The Associated Press

Pope: Fake News Is a Sin

Pope Francis has criticised journalists who dredge up old scandals and sensationalise the news, saying it’s a “very serious sin” that hurts all involved.

Francis, who plans to dedicate his upcoming annual communications message to “fake news”, told Catholic media on Saturday that journalists perform a mission that is among the most “fundamental” to democratic societies.

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Military Coup Reportedly Underway in Turkey

Coup reportedly underway in Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- A group within Turkey's military has engaged in what appeared to be an attempted coup, the prime minister said, with military jets flying over the capital and reports of vehicles blocking two major bridges in Istanbul. A Turkish news agency has published a statement from the military saying the armed forces have…

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Govt Declassifies Infamous '28 Pages' from 9/11 Report

Secret chapter of 9/11 inquiry released after 13-year wait

WASHINGTON -- Under wraps for 13 years, the U.S. on Friday released once-top secret pages from a congressional report into 9/11 that questioned whether Saudis who were in contact with the hijackers after they arrived in the U.S. knew what they were planning. The newly declassified document , with light redactions, names people the hijackers associated…

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One in Four Veterans are Homeless

Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11% of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.

The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education non-profit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.

In comparison, the VA says that 20 years ago, the estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000.

Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.

"We're going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous," said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa.

While services to homeless veterans have improved in the past 20 years, advocates say more financial resources still are needed. With the spotlight on the plight of Iraq veterans, they hope more will be done to prevent homelessness and provide affordable housing to the younger veterans while there's a window of opportunity.

"When the Vietnam War ended, that was part of the problem. The war was over, it was off TV, nobody wanted to hear about it," said John Keaveney, a Vietnam veteran and a founder of New Directions in Los Angeles, which provides substance abuse help, job training and shelter to veterans.

"I think they'll be forgotten," Keaveney said of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. "People get tired of it. It's not glitzy that these are young, honorable, patriotic Americans. They'll just be veterans, and that happens after every war."

Keaveney said it's difficult for his group to persuade some homeless Iraq veterans to stay for treatment and help because they don't relate to the older veterans. Those who stayed have had success — one is now a stock broker and another is applying to be a police officer, he said.

"They see guys that are their father's age and they don't understand, they don't know, that in a couple of years they'll be looking like them," he said.

After being discharged from the military, Jason Kelley, 23, of Tomahawk, Wis., who served in Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard, took a bus to Los Angeles looking for better job prospects and a new life.

Kelley said he couldn't find a job because he didn't have an apartment, and he couldn't get an apartment because he didn't have a job. He stayed in a $300-a-week motel until his money ran out, then moved into a shelter run by the group U.S. VETS in Inglewood, Calif. He's since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

"The only training I have is infantry training and there's not really a need for that in the civilian world," Kelley said in a phone interview. He has enrolled in college and hopes to move out of the shelter soon.

The Iraq vets seeking help with homelessness are more likely to be women, less likely to have substance abuse problems, but more likely to have mental illness — mostly related to post-traumatic stress, said Pete Dougherty, director of homeless veterans programs at the VA.

Overall, 45% of participants in the VA's homeless programs have a diagnosable mental illness and more than three out of four have a substance abuse problem, while 35% have both, Dougherty said.

Historically, a number of fighters in U.S. wars have become homeless. In the post-Civil War era, homeless veterans sang old Army songs to dramatize their need for work and became known as "tramps," which had meant to march into war, said Todd DePastino, a historian at Penn State University's Beaver campus who wrote a book on the history of homelessness.

After World War I, thousands of veterans — many of them homeless — camped in the nation's capital seeking bonus money. Their camps were destroyed by the government, creating a public relations disaster for President Herbert Hoover.

The end of the Vietnam War coincided with a time of economic restructuring, and many of the same people who fought in Vietnam were also those most affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs, DePastino said.

Their entrance to the streets was traumatic and, as they aged, their problems became more chronic, recalled Sister Mary Scullion, who has worked with the homeless for 30 years and co-founded of the group Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia.

"It takes more to address the needs because they are multiple needs that have been unattended," Scullion said. "Life on the street is brutal and I know many, many homeless veterans who have died from Vietnam."

The VA started targeting homelessness in 1987, 12 years after the fall of Saigon. Today, the VA has, either on its own or through partnerships, more than 15,000 residential rehabilitative, transitional and permanent beds for homeless veterans nationwide. It spends about $265 million annually on homeless-specific programs and about $1.5 billion for all health care costs for homeless veterans.

Because of these types of programs and because two years of free medical care is being offered to all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Dougherty said they hope many veterans from recent wars who are in need can be identified early.

"Clearly, I don't think that's going to totally solve the problem, but I also don't think we're simply going to wait for 10 years until they show up," Dougherty said. "We're out there now trying to get everybody we can to get those kinds of services today, so we avoid this kind of problem in the future."

In all of 2006, the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 495,400 veterans were homeless at some point during the year.

The group recommends that 5,000 housing units be created per year for the next five years dedicated to the chronically homeless that would provide permanent housing linked to veterans' support systems. It also recommends funding an additional 20,000 housing vouchers exclusively for homeless veterans, and creating a program that helps bridge the gap between income and rent.

Following those recommendations would cost billions of dollars, but there is some movement in Congress to increase the amount of money dedicated to homeless veterans programs.

On a recent day in Philadelphia, case managers from Project H.O.M.E. and the VA picked up William Joyce, 60, a homeless Vietnam veteran in a wheelchair who said he'd been sleeping at a bus terminal.

"You're an honorable veteran. You're going to get some services," outreach worker Mark Salvatore told Joyce. "You need to be connected. You don't need to be out here on the streets."

Newspapers in Iraq Push Government Ban on Blackwater Killers

Newspapers in Iraq on Tuesday trumpeted the government's decision to order Blackwater USA to leave the country after a fatal shooting involving civilians as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki looked to gain political capital from the move against unpopular foreign security contractors.

A series of bombings, meanwhile, ripped through Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding nearly 40, police said.

The Iraqi government announced Monday it was ordering Blackwater, the North Carolina-based security firm that protects U.S. diplomats, to leave the country after what it said was the fatal shooting of eight Iraqi civilians following a car bomb attack against a State Department convoy.

If carried out, the order would deal a severe blow to U.S. government operations in Iraq by stripping diplomats, engineers, reconstruction officials and others of their security protection and the decision by al-Maliki's government was widely welcomed by Iraqis and likely to give the Shiite leader a political boost.

"We see the security firms … doing whatever they want in the streets. They (the security firms' personnel) beat citizens and scorn them," Baghdad resident Halim Mashkoor told AP Television News. "I ask one question: If such a thing happened in America or Britain, would the American president or American citizens accept it?"

Newspaper headlines touted the move and called for more action.

"Demands escalate to put a limit on the influence of special security companies," the Iraqi newspaper Azzaman said on its front page.

The presence of so many visible, aggressive Western security contractors has angered many Iraqis, who consider them a mercenary force that runs roughshod over people in their own country.

Sunday's shooting was the latest in a series of incidents in which Blackwater and other foreign contractors have been accused of shooting to death Iraqi citizens. None has faced charges or prosecution.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned al-Maliki late Monday and the two agreed to conduct a "fair and transparent investigation" and hold any wrongdoers accountable, said Yassin Majid, an adviser to the prime minister. Rice was expected to visit the Mideast on Tuesday.

Deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Rice "told the prime minister that we were investigating this incident and wanted to gain a full understanding of what happened."

"She reiterated that the United States does everything it can to avoid such loss of life, in contrast to the enemies of the Iraqi people who deliberately target civilians," Casey said.

Majid made no mention of the order to expel Blackwater, and it was unlikely the United States would agree to abandon a security company that plays such a critical role in American operations in Iraq.

The U.S. clearly hoped the Iraqis would be satisfied with an investigation, a finding of responsibility and compensation to the victims' families -- and not insist on expelling a company that the Americans cannot operate here without.

Details of Sunday's incident were unclear.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said eight civilians were killed and 13 were wounded when contractors believed to be working for Blackwater USA opened fire on civilians in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Mansour in western Baghdad.

"We have canceled the license of Blackwater and prevented them from working all over Iraqi territory. We will also refer those involved to Iraqi judicial authorities," Khalaf said.

He said witness reports pointed to Blackwater involvement but added that the shooting was still under investigation. One witness, Hussein Abdul-Abbas, said the explosion was followed by about 20 minutes of heavy gunfire and "everybody in the street started to flee immediately."

U.S. officials said the motorcade was traveling through Nisoor Square on the way back to the Green Zone when the car bomb exploded, followed by volleys of small-arms fire that disabled one of the vehicles but caused no American casualties.

Blackwater said the company had not been formally notified of any expulsion.

"Blackwater's independent contractors acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack in Baghdad on Sunday," spokeswoman Anne E. Tyrrell said in a statement late Monday.

"The 'civilians' reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies and Blackwater personnel returned defensive fire," she said. "Blackwater regrets any loss of life but this convoy was violently attacked by armed insurgents, not civilians, and our people did their job to defend human life."

American officials refused to explain the legal authority under which Blackwater operates in Iraq or say whether the company was complying with the order. It also was unclear whether the contractors involved in the shooting were still in Iraq.

Despite threats of prosecution, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Alhurra television that contractors cannot be prosecuted by Iraqi courts because "some of them have immunity."

The incident drew attention to one of the controversial American practices of the war -- the use of heavily armed private security contractors who Iraqis complain operate beyond the control of U.S. military and Iraqi law.

The events in Mansour also illustrate the challenge of trying to protect U.S. officials in a city where car bombs can explode at any time, and where gunmen blend in with the civilian population.

In one of the most horrific attacks of the war, four Blackwater employees were ambushed and killed in Fallujah in 2004 and their charred bodies hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River.

But Iraqis have long complained about high-profile, heavily armed security vehicles careering through the streets, with guards pointing weapons at civilians and sometimes firing warning shots at anyone deemed too close. And Iraqi officials were quick to condemn the foreign guards, with al-Maliki calling it a "crime" hours after it occurred.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani described the shooting as "a crime about which we cannot be silent."

"Everyone should understand that whoever wants good relations with Iraq should respect Iraqis," al-Bolani told Al-Arabiya television. "We are implementing the law and abide by laws, and others should respect these laws and respect the sovereignty and independence of Iraqis in their country."

The deadliest attack on Tuesday was a car bombing that occurred in a parking lot near the Health Ministry and a medical complex in central Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding 23.

Another parked car bomb targeted a police patrol in Palestine Street, killing two civilians and wounding six.

Two roadside bombs killed a policeman and two civilians and wounded eight other people in separate attacks in predominantly Shiite areas of eastern Baghdad. The violence was reported by police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

AlterNet is making this material available in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

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