Metro-East News

Roger That: Pentagon adds sexual orientation to list of nondiscrimination protections

News-Democrat

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday added sexual orientation to the list of nondiscrimination protections under the military’s equal opportunity program, according to a story at Military Times.

The amendment adds the preference to the list of protective classes that includes race, creed, color, national origin and gender that cannot be considered in military recruitment, hiring, firing and promotions.

It gives troops the same protections against discrimination as civilian equal employment opportunity programs, providing a pathway for service members to file discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation through the military equal opportunity system.

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In a major policy shift, the Obama administration plans to set up a new military base in Anbar Province, Iraq, and to send up to 450 more American military trainers to prepare Iraqi forces to retake the city of strategic city Ramadi from the Islamic State, the New York Times is reporting.

The White House on Wednesday is expected to announce a plan that follows months of behind-the-scenes debate about how prominently plans to retake Mosul, another Iraqi city that fell to the Islamic State last year, should figure in the early phase of the military campaign against the jihadist, according to the Times story.

The additional American troops are expected to show up as early as this summer, a United States official said, and will focus on training Sunni fighters with the Iraqi Army. The official called the coming announcement “an adjustment to try to get the right training to the right folks.”

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Researchers have found that a combination of electronic and mechanical sensors could potentially help patients with lower-leg amputations intuitively control “powered” artificial limbs on stairs, inclines and level ground, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association and reported on in a story on the Stars and Stripes website.

Scientists connected electrodes to participants’ thigh muscles, just above the amputation, and found that signals from these muscles — when synched with the prosthetic’s built-in sensors — gave the users much more stability when traversing various terrain.

Powered leg prostheticsare designed to aid users by mimicking the appropriate ankle and knee joint movements for climbing or descending stairs, walking up or down an incline or striding at various speeds on the level.

Nearly 1,200 service members endured at least one limb amputation while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 through April 3, 2011, according the Congressional Budget Office.

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is sponsoring a competition that has drawn 23 human-robot teams to Pomona, Calif., to compete in the Robotics Challenge for $3.5 million in prizes, working to get through eight tasks in an hour, under their own on-board power and with severely degraded communications between robot and operator, according to a story on the Department of Defense science blog.

The three-year technical challenge pushes the boundaries for robots in perception, dexterity, stability, mobility, decision-making and strength.

The playing field is a simulated disaster area, like the places where more capable future robots may be able to help save lives in the first hours or days after an earthquake, tsunami or terrorist attack.

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The Defense Department has added one laboratory in the UK and another in Massachusetts to a list of laboratories that recently received shipments of live anthrax samples from a U.S. Army facility, Reuters reports.

This brings the total to 68 labs in 19 states and four countries — Australia, Canada, South Korea and Britain — that mistakenly received live anthrax shipments. These shipments may have been the accidental result of a quality control oversight at a U.S. Army facility in Utah.

The Dugway Proving Ground facility, which is working with the DoD to research potential bio-weapons, routinely uses radiation to permanently deactivate anthrax spores before sending them, but it is possible for some spores to remain alive through the treatment.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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