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Chopped Veterans

My friend, AF veteran Ellen Adams, will be on a special episode of Chopped tonight.  Please tune in to cheer her, and the other veteran participants, on what looks to be quite a challenge! 

Premiering Tuesday, November 10th at 10pm – “Military Vets”
Veterans of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Navy face off in the Chopped kitchen. In the first round, one of the chefs stumbles upon a brilliant way to treat scalloped potatoes. Precooked meatloaf is the big challenge in the second round. The two final chefs go all out in the dessert round, making very clever sweet treats from a crispy snack and a sweet and tart drink.
Host: Ted Allen Judges: Maneet Chauhan, Marc Murphy, Chris Santos

Metrojet Flight 9268, Daesh, & Russia, Oh My

There is a lot of speculation that Daesh brought down Metrojet Flight 9268, a Russian civilian airliner, over Egypt.  This is both behind the scenes and in the media, and it brings up some interesting points for consideration. 

First, it brings up the point of what did happen and how that is handled.  In the US, airline, railroad, and other similar accidents fall under the National Transportation Safety Board.  Yes, they can and have investigated more than airline incidents.  One of the best legacy products of the now defunct Aviation/Space Writers association is a booklet called Air Accidents and the News Media.  If you can find a copy, it gives a good breakdown of what happens, when, why, and who is authorized to talk at any given point.  The actual process used is designed to allow a complete and impartial investigation and to avoid political interference in same.  

Sadly, the latter is needed as politics do come into play.  It has since the early days of the railroads and continues today, and my thoughts on current and recent administrations eagerly coming out with immediate denials of terrorism should be easy to guess.  The early, and often completely unfounded, speculation about any accident/incident is not helpful, and flat out wrong.  It does, however, give the media and politicians ratings and a chance to grandstand.  

Getting real data is time consuming, and involves a lot of engineering and non-engineering forensics.  It means testing each piece of debris, and often requires that the pieces be, in effect, re-assembled so that a full and accurate reconstruction of events can be developed.  These days, it also involves a lot of computer modeling, which is a time-consuming process in and of itself -- and GIGO is very much on the minds of those involved.  Those involved via the NTSB and similar agencies around the world tend not to talk or leak, knowing that while pieces may be sensational, how they fit together can provide a very different story.  

In my personal opinion and experience, the first speculations are often wildly wrong.  The mid-phase speculation is more on target.  The final report is (at least here with the NTSB) is accurate, fairly complete, and somewhat boring to read even when the results are significant or even spectacular.  I will also note, for the conspiracy theorists out there, that I have never seen a final report that was clearly changed or whitewashed -- and trust me, given the hundreds of people that end up involved it would be very hard to keep such an event secret.  I will also note that not every country follows our model.  

We are into that middle period of public speculation, and it is interesting to say the least.  While there were early reports of the co-pilot being unhappy with the condition of the aircraft, there is a lot of back channel discussion of involvement by Daesh.  This is now coming out in public announcements, and I do find it telling that the UK has stopped direct flights to the UK from the Sinai.  This is not, however, definitive by any means.  

Which leads to a second major bit of food for thought.  The Russians (and the Soviet Union before them) tend towards direct action when terrorism is involved.  For our older readers, I simply will say Beirut, though there are many other examples.  

If this was indeed an act of terrorism, I suspect that the apocalpytic cult that is Daesh may well get some of what they seek.  Speaking strictly for myself, I will simply say Владимир: Добрый Охота!  Your mileage may vary, and if so sound off in the comments.  

Book Review - "Blood Red" by Wendy Staub

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 in the far right sidebar.

9780062349736_p0_v2_s192x300Blood Red by Wendy Staub focuses on a small town in the USA, which must come to grips with a serial killer. The book’s setting, Mundy’s Landing, in New York’s Hudson Valley, is presented as a character, the focal point of the story.

The Historical Society memorializes the Sleeping Beauty murders of 1916, and has become legendary throughout the celebrations held every year. The newspaper clippings in each chapter add to the authenticity and offer some background on the town.

Known as a domestic thriller author, Staub skillfully keeps the reader in suspense concerning the identity of the real serial killer. The story takes people into the mind of the murderer and the woman is he stalking that has a sinister secret. By having the killer’s name as Casey and having numerous viable suspects she is able to keep the readers guessing until the very end of the story.

As cleverly as the author sets up the serial killer, some may have problems relating to the main character Rowan, a bad girl turned good. She was not very sympathetic and definitely is irritating.

Staub noted to blackfive.net that she based the town on what happened in Massachusetts where Lizzie Borden murdered her family with an axe.   She was hoping to convey, “How family dynamics can affect an ordinary heroine. The stakes become much higher when a loved one is involved. I wanted to make sure the town’s industry is based on brutal murders. I liked the idea of a town that is popular because something horrible happened where no one knows the truth.”

Blood Red captures the essence of a small town fabric. People will find the action takes place off the page because it is more of a “who done it” type of story. Anyone wanting to get in the mind of a serial killer will enjoy this book.

Book Review - "Host" by Robin Cook

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 in the right side bar.

9780399172144_p0_v1_s192x300Host by Robin Cook explores medical/biotech ethical issues intertwined with a thrilling storyline. This book mirrors his best-selling 1977 novel Coma that spurred him to be known as the master of medical thrillers. Now over thirty books later this ophthalmologist turned writer expands on the issues of greed and medicine.

The plot begins with Carl Vandermeer, a healthy Millennial, undergoing a routine operation to repair his knee. Yet, something goes terribly wrong with the anesthesia, leaving Carl in a vegetative state with no brain activity. His girlfriend, Lynn Peirce, a fourth-year medical student at South Carolina’s Mason-Dixon University, where Carl’s operation took place, believes something has gone awry. She enlists her good friend, Michael Pender, also a fourth year medical student, to find out why this hospital, and others associated with Sentinel Healthcare, have high rates of unexplained anesthetic complications. This is in addition to patients entering the hospital with one complaint, but leaving with a more serious medical issue. Lynn and Michael must find answers while fighting the shadowy forces that are attempting to thwart their efforts.

Besides getting an action packed story readers learn about the dangers regarding healthcare. The theme of the book explains how both pharmaceutical companies and hospital corporations are basically robbing patients legally. In this case a conspiracy exists between Mason-Dixon University, Shapiro Institute, and Sidereal Pharmaceuticals. A powerful quote shows the pharmaceutical industry’s hypocrisy, “They want people to think their motivation is for the public good when they are, in fact, poster boys for capitalism run amok...The reality is that they spend more money on advertising prescription drugs directly to the pubic than they spend on research.”

Cook commented to blackfive.net, “Once I began medical school, I realized the patient was not the center of things; the doctor and the medical profession were. I thought, 'Someday, I'm going to write about the way it really is.' I became a writer to show the problems with healthcare. I wanted to write about medicine that was closer to the truth. For this book I wanted to point out how the various stockholders are taking advantage of all of us. We are spending way too much on healthcare with very mediocre results. Hospitals are unsafe, just look at the statistics I quote in my book, which are all true. The only people now disenfranchised and out of the system are the patients and doctors. The only way the system can change is the people must demand change, which is where my books come in, as warnings.”

As with all of Cook’s books he lends a level of authenticity by including medical procedures and research. In Host he details with some exaggeration how biologics works. This new product of the pharmaceutical companies is not based on drugs being made with chemicals but with antibodies. Cook explained, “They are derived from mouse cells that have been further altered with great effort to make them invisible to the human immune system. What they are doing in Host would make them all human. The mystery comes in when the hospital conspires to create guinea pigs by putting patients in a vegetarian state. I did not tie everything up in a bow because I want readers to understand how the pharmaceutical companies and hospital corporations are still using patients for their own benefit, both monetarily and for research purposes.”

He also gave a heads up about his next projects. The book will delve into social media and medicine. It takes place in Boston, which means both Lynn and Michael might be returning. Cook is also hoping to make a movie after forming his own production company. He did this because he wants control over his own storyline based on his vision, not the director’s.

Host is a very suspenseful novel that is also a warning to all readers. They begin to understand that those in charge of healthcare have no restrictions and are never transparent. Since healthcare will affect everyone people need to read this informative, action-packed page-turner.

Godspeed Fred Thompson

Lawyer, politician, and actor Fred Thompson has passed.  He played an instrumental role in the Watergate investigation as chief minority council; went on to serve in the Senate and run for president; and, was a successful actor of film and television -- and much enjoyed in the military community for the clip above.  While he did not serve, I can say that he did indeed support the troops and encouraged private efforts to help troops and veterans.  He also enjoyed a good cigar, and I plan to have one in his honor.  Godspeed. 

Troop/Veteran Employment in Indianapolis/Indiana

Post previously pinned
Indy Hub Handler Flyer

The FedEx hub in Indianapolis is looking to hire a large number of people (I've heard up to 500).  This is part-time work, but comes with full-time benefits including medical, dental, vision, 401k and pension plans, tuition reimbursement, and more.  There are opportunities to move up to a variety of other positions (nationwide even) after six months.  I will note that the FedEx recruiter Mission: VALOR is working with is a Reservist, and we would like to see as many of these jobs as possible go to our troops and veterans.  Please help us spread the word!  

Book Review - "The Lost Codex" by Alan Jacobson

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.

9781504003636_p0_v5_s192x300The Lost Codex by Alan Jacobson blends realism with a riveting story. Besides a thriller, readers will gain an understanding of the geo-political climate and the historical significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Anyone familiar with Jacobson’s characters will enjoy the return of the Operations Support Intelligence Group: FBI profiler Karen Vail, Special Forces veteran Hector DeSantos, and Aaron Uziel, the FBI Joint Terrorism Chief.

As with the real world, the government leaders appear weak, hesitant, and inept. Set in Washington DC, New York, Paris, England, and Israel, the Operations Support Intelligence Group must uncover and thwart an international terrorist plot. Their mission is to find the stolen Dead Sea documents and those responsible for unleashing coordinated and unprecedented attacks on US soil.

The author uses his experience writing crime novels to compare terrorists with snipers and organized criminals. Both snipers and the extremists create fear through the unknown of where and when they will strike. A very attention-grabbing quote relates the terrorist organizations to organized crime when a character comments, “The stuff that’s brought through-food, cement, oil and gas, medical supplies, you name it- it’s all highly taxed with the graft going to their personal bank accounts. In the US we call it organized crime.” Readers begin to understand through the newly introduced character, CIA operative Mahmoud El-Fahad, how many Palestinian people are robbed by their leaders who divert the money to their own bank accounts. Major fund raising is held for the supposed welfare and relief of the Palestinians, yet the money never goes for their benefit.

The Fahad character was created according to Jacobson “to present the issues and concerns of the Palestinians. Uzi is the character that explains the Israelis point of view since he vividly lived the horrors of a terrorist attack after his wife and child were murdered. I hope this created a powerful dynamic.”

But, an even more telling quote can be taken right from today’s headlines where the Palestinians are once again murdering Israelis. Jacobson points out to blackfive.net through his characters how “This two-state solution is a political invention, an attempt to compromise, to appease the Palestinians… Even if they’re given the West Bank, they will not stop until they have it all. Make no mistake. This is about Israel’s survival.”

Jacobson stated to blackfive.net, “I tried very hard to present a factual case, telling it like it is. We need to remember, when talking to extremists, journalists are misled or told false facts. Words do matter, but actions are more important. The question that comes to mind, ‘do people ignore the facts that don’t fit their worldview? I had extensive sources in law enforcement, Middle Eastern Studies, and journalists who felt that it would be hard to negotiate with terrorists because you cannot speak commonsense with them.”

Because The Lost Codex was the third book in the spy series after The Hunted and Hard Target Jacobson wants to go back to writing a crime novel. Karen Vail will be front and center as she investigates a serial killer, more in the theme of The 7th Victim.

The Lost Codex has a plot that ratchets up the action in a realistic scenario. With intriguing characters anyone interested in learning more about the Middle East conflict should read this book with the added bonus of a great story line.

Book Review - "PT 109" by William Doyle

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

9780062346582_p0_v6_s192x300PT 109 by William Doyle highlights the combat incident that influenced John F. Kennedy for the rest of his life. This book written about fifty years after the best-selling book by Robert Donavan charted the event, Kennedy’s leadership skills, and how it shaped Kennedy’s attitude.

The book recounts how the mission assigned to Kennedy and other PT boat commanders was doomed from the start. On August 2, 1943 while patrolling the Solomon Islands the Japanese destroyer Amagiri barreled through thick fog and struck the U.S. Navy's motor torpedo boat PT 109, splitting the craft nearly in half and killing two American sailors instantly. The other eleven survivors swam through flame and shark-infested waters to reach an island that was surrounded by the Japanese. Kennedy was set up for failure because the black darkened waters made it difficult to stay in the convoy, there was no radar on board the boat so communication among the convoy was inhibited, the torpedoes fired inaccurately, and the overall commander, Warfield, refused to take questions or input from his subordinates.

Doyle noted to blackfive.net, “I believe Kennedy had proven to himself and to others that he was capable of leadership and command, and possessed of considerable courage under fire. Kennedy could have avoided harms way by using the influence of his father, instead he demanded to be on the front lines of combat.”

Readers will also learn that during this time period Kennedy became a respected leader. Interestingly not one of his crewmembers ever faulted him and in fact many admitted to admiring him. It is said that circumstances create heroes, and the case can be made that in the aftermath of the sinking he was courageous and daring. Kennedy became a hero that night by choosing to risk his life for his men. He swam in shark-infested waters all night trying to get help. Doyle points out that after being rescued Kennedy did not return home, “showing how important was his sense of duty, bravery, and patriotism,” but took command of another PT boat, and that remarkably two of his former crewmembers chose to once again serve under him.”

The book also conveys how Kennedy was furious because his superior, Commander Warfield, believing that all crew members had been killed during the sinking, decided not to send out a search mission that might jeopardize the lives of other PT rescuers. The PT 109 crew survived those six days despite broken bones, burns, no medical supplies, radio, water, food, and arms. Doyle recalls in the book Kennedy’s bitterness since his feelings were that his comrades should have looked “for us and would fight to save us beyond reasonable expectation… The tragedy was that the comrades of the 109 did not go back to look for survivors.”

Yet, JFK also did not whitewash his responsibility in the PT 109 disaster. One quality of a good leader is being able to admit mistakes. He candidly blamed the collision on his decision to patrol with one engine, and have too many of his exhausted men asleep. Doyle remarked that Kennedy’s honesty seems to be something of the past considering “most politicians today think we are idiots and that we will believe whatever they say, never admitting to their mistakes. Yet, JFK was perfectly comfortable admitting mistakes and trying to learn from them.”

A powerful quote in the book summarized Kennedy’s feelings about his experience during WWII, “The war made us. It was and is our single greatest moment. The memory of the war is key to our characters… No school or parent could have shaped us the way that fight shaped us. No other experience could have brought forth in us the same fortitude and resilience.” Today’s candidates should read this account of PT 109 to learn from Kennedy’s leadership skills, honesty, and a desire to protect those willing to fight for America’s values.