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November 2014

New Book: ADV: DJ, Doura, and Arab Jabour


A Different View:  DJ, Doura, and Arab Jabour is now published, and can be purcased at CreateSpace (an Amazon company).  You can also get it on Amazon proper and Kindle.  I will note that the Kindle version has a bunch of blank pages added in odd spots, but it's a small price to pay to have the photos actually show up as I wanted.   

I want to thank former Playboy staff photographer (and amazing mentor) David Mecey (warning: link may or may not be work safe) for the foreword, and author Sarah A. Hoyt for her incredible introduction.  Below are some cover/promo blurbs you may enjoy: 

“Blake Powers is an experienced combat photographer, and this is not his first trip to Iraq. He has an observer’s eye and can bring great meaning to what at first looks like an ordinary snapshot. If you want to understand our soldiers’ day-to-day existence in a foreign war, these photos do it in a way impossible for any other medium.”

Larry Bond, bestselling author of Shattered Trident , Red Phoenix, and co-author of Red Storm Rising 


“What Powers has done in his most recent work is impossible to convey into words. Now more than ever, this book is a must read. The photos timelessly convey the struggle of valor and the American nobility of service at war. From the soiled faces of war weary civilians, to the bone tired appearance of the Warrior Class; these photos present every aspect of a deployment. The mission. The sector. Duty. Sacrifice. Fidelity. Holidays away from home. And the unsung service of those often times forgotten. If it is true that pictures are worth a thousand words, consider Blake Powers to have completed the complete annals of the true sacrifice of the Iraq War.”

David Bellavia, U. S. Army veteran and author of House to House: An Epic Memoir of War


Blake Powers captures tender moments between troops and local Iraqi citizens in a dazzling array of clothing, uniforms, foods and the ever-present smiling, grubby faces of Iraqi children.  In these photos and the accompanying descriptions, Powers deftly delineates the difference between citizens of Iraq who desire peace, against the face of insurgents who only want terror and violence.   This is a brilliant effort to take us to a distant world, the land of Iraq and the people, citizen and soldier, who dwell there.”

S.D Kent, author of Firework, The Training of an American Firefighter

Free Fire Zone- China hacks our Power Grid

NSA Director ADM Mike Rogers said China could take out the US electrical grid.

At a hearing of the House intelligence committee, Rogers said U.S. adversaries are performing electronic "reconnaissance" on a regular basis so that they can be in a position to disrupt the industrial control systems that run everything from chemical facilities to water treatment plants.

"All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of when, not if, we are going to see something dramatic," he said.

If this doesn't give you a chill, you are not paying enough attention. Our country would start to deteriorate quickly if we lost power, and it's certainly not because we couldn't test each other. Water, transportation, sewage, food, etc. All of our major systems are networked and if you think they are better secured than any other online system, you are sadly mistaken.

We need to do something about this, and sooner is better than doing it later in the dark.

Book Review - "Woman With a Gun" by Phillip Margolin

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780062266521_p0_v1_s260x420Woman With A Gun, the latest by New York Times Bestselling author Phillip Margolin is a very unique crime novel.  What inspired this riveting thriller is the photograph seen on the cover of the book, which works as the focal point for this mystery. 

This book is really a story within a story as Margolin takes his personal experience and transfers it to Stacey Kim.  She wants to become a writer and sees this Pulitzer Prize winning photograph at an art museum that inspires her to find the history behind it.  Deciding to travel to Oregon, the setting for the photo, she discovers there was a Cold Case murder associated with it. The other piece of the plot has readers trying to unravel the killing of Raymond Cahill that occurred the night of his wedding. That evening, amateur photographer Kathy Moran took a stunning photograph of newlywed Megan Cahill standing on the beach, facing the sea, in her wedding gown, holding a western six-shooter. Moments later, Kathy discovered the body of Raymond Cahill, Megan’s millionaire husband, in their beach house.

Margolin commented to blackfive.net, “In Georgia.  I was keynoting a writing conference.  In a restaurant restroom over the toilet was the photograph seen on the cover of the book.  I was blown away with the many possible scenarios that were running through my mind. Has the woman killed her husband on their wedding night? Is she going to commit suicide? Is she waiting for someone she plans to kill? I knew then I had the name of the book and the cover. The real story behind the photograph is not romantic and is actually bland. I asked the photographer, Leslie Jeter, because I was really curious. She was a commercial photographer at this wedding rehearsal.  Everyone there were gun enthusiasts and had her take pictures, each one holding a different type of gun.”

The two main characters are very compelling, complex, and well developed.  Kathy Moran was a defense attorney that went up against a young prosecutor, on the fast track to success.  After her drug dealer client was found not guilty, she appeared to have everything at her fingertips.  That is until she was disbarred for possessing drugs. She quits law and finds peace in Palisades Heights, a town on the Oregon Coast, while pursuing her dream career as a photographer.  Margolin is able to have this character that uses sex as a way to get ahead, appear at times sympathetic, and alternately between being good and bad. 

The male lead is Jack Booth who was demoted after being humiliated by losing to Moran and is now a special prosecutor.  He is a womanizer, and someone who drinks and smokes way too much.  He also is obsessed with Kathy Moran and allows this ten-year-long infatuation to influence how he handles his job. 

Margolin thinks that readers will appreciate “that the tone of the book became decidedly noir.  I realized I was writing a story that could have been filmed in black and white in the 1940s starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as Jack and Kathy respectively.”

Woman With A Gun is fueled by a very intriguing picture and well developed characters.  Margolin has a straightforward and natural style with his many twists and turns throughout the plot.  Readers are kept off balance, suspecting many different characters as the killer, as they engage in this page-turner story.

Book Review - "The Burning Room" by Michael Connelly

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar. 

9780316225939_p0_v4_s260x420Harry Bosch is back with Michael Connelly’s novel, The Burning Room. Readers will not be disappointed in this thrilling story that has Bosch at the twilight of his LAPD career mentoring a “mod squad” cop, full of ambition, vim, and vigor. As with his previous novels Connelly has Bosch being the victim’s advocate and always thinking “Everybody counts or nobody counts.”

This book differs a bit in that Connelly has Bosch attempting to solve not one, but two cold cases as he works in the LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit. Because the murder rate is significantly down in Los Angeles there is more manpower devoted to solving crimes that are decades old. The first case is highly charged and politically sensitive that involves a former Mayor who is now a possible Gubernatorial candidate. He used the case of Orlando Merced to promote his career. Merced, shot by a sniper, survived in a wheelchair with a bullet lodged in his spine. He died ten years later from complications, and Harry knows that the bullet can be the key to finding the shooter. Making matters more complex is the possible connection between this case, an arson blaze, and two robberies. Bosch’s new partner, Lucia (Lucy) Soto is investigating on her own time the deaths of a number of children killed in a fire. Although she was one of the lucky ones that survived, her life changed forever. After finding out Soto’s involvement in the Bonnie Brae killings Harry is willing to go along with her, bending some rules in order to have the cases intertwined. The book takes the reader on a journey as Soto and Bosch search for clues to finding the culprits.

Connelly noted to blackfive.net, “The Los Angeles murder rate is way down. Their detective bureaus and staffing was built on the larger number of killings. They shifted to working on unsolved murders that are benefitted by all this new technology. When I started writing about Harry and the Cold Case squad I think there were six or eight detectives which was very realistic because I had access to it. Now its way bigger, like 24 to 28. I understood that in solving cold cases sometimes it could be very unsatisfying since both the victim and the perpetrator are already dead. Murders are cleared but tons of people do not necessarily go to jail. What is important is that family members get closure. This pretty much motivates Harry and the real homicide detectives.”

Bosch is paired with a new partner, Lucy Soto, who can best be described as a female Harry Bosch. Although having no previous homicide experience, she is seen as a young and shining star in the LAPD. She matches Harry’s dedication; coming to work early, leaving late, and following the evidence no matter where it leads. They are both willing to be less than candid with their superiors and are not beyond upsetting high-profile people. Harry is willing to mentor her because he sees a lot of himself in Soto while Lucy is very willing to learn and listen to his words of knowledge.

Connelly see similarities, “What I liked about this book is how Harry picks up that Lucy, his new partner, has a sense of mission like he has. It has been rare that he has come across anybody, any partner, that has the same sense and has been formed by a past drama that can rival Harrys. When he picks up on that he wants to pass his mission on and to share his knowledge with her. People do that with those who are like minds. Lucy can continue on as a cop and Harry can be in the background as a mentor. Especially since it is very clear from the last few books his time is up with the badge, but not as a literary character. I planted a number of seeds in the last three or four books that can show his continuation in some way. It does not necessarily have to be Harry Bosch up front.”

Fans of Harry Bosch will be able to get multiple doses. Besides The Burning Room, there is a new series being produced by Amazon that will premiere in February of next year. It can be a binger’s delight as they see Harry “live” starting with the ninth story in the Bosch series, City of Bones. Also, the next Connelly book will include Harry Bosch, Mickey Haller, and Lucy Soto.

The Burning Room is a fast-moving and engrossing police procedural. The interplay between Bosch and Soto is very dramatic. Readers will be riveted to the storyline, but also learn about forensics, Los Angeles history, investigative techniques, and when to say good-bye to a job. Anyone who wants an exciting novel with a fascinating ending should read this book.

Smoking Weed In Uniform Results

Image5296871xOk, the results from this weekend are in- and the sample residents of Upper Mattawimakeg, ME have spoken.

Of those bothering to read, and then actually respond to our completely scientific survey, over 70% are both disinclined to allow, nor want our fighting men and women to be able to smoke weed, should their areas decriminalize it.  It goes for both the AD and the NG/Reservists.  

What makes the survey interesting (other than involving some really out of the way area) is that by nearly the same margin, people want VETERANS to have access to medical marijuana as a treatment option.

This last bit was surprising, as I would have thought that, based on the sample, it would have been much closer to a split than that; I hypothesized that it would have been turned down, by much smaller margins than disallowing current military to use it. 

I'm not advocating or pushing for a total ban here.  Being in Colorado, I'm used to seeing/smelling the stuff everywhere.  I wanted to see what the general populace was considering.  And they seem to want the VA to open it up.  Seeing as how the VA follows FEDERAL rules, that's not likely to be an option anytime soon.  But, if the VA is sending some people far from facilities to local docs, could they possibly open it up?  Likely only if the vet pays for that medication themselves.

I believe it's only a matter of months before a major battle ensues over Reservists/Guardsmen testing hot from areas where MMJ has been allowed.  And I'm also convinced that it will be both a civilian AND military court battle.  

  • Do you think Soldiers in states that have passed legalized marijuana (medical or personal use) should be able to use it?

                No-  75%
                Yes- 25%

  • Do you think Veterans, no longer having a service requirement, should have medical marijuana as a treatment option (covered by the VA)?

                No-  68%
                Yes- 32%

  • Should Reservists/National Guardsmen from legalized marijuana states be able to use it without repercussion?

                No-  71%
                Yes- 29%

Threat Watch- UAE designates CAIR as terror group

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has released a list of terrorist groups and the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate CAIR made the hit parade.

While CAIR professed themselves “shocked” by the designation, the reality is that the group’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood cannot be legitimately disputed.

CAIR is listed as an organization of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America’s Palestine Committee, in a 1994 meeting agenda submitted as evidence during the Holy Land Foundation Trial. The stated purpose of the Palestine Committee is to support the terrorist group Hamas, with quote “media, money, men and all that,” according to a 1992 internal memo also submitted at the HLF trial.

Should Soldiers/military or Veterans be able to use marijuana?

I'm posting up my first Survey Monkey survey to ask just a couple of important questions regarding use of marijuana for military members and veterans.

I've been looking to see if anyone has been asking this question; I don't see much out there, and I think it's now time to put it out there.  The issue has basically three components:

    1.  Active duty military- should they be able to use it, if they are in a location that permits it?  (Think Ft Carson in Colorado as an example)

    2.  Should guardsmen, who are not on duty full-time but subject to duty recall, be able to use it if their state permits it.

    3.  Should medical marijuana be a treatment option for veterans in the VA system?

I know this is going to be an issue; as I'm in CO, and several units are being spun up to support the Ebola mission, this is likely to make an appearance.  I'm not aware of any prosecutions for it, or any unit discussion on it.  Yes, I do know that in the FEDERAL legal system it's illegal to use, but Sammy Soldier who also attends Colorado University, or Cindy Clerk who has a doctor prescribing it for nausea may test 'hot' prior to deployment.

So, just to ask the question: (please click the link- couldn't get the survey to embed)

Military/Veterans and marijuana use

Go Read "Ryan Pitts, Man of Honor"

"...against that onslaught, one American held the line ... just 22 years old, nearly surrounded, bloodied but unbowed..." - President Barack Obama, about SSG Ryan Pitts

Ryan Pitts

Over at the Burn Pit, TSO has a great piece about SSG Ryan Pitts, someone we've written about for a long time:

...Wounded in both legs and with shrapnel in his arm, Pitts crawled onto the sandbags and fired a machine gun at the approaching insurgents. Alone and bleeding, the perimeter of his position breached, his predicament was grave. He could hear enemy voices as they closed in. He made a prediction about his fate: “I was going to die and made my peace with it.”

Pitts would not go down without a fight, though. He began throwing grenades, but because his attackers were so close and the grenades had a five-second fuse, he would “cook them off” for three seconds before hurling them. After exhausting his supply of hand grenades, he picked up a grenade launcher and began firing almost directly straight up to hit targets surrounding his position...

Go read the whole piece and the full article at the Legion.

Veterans Bonus in Ohio

B5 reader Cheryl sent a note about a cool program in Ohio than pays a bonus to certain veterans based on wartime service. The deasline for Iraq war vets to apply is Dec 31 of this year. You can do so at this site. There is an eligibility calculator, so you can check to see if you qualify. These are the basic fact, and well done Ohio for offering this.

  • To be eligible for a bonus, a Veteran must have been an Ohio resident at the start of active duty service and when he or she applies for the bonus.

  • To be eligible for a bonus,

    • The Veteran must have been separated from the armed forces under honorable conditions, or

    • Active duty service member remains in active service, or

    • After active duty service, the Veteran remains in any reserve component of the armed forces, including the Ohio National Guard.

  • Eligible Veteran or Active duty service member may receive $100 for each month spent on active duty service in the following locations during these specified dates: 

    • Afghanistan since October 7, 2001. Eligible Veterans can apply for a bonus for up to three years after the President declares an end to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

    • Iraq between March 19, 2003 and December 31, 2011. Eligible Veterans can apply for a bonus until December 31, 2014.

    • The maximum benefit for in-country (Afghanistan or Iraq) service is $1,000.

  • Eligible Veterans serving on active duty (except active duty for training only) anywhere else in the world during the above specified dates may receive $50 a month up to a maximum benefit of $500.

  • Partial months of service during the compensable period will be paid at the rate of 1/30 of the monthly rate per day served.

  • Veterans or Active duty service members may receive a bonus of up to a maximum of $1,500 for all eligible service during the compensable periods.

  • Eligible Veterans who were discharged medically or retired medically as a result of injuries or illness sustained in Afghanistan or Iraq service, can apply for a $1,000 bonus, regardless of their length of service in country. In addition, these veterans may also apply for $50 for each month of active duty, anywhere else in the world service, up to a maximum of $500.

  • Family member(s) of deceased veterans may be eligible for

    • A benefit of $5000, if the service member lost his or her life as a result of injuries or illness sustained in Afghanistan or Iraq service, plus whatever bonus the Veteran had earned per month, up to a maximum bonus of $6,500, or 

    • the same benefit the deceased Veteran would have received if the Veteran’s death was not the result of injuries or illness sustained in Afghanistan or Iraq service, up to a maximum bonus of $1,500. 

  • Family member(s) of a Veteran Missing in Action (MIA) or a Prisoner of War (POW) may be eligible to receive $5,000 if the veteran was designated Missing In Action or a Prisoner Of War by the U.S. Department of Defense.

  • Family member(s) in the following order of precedence may be eligible to apply: 1) spouse, if no spouse 2) child or children, if no child or children, 3) parent(s) or person(s) legally acting as a parent for a least one year preceding commencement of service in the United States armed forces. No other family members are eligible for the Veteran's bonus.