Another USS George Washington sailor has taken his own life, the eighth since 2019 – National & International News – THU 2Feb2023
Another USS George Washington sailor has taken his own life, the 8th since 2019.
Biden calls GOP’s bluff on budget cuts in debt ceiling fight.
US ratchets up China tensions with loose talk, new Philippines bases.
Another USS George Washington sailor has taken his own life, the 8th since 2019
Lucian Johan Woods, a boatswain’s mate seaman aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, has died from an apparent suicide, local police say. Woods died on Jan. 23 at a private residence in Newport News where the carrier has been docked since 2017 for a major overhaul. Few other details are available about the circumstances surrounding Woods’ death.
Woods is now the eighth Washington sailor to die by suicide since 2019. During one week in April 2022, three sailors aboard the carrier took their own lives in separate incidents. There have also been an unknown number of attempted suicides. Sailors who had attempted suicide reported that the Navy had done little to address their needs after their attempts.
Living conditions on board the carrier are a major contributing factor. Sailors work 12-hour shifts, often doing menial tasks. Afterwards, those who have onshore housing or have family nearby go home. Those who don’t have to remain on the ship, where they may be without hot water or even electricity. They’re also deprived of sleep due to construction noise.
Click here to read more about past incidents on the Washington and what the Navy did, and didn’t do, to address the problem.
Following the cluster of suicides in April last year, the Navy at last made some attempt to address the mental health situation among the crew. After an investigation, the Navy deployed a mental health team and two resiliency counselors to serve the Washington crew, and a Military and Family Life Counselor is also available. However, it’s unclear what if anything the Navy has done to address the underlying environmental causes of the sailors’ distress.
But the problem is not contained to the Washington’s crew. Over a period of four weeks last fall, four sailors assigned to Norfolk’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center died by apparent suicide. Together with the April cluster on the Washington, that made 7 suicides at Norfolk-based Navy installations in 2022 alone.
During a Jan. 17 visit, days before Woods’ death, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) raised concerns. “Whether it’s an overly-long shore deployment as the ship is being refurbed or whether it’s because of something beyond your control physically, or if you’re in this different capacity that wasn’t exactly what you thought you were going to be doing — how do we make sure you’re still valued? That you still understand you’ve got a really important purpose?” Kaine pondered.
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Resources for service members and veterans struggling with mental health, including 24-hour crisis hotlines:
The Military Crisis Line: call 1-800-273-8255, ext. 1; or text “273Talk” to 839863
Military OneSource: 1-800-342-9647
For civilians as well as current and former service members:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988 — call or text
Biden calls GOP’s bluff on budget cuts in debt ceiling fight
Yesterday, President Biden and new Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) held their first one-on-one meeting to address the debt ceiling crisis. The US has already reached the limit of money it can borrow to pay its bills. Congress must vote to raise the debt ceiling to allow more borrowing to avert a catastrophic default, possibly as early as June. The House GOP is attempting to use the debt ceiling in order to force spending cuts. However, what Republicans want to cut remains unclear. The one thing they’re agreed on is that they don’t want any cuts to defense spending.
Click here to read about what the debt ceiling is and how this fight could affect you.
Ahead of the meeting, Biden challenged McCarthy to offer a concrete GOP budget proposal to counter Biden’s proposed budget, which will be released in March. “Show me your budget and I’ll show you mine,” Biden said. Some in the GOP have called for cuts to Medicare and Social Security. However, some have backed away from this position because cuts to these programs would be extremely unpopular, even among the most conservative voters. Even Donald Trump weighed in on social media to warn his fellow Republicans against this plan. “Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,” Trump said in a two-minute video.
The meeting did not result in any meaningful compromise. However, McCarthy said he would be meeting with Biden again.
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US ratchets up China tensions with loose talk, new Philippines bases
A leaked memo from four-star Gen. Mike Minihan, head of US Air Mobility Command (AMC) has drawn fire for warmongering and raised questions about how determined the US is to go to war with China, a nuclear-armed superpower. Minihan’s memo concerned the possibility that China is preparing to invade Taiwan in the near future.
Taiwan, an island south of the Chinese mainland, has long been self-governed. Nevertheless, China considers it a rogue Chinese territory, and Chinese President Xi Jinping seems determined to reclaim it by any means necessary. “I hope I am wrong,” Minihan wrote. “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025. Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025”. Minihan’s memo then goes on to outline his nine-point plan in “preparation for the next fight”.
Many have condemned the memo and its “leak” as fearmongering propaganda designed to stoke tensions and increase pressure to pour ever more funds into Pentagon coffers in the name of “readiness”. Blake Herzinger of the American Enterprise Institute thinktank observes that Minihan’s inflammatory language in an unclassified memo was “basically guaranteeing it would leak”.
Closing the arc
However one views Minihan’s assessment or intention, it’s only one part of a much larger and more worrisome picture. Despite distancing itself at the memo, the Pentagon seems determined to make Minihan’s prediction a self-fulfilling prophecy. The US has just announced a deal with the Philippines to access four bases in the country’s territory. With this agreement, the US military has now closed an arc that surrounds the South China Sea, extending from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.
Taiwan is located in the South China Sea, and China has recently been aggressively laying territorial claims to the entire sea, setting it in conflict with many of its maritime neighbors. China has been busy building naval and other military assets throughout the region.
Gregory Poling, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, another think tank, says “There is no contingency in the South China Sea that does not require access to the Philippines”. The Philippines, and particularly it’s northern island of Luzon which is closest to Taiwan, are an essential staging ground for the US to counter any aggression from China. Between their moves and ours, a confrontation does now seem inevitable.
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