Metro-East News

Military advocates against Senate plan to slash military housing stipends

Military advocates are baffled over a Senate plan to overhaul troops’ housing stipends, saying the change appears unneeded and potentially crippling to family finances, according to Military Times.

“We view Basic Allowance for Housing as an earned benefit, and we don’t agree with trying to reduce that benefit,” said Michael Barron, deputy director of government relations at the Military Officers Association of America. “This is not just frivolous money being spent by troops.”

Included in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s draft of the annual defense authorization bill are plans to overhaul how BAH is paid out troops. Instead of flat fees based on rank and ZIP code, the new system would refund only what troops pay out in rent and utilities costs, stopping troops from pocketing leftover stipends if they find cheaper housing.

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Reuters is reporting that the U.S. Navy slapped a drinking ban on sailors stationed in Japan on Monday and halted off base liberty after police arrested a U.S. sailor on the southern island of Okinawa on suspicion of drunk driving following a car crash that injured two people.

The United States has 18,600 sailors stationed in Japan.

The latest incident came as the U.S. military observes a 30-day mourning period at bases on Okinawa after an American civilian working for the U.S. military there was arrested on suspicion of dumping the body of a 20-year-old Japanese woman.

Renewed anger among residents in Okinawa at the U.S. military presence threatens a plan to relocate the U.S. Marines’ Futenma air base to a less populous part of Okinawa, which was agreed in 1995 after the rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by U.S. military personnel sparked huge anti-base demonstrations.

Okinawa's governor and many residents want the marines off the island.

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At least 11 U.S. troops have been infected with the Zika virus since January, nearly all of whom traveled to countries where the mosquito-born illness is prevalent, a Pentagon health report published Friday disclosed, according to USA Today.

In addition, four dependents of servicemembers — which can include spouses and children — and two military retirees contracted the illness, according to the report. It underscored the risks to military personnel of child-bearing age exposed to the virus during deployments.

A fetus infected with the Zika virus during the first three months of pregnancy has about a 1 percent to 13 percent chance of developing microcephaly, an abnormally small head usually caused by incomplete brain development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the 17 infected are four women, though none were pregnant, said Dr. Jose Sanchez, deputy chief of Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch.

Troops suffering from the Zika were four soldiers, three U.S. Air Force airmen, a Marine and three members of the Coast Guard, according to Sanchez. The first confirmed case was diagnosed in late January, the report said.

Fifteen of the 17 had traveled to South America or the Caribbean. They included four who visited Columbia, three who went to the Dominican Republic and three who visited Puerto Rico. One person had traveled to Brazil, which is dealing with a Zika epidemic.

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Some events in human history are so epic, so momentous, so game-changing, they must be commemorated and celebrated every year. D-Day is one of them. It has been 72 years today since the Allied Forces converged on the beaches of Normandy, France during WWII, coming from the land and sea in a massive wave of determination. At least 2,000 ships and landing craft were involved, as well as 13,000 aircraft. The Allies’ invasion of northern France marked the start of the final phase of the war. At day’s end on June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops had arrived to fight Nazi forces. The Allies suffered nearly 9,000 casualties, including almost 3,000 dead.

Esquire magazine has published a gallery of full-color photos from this iconic day. Take a look. They are mesmerizing. Click here to look at the gallery.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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