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Panel Recommends Obama Lift Transgender Military Service Ban

An independent panel convened by a think tank at San Francisco State University and led by former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders (pictured) and Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, recommends lifting the current ban on transgender service members and says Obama could lift it without congressional approval, the AP reports:

EldersThe report said Department of Defense regulations designed to keep transgender people from joining or remaining in the military on the grounds of psychological and physical unfitness are based on outdated beliefs that require thousands of current service members either to leave the service or to forego the medical procedures and other changes that could align their bodies and gender identities.

"We determined not only that there is no compelling medical reason for the ban, but also that the ban itself is an expensive, damaging and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel who serve currently in the active, Guard and reserve components," said the commission...

Thee report from the commission is to be released today.

The commission argued that facilitating gender transitions "would place almost no burden on the military," adding that a relatively small number of active and reserve service members would elect to undergo transition-related surgeries and that only a fraction might suffer complications that would prevent them from serving. It estimated that 230 transgender people a year would seek such surgery at an average cost of about $30,000.

A Defense Department spokesman told the AP there are no current plans to change the department's policy.

Okinawa Air Force Base Hosts First Drag Fundraiser for Gay Group on Military Installation: VIDEO


Things are much different on Kadena U.S. Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan since 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was repealed. On Saturday, the base held its first-ever drag fundraiser for Outserve, the Stars and Stripes reports:

"...On Saturday, servicemembers here may have been the first to take to the stage and perform as drag queens on a military installation in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops.

Drag queens and drag kings, to be precise.

Six servicemembers — gay, lesbian and straight — donned heavy makeup to dance and lip sync songs such as “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” for a raucous capacity crowd at the Rocker NCO Club at Kadena Air Base. The event was a fundraiser for the recently formed Okinawa chapter of OutServe-SLDN, which is the largest nonprofit advocate for the military’s LGBT community.

“We didn’t think there was much of a desire for an event like this on the island but it has actually blown up,” said Navy Lt. Marissa Greene, co-chapter leader of OutServe Okinawa.

The group sold 400 tickets amid heavy demand. The show avoided any mentions of politics.

The advocacy group agreed to avoid using the term “drag show” as part of its on-base fundraiser effort.

Tech. Sgt. Kristen Baker, who was among the crowd, said the show got a warm reception and would leave a mark for civil rights.

“Everything is just accepted. It makes me really proud to watch it,” Baker said. In the military, “we are all brothers and sisters no matter what.”

Watch clips from the show and interviews with the performers, AFTER THE JUMP...

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It's Not Gay if You're Deployed: VIDEO


"My Seal Team 6 just went to Seal Team 8.5".

Watch (warning: contains political incorrectness), AFTER THE JUMP...


Continue reading "It's Not Gay if You're Deployed: VIDEO" »

Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate to Restore Honor to Veterans Discharged from Military for Being Gay

On January 30, Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced legislation mirroring that introduced by Reps. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) last June which would upgrade the service records of LGBT troops discharged for sexual orientation and open the door to veterans benefits, the Stars and Stripes reports:

Schatz“The repeal of 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was a watershed moment, ending institutionalized discrimination that unjustly targeted gay and lesbian members of the military,” Schatz (pictured) said in a statement from his office. “Yet thousands of former service members still bear the scars of that discrimination, with their military records tarnished with discharges other than honorable and marks on their records that compromise their right to privacy.

“Many of these brave men and women that served our country are currently barred from benefits that they earned and are entitled to, and in the most egregious cases they are prevented from legally calling themselves a veteran. This needs to be corrected now.”

Roughly 114,000 servicemembers were discharged because of sexual orientation between World War II and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in September 2011, officials have stated. Many of these servicemembers, depending on the discharge classification and the state in which they lived, were treated as felons and precluded from voting and collecting unemployment and veterans’ benefits, such as health care and disability. Many were also discriminated against when applying for jobs and housing.

The House bill has bipartisan support from 140 members but has not moved forward as of yet.

U.S. Military Dog Taken as Prisoner of War in Afghanistan: VIDEO


Taliban forces in Afghanistan recently captured a military dog, a Belgian Malinois, in the first known instance of a dog being taken as a prisoner of war. Evidence of the captor was posted to Twitter this week by a known disseminator of Taliban propaganda, the WaPo reports:

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the dog was captured after a long firefight between coalition forces and Taliban fighters in the Alin Nigar district of Afghanistan’s Laghman province in late December.

“The mujahideen valorously put tough resistance against the troops for hours,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. The dog, he said, carries the rank of colonel and was outfitted with sophisticated electronic devices.

“The dog was of high significance to the Americans,” he said.

The U.S. military has confirmed that the dog was captured after it was attached to a British special forces unit. It wears a protective vest and carried rifles and a GPS device that Taliban fighters hold in the video.

The dog can be seen looking sheepish and confused in the video.

“I know for sure the handler is devastated,” [Kevin Dredden, a former Air Force dog handler and Afghanistan veteran] said, noting the tight bonds that handlers and military dogs forge.

Dogs are given ranks that make them senior to their handlers, a practice designed to ensure that the humans treat the animals with deference. They have a rank patch on their body armor.

Watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "U.S. Military Dog Taken as Prisoner of War in Afghanistan: VIDEO" »

US Warships Arrive in Black Sea to Keep an Eye on Sochi Olympics


The USS Mount Whitney and USS Taylor sailed into the Black Sea as American authorities warned of 'specific threats' against the 2014 Winter Games. Two United States warships were headed to the Black Sea just two days before the Winter Olympics were set to begin in Sochi, Russia.

WhitneyThe USS Mount Whitney sailed into the Black Sea, and the USS Taylor was slated to arrive later on Wednesday, NBC News reported.

Pentagon officials told NBC the ships would act as support vehicles for American security operations there.

The Whitney was constructed for communications. If the National Security Agency were to build a boat, the Whitney might be it.

The Taylor packs more of a physical punch as a guided missile frigate.

On Tuesday, the National Counterterrorism Center director told Congress that US and Russian authorities were tracking “a number of specific threats” aimed at Sochi.

According to the Whitney’s website, its “communications capability is second to none.”

Matthew Olsen said the greatest threat resides outside Sochi, coming from extremists in the nearby Caucasus.

HackersThe United States added to the watch list on Wednesday, saying “hacktivists” might use the Winter Games to further their causes. According to a tip sheet issued by the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team, anyone watching the Olympics online or live should safeguard their communications and only visit "trusted websites."

“For example, the hacktivist group, Anonymous Caucasus, has launched what appears to be a threat against any company that finances or supports the Winter Games,” CERT said.

It also suggested that anyone in Sochi with a smartphone should assume their communications might be monitored.

Athletes were also asked to take precautions in Russia.

In late January, US officials told athletes to remain inside the Olympic security areas. If they did leave, officials told athletes to leave their Team USA clothing behind.

“If you are an American Olympic athlete, you don’t want to advertise that far outside the Olympic venues,” a State Department official said, according to CNN.


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