Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Air Force Base Mortuary Mishandled Remains of America's War Dead

Federal investigators said Tuesday they uncovered “gross mismanagement” at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary that cares for America’s war dead after whistleblowers reported horror stories of lost body parts, shoddy inventory controls and lax supervision.

The former mortuary commander and two other senior officials have been disciplined — but not fired — in response to separate investigations conducted by the Air Force Inspector General, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that also received the whistleblower complaints.

The grisly findings at Dover echo a similar scandal at another hallowed repository for the military’s dead, Arlington National Cemetery. An Army investigation last year documented cases of misidentified remains at Arlington, dug-up urns that had been dumped in a dirt pile and botched contracts worth millions of dollars. The Army Criminal Investigation Command and the FBI are now conducting a criminal probe there.

The sloppy handling of troops’ remains at Dover and Arlington painfully undercuts what the military has long borne as a sacred obligation: to treat its fallen members and their families with utmost levels of dignity and honor.

“The ultimate requirement here is to fulfill our professional and moral obligation to ensure that our fallen are treated with the reverence and respect they deserve,” said Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force Chief of staff.

Three civilian whistleblowers who work in the mortuary filed complaints last year alleging 14 specific instances of wrongdoing by their supervisors, from endangering public health to losing a dead soldier’s ankle to sawing off a deceased Marine’s arm bone without informing his family.

The whistleblowers also complained that the Dover mortuary permitted an Army hospital in Germany to ship fetal remains in re-used cardboard boxes back to the United States for burial instead of in more-dignified aluminum transfer cases.

The Air Force Inspector General confirmed many of the basic facts in the complaints and documented a pattern of troubles at Dover. But the inspector general did not uphold the 14 accusations filed against three senior mortuary officials, concluding that there was not enough evidence to show that they had personally broken rules or regulations. The Air Force also found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

The Office of Special Counsel, in a blistering response Tuesday to the Air Force’s review, ripped the service for not taking the allegations more seriously and for not punishing senior mortuary officials more harshly.

Read More From Washington Post

Duggar Family Pregnant With Baby No. 20!

They're going for an even 20!

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, stars of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting, are expecting their 20th child this spring.

"We are so excited," says Michelle, 45, who is now about three-and-a-half months into her pregnancy and due in April. "I feel good. I am past the sickness stage now."

The Tontitown, Ark., couple, who are parents to children Joshua, 23 (who is married to Anna, 23 and has two children, Mackynzie, 2 and Michael, 4 months), twins Jana and John-David, 21; Jill, 20; Jessa, 19; Jinger, 17; Joseph, 16; Josiah, 15; Joy-Anna, 14; twins Jedidiah and Jeremiah, 12; Jason, 11; James, 10; Justin, 8; Jackson, 7; Johanna, 6; Jennifer, 4; and Jordyn, 3, weathered the medical emergency of their youngest daughter, Josie's birth on Dec. 10, 2009.

She was born following Michelle's preeclampsia diagnosis at a mere 25 weeks, weighing only 1lb., 6 oz.

Josie's medical drama – and Michelle's own fight for survival – was documented throughout their TV series. Josie will turn 2 in December and is developing normally, without any longterm effects from her premature birth.

"It is a miracle. Josie is the most energetic, busy little almost-2-year-old," says Michelle. "She is short, and yet she can keep up with the big girls and she thinks she is just as big as they are. We are amazed at what she can do."
Read More From People Magazine

Most American's Own Bibles But Dont Read Them

It may surprise you to learn that America is decidedly pro-Bible. According to research commissioned by American Bible Society, Barna Research polled 2,000 Americans and discovered that nine out of 10 households own a Bible. A full 86 percent of people surveyed indicated that they consider the Bible to be sacred or holy. That’s the good news.

But this positive view of the Bible and high rate of Bible ownership in America begs a question: what are Americans doing with all these Bibles? To put it another way, is the Bible simply sitting on our shelves or is it being read? And what difference does it make in our society if we’re not actually reading the Bible?

To look at popular depictions of American society—a jaded, faithless people too sophisticated for belief in God—it would seem there is a decided disconnect between what we say we believe about the Bible and how it impacts—or doesn’t impact—our lives.

More than half of the people surveyed as part of the American Bible Society study reported that they had an average knowledge of the Bible, while nearly a quarter of U.S. adults considered themselves quite knowledgeable on the topic. Two-thirds of adults correctly identified what "3" means in John 3:16 (chapter), indicating a working knowledge of the Bible's basic construction. Seven out of 10 responding described the Bible as the inspired Word of God.

But are people were overestimating their connection with the Bible?

After all, if people were reading their Bible on a consistent basis, wouldn’t the world look a little better?

Consider the facts:

- According to recent U.S. Census data (May 2011), approximately one in two first marriages end in divorce.

- 42 percent of Americans believe gambling is not an issue.

- 23 percent believe telling a lie to spare someone's feelings is morally acceptable.

- At least 1,500 men, women and children are seriously injured or killed each year in the U.S. as a result of senseless traffic disputes and altercations (source: AAA).

So if we are a society of Bible believers, how do we explain the prevalence of behaviors falling beneath the Bible’s highest standards? Do we really believe in our beliefs?

What would America look like if our actions did a better job of reflecting what most of us acknowledge as God's Word?

Would we, as Jesus instructs, resolve conflict more peacefully by turning the other cheek?

Would we love our neighbor as ourselves—even if it meant checking our frustration with the driver slowing down our commute?
Would we take thetime to offer a kind word? Ask about a sick neighbor? Keep an eye on an elderly widow? Visit a prisoner?

We see a lot of media stories about someone complaining about a prayer offered at a graduation, the mention of God by a public official, or the presence of a cross in a military memorial. We’re often left with the impression that Americans want religion to stay out of everyday life.

But the research doesn’t support this.

In fact, 54 percent of those surveyed think that the Bible has too little influence in U.S. society today. They recognize, as do I, that the influence of the Bible can bring about positive changes in our society.

The big, sweeping narrative of the Bible is, in fact, dialed into our highest hopes and aspirations. All that we long to see in our world—love, forgiveness, compassion and humility—can be found in the Word.

So how do we achieve a better alignment of our reported beliefs and observable actions?

A good start is to move from being a Bible owner to a Bible reader. The presence of a dusty Bible on the shelf won’t make a person live more biblically any more than the presence of a diet book in the home will make one live more healthily. For the Bible to get into our hearts and lives, we need to get into the Bible.