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Soldiers told they are losing child care because of hiring freeze

Some U.S. soldiers serving overseas have been told that they are losing their child care.

A letter sent Wednesday to servicemen and women at Army Garrison Wiesbaden in Germany said all part-day preschool and day-care programs would close. The letter from the base’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Todd Fish, said: "This closure is a result of staff shortage due to the federal hiring freeze."

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"President Trump should be embarrassed about the way his actions are impacting our men and women in uniform," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

A government-wide hiring freeze was one of Trump’s first actions in office. There are supposed to be exemptions for critical positions. In a Feb. 1 memo, the Pentagon singled out child care for military personnel as being eligible for exemptions.

Kelly Hruska of the National Military Family Association said parents at Fort Knox received a similar letter.

"No parent wants to worry about their child," Hruska said. "And so this just adds additional stress." An Army spokesman said that after those letters were sent to service members, the Pentagon approved exemptions for child-care workers at the bases. 

"With those approved exemptions, hiring actions to fill those child care vacancies can begin," said Nate Allen, an Army spokesman.

Allen said his office has not heard of any other bases or installations that have cut or eliminated child-care services because of the hiring freeze.

Former Army major general demoted, used government card for strip clubs, investigators say

A senior military aide who was fired during an investigation into allegations that he used his government credit card to pay four-figure bills at foreign strip clubs has been demoted and will retire as a one-star general, U.S. Army officials said last week.

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Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter fired his senior military assistant, Lt. Gen. Ron Lewis, in November 2015 after allegations of misconduct surfaced. In a statement released to the Army Times, Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said Lewis misused his government and travel credit card to pay for personal expenses, lied to officials about the misuse and "engaged in conduct unbecoming of an officer on multiple occasions."

He was demoted to brigadier general, the Army Times reported.

In a 50-page report released in October 2016, Army officials said they found evidence that Lewis charged more than $1,000 on his government card at a club in Seoul, South Korea, from which military personnel had been forbidden because of its ties to underage drinking. The club, Candy Bar, is in an area known as "Hooker Hill," officials said.

When confronted with the expense reports, Lewis said he had no explanation for the charges, according to the report. After he returned from Seoul in April 2015, officials said he lied to military authorities and the bank and claimed that the charges were fraudulent and unauthorized.

He again used his government-issued expense card in October 2015 while visiting the Cica Cica Boom club in Rome. The club was described as "an establishment with signage advertising 'sexy show,' 'fans club' and 'lap dance,'" in the DODIG's report.

Lewis admitted that he drank "more than moderation" over a 3-hour span and said that after he danced with several local women he was unable to use his personal debit card to pay the $1,755 bill he had racked up. He went back to his hotel room with a Cica Cica Boom club employee to get his government card.

"I left (the club) with a big bill and they wanted to make sure I came back and paid it," Lewis said, according to investigators said. "It had to be put on my government card in order to have this bill cleared."

The report also detailed several inappropriate interactions Lewis had with women, including one late-night incident in his hotel room when he was drinking with a female enlisted service member who later told investigators he tried to kiss her.

Lewis denied the bulk of the allegations in a rebuttal through his attorney.

Lewis had shot up the promotional ladder, and his job with Carter stemmed from their close professional relationship. He had served as an aide to Carter when Carter was deputy defense secretary.

The IG report portrayed Lewis as a senior officer who often went out alone on overseas trips. It said his behavior concerned some staff members and at times was a topic of conversation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

President Trump slams Chelsea Manning for remarks about President Obama

President Donald Trump called Chelsea Manning an “ungrateful traitor” on Twitter early Thursday, after a column by Manning criticized former President Barack Obama.

"Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader. Terrible!" Trump tweeted.

Before leaving office, Obama commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence for sharing classified information to WikiLeaks when he was a U.S. Army private known then as Bradley Manning.

"The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama's legacy: do not start off with a compromise," Manning wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian. "They won't meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader."

The column went on to say, "Barack Obama left behind hints of a progressive legacy. Unfortunately, despite his faith in our system and his positive track record on many issues over the last eight years, there have been very few permanent accomplishments."

Manning was convicted in July 2013, of violations of the Espionage Act, among other offenses.

Air Force loosens tattoo restrictions for airmen

A rule that required airmen to have no more than 25 percent of their body parts covered with tattoos has been amended by the Air Force.

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The previous rule said "Air Force members (were) not allowed to display excessive tattoos that would detract from an appropriate professional image while in uniform," but the armed forces branch announced updated guidelines Tuesday.

"As part of our effort to attract and retain as many qualified airmen as possible, we periodically review our accessions policies," said Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James. "In this instance, we identified specific changes we can make to allow more members of our nation to serve without compromising quality. As a next step in this evolution, we are opening the aperture on certain medical accession criteria and tattoos while taking into account our needs for worldwide deployability and our commitment to the profession of arms."

The Air Force lifted the 25 percent coverage rule for the chests, backs, arms and legs for airmen and prospective servicemen. They'll also be allowed one single-band ring tattoo on one finger on one hand.

Air Force field recruiters said recent data shows that almost half of contacts, applicants and recruits as having tattoos, according to the official U.S. Air Force website.

"We are always looking at our policies and, when appropriate, adjusting them to ensure a broad scope of individuals are eligible to serve. These changes allow the Air Force to aggressively recruit talented and capable Americans who until now might not have been able to serve our country in uniform," said Chief Master Sgt. James A. Cody.

All tattoos that are obscene or associated with sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination are still prohibited, as are tattoos on the head, neck, face, tongue, lips and/or scalp.

The new tattoo policy will be effective beginning Feb. 1.

A new #Tattoo policy is here! We are also taking other steps to continue to allow the best to become #Airmen. https://t.co/XP9z0ABK4f pic.twitter.com/byicmZxKfz— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) January 10, 2017

Teen falls to his death sledding down slide at closed Wisconsin water park

A Florida teenager has died in a bizarre accident at a closed water park in a resort area in the Wisconsin Dells.

The teen and two other juveniles snuck into the Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park Wednesday night, according to Lake Delton police. The trio then slipped into a restricted area and climbed to the top of a water slide. While trying to sled down the snow-covered slide, the boy got caught in the snow and tumbled off the ride while trying to free himself, police said.

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He fell 35 feet to the ground and died at the scene.

The teen’s family was vacationing in the area, staying at a nearby resort for the holidays.

 

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Fall of Aleppo: Why are they fighting in Syria?

Officials from Russia, Turkey and Syrian rebel groups have reportedly reached an agreement for the rebels to leave the beleaguered  city of Aleppo in war-torn Syria, as pro-government forces have retaken an estimated 95 percent of the city.

In what a U.N. official called a “complete meltdown of humanity,” the forces of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad killed civilians in the streets Monday as they pushed forward in their final offensive to retake the eastern half of the city.

As of 9:49 p.m. local time, Russia says all military action in eastern Aleppo has stopped and the Syrian government is now in control.

U.N. and Russian officials both said that evacuations of the eastern portion of the city could begin as early as Tuesday evening. According to the Russians, the rebel forces are being allow to leave the city with their families to “destinations of their choice.”

The city of more than 2 million people has been virtually dismantled after more than five years of fighting.

Here’s what’s the conflict in Aleppo is about.

Where is Aleppo?

Aleppo is a city in Syria. It was once Syria's largest city, and was named a Unesco World Heritage site because of its importance to the world’s culture and the history of the Middle East. There are about 2.3 million people living there.

Why is Aleppo in the news?

Syria has been embroiled in a civil war for more than five years. The fighting, which began in March 2011 in Deraa, moved to the area in and around Aleppo in 2012 and has been fierce and constant there since then.

Why is there a civil war going on?

Syrians have long complained about corruption in their government, the lack of freedom, high unemployment, and the reign of the ruling al-Assad family. The current president, Bashar al-Assad, has been ruling the country since he succeeded his father, Hafez, when Hafez died in 2000.

Many believe the Arab Spring movements in other Middle East countries inspired the uprising in Deraa. When the government used overwhelming force to combat demonstrations in Deraa, the rebel movement gained support from Syrians opposed to Assad.

Who is fighting?

The troops of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are fighting insurgent troops known as rebels who are trying to overthrow Assad’s government. In Aleppo, rebel forces have been centered in the eastern portion of the city. The government forces are in the western half.

Why hasn’t the government been able to defeat the rebels?       

For a number of reasons – the main one being the intervention of other countries and groups. Russia, the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia have all played large roles in the war as has the Islamic State terror organization. 

Russia and Iran support Assad’s Shia government, while the United States and Saudi Arabia have – to some degree or another – backed rebel Sunni forces. 

How bad has the fighting been in Aleppo?

About as bad as it can be with anywhere from 250,000 to 270,000 people dead, according to humanitarian organizations and United Nation estimates. One monitoring group says the number is closer to 470,000 dead. The U.N. stopped counting casualties in August of 2015.

Nearly 5 million people have fled the country, many of them women and children. They have tried to relocate in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other Western countries, including the United States. The U.N. says 6.5 million people are internally displaced, meaning they are trying to find a safe haven from the fighting inside Syria, itself.

The United States and other countries have charged Assad with horrific acts during the civil war, ranging from the use of chemical weapons to mass slayings in the streets.

What happened today?

A last brutal push into Aleppo happened on Tuesday as pro-government forces reportedly retook the city, killing 82 civilians "on the spot" as they closed in on the last rebel enclave, The Associated Press reported.

According to the AP: “U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says opposition forces control just 5 percent of eastern Aleppo and the U.N. has received "credible reports" of civilians killed by intense bombing and summary executions by pro-government forces.”

In the past few days there have been reports of other mass killings, including reports that children were burned alive. These reports have not been independently confirmed.

At 8 p.m. local time, the U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura,  said discussions of a planned cease-fire in eastern Aleppo and the safe withdrawal of people from the besieged area is now "imminent."

At 9:24 p.m. local time, Russian officials said the Syrian-led 'counterterrorism operation' in eastern Aleppo will “end in a few hours,” and that "all militants are leaving eastern Aleppo with their families to destinations of their choice.”

Will this end the civil war?

No, it will not end the civil war because there are still pockets of resistance in other areas of the country.

When the government gains control over Aleppo, they will have control of the four major cities in Syria. 

Sources: The BBC; The New York Times; The Associated Press

Remembering Pearl Harbor attack 75 years later

It was a "day that would live in infamy," the day that the United States was attacked by the military forces of Japan at the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The attack on Dec. 7, 1941 came as a surprise to the men and women serving in the tropical military compound.

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The U.S. had not yet officially taken up arms in World War II, but it was helping supply Great Britain in the battle with the Nazis. Government officials were also trying to get Japan to stop expanding its military hold in Asia and the Pacific, according to the National World War 2 Museum.

The attack, the brainchild of Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, who thought of the attack, and Capt. Minoru Genda, who planned it, came from a book written in 1925. In "The Great Pacific War," author Hector Bywater showed how a fictional attack on the U.S. fleet by the Japanese could potentially pull America into a war. 

>> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here  

U.S. officials were warned of the attack when a cryptologist, or code breaker, intercepted a message from Japan that asked about ship movements and placement in Pearl Harbor. The code breaker's superior said he would get back to her on Dec. 8. On the morning of Dec. 7, a radar operator on Oahu saw planes heading toward the island and the base, but was told by his superior that they were probably planes that were scheduled to arrive on Pearl Harbor that day and not to worry about it, according to historians at the WW2 Museum.

He was mistaken.

The Japanese sent a declaration of war to the U.S. shortly before the attack, but it was delayed and was not sent to Washington until the bombings began. 

The attack by the Japanese started at 7:55 a.m. after a captain issued the code "Tora, Tora, Tora" to the planes flying over Oahu. The surprise attack was over in just over an hour and a half.

Breaking down the numbers:

  • 353 Japanese aircraft
  • 40 torpedo planes
  • 103 level bombers
  • 131 dive bombers
  • 79 bombers
  • Four heavy carriers
  • 2,403 U.S. personnel killed
  • including 68 civilians
  • 19 ships destroyed or damaged
  • Three aircraft carriers were not in the harbor and were spared
  • 29 Japanese aircraft destroyed
  • 5 Japanese small submarines destroyed
  • 129 Japanese military members killed
  • One Japanese soldier taken prisoner

Six months after the attack, in June 1942, U.S. aircraft carriers sank four Japanese carriers during the Battle of Midway, a decisive battle of the U.S. campaign against Japan, which ended in August 1945.

The remains of the USS Arizona sit just under the water at the base. A bridge stretches over the battleship that accounted for nearly half of the deaths during the attack. The crew who gave their lives are still entombed in the hull of the ship.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.8";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> Posted by Pacific Historic Parks - USS Arizona Memorial on Friday, October 2, 2015

Underwater view of the USS Arizona with plenty of fish. Visitors to the Arizona Memorial can also see fish when looking down from the viewing well.Posted by Pacific Historic Parks - USS Arizona Memorial on Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pearl Harbor continues to be an active military complex. It is the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet as well as a National Historic Landmark.

Each year over the more than 70 years since the attack, aging survivors, whose numbers are dwindling, return to pay their respects to their shipmates who were killed.

Wishing a very happy birthday to Pearl Harbor Survivor Sterling Cale, who turns 95 today! We salute you, sir! As a...Posted by Pacific Historic Parks - USS Arizona Memorial on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

When their time comes, the men who served on the USS Arizona during the attack and survived the deadly morning can be interred with their shipmates ever patrolling the Pacific. As of 2016, the National Park Service says 27 sailors and two Marines have been interred into the hull of the ship. After the ceremony, an urn holding the ashes of the departed are handed to divers, who place it in an area surrounding gun turret number four.

The latest issue of our print publication, Remembrance, is now available online for you to read: https://issuu.com/remembrance/docs/2016_spring_remembrance/1?e=2303271/35593894Posted by Pacific Historic Parks - USS Arizona Memorial on Saturday, May 14, 2016

The honor of returning to Pearl Harbor for their final watch isn't solely for survivors of the Arizona's crew from the day of the attack. Any Pearl Harbor survivor can have his ashes spread over the harbor where his ship was moored during the attack, while members of the Arizona's crew from before Dec. 7, 1941, can have their ashes spread above the historic ship.

WATCH: Military dad shows off twinkle toes with daughter in ballet class

A military dad is showing his true bravery by dancing with his daughter in her ballet class.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Fox News reports that Philip Curry, who serves in the U.S. Air Force, is stationed in the United Kingdom. His daughter, Alison, is taking ballet lessons near Norwich.

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He was brave enough to attend the class with her for the school’s Bring a Family Member to Dance Day last month.

>> Check out the adorable video here

2,000 veterans to shield Dakota Access pipeline protesters

Hundreds of military veterans will act as human shields next week in North Dakota as part of a three-day event aimed at protecting protesters who are attempting to halt a company’s plan to build an oil pipeline in the region.

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Organizers for Veterans Stand For Standing Rock said 2,000 veterans will arrive on Dec. 4 at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Until at least Dec. 7, they will stand beside protesters who oppose the 1,200-mile, four-state Dakota Access pipeline in the first of what is expected to be a series of similar events.

Veterans aim to defend protesters from what organizers described as "assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and (Dakota Access pipeline) security." Organizers encouraged participants to wear some part of their old uniforms, although they discouraged people from wearing their full uniforms or rank signifiers.

In an operations order created for the event, organizers emphasized the need to stay peaceful, despite the increasingly contentious clashes between protesters and police.

>> Related: Dakota Access pipeline protester may lose arm after explosion during hourslong clash with police

A woman from New York suffered serious injuries to her arm last week and faces the possibility of losing the limb after an explosion went off during a run-in between authorities and protesters. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the woman's injury.

Multiple protesters suffered hypothermia as a result of the clash, after law enforcement officers used a water hose on the opposition despite freezing temperatures, according to medics based at Standing Rock. Protesters on Monday filed a class-action lawsuit against multiple law enforcement agencies, alleging that they used excessive force on the night of the protest.

"We are there to put our bodies on the line, no matter the physical cost, in complete non-violence to provide a clear representation to all Americans of where evil resides," organizers wrote in the Veterans Stand For Standing Rock operations order. "We are the cavalry."

>> Why are Facebook users checking in to Standing Rock Indian Reservation?

People have gathered for months at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline, which is being built to carry oil from western North Dakota to a shipping point in Illinois. Critics say it threatens drinking water on the nearby Standing Rock Sioux reservation and cultural sites, although the company behind the pipeline insists it will be safe.

Citing "safety concerns" as wintry temperatures set in over the region, government officials ordered protesters to vacate their camp by Dec. 5. Protest organizers with the Standing Rock Sioux have said they will not leave.

"We are wardens of this land. This is our land and they can't remove us," protester Isaac Weston, who is an Oglala Sioux member from South Dakota, told The Associated Press. "We have every right to be here to protect our land and to protect our water."

WATCH: Military dad surprises daughter at dance performance

An upstate New York military dad had a special surprise for his young daughter: himself.

Soldier surprise homecomingHEARTWARMING SURPRISE! National Guard Specialist Paul Hayhurst, who had been in training for the past 7 months, surprised his 3-year-old daughter Isabella during her dance class. Tap video to hear her priceless reaction. 2wsb.tv/2ggiNIGPosted by WSB-TV on Wednesday, November 16, 2016

>> Watch the video here

Spc. Paul Hayhurst was away from his family for seven months during military training, according to WHAM-TV.

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So when it was time for him to come back, he decided to surprise his 3-year-old daughter, Isabella.

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He organized the surprise with the little girl’s dance studio so that he would pop out of a box during her performance on Monday, and Isabella’s reaction is priceless.

>> Read the full story here from WHAM-TV

>> Watch the news report here

<iframe width="390" height="219" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="http://13wham.com/embed/news/local/national-guard-specialists-surprise-return-home" ></iframe>

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