Archive for February, 2010

Boustany: Scrap bill, start over

BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany said he still believes the current health care reform bill should be scrapped and that Congress should take “an incremental approach.”

Boustany, a heart surgeon, was one of three doctors present at President Barack Obama’s all-day health care summit Thursday. He called the discussions “fruitful” and said he was glad Democrats and Republicans agree on most issues.

“We all agree that there should not be yearly or lifetime caps on treatment and that companies should not be able to arbitrarily drop you from their policy,” Boustany said in a teleconference after the summit. “I disagree with the way they want to handle some issues.”

One example was allowing consumers to buy insurance across state lines.

“The Democrats want them to have people operate within interstate contracts, when I think we should just open everything up,” Boustany said. “If you have several governments creating all these restrictions, it’s really just a one-size-fits-all plan.”

During the summit, Boustany spoke about the need to streamline and standardize paperwork and develop high-risk pools of insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.

He said he thinks that Democrats will not scrap the current bill and expects them to move toward reconciliation soon.

Boustany said that with an incremental approach, the Senate would be able to pass a series of bills quickly, but “we are not going to add to this bill as it exists today.”

link: http://bit.ly/9SKGXB

February 26, 2010 at 6:42 pm Leave a comment

Experts describe ID theft ins, outs

Law enforcement seminar speakers from Fla., Texas
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Texas law enforcement officials described one-stop shops for fake IDs, and Florida investigators displayed palm-size scanners that can be used to steal credit card information.

Nearly 100 police officers from across south Louisiana on Wednesday heard about these and other concerns at a seminar on identity theft at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

John Brewer with the Harris County (Texas) District Attorney’s Office talked about issues just across the Sabine River that affect Southwest Louisiana. One of the Houston-area’s biggest issues is ID shops.

“These are mostly at flea markets, and you can get a fake license and Social Security card,” Brewer said.

A bigger issue is that most license and Social Security numbers are real, and people are finding random credit card accounts and leases showing up on their credit reports, Brewer said.

“We have college students from Louisiana and Texas, as well as illegal immigrants, coming to these ID shops,” Brewer said.

Another emerging trend in Houston is the use of dead people’s identities. Brewer said Texas amended its identity theft statutes to include the dead.

“It’s become more prevalent because the family members usually don’t notice the theft until six months or later after they have buried their loved one,” Brewer.

Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon said Louisiana’s identity theft law doesn’t include “deceased” in the language, and that he had mentioned the topic to local legislators.

Mike Prusinski with LifeLock said discussions across state lines are the most important aspect of the seminars, which are sponsored by LifeLock and the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Board.

“Depending on where you go in the country, not only do the terms for the crimes change, but the laws change,” Prusinski said.

Brewer said the Texas Legislature had to amend its identity theft laws to include parents who used their children’s identities to get credit cards and for household bills.

Wayne Ivey with the Florida Department of Investigation said consumers also need to be aware of who has their personal information.

“The most likely form of ID theft is ‘skimming,’ ” Ivey said. It refers to when someone steals credit card numbers with a portable scanner. He showed scanners that completely fit in the palm of a hand.

“Many restaurants now have wireless credit card machines that servers can bring to your table,” Ivey said. “But if they don’t, I encourage people to accompany the server to the computer.”

LifeLock and the FBI plan to hold 12 more seminars throughout the country this year.

link: http://bit.ly/aUf8ps

February 25, 2010 at 6:37 pm Leave a comment

Marsh restoration progress outlined

Army Corps of Engineers offers update on wetlands rebuilding
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

The Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday discussed coastal restoration projects in Southwest Louisiana during a town-hall session.

Col. Alvin Lee talked about the most-recently completed project, a pipeline that stretches from the Calcasieu Ship Channel into the Sabine Wildlife Refuge.

Lee said material dredged from the channel is pumped to the refuge to recreate lost wetlands.

“We build (the land) up to about 3 feet above sea level, and when that settles, it becomes marsh and vegetation can start to grow.

There are four areas in the refuge that the corps plans to build up.

Those who attended the meeting included people who live close to the affected waterways and those who don’t but are still concerned.

Edna Wegener said she wanted to hear how to strike a balance between industry and nature.

“I know that we have the oil industry and we need that, but we know that the pipelines and channels have been the cause of so much damage to the wetlands,” she said.

In similar meetings taking place in other coastal communities throughout the week, Lee said, a recurring theme is money.

“That’s why we have to do feasibility studies for every project. We have to show that the project will work,” he said.

“I can see from the public there is a lot of attention to coastal restoration. They understand that the coast is a vital part of culture and their way of life.”

The idea of a series of town hall meetings was developed about a year ago, Lee said.

“We recognized we had a lot of individual efforts going on in the area, and we hadn’t communicated those to the public.

“So we decided we wanted to put together this series of presentations and give the public a status report of what we have ongoing and what is being planned for the future.”

link: http://bit.ly/bMb6PV

February 24, 2010 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

‘Boss Lift’ gives employers insight into deployment

Media joins visit to National Guard training camp in Camp Shelby, Miss.
BY ELONA WESTON

Attendees of Friday’s Louisiana National Guard Boss Lift embark on a C-130 aircraft headed to Camp Shelby, Miss. Flights left from Alexandria, Lafayette and New Orleans. Those on the trip were media representatives and employers of Guard members. BY ELONA WESTON

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. — Some bosses of members of the Louisiana National Guard now have a better understanding of what their soldieremployees are doing to prepare for their upcoming deployment to Iraq.

A group of bosses from around the state took part in a “Boss Lift” to Camp Shelby, Miss., on Friday.

The visit, according to the National Guard, was intended to provide a better understanding to the communities and businesses that are impacted by deployed employees and the role they play in current overseas conflicts.

Employers, as well as members of the media, were flown to Mississippi aboard a C-130 aircraft which picked up passengers in Alexandria, Lafayette and New Orleans. They were accompanied by Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard as well as some other Guard officials.

At Camp Shelby, attendees were briefed on the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s training by Col. Jonathan T. Ball, commander of the 256th.

Ball said that currently in Iraq, the U.S. military is transitioning forces to Iraqi forces and that the 256th will be part of that effort.

He said soldiers have conducted 17 new equipment fieldings at Camp Shelby and that they will have the “latest and greatest gear available for U.S. soldiers” when they enter Iraq.

“We will not be going into theater lacking. We’ll be very current as far as what’s available in the Army system,” he said.

Ball said the last day of the training will be March 8. He said soldiers are now in their “collective training” phase which involves training geared toward working in teams.

To see and hear the bosses, CLICK HERE.

Those attending Friday’s Boss Lift also got a close-up view at a mock “complex ambush” which involved a scenario where soldiers from New Orleans’ Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 141st Field Artillery had to shoot insurgents without harming Iraqi villagers during a convoy escort mission.

The villagers were played by native Iraqis who work at Camp Shelby, helping to train American forces.

The soldiers on Friday were “attacked” by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as small arms fire.

Col. Tom Friloux, brigade operations officer, said realistic training exercises like the one on Friday helps prepare soldiers for what they may encounter in Iraq.

“One of 256th’s tasks in Iraq will be escorting key logistical convoys throughout southern Iraq,” he said.

Attendees on Friday ate a gumbo lunch with soldiers before heading back to Louisiana.

One of the bosses, Shelton Cobb of the Lafayette Parish School Board, told the American Press that Friday helped open his eyes to what soldiers are doing in preparation for Iraq. He said it also reminded him of soldiers’ sacrifices.

“The guys and girls are making a big sacrifice, leaving home, family and everything else to serve the country, to go to Iraq. I can’t do anything but keep praising them for their efforts,” he said.

The 256th, headquartered in Lafayette with subordinate units spread throughout the state, is comprised of about 3,400 troops, including about 3,000 Louisiana Guardsmen and about 400 troops from the Virginia National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 256th for the duration of the deployment.

Virginia’s 1-116th is headquartered in Lynchburg, Va., with subordinate units in Bedford, Farmville, Lexington, Clifton Forge, Christiansburg, Radford, Pulaski and Martinsville, Va.

The 256th, a light infantry brigade combat team, has units in Lake Charles, Abbeville, New Orleans, Shreveport, Plaquemine and Alexandria, in addition to the unit from Virginia.

link: http://bit.ly/9iD9Hj

February 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm Leave a comment

LC regiment soldiers face year away from home

BY ELONA WESTON

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. — Some Southwest Louisiana citizen soldiers will sacrifice a year of their lives for the U.S. military’s mission in Iraq.

The American Press on Friday spoke with several soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Lake Charles.

The soldiers have been training here since January for their deployment to Iraq in late March or early April.

All said they were focusing on their mission and missing their families back home.

The soldiers will get to visit their homes before the deployment.

Most said they have kept up with their families via cell phones and the Internet.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Malbrough of Lake Charles is an assistant manager at KMart on Ryan Street.

Malbrough said he talks to his wife, Bridget; son, Dalen; and daughter, Kyla, every day.

“I miss them a lot. I talk to them every day. I call and do homework over the phone with my son because he has a little math problem,” said Malbrough, an infantryman. “I miss just being home. When you’re away from home, you just realize what you have. When you’re here, every once in a while, you get down time and you think about home.”

To see and hear the soldiers, CLICK HERE.

Sgt. Jody Stroud of Lake Charles, also an infantryman, said his family has been supportive of his wanting to be in the military. Stroud previously served in the Air Force and has been in the National Guard for a year.

“Of course, they don’t like the fact that I actually have to go into a combat zone, but they understand that this is something that I believe in,” he said.

Stroud, an operations manager at Union Pacific Railroad, is married. His wife, Robin, will take care of their 7-yearold daughter, Raegan, and their 3-year-old son, Cooper, back home.

Stroud said it helps that his family is so understanding.

“This is something we actually like to do, and we believe in it,” he said.

Spc. Joseph Buxton of DeQuincy said he will miss precious moments with his 4-month-old son and his 11-yearold.

Buxton, who also works for Union Pacific Railroad, said his wife, Shannon, has been sending video of the children since he has been at Camp Shelby. He said she’ll continue sending videos so he can keep up with his children and see how his 4-month-old is developing.

“My newborn child. He’s going to be a year old by the time we get back. I’m not going to see him grow up that little bit,” he said.

Sgt. Nathaniel Orphey of Lake Charles is a paralegal for the battalion and is the equal opportunity representative for his company.

This is Orphey’s second deployment to Iraq. Last time, Orphey was a single soldier. Orphey is now married with a 5-month-old daughter, Caliyah.

“I was a single soldier — no kids — so it is like a totally different experience for me right now,” he said. “It’s a little bit harder this time.”

By all accounts, the soldiers have been sleeping well and eating well at Camp Shelby. They sleep in barracks and soldiers said they eat hot meals every day.

A farewell ceremony will likely be held in the areas where the soldiers visit home before deploying.

The 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment is one of seven units that make up the 256th Infantry Brigade

link: http://bit.ly/dmGyr2

February 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm Leave a comment

Interviews with members of the 156th BCT

Part 1 – Sgt. Robert Joubert and Comm. Sgt. Major Patrick Sandel, Jr. To view, CLICK HERE.

Part 2 – Comm. Sgt. Major Stephen Hickman. To view, CLICK HERE.

February 21, 2010 at 8:12 pm Leave a comment

Louisiana National Guard at Camp Shelby, Miss.

Preparing for Iraq: 256th Infantry Brigade trains for year-long deployment
BY ELONA WESTON

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. — Soldiers with the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been preparing for what they may encounter in Iraq.

The 3,400-strong group has been training here since January and will deploy to Kuwait around mid-March and then onto Iraq in April. The deployment is expected to last just over a year. The soldiers’ mission, according to a National Guard news release, will be to “execute combat operations and conduct security and force protection operations throughout the multinational coalition, as assigned by higher headquarters.”

The training includes Iraqi cultural awareness education, convoy tactics, counter-improvised explosive device training, detainee search techniques, crowd control training and the utilization of Arabic-speaking translators.

Col. Jonathan T. Ball, commander of the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, told the American Press on Friday that soldiers began with individual training when they arrived in January.

He said the group has since transitioned to crew, or “collective,” training that involves working in teams.

Ball said individual training involved weapons qualification and marksmanship, including training on larger weapons like 50-caliber machine guns or gun systems that take more than one person to operate.

To see the soldiers in training, CLICK HERE.

He said the team training involves realistic scenarios like the one at Friday’s Louisiana National Guard Boss Lift, where soldiers were subjected to a mock ambush of a supply convoy.

Ball said the training events test soldiers’ reactions.

“And we’ll continue to do these type of events,” Ball said.

Ball said the addition of native Iraqis to training scenarios at Camp Shelby will help soldiers when they arrive in Iraq.

“It puts a realism that you just can’t replicate any other way,” he said.

Ball said the 256th’s mission in Iraq this time around will be different from the one in 2004-2005, which was a full spectrum combat operations mission.

“The first time the brigade deployed, the mission they had was in and around Baghdad, actually patrolling the streets — that’s called a full spectrum operation mission. The mission we have this time is called security force. Our primary mission is providing convoy security while all the different convoys are moving in and around the theater or in country,” he said.

Ball said soldiers’ missions will ultimately be making sure convoys get from “point A to point B.”

“If they do have some type of IED (improvised explosive device) attack or some type of attack, it’s our soldiers’ jobs to protect those civilian drivers and protect those convoys so they can continue to move,” he said.

Ball said that he was confident in his Louisiana soldiers — “the best soldiers in the United States Army,” he said.

“The citizen soldiers of Louisiana, for them to be able to give up their civilian jobs from being cooks or students or driving school buses and come put the uniform on and attain this level of training that they’re at, as a commander, it just makes me very proud of them,” he said.

link: http://bit.ly/azFFF7

February 21, 2010 at 7:49 pm Leave a comment

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