Monday, July 25, 2011

Book apps: A reading revolution, or the end of reading?

As I post this I am sitting in a coffee shop in a strange town, with an old fashioned print book (PAtricl Hennessey's The Junior Officer's Reading Club) balanced on my knee, while synching, updating and charging my iphone before I hit the road. End of reading? Don't think so. Maybe mixed media reading? And as for the article below, I confess I would buy an ipad as soon as I can afford one, if only because I can't find the New Yorker reliably here in AB and I can't read it on my iphone. MP+

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published Saturday, Jul. 23, 2011 6:00AM EDT
Last updated Saturday, Jul. 23, 2011 10:12AM EDT

The On The Road app sells for $16.99, compared to $10.88 for a paperback on Amazon and $9.99 for an electronic copy of an earlier “deluxe” edition. “The app itself has all the text of the book and then it’s got five times more material,” Morrison notes.

But the economics of book apps are still a matter of guesswork. “We’re in this experimental stage,” Morrison says. “We’ll see how this one does, figure out how much it costs us and, if we were going to do more, how many we would have to sell to make it worthwhile.” It will be a very long time before the last of the 1,500 titles on the Penguin Classic backlist get apped, he added. “At this point, they are very time-consuming, so we have to pick our shots.”

Read the whole piece here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Marijuana a Possible PTSD Cure

Noted in today's NYT. MP+

New York Times, July 18, 2011
Marijuana May Be Studied for Combat Disorder

DENVER — For years now, some veterans groups and marijuana advocates have argued that the therapeutic benefits of the drug can help soothe the psychological wounds of battle. But with only anecdotal evidence as support, their claims have yet to gain widespread acceptance in medical circles.

Now, however, researchers are seeking federal approval for what is believed to be the first study to examine the effects of marijuana on veterans with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.

The proposal, from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, Calif., and a researcher at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, would look at the potential benefits of cannabis by examining 50 combat veterans who suffer from the condition and have not responded to other treatment.

“With so many veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a widely accepted need for a new treatment of PTSD,” said Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the psychedelic studies group. “These are people whom we put in harm’s way, and we have a moral obligation to help them.”

Read the whole article here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Where Do Human Rights Come From?": Secular vs Divine Grounds for Human Rights

Most people would agree that there is such a thing as human rights, but what do we appeal to when we make that claim? Is it a religious conviction that stems from an idea that humans are divine creations, or is it a secular idea of morality that doesn't require a belief in God?

In this provocative essay in the New York Times, Israeli philospher Anat Biletzki, argues that a religious grounding for the sacredness of life and of the human person is deficient. Those of you who heard the lectionary from Genesis a few weeks back describing Abraham and Isaac may have some thoughts on this part of her argument:

"A deep acceptance of divine authority — and that is what true religion demands — entails a renunciation of human rights if God so wills. Had God’s angel failed to call out — “Abraham! Abraham!” — Abraham would have slain Isaac."

Read the whole essay here.

Help for a veteran in "a perfect storm of things going wrong"

An encouraging story from Michigan about how the local courts and police worked with a veteran with PTSD to salvage his life. MP+

July 17, 2011
Coming Together to Fight for a Troubled Veteran

OKEMOS, Mich. — When the standoff began on a humid August night, it seemed destined to become one more case of a returned soldier pulled down by a war he could not leave behind.

Staff Sgt. Brad Eifert circled through the woods behind his house here, holding a .45-caliber pistol. The police were out there somewhere and, one way or the other, he was ready to die.

He raised the gun to his head and then lowered it. Then he fired nine rounds.

“They’re going to take me down, they’re going to finish me off, so,” he remembers thinking, “finish me off.”

Leaving his weapon, he ran into the driveway, shouting, “Shoot me! Shoot me! Shoot me!” The police officers subdued him with a Taser and arrested him. A few hours later, he sat in a cell at the Ingham County Jail, charged with five counts of assault with intent to murder the officers, each carrying a potential life sentence.

In daring the police to kill him, Mr. Eifert, who had served in Iraq and was working as an Army recruiter, joined an increasing number of deployed veterans who, after returning home, plunge into a downward spiral, propelled by post-traumatic stress disorder or other emotional problems.

Their descent is chronicled in suicide attempts or destructive actions that bring them into conflict with the law — drunken driving, bar fights, domestic violence and, in extreme instances, armed confrontations with the police of the kind that are known as “suicide by cop.”

Such stories often end in death or prison, the veteran in either case lost to the abyss.

But something different happened in Mr. Eifert’s case. Headed for disaster, he was spared through a novel court program and an unusual coming together of a group of individuals — including a compassionate judge, a flexible prosecutor, a tenacious lawyer and an amenable police officer — who made exceptions and negotiated compromises to help him.

Read the whole story here.

Language Play of the Week

Every now and then I read something - a phrase, a turn of thought, and I think, "wow, Writer Dude, you just nailed that". OK, I realize that my last sentence wasn't exactly an example of the kind of effective writing I'm talking about, but you get my point. Here's the third in what is thus far proving to be a highly intermittent feature in Mad Padre.

Theatre critic Ben Brantley, in the 11 July 2011 issue of the New York Times, kicks an old theatre cliche up a few notches in describing Kevin Spacey's current performance as Shakespeare's Richard III.

LONDON — If a cloud of sawdust seems to hang over the Old Vic Theater these days, that’s because Kevin Spacey is chewing his way through the scenery there like an atomic termite.

Actually the rest of the paragraph is pretty good too.

In a ripping old-fashioned star turn as Shakespeare’s Richard III, Mr. Spacey gives fierce and flashy physical life to every twist of a power-mad man’s corkscrew mind. Richard may be slowed down by a hunched back and hobbled gait, but this performance spins a classic, much-interpreted character until we’re all dizzy.

Canada's youngest RC Bishop is a Blogger

Interesting piece in today's Globe and Mail about Fr. Thomas Dowd, the first Roman Catholic priest to start blogging in Canada and now to be Canada's youngest RC Bishop. His blog, Waiting in Joyful Hope, is sure to get a few hits from today's G&M piece. I hope to visit it soon.

One quote from the article that I liked: “We’re supposed to speak every language. Why not computer language?” he says about the evolving global Church." Definitely spoken in the spirit of Paul's visit to the Aeropagus.


Notable Quotable: James Traub on What's Going Right in Libya

I'm currently working on a professional development paper, that has me reading Anthony Shadid's book Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War on Bagdhad before and after the US invasion of 2003, and rereading Tom Rick's book Fiasco: America's Military Adventure in Iraq. Both books describe how the US had no clue what it would do with Iraq after it overthrew Saddam, and had no clue really who the players in Iraqi society were. It's therefore encouraging to read James Traub write in Foreign Policy that we know who the Libyan rebels are and we have a good opportunity now to get behind them and prepare the way for Libya post-Qaddafi. MP+
Here's an excerpt:

"But the problem may be political as well as legal. "We're paranoid about the possibility of Islamic infiltration," says Marina Ottaway. For months, critics of the decision to bomb Libya, as well as many on the right, have wrung their hands over the rebels in Benghazi, saying, "We don't know who they are." Now, after extensive reporting, we know who they are: people from all walks of life, including a great many professionals, who loathe Qaddafi and yearn for a better life -- and yes, some Islamists, too. Behind the NATO-enforced cordon sanitaire in front of Benghazi, a chaotic laboratory of democracy has sprung up. Benghazi has 400 non-government organizations and 40 or so proto-parties. There are endless meetings, debates, committees. The Tripoli Task Force, a TNC-appointed committee of independent experts, makes plans -- quite serious, specific plans -- for Day One of the post-Qaddafi world. Whatever its inevitable shortcomings, this is a struggle which undoubtedly deserves the support -- not just moral, but also financial -- of the West."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Rare Honour for a US Soldier

Inspiring stuff from yesterday's New York Times. MP+

July 12, 2011

Rare White House Ceremony for Medal of Honor

WASHINGTON — President Obama grasped the prosthetic right hand of Sgt. First Class Leroy Arthur Petry in congratulations on Tuesday, awarding him the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan that included saving two comrades’ lives by hurling away a grenade as it exploded.

Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Obama giving the medal to Leroy Arthur Petry.

This is only the second time since the Vietnam era that the nation’s highest military honor has been awarded to a soldier who survived combat in a conflict still under way; the other awards were given posthumously. Mr. Obama bestowed the first award last fall to another veteran of Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta, who was present in the East Room along with medal recipients from past wars.

Seven Medals of Honor have gone to soldiers killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. Mr. Obama called them “members of the 9/11 generation” of service members.

Sergeant Petry, an Army Ranger and father of four who has served two combat tours in Iraq and six in Afghanistan, was nominated by his colleagues and honored for his actions on May 26, 2008. Then 28 years old, he came under fire with other Rangers during an operation in mountainous eastern Afghanistan, near Pakistan, to clear a compound where a top Qaeda commander was believed to be hiding among insurgents.

“Today we honor a singular act of gallantry,” Mr. Obama said at the White House ceremony. “Yet as we near the 10th anniversary of the attacks that thrust our nation into war, this is also an occasion to pay tribute to a soldier, and a generation, that has borne the burden of our security during a hard decade of sacrifice.”

Sergeant Petry was shot in both legs and was seeking cover behind a chicken coop with two other Rangers when a grenade exploded nearby, wounding the others. When a second grenade landed feet away, Sergeant Petry scooped it up and threw it as it detonated. The blast ripped away his right hand and filled him with shrapnel. He applied a tourniquet to his wrist and continued to radio for support and direct the operation before being evacuated.

Sergeant Petry was credited with saving the lives of the other soldiers, both of whom were at the White House. Mr. Obama told the audience that in an Oval Office meeting before the ceremony, Sergeant Petry “gave me the extraordinary privilege” of seeing a plaque bolted to his prosthetic hand and inscribed with the names of other Rangers from the 75th Regiment who have died.

“They are quite literally part of him, just like they will always be part of America,” Mr. Obama said.

Both before and after affixing the medal and its blue ribbon around Sergeant Petry’s neck, Mr. Obama grasped his right hand and shook it.

Mr. Obama also used the occasion to once again claim progress in Afghanistan. Quoting from President Ronald Reagan, who spoke of Rangers in World War II, Mr. Obama said of Sergeant Petry and other Afghanistan veterans, “These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

This IHOP Serves 24/7 Prayer, Not Pancakes

This article rom the New York Times, 9 July, 2011, describes a US church that combines a 24/7 cycle of continuous prayer with an eschatological focus on preparing for the end times and the second coming of Christ. A daily round of prayer (even if not "24/7")has been a strong part of Christian devotional practice and feature of monastic life for many centuries so in that respect there is a devotional intensity here that is attractive. In terms of relating to the culture, which is a huge goal of contemporary culture, the appropriation of the IHOP name is brilliant, even if it is being contested in court. However, as the NYT article notes, some evangelical theologians have raised concerns about the teaching of the International House of Prayer's teachings. Andrew Jackson's (Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary) concerns as found here are thoughtful and worth reading, both on essential vs nonessential eschatological teachings and on the ecclesiological dangers of a church using private insider language. MP+
Where Worship Never Pauses
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The worship music, throbbing soft-rock appeals performed by live bands, has continued here without pause, day and night, since May 1999. Voices calling to Jesus or pleading with God to help tornado victims or make Congress ban abortion resound in an auditorium that is the physical and spiritual heart of the International House of Prayer, a Christian ministry rapidly blossoming into a movement.

Founded 12 years ago by Mike Bickle, a self-trained evangelical pastor, with a group of 20, the International House of Prayer, in a former strip mall, now draws tens of thousands of worshipers to its revival meetings. A wholly devoted cadre of 1,000 staff members, labeled missionaries, have given up careers to move here, living off donations and spending several hours a day in the prayer hall to revel in what they describe as direct communication with God. Another thousand students attend the adjacent Bible college, preparing to spread this fervent brand of Christianity.

The well-populated prayer room and the devout community growing up around it are at the epicenter of a little known but expanding national network: dozens of groups that are stressing perpetual prayer in a way seldom seen in modern America, said Marcus Yoars, the editor of Charisma, an evangelical magazine. Many of them were inspired by the operation here, though none have maintained such an elaborate 24-hour system of worship, seen around the world on a live webcast.

Mr. Bickle has won praise from many evangelicals, but he has also been criticized by some pastors for what they describe as unorthodox theology and a cultish atmosphere, charges that Mr. Bickle rejects. Some former students said they had been expelled for questioning the fascination with mystical healings, prophesies, angels and demons.

The ministry has also drawn fire for helping Gov. Rick Perry of Texas plan a day of prayer in Houston, which is scheduled for August and will be dominated by ardent opponents of abortion and gay rights. Mr. Bickle said he avoided direct involvement in partisan politics himself, but a member of his leadership group, Lou Engle, has a side group, The Call, that organized stadium revivals to promote California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.

But many young followers here said they were drawn by their sense of visceral communion with God and had given little thought to such issues.

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Crazy Generous: A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Preached at Christ the King Chapel, CFB Suffield, Ralston AB
The Fourth Sunday of Pentecost, 10 Juy 2011
Lectionary Year A Proper 15
Gen 25:19-34; Ps 65:1-13, Rom 8:1-11, Mt 13:1-9, 18-23

"And he told them many things in parables, saying 'A sower went out to sow'" (Mt 13:3)

For years I’ve read and heard that Jesus used parables to convey heavenly truths to ordinary people in everyday language. It’s said as a commonplace that He used agricultural metaphors to reach an audience of peasants and small farmers. I get that, and I know that I’m a city person who doesn’t know beans about beans, or about any other crop, for that matter. However, I think I understand today’s gospel reading from Matthew, the parable of the Sower and the Seed, because like most middle class North Americans, I understand grass. As I write this, I can hear the whir of my neighbour’s sprinklers as the cool of a summer evening descends, and I worry about the yellow patches on my own front lawn. From my study window I can see the bare patch of dirt that my wife carefully weeded, raked, and prepped before spreading grass seed on it last week. Nearby is the giant bag of peat moss that we are going to spread on the grass to enrich the soil, not far from the expensive compost maker I recently bought from Home Depot so we can better divert our green waste into the garden. I couldn’t grow food to feed myself if my life depended on it, but at least I know that you have to work hard to grow things, and so I think I am safe in saying that the sower in the parable is an idiot.

How could you not think that? Here’s a guy who has a bunch of expensive and precious seeds (I am sure that it was harder to get seeds in Jesus’ time than it is now, and I wince when I buy grass seed at the local garden centre) and doesn’t care where it lands. Rocks? The packed hard dirt of the pathway? Thorns and nettles? Bare ground scorched by the sun? Whatever. It’s all good. Really? Would anyone hear hire this guy as your gardener or lawn care man? If you think about it for just a moment, the parable, taken literally, is ridiculous, and I am sure that it’s first audiences, who sowed and reaped as if their lives depended on it (for they did) would have thought it was ridiculous too. And maybe that’s the point. Because there is something about the generosity of God that is ridiculous in its liberality, and that is cause for thanks.

In the second half of today’s gospel reading, Jesus spells out the meaning. The sower’s seed is “the word of the kingdom” (Mt 13:18). So what is “the word of the kingdom”? When Christians talk about “the word” we are talking about scripture, about the message of love and forgiveness that God reveals to humanity across the ages through the writing of prophets, evangelists, apostles as received and understood by the church. It’s not a coincidence, and it’s certainly relevant to our text today, that the Canadian Bible Society has for its logo the a figure sowing seed. *http://* You may have seen that figure on the spine of the little bibles that CBS has been distributing to members of the Canadian Forces for some years now. CBS invests all of its energy and fundraising to distribute bibles and other scripture materials as widely as possible – to soldiers, to Olympic athletes, to convicts – because, like the Gideons, it believes that the word of God can changes and save lives. Think of all those Gideon bibles lying in hotel room drawers around the world, and think of the energy and money it took to get them there. Now ask yourself how many of those bibles are actually read in times of spiritual need or crisis, and you are a step closer to understanding the parable.

“The word of the kingdom” can also be taken to mean Jesus himself, who elsewhere, in John’s gospel, is described as the Word. Jesus as the embodiment of the word and as the personification of God’s love and forgiveness spent three years teaching and preaching to all manner of people, and while some listened, like the “great crowds” we hear of at the beginning of today’s gospel, not all did. In the chapter before our reading today, in Matthew 12, a series of hostile encounters between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day is described. For example, Jesus drives a demon out of one man, and the Pharisees explain it as Jesus being in league with demons (Mt 12:22-28) since they are already hostile to Jesus’ teaching on the Sabbath. In Matthew 12 we see Jesus all too aware that his words and actions will not be effective everywhere. Jesus knows that some will welcome his message and thus be good soil, but others will reject it, and thus be bad soil. The point of Jesus’ work, however, like the work of the Sower, is that he is indiscriminate. Jesus does not pick and choose his audiences. He knows that some will welcome his message, and others will reject it. God is like the Sower in that respect, broadcasting his message as far and wide as possible, letting it fall where it will. The inherent generosity of that message is seen elsewhere in Jesus’ parables, f or example in the owner of the vineyard who rewards all labourers equally despite how hard they word (Mt 20:1-16). It is a crazy kind of generosity, but God has the right to be crazy generous. As the owner of the vineyard says in that parable, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” (Mt 20:15).

The parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, like the Sower and the Seed, both point to God's right to be crazy generous with his love and grace. Grace, which theology defines as undeserved love, is God's initiative and He intends to use that initiative. That generosity may offend the sensibilities of some who want to be rewarded for piety or virtue (and which of us doesn't think we deserve at least some reward for our faith, churchgoing, good works, etc), but we should know better. After all, as the late Father Richard Neuhaus pointed out in one of his Good Friday meditations, one of the very first people admitted into paradise by the Son is one of the condemned criminals hanging beside him, which is another example of that lavish grace in action.

Of course there is a place for our response to God's intitiative. Jesus addresses our role in the second half of today's reading, when he explains what is meant by the good soil. Not all hearts will be receptive to the word of kingdom. We all have heard people say that religion is for the weak minded and superstitious, that sort of thing. Part of being a follower of Christ is opening oneself up to the word, presence and leading of God, both in worship and in our own personal time. But there is a danger in thinking that it's all about us. I know very well that there are many times in my spiritual life when I am too preoccupied, selfish, tired, or distracted, yes even by "the cares of the world and the lure of wealth" to be very open to God. I'm not great soil, most of the time. That's when I depend on the grace and the liberality of God.

Now what I've just said may sound overly self-exculpatory, and may well be, but take a moment to think back to our first lesson, the account of Jacob and Esau from Genesis. This story probably was an attempt to explain ethnic origins of Israel versus its neighbour Edom (hence the "two nations are in your womb" reference Gen 19:23) but it's also worth noting that Jacob, whom the Lord supposedly favoured over poor dim Esau (See Mal 1:2f, Rom 9:13) is a real fink. Jacob sneakily and treacherously gets Esau to sell his birthright, as they used to say, "for a mess of pottage". What a jerk. And yet Jacob is the one loved by God and is the one who, as we will see next week in Gen 28:10-19a gets to hang around with angels. Jacob may be a jerk, but he's God's jerk. God uses him as another link in the chain of descendents that he promised to Abraham, as a way of bringing forth Israel and from Israel the Christian church. And if you are offended by that notion of God's injustice, you are welcome to get be offended and get in line behind the Laborers in the Vineyard who felt they were owed more than they got. That is, as they say, how God rolls. “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” (Mt 20:15).

For my part, I am encouraged by the figure of Jacob, because if good things can come of his stony and graspy heart, then maybe there is hope for the poor soil in my own heart. Did you ever take a mountain or a desert path and find one flower or one tree growing where it had no business growing? There's that crazy Sower again, and there's a sign of his foolishness, that something, amazingly, grew where it shouldn't. That's all of us, really, children who, as Paul says in Romans, are only God's by adoption, because God chose us first. I for one am grateful for God's crazy generosity, and suddenly I see that the Sower isn't the idiot I first thought he was.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"He Was a Good Soldier": White House Letters of Condolence To Go to Families of Military Suicides

A short op-ed piece from the New York Times, reprinted here in full. Thumbs up to the Obama Administration for including suicide in a war zone as cause for a presidential letter of condolence. It doesn't change the causes of suicide, necessarily, but as the NYT says, it does recognize that not all sacrifice involves enemy fire. MP+

July 6, 2011
Death on the Battlefield
In an enlightened reversal of the ways of war, President Obama has decided to begin sending letters of condolence to the families of combat troops who commit suicide. Until now, White House policy across several administrations extended the president’s personal sympathy to the kin of troops killed in combat, but denied the honor for those who committed suicide in war zones.

The change is heartening for grieving families and for the nation, too. The policy amounted to official stigmatizing and showed a lack of gratitude for some who faced combat fire.

The military’s concern had been that drawing attention to those who struggled with mental health problems and took their own lives might encourage more suicides. But after an 18-month study, the administration came to the obvious conclusion that condolences could be a positive factor. Mr. Obama will be signing letters in the future “to destigmatize the mental health costs of war” and help prevent more tragic deaths, the administration said.

Suicide in the military and among veterans is a pressing problem the government is struggling to understand. There were more than 295 suicides last year among active-duty personnel, a majority outside combat zones.

The honor for families of those who killed themselves in battle zones will not be retroactive. But in changing the policy, the White House called to extend comfort to Gregg Keesling, the father of a soldier who committed suicide in 2009 on his second tour in Iraq. Mr. Keesling was in the forefront of growing protests about the cruel neglect of these grieving families. “He was a good soldier,” Mr. Keesling told CBS News, “and that’s the part that I want to know — that the country appreciates that he fought.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"The Thirst For Fairness Runs Deep": The Evolution of Sharing

Good and thought-provoking science piece from the New York Times suggests that we may be hardwired to be ethical. MP+

July 4, 2011
Thirst for Fairness May Have Helped Us Survive

Among the Ache hunter-gatherers in eastern Paraguay, healthy adults with no dependent offspring are expected to donate as much as 70 to 90 percent of the food they forage to the needier members of the group. And as those strapping suppliers themselves fall ill, give birth or grow old, they know they can count on the tribe to provide.

Among the !Kung bushmen of the Kalahari in Africa, a successful hunter who may be inclined to swagger is kept in check by his compatriots through a ritualized game called “insulting the meat.” You asked us out here to help you carry that pitiful carcass? What is it, some kind of rabbit?

Among the Hadza foragers of northern Tanzania, people confronted by a stingy food sharer do not simply accept what’s offered. They hold out their hand, according to Frank Marlowe, an anthropologist at Durham University in England, “encouraging the giver to keep giving until the giver finally draws the line.”

Among America’s top executives today, according to a study commissioned by The New York Times, the average annual salary is about $10 million and rising some 12 percent a year. At the same time, the rest of the tribe of the United States of America struggles with miserably high unemployment, stagnant wages and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Now, maybe the wealth gap is a temporary problem, and shiny new quarters will soon rain down on us all. But if you’re feeling tetchy and surly about the lavished haves when you have not a job, if you’re tempted to go out and insult a piece of corporate meat, researchers who study the nature and evolution of human social organization say they are hardly surprised.

Read the whole piece here.

"A Carbon Copy of Reality": Video Game Technology as Military Training Aid

I have commented here before about the military applications of video game technology to military simulation training. It's not a new story, but this piece from the UK MOD news service describes how video training is being mixed in with interaction with human actors to take training to a whole new level. I love the "carbon copy of reality" quote at the end. Curiously anachronistic given the subject matter. I wonder how many younger readers know what a carbon copy is? MP+

Gaming technology helping UK forces prepare for Afghanistan
A Training and Adventure news article
4 Jul 11

A huge virtual reality training facility in Sennelager, Germany, which uses the latest 3D gaming technology, is helping British forces, from individuals to entire battle groups, prepare for operations in southern Afghanistan. Report by Sharon Kean.

A soldier gets a virtual taste of Op HERRICK from a simulator cab at the Combined Arms Tactical Trainer [Picture: Lockheed Martin]

Two years ago, PlayStation-style war games helped soldiers of 5th Battalion The Rifles (5 RIFLES) get ready for their tour of Iraq.

Before departing for theatre, troops spent hours in simulators and replica operations rooms at the Sennelager Training Centre in Germany, driving virtual vehicles and commanding computer-generated ground patrols.

Many of those soldiers are now gearing up for Op HERRICK 15 and once again the early stages of their pre-deployment preparation took place in cyberspace.

Read the whole story here.

“Canadian Forces have stayed here for a long time” : Canada's combat mission in Kandahar is over

It would be tempting to say that this story marks the end of Canada's longest war, but that would depend on how one defines war. This summer Canadians are heading back to Kabul, where the mission started in 2002, to begin training and supporting Afghan government forces. Does that new mission meet the definition of war? For deploying soldiers and their families, the answer is probably yes. However, this story from today's Globe and Mail does mark an important date in Canadian military history. MP+

July 5, 2011
Canadian troops formally hand over Kandahar battlefield to U.S. forces
By Susan Sachs

(Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) Commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan Brigadier General Dean Milner (R) receives a carpet from Haji Faluddin Agha, Governor of Panjwai district, following a ceremony marking the Canadian handover of Forward Fire Base Masum Ghar to US forces in Panjwai district in Kandahar province on July 5, 2011.

Muted ceremony filled with expressions of mutual admiration mark one of last rituals in Canada's long goodbye Canada formally handed over its battle zone to an American battalion today, passing one of the last signposts on its way to end of combat mission in Afghanistan.

It was a muted ceremony, filled with expressions of mutual admiration and attended by Afghan military officers and Panjwai district notables who have been dealing with Canadians soldiers for more than five years.

It was also one of the last rituals of Canada's long goodbye to Kandahar.

Read the whole piece here.

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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