Forces Japan commander, Rear Adm. Richard Wren.

Wren can make the sentence more lenient but he cannot make it any harsher.

“The convening authority can order a rehearing to the findings … but I’ve never seen it happen,” Guinn said.

Following Wren’s decision, the case is subject to appeal.

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